Tag Archive | behaviour

Cipralex: Calming the “wild horse” of Asperger meltdowns

The Aspie nervous system.

The Aspie nervous system.

One of the biggest drawbacks of having Asperger Syndrome is the temper meltdowns that come with it. Life on the autism spectrum means, for all of us, a nervous system that is set on “red alert” 100% of the time: you know that smoke alarm you have outside your kitchen door that goes off every time you make toast? Yeah, that’s us.

Little things that other NT/not-on-the-spectrum people don’t even notice make me crazier than a cat in a bag: the sound of the fan on my computer when a program is installing; sudden noises; someone touching me unexpectedly; the sound of someone whistling, snapping their fingers, or jingling their keys; the sounds of people chewing loudly or licking their fingers or clicking gum; the feel of a label or a seam in my clothing….

DIe, pants, die!

DIe, pants, die!

When I was about 7 I had a massive morning-long screaming battle with my father, who was trying to stuff me into a pair of new denim jeans. Even now, tight clothing, or anything that flutters or dangles or clings at my neck, will make me break out in a cold sweat.

Hell no.

Hell no.

Many of us, myself included, learn to manage this hyper-reactivity simply as a matter of survival in the adult world. My nervous system calmed down somewhat as I grew older, and as I matured and entered university and the working world, I was very motivated to blend in and act more like my colleagues: ripping my shirt off in the newsroom because a label was itching my neck was pretty much out of the question.

In the last year and a half, however, I’ve noticed some alarming “symptom creep”, probably due to hormonal fluctuations related to the fun, fun phase of life called perimenopause. It started with increasing moodiness and irritability, and initially I was able to dial that back with a couple of herbal supplements, Vitex among them.

I worked harder at modulating my (increasingly awful) moods: I got out my old Cognitive Therapy workbooks and looked at those; I made sure to get exercise and sun and fresh air every day; I did yoga; I avoided annoying people and situations as much as I could. I even got to leaving inspirational notes to myself on mirrors, cupboard doors and so forth.

Everything's great. Thanks for asking.

Everything’s great. Thanks for asking.

But a few weeks ago I realized I was basically living in “crisis management mode”, more or less existing from one meltdown to the next. If I wasn’t having a meltdown, I was either uneasily anticipating the next one or just recovering from one.

So with a heavy heart, I made an appointment to see my family doctor. She prescribed blood tests to make sure my thyroid, B12 and iron levels were all right. She recommended some mindfulness and meditation exercises to calm my nervous system down, and then, since she knows very little about Asperger’s, suggested I go see M., my Asperger specialist, and bring her his recommendations.

Long story short, M. was as alarmed as I was. “The joy seems to have gone out of you,” he said, which made me sad. He, too, recommended mindfulness and meditation exercises, and then to my surprise (and horror…) told me that many people on the autism spectrum are helped by subclinical doses (i.e., much less than normal) of a drug called Cipralex (it’s called Lexapro in the United States). There is ample research, he said, that it helps dial back some of the irritability that is the hallmark of Asperger’s.

I took this recommendation, and his other remarks, back to my family doctor and took my first dose of Cipralex at lunch that day.

Typically, these sorts of drugs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) take several weeks to get fully into your system and do their magic, but I began to feel calmer after just a couple of days. Partly this could be the “placebo effect” (you think it’s helping, so it does); partly it could be the mindfulness reading and practice I’ve been doing; partly it could be just the fact of finally getting help with all of this.

Whoa, Meltdown. Whoa, boy!

Whoa, Meltdown. Whoa, boy!

Whatever the reason, though, it’s like the “mad wild horse” I’ve been living with for months now has finally been quieted. Instead of it plunging around and my trying vainly to grab the reins and calm it down, it’s just… standing there. Quietly. Blowing steam gently out of its nose and munching grass.

It’s the strangest feeling, like something has been almost physically cut out of me. I drop a fork on the floor, say, and there is no urge to scream and swear and rampage around the apartment. The computer gets noisy and I simply shut it off and go do something else. It is the strangest thing ever, like a fever breaking.

The downside, though (and there always is one, when you put chemicals in your body) is a bit of a sedated feeling: today, Day Six, I feel like I have a mild case of the flu. I’m very, very tired and dragging myself around the house a little bit. However, I’m confident that this, too, will pass as my system adjusts to the new regime.

And frankly, this is a really small price to pay for longed-for peace and quiet.

I must add a few caveats here: I am not a big advocate of simply medicating undesirable behaviours out, for any reason. I think of drugs as an absolute last resort, to be used only after lifestyle changes and therapeutic interventions have failed. Also, what works for one person will not necessarily work for another — for whatever reason, Cipralex seems to work for me right now, for my specific symptoms and chemical makeup and body type.

As with all medical decisions, talk to your doctor and/or a specialist first and rule out any other conditions that may be causing a sudden onset or return of symptoms.

I will keep you posted as this experiment goes on.

Yours calmly,

A.G.

 

Human as a Second Language: “Definitely” means “never”

The other night I was out for dinner with my friends Critter and Varmint (Aspie-positive NT life forms) and we got to talking about the many ways humans have of wiggling out of commitments.

One of these ways is the use of the word “definitely,” which, after some extensive observation, I have concluded actually means “never.”

We should definitely ... never mind.

We should definitely … never mind.

And combined with any or all of the words “should,” “sometime,” “check it out,” and “try,” you can be sure that the get-together you’re discussing (or the hairdresser/book/movie/whatever that you’re recommending) is just not going to happen.

For example, if you’ve met someone in a social situation and get to that point in the exchange where you’re negotiating another get-together, and the person says “Yes, we should definitely try to get together for coffee sometime,” you can rest assured that coffee will not be had and that person will forever remain an acquaintance.

This can be puzzling and downright hurtful, and especially so for Aspies, who, to put it bluntly, live in a world of misunderstandings and frequent rejections. It can be tempting at this point to become angry at the other person, and to take such a blow-off personally — in other words, to condemn the other person and to assume this is a reflection on you personally. To explain why this is not actually a valid or useful response, I will borrow from the teachings of The Big Bang Theory and of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), of which I am a huge fan.

This definitely sucks, but I shall accept it as a social convention.

This definitely sucks, but I shall accept it as a social convention.

First of all, there is no hard-and-fast rule stating that the other person must get together with you simply because you want this to happen (that’s the CBT rational thought, there). NTs are not as direct as Aspies can be (sometimes this is a good thing and is known as “manners”) and will often find a softer way of saying, albeit obliquely, that for whatever reason, they’re not interested in or able to commit to getting together with you at this point.

Second, the whole “we should definitely get together sometime” thing is actually part of a social convention that a lot of NTs follow. This is something I’ve seen often on The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon (arguably an Aspie) is quite often stopped in his argumentative, insist-y tracks by being told that certain things (e.g., the giving of birthday presents, or attending dull faculty wine-and-cheese parties) are simply non-negotiable social conventions and he needs to suck it up and play nice.

In this instance, the use of the words “definitely,” “should,” etc. is the NT’s way of signalling that your social exchange is coming to an end and it’s time for you both to go find someone else to talk to, or change the subject.

The subject of what constitutes an acceptance is a bit more complicated (OK, a lot…) but briefly, for the sake of comparison here, I would say that the suggestion of a date, time, and place (“OK, how about next Thursday at The Wobbly Duck Cafe? Does 2:30 work for you?”) and the exchange of contact information are signs that the other person is interested in furthering your acquaintance. (Needless to say, you can really overthink this, as Sheldon infamously does on the episode called “The Friendship Algorithm.”)

So, your two lessons are: first, know when you’re being blown off. Your clues are the use of the word “definitely” and the presence of any or all of the words “should,” “sometime,” “check it out,” and “try.” This is your cue to stop asking and move on.

Second, know that encountering the dreaded “We should definitely try to get together sometime” is not something you should take personally or use as a cudgel to beat either yourself or the other person. Rather, you are engaging in a social convention in which another person is trying to let you down gently. Let them. And find someone else to have coffee with.

~A.G.

You can definitely over-think the whole friendship thing. Let's try not to do that.

You can definitely over-think the whole friendship thing. Let’s try not to do that.

Kinsey Millhone and Captain Picard to the rescue

It’s been a god-awful couple of weeks in Asparagus-Land. Maybe it’s something in the air — my friend John (aka. Hugo the Dirigible Driver) told me yesterday that he, too, has been debating packing it in and moving to the outer Spiral Arm of the galaxy.

Yup, it feels like this.

Yup, it feels like this.

For me, “god-awful” of late includes escalating night-time serenades courtesy of the Ancient Yowling Cat with whom I share my home, and a misunderstanding of epic proportions between me and a couple of people whom I’d really grown to like over the last six weeks or so as we planned (I thought) a big project together.

I can’t say too much here because the wound is still very fresh for me and things are utterly unresolved, but suffice it to say that the project is dead in the water, which is hugely disappointing. Worse, I was made to look and feel like an ass (all in a day’s work in Aspie-Land, some might say) by people who know I have Asperger’s and am thus prone to NOT communicating or understanding the “big picture” well at the best of times — they had one thing in mind, and my understanding of that, as it turned out, was entirely erroneous. Not only were we not on the same page, we weren’t even in the same book. Or possibly in the same library.

What he said.

What he said.

And when I pointed this out (probably not as politely or tactfully as I might have, had I not felt so betrayed and angry) I was brushed off, given the tight-lipped HR Smile, and ultimately invited to more or less put on my Big-Girl Bathing Suit and go jump in the lake. “Best of luck in future challenges” is not something one wants or expects to hear from people who, only 24 hours previously, one had (possibly naively) considered friends.

Anyway, the wound is still very, very fresh, and as such it’s somewhat odd to be writing this piece at all — partly because I rarely write about unsolved issues, and especially ones that embarrass me so deeply; and partly because writing this piece was actually the suggestion, weeks ago, of one of the above-mentioned parties.

We had been discussing coping mechanisms in times of stress and pain, and I pointed to the Sue Grafton novel I had open beside me (G is for Gumshoe, if you want to know). I’ve read it two or three times already but when I am feeling lousy, I love nothing more than to pick up one of her mysteries and follow my buddy Kinsey Millhone (Grafton’s cheeky female detective) around for a while. While not exactly predictable, Kinsey is dependable, routine driven (three-mile jog in the morning, shower, cereal and coffee, wash cup and bowl in sink… the occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese…), and just the sort of friend I’d like to have, actually.

My homies in times of trouble.

My homies in times of trouble.

In addition to Sue Grafton’s novels, I have been burying myself in Star Trek: The Next Generation (or STTNG, as Trekkies call it). Again, I’ve seen the episodes countless times, but I am soothed by the familiarity of the characters, by the fact that things WILL work out, as hopeless as they seem, and by Captain Picard‘s kindness and wisdom. I once heard it said that every office needs a Jean-Luc Picard; seems maybe some Aspies do too.

I’ve also been known to play my DVDs of Big Bang Theory more or less constantly, on low volume, in the background while I work, read, or answer emails. I have the first five seasons. This can (and does) go on for a long, long time.

Last week, as the fecal matter was really hitting the fan, I was astonished to find myself playing Angry Birds on my iPad for hours and hours at a time. (This is not as easy as it sounds when you’re bawling like an infant, I discovered.) I first downloaded the game onto my iPhone a couple of summers ago when I was meeting a friend in Washington, DC, and was (correctly) anticipating hours waiting in airports. I played obsessively for a few months and then completely lost interest, so it was a surprise to find myself obsessed with it again. Although, like my other “self-soothers,” it provides repetition, repetition, repetition. Aim birds, kill piggies, smash bricks, repeat.

Anyway, I’m sure that this, too, will pass. I’ve coped with worse, and let’s face it, my coping methods are pretty tame and fairly unlikely to land me in rehab, prison, or a wooden box. Although much of my stress actually comes of being an Aspie, I’m also thankful, ironically, to be an Aspie when the chips are down because I’m that much less likely to rely on booze, drugs, dangerous driving, violence, or risky sex to divert myself from the problems at hand. The worst that will happen to me, God willing, is eye strain and the mackerel-like pallor that comes of sitting indoors licking my wounds for weeks at a stretch.

If you’re so inclined, leave me a comment below and let me know how you cope when all around you is turning to poop-on-a-platter.

If you need me, I’ll be over here with Kinsey, Sheldon, and Jean-Luc, keeping the world safe from little green pigs.

–Asparagus Girl, out.

Angry birds

Everyone needs a Seeing-Eye Person

I’m a pretty independent person, as people who know me will attest.

Stubborn as an Aspergian.

I think it comes of having a Scottish heritage, being Aspergian, and of having been more or less abandoned by my parents, who simply weren’t interested in children. (This of course begs the question of why they adopted at all, but that’s a subject for another day.)

In other words, I am not only biologically inclined towards independence, but was driven to it by circumstance. I am not alone in this: one of my heroes, John Elder Robison, is another excellent example of a self-raised Aspergian.

Anyway, sometimes this is a really good thing: it means I’m organized (and how), and that when there’s a job to be done, whether it’s cleaning house or getting a book edited on deadline, I do it. It’s enabled me to complete a postsecondary education, be employed, and have a roof over my head, a car in the driveway, money in the bank, and food in the fridge. Nothing fancy, mind you, but I do manage to keep the wolf from the door.

However, there are also some serious down-sides to being so independent, and those usually occur where my need to get ‘er done, now, on my terms, meets the crushing naïveté of Asperger Syndrome.

I’m the one that should be on the leash sometimes. 😉

As I’ve explained before, Asperger’s has made me fact-smart and people-stupid, meaning I’m great with setting up a study schedule or invoicing system for myself, but really bad with decisions involving social interactions. If life came with report cards, I’d be acing out in all the geek subjects, but flunking dismally in office life, friendships, and romance.

And this is where the folks I like to call my Seeing-Eye People come in. Just as people who are blind often have guide dogs that keep them from crashing into trees and falling down flights of stairs, I have acquired, in the last few years, a small, trustworthy group of people who help to keep me from stepping on too many land-mines in my dealings with other Humanoid Life Forms.

My decision to acquire Seeing-Eye People was motivated by some of the looking-back I did, with an Asperger’s specialist, after I was diagnosed in April 2009. He praised my accomplishments, but also gently pointed out the gaping craters of destruction where Asperger’s (and my unwillingness to ever ask for help or advice) had made its mark on my life — failed romances, poor choices of friends and partners, money lost to unscrupulous people, unhealthy career decisions….

Eventually, slowly, I began to understand not only that maybe some of these craters could have been avoided if I’d been able/willing to ask for advice, but also that asking for help is something we all — NT and Aspergian alike — need to do from time to time.

In fact, one of my Seeing-Eye People, my friend K., said to me recently that over the course of our friendship she has often worried terribly about me, as I’m so easily taken advantage of.  However, since I wasn’t the ask-for-help type, she had to be content with watching uneasily as I slipped on banana peel after banana peel, socially speaking.

Getting rid of sharky “friends” is a must.

K., of course, was and is a keeper. But step one in the process of selecting the rest of my Seeing-Eye People was jettisoning some bad apples — drama queens, for example, or people who were only hanging around me for money or sex (or both), or sponges who were only nice to me when they needed a favour.

This left me with fewer friends, but better-quality ones. It’s a hard thing to do, and makes for a bit of loneliness, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Step two was recognizing when I was in a bind, or didn’t know what “social protocols” were expected. For most of my life I’ve just bashed my way through whatever decision needed to be made, and damn the torpedoes. Now I have to do a bit of sorting: “Is this something I normally do successfully on my own, or does this require a Social Skill I don’t possess?” or “Am I getting that uneasy, weirded-out feeling that tells me I might need help?” If it’s the latter, then I know I need to make a phone call or send a text or email to one of my Seeing-Eye People and ask for assistance.

Two instances spring to mind. One was last year when an acquaintance from my gym asked to borrow my car. I don’t know her very well, and she had just had an accident with her own vehicle, and because I badly wanted her to be my friend, I initially said Yes.

However, I got that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me that was a poor decision. I went for a walk (I think best on my feet) and eventually it occurred to me that I should phone K. pronto. I also emailed my friend T. and asked for her thoughts. Over the sound of their eyebrows rocketing up into their hairlines, I got the message loud and clear that I must NOT be going about lending my vehicle to virtual strangers!

As K. put it, even her own sister has never asked to borrow her car, nor has she (K.) in our 28 years of friendship, ever asked to borrow mine.

Lesson learned.

Who you gonna call? Your Seeing-Eye Person!

The other instance was a matter of protocol: a few months ago, a friend’s baby was stillborn. She lives in another city and notified me (and a few others) by email, as she was understandably crushed & in mourning. I emailed her back my heartfelt condolences, but felt I should do more. However, being an Aspergian, I had no idea what was required.

So I phoned my friend A. (Seeing-Eye Person No. 3) and explained the situation, and asked what the protocol would be in such a situation. A. explained that often people want to talk about these things, and although I hate talking on the phone, I understood that it would be good to make an exception here and phoned my friend. She did, indeed, badly need to talk, and so we talked for about an hour together, and I came away feeling that I’d absolutely done the right thing, and helped her to feel better.

There are, of course, still a galaxy of things I do on my own and for which I need no advice or input: the day-to-day running of my work, what to make for dinner, how to run my home, when and where to exercise, what to watch on TV.

But slowly, surely, I’m learning that in some matters — particularly the Big Things that give me that uneasy feeling in my stomach, or that could have an enormous impact on my financial or social well-being — I can and should consult with my Seeing-Eye People and utter those words that come so hard to all us Aspergians:

“I’m having trouble with this. What do you think?”

The joy of just being yourself!

Lately I’ve talked a lot about “managing” your Asperger’s, and how to get on with other people.

All of that stuff is, of course, very important. You probably spend a lot of time on it in school and with therapists and other helpers.

No more lessons for now! Yayyyyyy!!!!

But one thing that people often forget is that it’s equally important to have time just to stop all the lessons, give your brain a little holiday, and just be YOU!

Sometimes I think people focus mostly on the things about Asperger’s that are negative or unhelpful (like meltdowns and difficulties with friends) and they forget the things that are really good about Asperger’s.

For example, you might find some of these are true about you:

  • the ability to concentrate on one thing for a long time
  • being good at math, music, spelling, drawing, learning a new language etc.
  • being a good mimic (which means being able to copy a voice or repeat a commercial accurately)
  • having an excellent memory
  • being very direct and honest when you speak
  • being good at video games or board games
  • knowing a lot about animals, insects, machines, computers etc
  • being very independent and able to amuse yourself

(These are just some of the “positives” of Asperger’s. There are loads more, and you can probably think of other good “Aspergian” things about yourself.)

Down-time is sooooooooooo important.

Anyway, even though learning good social skills etc. is very important, it’s also extremely important to spend time doing things that are enjoyable for your “Asperger brain.”

Sometimes you’ll want to do these things by yourself, and just have time away from other people (especially if you have spent a lot of time with other people lately!). I call this “down-time” or “recharging my batteries”, and I need a lot of it!

Here are some of the things I do for “down-time”:

  • turn off my phone
  • maybe get a snack that I like
  • watch TV or a DVD (I love Battlestar Galactica and The Big Bang Theory and documentaries about nature, animals etc)
  • read a book (right now I’m reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry. It’s kind of like The Hunger Games)
  • go for a walk or a bike ride or a run by the river that’s near my house
  • do a puzzle
  • organize my computer files or my paper files

And when I was a kid, I used to do these things in my quiet time:

  • reading
  • going to my room and playing with my toys (I had dolls) or organizing my things
  • sitting quietly in my little fort in the back yard
  • work on a hobby (building things, collecting things, writing stories, drawing)

I make sure I have some “down-time” every day and it helps keep my brain from “overheating.”

My hiking group, crossing a river!

However, another nice way to enjoy being an Aspergian is find other Aspergians to be friends with, or some “Aspergian-friendly” kids who share your interests. I have both kinds of friends: several of them don’t have Asperger’s, but are a bit “quirky” and they appreciate my smart brain and my weird sense of humour. 🙂

I also have a good friend named Jane who has Asperger’s and I like spending time with her because I never have to explain “Asperger stuff” to her — she just “gets it” automatically, of course. We walk around downtown, or go on nature hikes together, and talk about bugs, animals, skulls, fossils, and all sorts of things that other people might find kind of weird. But who cares? We’re Aspergians! 🙂

If you have a super-smart brain, you might ask your parents about joining an organization called Mensa. There are lots of Aspergians and super-smart people in that group and that might be a way for you to find your “herd.” (If you’ve seen a movie called The Ice Age, they talk about the idea of having a “herd,” meaning a group of people who like you and support you and do stuff with you. I love that.)

Some Aspergian kids get on better with adults (I certainly did). Adults can often teach you loads of new things, and are often more accepting of Aspergian kids than other “regular” (non-Aspergian) kids might be.

But … you must NEVER make friends with an adult without consulting your mum or dad first. If your mum or dad is helping you read this article, this would be a good time to stop and have a talk about that, if you haven’t discussed it already. It’s important to have a “herd,” but it’s WAY more important to make sure your herd has good, safe people in it.

Well, that’s it for now. As usual, I have to do some more work before the end of the day. And after that I’m going to the gym for a fitness class (exercise also keeps my brain from overheating!).

And then… guess what? It’s DOWN-TIME — just me, my cat, and The Big Bang Theory. 🙂 I can’t wait!

Talk to you soon!

–Asparagus Girl

Your “herd” is the people who love and understand you, just the way you are!

“Oops, sorry — Asperger Moment!”

One of the hard things about having Asperger Syndrome is that sometimes people think we are rude or naughty, when we don’t really mean to be.

Sometimes we know immediately when we’ve goofed, and sometimes a teacher or a parent or a friend will have to tell us. Both things have happened to me, and they still do (even though I’m a grownup!). Sometimes I get a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach, and I think “Oh no… I really blew it this time.” And sometimes a friend will take me aside and say to me, “That wasn’t very nice, what you just said.”

Either way, it’s really embarrassing and it feels absolutely awful. 😦

OMG, I totally did not mean to say that….

Partly these sorts of things happen to us because our big complicated “Asperger brains” sometimes make us say and do things before we really think about the consequences. (Consequences include things like hurting someone’s feelings, bothering or annoying people, or scaring people with our tempers or angry words.)

And partly the trouble is that we Aspergians look like everyone else. You wouldn’t think this would be a problem, but it means that because we look like everyone else, people expect us to act like it too. And when we have an “Asperger moment”, and say or do something unexpected or “weird”, people get offended or upset, or just very, very puzzled.

“That kid looks so normal!” they think. “Why is he acting so nutty?”

“MOOOOOOOO!” …. oops…

It would be like seeing a nice cat sitting in the sun — and suddenly the cat stands up and goes MOOOOOOOOO! like a cow, or rhymes off some swear words!

Anyway, I’ve found that the best remedy when you goof up and say or do something inappropriate is just to “fess up” to the person you’ve hurt or offended, and say “I’m really sorry. I had an ‘Asperger Moment’ just there.”

That might sound a bit crazy (and a bit embarrassing for you), but chances are that if you’re a kid, most of your friends and teachers and family members already know you have Asperger’s (this is a good thing!), and have learned a little bit about it, and they will actually kind of understand what you mean.

But more importantly, when you say the word Sorry, they know instantly that you are trying to mend things, and that you still want to have friendly feelings with them.  It’s like a code word that disarms a bomb, and it makes everyone stop, put their “weapons” down, take a deep breath, and start working to resolve the situation.

Adults might want to talk with you a bit about what happened, and family members might give you a cuddle, if you like those.

Other kids don’t really talk all that much about stuff — after you say Sorry they might just say “Oh, that’s OK”, or “OK, well, don’t do it again”, and then get back to playing or watching the movie or whatever.

The words “Sorry, I had an Asperger Moment” are actually a very good set of tools for mending and building friendships!

Hmmm… I need the “Friendship Mender” tool….

However, like all tools, you have to use them carefully.

For example, no fair using Asperger’s as an excuse for more naughty behaviour, or for getting out of things you don’t want to do. Look at it another way: suppose one of your classmates had a broken arm with a cast on it. It means he can’t do certain things for a while, like swim or play baseball. But if he said, “Oh, I can’t possibly do my math homework! I have a broken arm!”, or “You have to give me that toy. I have a broken arm!”, then you would probably want to put him in a smelly little spaceship and send him on a one-way trip to another planet, right? 😀

Same with Asperger’s: people understand that you have trouble doing some things because of it, and they will forgive you if you slip up. But it isn’t an excuse to be naughty or rude.

Preventing Asperger Moments

However, the BEST remedy of all is to try and avoid the Asperger Moments in the first place!

Partly we can do that by remembering helpful things like manners (I will talk more about this in another post, because it’s super-important). We can also observe what our good “role models” do (teachers we like, friends who are good at social stuff) and try to copy that behaviour.

I talked about “copying good behaviour” in another post (here), and I also talked about the “Red Alert” feelings before you have a meltdown or get frustrated and angry. If you have been collecting data about your Asperger’s, you might already have a list of things that bug you, and that sometimes lead to meltdowns or bad behaviour.

My own personal list includes:

  • annoying noises like a dog constantly barking, a squeaky fan or machine, or a song I dislike on the radio
  • people with whiny or loud voices
  • people wearing stinky perfume or cologne, or who have bad breath or body odour
  • the sound of other people chewing
  • sitting for too long without a break
  • someone grabbing me or touching me unexpectedly

So if I possibly can, I try to avoid all the things in that list.

If I can’t avoid them, I try to cope as best as I can. (For example, if someone at a party has a loud, whiny voice I will go in the other room to help with the dishes, or concentrate very hard on talking to someone I like!) If you’re a kid, you can ask an adult you trust to help you cope. That might mean saying “Psst… Dad, can I talk to you in the other room?” and then quietly explaining what’s bugging you so that you both can figure out a solution.

My Asperger Moments are worse if I’m tired or have too many interruptions to my routines. So that means one of my Coping Strategies is to make sure I get enough sleep (I go to bed on time and get up on time), and I also try not to load on too many tasks in a day.

And if I feel that meltdown coming then I take steps to avert disaster (I also discuss this in that other post, here)! Get away from the situation, and get somewhere safe if it’s going to be really bad.

The “Bad Asperger Day”

However, there’s one situation where you basically have to admit defeat, and that’s something I call the Bad Asperger Day.

Arghhghgh… Bad Asperger Day….

We all have them. It’s that feeling where you wake up in the morning and you feel like your brain is full of angry red ants setting off fireworks and bombs. You’re mad at everyone and everything. Nothing seems to make you feel better, you hate things you normally like, and you have no patience with anyone or anything. You might even “regress” a bit, meaning you act like you did when you were quite a bit younger.

No one really knows why this happens, but sometimes I think a Bad Asperger Day is like when a computer malfunctions and has to be “rebooted.”

And that’s where you just have to tell someone “I’m having a Bad Asperger Day” and ask for help.

It’s like waving a white flag and admitting, “That’s it, I give up. For today, I just can’t control my Asperger’s and am having a very hard time with everything. Please help.”

And again, you will probably find that people will be glad to help you if you’ve asked. (Most people really do love to help, and want you to feel better!)

You may have to experiment to find out what will make you feel better, and it will be different every time. You and your mum (or dad, or grampa, or teachers) can start gathering data to find out what works, though — try everything!

Some of my things include:

  • a nap
  • reading quietly and having a cup of tea
  • listening to very loud music
  • listening to very soothing music
  • going for a run or a long walk or a bike ride
  • watching a TV show or movie that makes me cry (tears contain chemicals that help “reboot” your brain!)
  • going to a fitness class (because it’s part of my “routine” and routines often make me feel better)
  • cleaning my house (when I was a kid I cleaned my room) because tidiness & organization make me happy

Like with the “Asperger Moments,” though, the Bad Asperger Day is never to be used to get out of things! If you have a math test, no fair saying, “Uh, darn it! I’m having a Bad Asperger Day!”

Well, that’s it for now. I hope this has been helpful!

If you have any comments or suggestions, or if you have a list of things that help you out, I’d love to hear from you! If you put your comments in the “Comment” box below, I will reply.

And if there are other topics you want to ask me about, please use that box as well. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

— Asparagus Girl.

“My Autism and Me”: lovely BBC documentary

This is a wonderful little video about a young British girl named Rosie who has Asperger Syndrome, and who has a little brother named Lenny who has classic autism.

I found it on the site of another WordPress blogger (thank you, Ragga!) and was instantly riveted, not least because Rosie and Ben both remind me of myself when I was young.

Memorable quotes: “Right now, Lenny is nesting on the TV!” (Rosie) and “Everyone else is weird. I’m normal.” (Tony) 🙂

It’s just over 14 minutes long, and the accents may be a bit hard for North American listeners to follow for the first minute or so until your ears become attuned to the difference (I say they’re Scottish and my friend A. says “generic middle-class British”… stay tuned!).

Anyway, until then, get yourself a nice cup of tea and a couple of biscuits, settle in, and prepare to be moved.

My Autism and Me