Having a Plan A…and a Plan B – Dealing with My Autism

Plans eh? They say never to plan or have a set routine because it’s bound to go wrong. Well when you’re on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder like myself, it’s important to have some kind of routine or regimented order as that is a trait of ASD.

I don’t like change very much, and certainly when routine is disrupted like last week, it can cause a downturn in mood and well being. I can be flexible with changing plans – up to a point. I’m not the best with lateness or sheer incompetence, especially from service providers, in whatever field. Last week I was almost going out of my mind, it was that bad.

Again, it’s all about understanding. I like order and it’s almost my daily life is on rails or tramlines. When the path is smooth, life is all fine and dandy. When an unexpected development is introduced, the train of thought or action is derailed and severe anxiety becomes the prevailing mood. I suddenly become derailed and vulnerable. I don’t think enough is understood about this trait of ASD that affects one in 700,000 people in the UK.

To summarise, if people around me do things properly, are punctual and are nice to me, then I’m happy. If none of that criteria is met, it’s best to steer clear of me for a few days, as the steam will be coming out of my ears. I do have some patience, but that patience wears thin if the above pattern is not conformed to on a regular basis. That was what last week was like. Hell on Earth, and no joke.

I hope that helps some of the misconceptions around the traits of ASD.

Thanks for listening.

Allen Brooks xx

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Brrrrrritain in the freezer….

Hello. Today’s winter weather offering is the sort I like. Clear, cold, crisp, sunny. Perfect for wrapping yourself up in a warm coat, scarf and hat and getting out for a while.

It’s not like that everywhere. Britain being an island, there are wide variations in the weather. Some parts are deep in snow. Snow, I hear you cry? Yes, that white powdery stuff that falls in winter and renders the UK powerless and helpless. Other countries like Finland, Switzerland and Canada get more snow than we do and yet they cope. The UK though doing what it does best when something goes slightly wrong; panic like mad.

So if it’s clear and cold where you are, go out and enjoy it. If it’s snowing where you are, also get out and enjoy it. It’ll be gone in a few days time. The freezing cold helps to kill off germs and flu bugs, so I’m always glad when it arrives. Far better than that grey, rainy, damp muck that has been the weather type for much of this week. Just a personal preference!

Allen Brooks xx

Scaring people….

Not absolutely sure about the timeframe on this, but all I remember was that I wasn’t in a good place. I was having all sorts of dark thoughts, my self esteem was through the floor, and I’d taken to Facebook to express how I was feeling. Thinking back, it was the middle of summer, but can’t pinpoint a year. My memory playing tricks, now that is unusual!

As I said, it wasn’t a good time. One night, it must have been around 1 or 2 in the morning I suppose, my emotions overflowed. I got my phone, went on to Facebook and gave full vent to my spleen. It was pretty graphic, pretty horrifying and I was so low that I couldn’t muster any shred of self respect.

I eventually got to bed, and received a text message the following morning from an acquaintance of mine who saw the message. She was horrified that I could write in such graphic and revealing detail, and was worried for my well being. Along with her daughter, she invited me out for a meal that afternoon. I was still in a bad place, but the empathy she showed will always stay with me. I came home from the meal feeling a little bit better.

Was the graphic posting on Facebook a cry for help? I suppose it was. I needed some people to see what was going on. My life was heading nowhere fast and this was my way of expressing this frustration and anger. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t very smart to do this. But when your mind has gone, rationality goes out of the window.

I like to think that I’ve calmed down on the social media front, and I have other avenues where to express my feelings, like peer support group, and my CBT counsellor. Going off the handle like that wasn’t me; and I do think before I act now. That horrible evening, I wasn’t thinking. That’s how screwed up I was. Facebook is a tool I only use now to communicate about sport and social activities, and not to vent my spleen about my private life. It can cause problems.

Older, wiser? Don’t you believe it!

Thanks for dropping by

Allen Brooks xx

Laudable…but is it too little, too late?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42194524

I found this story on the BBC News website this morning and it brings home a subject very close to my heart.

I’ve spent some of the last couple of years visiting local schools and performing presentations on mental health. One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. To me, it’s important to start early and impress on youngsters why it is important to have good mental health. The workshops we performed brought in fantastic testimonies from the schools and one or two disclosures. The youngsters felt they could disclose in us.

Disclosures. A service should be available NOW in all schools for children who may think they have the beginnings of mental illness. They then could be signposted onto professional services for further help. Making that first step is always the most difficult.

So the article above details a Government plan to have some kind of assistance put in 25% of schools by 2022. Why then? Why not now? And 25%? It should be in all schools, but as we all know, finance and resources are always a stumbling block.

I would go a stage further and have mental health on the national curriculum for say an hour a week for all pupils. These sessions could see local people come in, people with lived experience, and maybe some professionals too, to detail what goes on with mental illness. What are the signs? Who do we turn to? and other such questions.

I’m all for schemes to improve the lives of those about to become adults. I’m all for Governments of whatever persuasion to pour in money to help those in need. But is it too little, too late? We need to stop the rate of suicides in people between the ages of 13-18. Any life that you or I can save is a real fillip to those in need. I would like to see more done, and for people like me who are still under secondary mental health services, I would like to give back some more to the stars of tomorrow.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx

Enlightenment…

I’ve just spent a very worthwhile two hours at a meeting of minds at City Hall in London. It was a meeting about mental health and how to improve access for people in this great city. Unfortunately, depending on where you live in the UK, access to mental health services can best be described as a lottery. Some areas are good, some bad, some indifferent.

So how can we change this? By improving access to services, stopping the taboo about talking about mental illness as though it’s something bad, putting more emphasis on “social inclusion” rather than a doctor just prescribing another round of anti depressant medication. Getting people to engage in their local community, irrespective of creed and colour, would be a start.

Making a difference to those who most need it. I’m still engaging in local mental health services and want to give back to those who feel they need to engage, to get involved, to talk about their issues. What is so bad or wrong to talk about mental health? Changing attitudes and making ok to share your feelings and fears. This social model has more mileage than straightforward NHS services. In fact, this social model can complement, but not take the place of medical services.

I love to help others and to give back what I am still taking from mental health services. It was an extremely productive meeting tonight and there was a huge pool of ideas, a starting point to get out there and make a difference. So much so in fact that a fellow attendee wanted to know how I deal with autism. Making a difference already!

Very optimistic and excited about this new venture, and I hope to be part of it.

Thanks for dropping by.

Allen Brooks xx

Up to the sky…crashing back to Earth and feeling trapped.

Interesting dream last night, that woke me up with a start as a result of a quite frightening ending…

I dreamt that I was crossing this river. But I had to cross the river by means of this enormous bridge. Hundreds upon hundreds of steps leading to a point a very long way in the air. I didn’t dare look down, I kept on climbing.

Until the ascent turned into a descent. Then I had to descend hundreds of steps on the other side. I was still a long way in the air when I came to this step that had a wooden beam across it. The only way to get to the next step was to slide between the beam and the step. I tried to do so, and got my head stuck. I started to panic and though there were others around me, they refused to help me. I tried to wriggle free, but to no avail. Before the dream could move on, my subconscious stopped playing tricks and I woke with a start.

I was running through the dream just dreamt and was quite frightened. The up and down nature of the dream, the vertiginous heights and the panic was a little worrying. But it was only a dream of course. My mind is interesting to say the least.

I’m still here….just ha ha.

Allen Brooks xx

That was better….much better from me!

Last week’s attempt at tutoring the class of cricket umpires wasn’t great from my point of view. I allowed myself to get sidetracked, losing the point of what I was supposed to be talking about.

They say a week is a long time in politics, and it is a long time in tutoring too. Despite not feeling anywhere near 100% today, I managed to stand up and do a more confident and relaxed performance than I could have imagined.

It was much better. I was laughing and joking with the audience, I got my points across well and answered questions with more of an assurance than hitherto. The stuff we were covering tonight was a little bit complicated, but it was a really good session, complemented by other members of the tutor team, who did a very good job too.

We certainly got good feedback and I managed to get last week out of my system. I wish it could be perfect all the time. Perfection is something I always try to seek, but never achieved. In fact, I don’t think you can achieve it. I’m always striving to improve and do better each time I stand up and do my stuff. I don’t profess to being a teacher in the classroom sense of the word, but I get by. I couldn’t teach children, I wouldn’t have the patience.

So very satisfied tonight. Always room for improvement. And I did a little bit of pre session reading to brush up my knowledge. That may have helped, and I can be pleased that I did the job, not feeling anywhere near 100%. If that was the case every time, I would be very satisfied. But life isn’t like that!

Thanks for dropping by.

Allen Brooks xx