Once More Round the Sun

I’ve just finished my first week at my new place of employment, so what can I tell you about the first seven days, 168 hours or 604,800 seconds?  I’m part of a great team and I really love it there. I also get two consecutive days off – Monday and Tuesday. This is great because i get bank holiday Mondays off – something I’m not used to. This was especially good this week, as it was the anniversary of my 42nd trip round the sun. Having my birthday made me think.

I’m sure that most people really love having a birthday, but, as an Aspie, I was just wondering if anybody else has difficulty with their own birthdays. With each passing year I find my birthday more of a struggle. It’s not the day, per se, or the fact that I’m getting older, but I find all the attention I get on my birthday rather overwhelming and sooner or later I wish that everybody would just leave me alone. I also find getting presents from people other than Mrs Bob a bit of a nightmare, because it is a social minefield for me. It makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious – did I seem genuine with my thanks? Will they expect some form of physical contact, like a hug? Above all, I generally just feel utterly exhausted by the end. However, people just don’t seem to understand why I’d rather be on my own on the day and they think I’m just being silly or modest when I tell them.

So I came up with an Aspie way to celebrate my birthday! It began with the usual ‘phone call from my parents, where they sing happy birthday to me. It usually drives me mad, but I have now realised that it’s well-intentioned and I should make the most of the time with my parents as I’m going to miss them when they’re gone. I chilled out with Mrs Bob and opened my presents from her; I got some great stuff: T-shirts, Batman books (always a winner) and decided what to do with the day, which is simple – go out for something to eat. No, before you think it, I’m not one for a five course gourmet meal with a side of pretension, I want to go to my favourite little vegan place. I’m not a vegan or veggie, they just serve the greatest selection of lattes i.e. Black Forest, Creme Brûlée, etc, and they make my favourite omelette with the greatest gluten-free bread. On top of that, I t’s a quiet little place with lovely owners, that almost feels like home. I followed this with some Xbox game time on The Division and then rented a new movie online. This is not to everyone’s taste, including Mrs Bob, but xXx The Return of Zander Cage is a film I’ve wanted to see and it’s my birthday after all.

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter how you spend your birthday or who you spend it with, as long as you have a lovely, relaxing, stress-free time doing whatever it is you enjoy.

Season Two Episode One

I have had an extremely relaxing week off before starting my new job… a week of endless possibilities! I could do so many things with this new-found freedom. “So what did you do, Bob?” I hear you ask. I did just what I wanted to do … I went to my local comic book store and spent some time geeking out. I went to my all-time favourite coffee shop which serves the best Creme Brûlée latte in the south Devon area. I even drove all the way to Bude with Mrs Bob and the mother-in-law who is back in the country for a while, while Mrs Bob delivered some training. This gave me a chance to practice my solo ‘small talk’ skills while we waited for my lovely wife. .

I ended up really relaxing, and focusing my mind on what was coming next. This new, exciting but quite daunting chapter of my life that is about to begin – Season Two., if you like. A new location, new cast members and very interesting bunch of people. I’m looking forward to this new challenge; I have spent a week getting ready for this challenge and, despite a few nerves, I think … no damn it, I know I can do it. .

My first night was, thankfully, a very slow and steady start, which was great. It gave me a chance to figure out what goes where and who’s who, etc. It will take me a while to remember the names of everyone I work with, etc, but I’m getting there and seem to be fitting into my new role very nicely. The other staff are young (in fact the same age as my kids!) but they know their stuff and need very little supervision, which is great news as I can focus on other tasks. The people are a really nice bunch,

All in all, I think I have found a very nice new job and I can’t wait to share the ramblings from season two with you all.

Stay Safe X

Father Figure?

I had some important news from my eldest child the other day. She had put off telling me because she thought I would get cross and shouty. While it hurt my feelings a little to hear this, as I’ve tried many times to tell all my children that they can talk to me about anything, it also made me think about how children who have one or more parent on the Autism Spectrum can be affected by it. So, I decided to write this as if my children were reading it. Hopefully, one day, they will.

  •  Firstly, and most importantly, do you understand what Autism is?

Autism is a neuro-developmental disability, which affects around 700,000 people in the UK. That’s more than 1 in 100 people (source :National Autism Society). In my case, it affects how I process information and emotions. Remember, though, it’s a spectrum and everyone with Autism is different. Still, some of the broad issues run through many people on the spectrum. Things like telling people what we need, saying how we feel, struggling with meeting new people and making friends, even understanding what other people are saying and thinking. I can’t read what your face is saying to me and sometimes your words don’t give me any clues. I have repetitive behaviour and routines, also I find it difficult to handle when people change plans that involve me.

Many Autistic people are not diagnosed until they are adults.  I was not diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome myself until I was in my forties.

I know that having me as a dad on the spectrum will have affected all of you in a number of ways.

  •   My Dad doesn’t seem to understand if and when I’m feeling down or upset and I don’t know why?

As an aspie it can make it very hard for me to understand and process how people are feeling. You maybe upset or angry but I might not see this like other dads might, due to the fact that I can’t understand your body language or facial expressions. This can also mean I find it difficult to know if and when you need a hug. I’m not very good at hugging or close contact with anyone. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, because I do, I just don’t understand how you are feeling right now.

  •  I can’t tell whether my dad is listening to me sometimes.

This is a very simple and straightforward one to answer. Just because I don’t look you in the eyes when I’m talking to you doesn’t mean I’m not listening or that I’m talking to someone else. it’s because I can find eye contact painful and hard to do. If I do, it can seem as if I’m staring, and this can feel awkward and embarrassing for both of us.

I’m sure that as kids growing with me as an autistic parent it might have been lonely, scary and confusing, I may have acted strangely and even had the occasional panic attack or meltdown while you were around. You might have been annoyed at me because I wasn’t cool or normal like your mates’ parents, If this is the case, I’m really sorry.

It’s important that you talk to other people about your experiences. It might help for you to confide in another adult – a friend or family member – about what is happening. Above all you can talk to me about it. I won’t get angry. I understand myself and my surroundings much better since I was diagnosed and settled down. For my daughters, your future children might be affected by this spectrum and it will be helpful for you to understand a bit about it.

Although I might not seem totally normal to you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I will always be there for you, and I love you more than you will ever know.

Stay Safe X

Sleep Tight

After a rather strange and disturbed night’s sleep the other night (thanks to Dog, Mrs Bob, an open window and weird dream cycles, not necessarily in that order) and then feeling strange all day the following day, I have been wondering about how sleep patterns and dream cycles good or bad and can affect the brain of someone with ASD. After a bit of research, I was shocked to find that sleep issues are quite prevalent in people with ASD – statistics show that it can range from 40% to a scary 80%. I, myself, have always had really odd sleeping habits. Sometimes it takes me a long time to fall asleep. Other nights I wake up maybe half a dozen times, due to one reason or another. Other times I can have very little sleep and wake up at 5:00am ready for work, and hit the ground running with an energy that seems to amaze and annoy others. As an adult, I’ve come to realise that having the right sleeping conditions can make a really big difference,

There are a number of ways to get that sometimes elusive perfect night’s sleep that you may find helpful. Some I’ve tried personally, others have been mentioned to me as helpful. I have found that I need to be physically tired to get a good sleep; fortunately in my line of work I get quite a lot of it with all the walking around that I do! Failing that, you could always get an hour or so of exercise a day – maybe go for a walk (the sea air near us is perfect as it contains huge amounts of negativity charged ions which helps with sleep). Maybe go for a bike ride or a swim or mix it up a little and do a combo of these things.

Bedding is another one that has been mentioned a number of times on various sites. A good mattress is crucial, and should be replaced every ten years. I always spend as much as I can on a mattress, given that I spend a third of my time on it! I can’t vouch for the next one, but it would appear to make sense. Heavy blankets are apparently good, as the pressure of a heavy blanket is more relaxing over a light sheet or blanket. However, there is a fine line when it comes both this and the next factor, which is temperature. I personally find that I prefer the room to be nice and cool in order to get a better quality of sleep. I’m not sure if this Aspie related, but if I get too warm I tend to spend more time awake than in slumber. To help with this I also like to pair the latter with comfy sleepwear. I can’t wear anything too loose as I end up waking up feeling like it’s strangling me if I toss and turn and it gets wrapped up around me! The best fit for me is my pajama trousers and a t shirt. This brings me onto two things that may seem like me teaching you to suck eggs but please bear with me: Familiar surroundings. I find it much easier to get a quality night’s sleep at home or where I’m familiar. When I’m on holiday or staying away from home it takes me longer to get to sleep due to my brain needing to catalogue the unfamiliar sounds and smells. This leads on to the other issue of either quiet or noise. I need either total quiet or a consistent natural noise (wind, waves, steady traffic, etc,) to fall asleep to. Something like intermittent voices, a radio or a television – even one playing in an adjoining hotel room will keep me awake until it stops. In fact, I’ll usually be awake long after it stops because of the anxiety it can create. The room also has to be completely dark as I can’t sleep unless it is. Light shining in my room through a window or under/around a door will keep me awake terribly and cause me to be ratty.

Before I sleep, I find that watching some light television like comedy is always a winner, rather than perhaps a horror or noisy cop drama. The other great one is reading, which has been one of my favourites since childhood; it distracts and calms me. I think it can also become a sleep cue. When I pick up a book in bed, my brain starts sending out sleep signals to my body. It usually only takes 15-20 minutes of reading before I start to feel myself drifting off. The down side is a book hitting your face will kind of disturb your sleep a little!

Above all, it’s a fine balancing act between these and any number of personal tricks and techniques that you as an individual have found to work. Remember that if something isn’t working, don’t get stressed or wound up as that will really not help you at all. Maybe it’s a bath and a podcast or a movie and a hot chocolate – whatever it is that you find works best for you. It’s a very personal and individual choice that may not work for someone else.

It’s good to share! If you have any tips about sleeping well, please do comment here.