The Start of Something New

Guest Blog:

Paisley’s blog is a great example of having compassion for yourself. I love how she’s embracing her issues instead of trying to just make them go away! We’ll be following your blog, Paisley.

The Over Thinker

IMG_6433 Thumbs up to me for my first post!

My name is Paisley, I’m a 19 year old student from Ontario, Canada and I have severe anxiety. My whole life I’ve been trying not to let my anxiety define me, but it recently occurred to me that after 19 years of trying to make this thing go away, it won’t. So why not embrace it? That seems to be a trend lately anyways, embracing past tragedies, scars, and physical illnesses, so why shouldn’t we start embracing our mental illness as well?

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High School Years: An Aspie Looks at the Bright Side.

I am going to a concert tomorrow that is a bit like a high school reunion. It’s an unexpected pleasure to be invited.

Any of you who have read Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen will know that my high school years were not exactly a piece of cake.  But take heart: how your life turns out? Depends on you, not the people who disparage you.

Take Hilary, (not an Aspie) who is conducting her own 70th birthday symphony in a Victoria concert hall.  We went to the same school, to a lot of the same classes.

Hilary played in the band. Generally regarded as a tomboy, she was good in sports, a bright student and a great kidder.

What we didn’t know?  Hilary was already playing in a symphony.  Our music teacher who claimed to be very into classical music and even took our class to the Victoria symphony, was dismissive of her talent.  He never let us know we had a virtuoso in our class.

No matter: Hilary pursued her music anyway, making music her life’s work, teaching music in high school, singing with choirs and smaller groups, playing in symphonies around the world as well as conducting.

And the end result?  This week Hilary will have a 70th birthday concert with an orchestra and chorus comprised of more than 200 friends and fellow musicians who have worked with her over the years.

So if you really love something, as Aspies often do, and yet you feel a lack of enthusiasm in the rest of the world, as Aspies so often do, don’t give up.

If you work hard at it, enjoy it and pursue it with determination, humour and joy, there will be great rewards at the end of that rainbow.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Five Ways To Lower Anxiety

What is the difference between anxiety and fear?  I’ve heard it said that fear is a specific dread–for instance, you might be afraid of the man next door because you have heard he’s a pervert or because he always looks angry.

Anxiety on the other hand is the dread you experience but can’t explain.  You might be having fearful feelings but not be able to say why.  This is very challenging because not knowing where the fear comes from, means you have no way to face down the fear.

But relax.  There is help.  And I know we’ve talked about this before, but with more than fifty percent of 100,000 college students rating anxiety as their biggest issue when visiting a campus clinic, and the Canadian Anxiety Disorder Association stating that anxiety is now the number one mental health problem in Canada, this information bears repeating.

So here is help:  Five ways to fight anxiety and come out a winner.

  1. At the end of each day, think of three things that went right.  Focus your thoughts on those incidents.  Did you hand a report in, and get a good mark?  Did someone compliment you?  Did you finally make that phone call you’ve been dreading to make? Did you balance your budget?  Smile at someone who smiled back at you?  How did you make that happen?

  2. Be grateful.  Think about something you have–your health, your living space, your cat,–and be thankful for it.  It can be something as simple as a beautiful day, or rain for your garden or the sun on your face.  Feeling and expressing gratitude leads to reduced anxiety.

  3. Be kind.  Doing a good deed doesn’t just lift the spirits of the recipient of your kindness; it somehow magically transforms something inside of us to a good emotion.  And here’s the great thing–it doesn’t matter if you save someone from getting hit by a train (very anxiety producing in itself!) or if you just say hello to the lonely senior living down the street–it’s all powerful anti-anxiety medicine..

  4. Volunteer: think of some charity you’d like to lend a helping hand to, then go and sign up as a volunteer.  You’ll meet people with similar interests, see that you are better off than some people, and possibly make new friends.  At the very least you’ll have social contact and feel productive.

  5. Be compassionate to yourself.  Forgive yourself your blunders. Tell yourself you’ve learned something from that embarrassing situation and will do better next time.  try to see the humour in it, and understand that you are loveable, you are unique and you are worthy of happiness.

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The Canadian Autism Partnership: a website to remember.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I note that Autism wasn’t really a concern until the late 1980’s.  How wonderful it would have been if my parents and teachers (and I!) could have taken a survey like this one.

I received this survey request from the Autism Society of BC.  The Canadian Autism Partnership Project (CAPP) would like all Canadian persons with or dealing with Autism Spectrum in their family, social or professional life to take the CAP survey.

The purpose of the survey is to assist in identifying programs and services that are currently effective and those that are lacking.  Sounds like a good idea, does it not?

The proposed vision of the Canadian Autism Partnership is:

All Canadians living with autism have the opportunity to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. This means that they are able to access the necessary supports and services in a welcoming and understanding society. 

The proposed mandate of the Canadian Autism Partnership is:

To mobilize partners across sectors on a national level to accelerate innovation and action to address complex issues affecting Canadians living with Autism.

The proposed foundational statement for the Canadian Autism Partnership is:

Canadians living with autism have the right to:

  • ·        inclusion,

  • ·        understanding and acceptance,

  • ·        respect and dignity,

  • ·        full citizenship,

  • ·        equitable opportunities and access,

  • ·        personal autonomy, and

  • ·        decision-making.

The national ASD working group has identified the following areas of focus for the Canadian Autism Partnership:

  • ·        Early detection and diagnosis

  • ·        Treatment and support across the lifespan

  • ·        Education, training and awareness

  • ·        Attachment to the labour force

  • ·        Community living (includes recreation, leisure and housing)

  • ·        Impact on caregivers (includes health, mental health, respite, and senior issues)

  • ·        Research

To take the survey go to:  www.capproject.ca

To view their website, go to: http://www.capproject.ca/index.php/en/

I know I can count on you!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

Aspies, Anxiety and Acts of Kindness

Do you believe that being kind could relieve anxiety?  Researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden of the University of British Columbia might have suspected this was a possibility.

Recently the two did an experiment involving 115 socially anxious university students. The students were divided into three groups.  Each group had a different directive.

The first group of students were required to perform 3 acts of kindness two days a week for four weeks.

The acts of kindness included activities like washing a room mate’s dishes, mowing a neighbour’s lawn and donating to charity.

The second group was required to insert themselves into a social situation (after taking several deep breaths to calm them down).  These insertions could include actions like asking a stranger for the time, or asking someone to lunch.

The third group?  Was asked to journal about personal events.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that people in the first group had less instances of avoiding social interaction due to fear of rejection.

This makes sense to me, since asking someone to lunch, someone you don’t know very well seems somewhat risky in terms of the possibility of being rejected, whereas asking your room mate if she’d like you to do her dishes?  Is hardly a thing anyone would say ‘no’ to.  And the room mate is likely to look more favorably on you after you’ve cleaned up her scullery debris, whereas the person you asked to lunch?  Might be avoiding you so they don’t have to let you down again.

So, Aspies, to improve your sense of social connectedness and ease your way into social situations, try an act of kindness.  Why not?

Then you can work your way up to asking the recipients of your kindness out to lunch.

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An Aspie’s Easter: Ritual

Some of you may be somewhat familiar with my paternal Grandmother from reading Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen.  Well, every Easter up until I was eleven years old, my grandmother bought me a complete outfit.  I can only remember one of these: a light aqua terylene dress, with white collar, white gloves and white shoes.

Do you have a favorite memory of Easter?  Or maybe there’s new traditions you’re starting now. I’d be interested in hearing some of them.

Easter Sunday was special in those days.  Women wore their very best outfits, including a new hat.  I loved to go to church and see the pretty Spring colours.  The black and navy of winter was gone, and the women brought out the sunnier summer palette.

For me, Easter Sunday still means dressing up.  I love laying out my clothes the night before, choosing the accessories that I’ll wear to accent the outfit I’ve chosen.

More and more I’ve become aware that it is a privilege to attend the church of our choice, and a privilege to worship. We still have that privilege; I like to enjoy it while I can.

After church there was always a big family dinner, sometimes with friends joining in.  Roast ham or chicken, the last of the root vegetables from the cold cellar, home made breads, and for dessert, home made apple pie (there was no other kind in the ancient days) and ice cream. A feast of celebration.!  Who would say no to that?

As an Aspie?  These rituals are precious events, imbued with memories of days past, traditions I never want to relinquish.

 

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Asperger Poetics

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I include a couple of poems.  Here is one that arose from a Business Networking Meeting I attended every Friday.  It’s just how I felt, being an Aspie on the outside of all the conversation:

Asperger Me.

I do not wish to tip toe around the polite perimeter of social exchange,

To avoid intimacy and understanding.

I do not wish to abstain from participation in the

socially connected sea of humanity;

to be silent when I am eager to speak,

To smile with others without knowing why,

Or listen to the negative impreachments of my peers.

I wish to connect

To find and open the portal to your innermost reality.

To hear you speak in words

as true and distinct as your heartbeat,

To know you for who you truly deeply be.

That’s what I wish, Asperger Me!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies Being Social–At Work and at Home

Social connections seem very complex and can be confusing for us Aspies.  I show this a lot in my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen.  

What we see as the truth in the moment is exactly what we tend to say.  This can lead to regrets later when we have additional information or have had a chance to rethink our position.

And one bad experience can cause us to generalize in a negative way about similar situations in the future.  We tend to withdraw.  We are after all, far more comfortable in our own little world.  Why would we even bother to venture out?

Because, Aspies, our mental, emotional and physical health is greatly improved when we’re positively connected to other human beings.  When we have people, even just one person, that we can call a friend.  When we have a co-worker who is happy to see us arrive at work.

How do we manage that?  How do we cross that vast and terrifying chasm of not knowing how and get to the land of Oh, I get it!?

Fortunately for us, there are many books and videos on the subject.  Here are two that I have recently discovered:

The first is titled The Unwritten Rules of Friendship  and is written by two professionals, Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore.  The book contains very straight forward information and how-to’s.  It’s extremely practical and easy to read.

To give you an example of the contents?  There is a section on distinguishing between sincere and insincere compliments.  Very handy for Aspies.

The second book deals with workplace situations, offering all kinds of cut and dried advice.

In her book I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, Kate White, a former Cosmo editor-in-chief, not only gives examples of difficult office situations but tells explicitly how best to phrase responses.

While this book is written for women in the magazine industry, the advice applies to most workplace situations, to men as well as women.

White covers every aspect of the workplace including how to ace an interview.

Obviously neither of these books was written specifically for Aspies, but they are great aids for us nonetheless.  I found Unwritten Rules of Friendship in a thrift shop but it was published in 2008, so it should still be available at your local library, and I checked and it is on Google books. Or you can download the ebook at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWZvvhRMlmI

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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An Aspie Read: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

“Fortunately I am accustomed to inadvertently creating humour,” Professor Don Tillman states when his phone conversation causes his genetics class to burst into laughter.

The story is hilarious, yet wonderfully moving.  The main character/narrator is totally engaging.  This is because he recognizes his differences, but is undefeated by them.

Author Graeme Simsion, an Aussie IT consultant successfully reveals Tillman’s social awkwardness without making fun of him, making The Rosie Project a compassionate mirror to Aspies the world over.

A good friend gave me this book saying she wanted me to have it because she thought I could relate very well to the main character.  And I did.  Apparently many other people do as well, as the book to date has been published in 74 countries and many languages.

 

This book is great for anyone 16 years of age and older, for Aspies, parents and relatives of Aspies, and those who just plain like a good read.

Rosie’s language is not always pristine, but she is a very enjoyable character.

Buy it.  Or persuade your local library to get it in.  You’ll like it!

For more information on this book go to: https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/the-rosie-project/

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Teen Aspie Activities That (Mostly) Don’t Involve Computers.

Is your child a science buff?  If so you likely don’t have a problem prying them away from computer games. Eighteen year old UBC student Ann Stasia Makosnski (not an Aspie to my knowledge) invented a flashlight that works off body heat and a coffee cup that uses the heat of the drink to charge our cell phone. If your child has ‘invention ideas’ encourage them.

Even if the first 500 ideas are flops, they are bound to succeed sooner or later.  Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times (I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways the light bulb will not work) and still became one of the most famous inventors of the 20th century.

Aspies like different ideas.  Here’s one: carry socks wherever you go.  Winter is very hard on homeless people. They often find themselves in below zero temperatures without socks, sometimes even without shoes.  Recently a spokesman for the Union Gospel Mission reccomended giving a nice warm pair of socks to a homeless person.  This suggests that you see them as a person, and empathize with their predicament.

Carrying new warm sox to give to homeless people could be a great way to change a trip to the grocery store or mall into a giving experience for your child.

Does your child frequently post on You Tube?  Alex Plank, an Aspie, developed a website, “Wrong Planet”  for teens with Asperger’s when he was just a teen.

This led Plank to pursue a career in film. He graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film and Video Studies.  One of his current projects is Autism Talk TV which can be found at:http://wrongplanet.net/autism-talk-tv/.  Plank is currently a consultant for the TV series, The Bridge.

Does your child enjoy talking with older people?

Looking through our local community newspaper, I see that BC Care Providers Association is encouraging anyone who knows someone in a care facility to visit them.  This seems a reasonable activity for Asperger Teens, as they often communicate and get along better with adults than their peers.

Does your child have a special interest?

Let’s say his special interest lies in trains; it might be a good idea to introduce them to an association of people with similar interests, such as a railway model association.

Introduce the child to the association’s activities at a show or exhibition.  Research and explain how meetings are held, and attend with the child at first to help ease him into introductions and conversations.  If it’s a good fit, the child will then have social interaction with people who enjoy his special interest topic.

There are lots of ideas on creative ways to engage your child.  Not all of them involve the computer.

If you have ideas, I’d like to hear them.  Just email me at margaretjean64@gmail.com.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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