Anxiety and fear

I saw a doctor today. He confirmed I am ill. I certainly won’t die or be incapacitated long. Beside the discomfort I am in, being snotty and phlegmy, my mind is in a vortex of anxious thoughts. These cause me to experience sleep depriving fear. And so the circle continues on.

I worry that I am not actually ill and it is a psycho somatic response to over working myself mentally and physically. What if my employers find out I am fragile and get ill once a year?! I feel a strange guilt over being ill. I feel I am not entitled to time off and that I am not ill enough to warrant it. Ugh. I want my brain to shut up when I am ill. I cannot go outside and exercise, which elevates my stress levels and feeds my brain all the more.

Because I am too ill to do anything physical, I fear I will lose my precious muscle and I will shrivel up to a 100 pound weakling. A week off the gym, while necessary for an anxious wreck like me, kills me mentally. I need to release emotion physically. The best way for me is to lift, pull and push heavy things. It helps me feel on control too.

That is the gist of it. Control. While I am ill, I am not in control of much. It bothers me. I think this will be it forever; I’ll be a bed ridden, phlegm hocking beast til I die. I forget it is just a phase and I over dramatise the whole experience. I do not enjoy any aspect of losing control or feeling this way.

In a couple of days, I’ll be back at work and happy to be hoisting tail shfts, smelling burnt clutch dust and telling the boys at work to shut up. I’ll be back in the gym lifting one more rep than I did 6 mths ago. It will all be ok. I’ll get through tonight with the help of Youtube videos. Documentaries on Lenin and Trotsky.

I’m not sure any of this makes sense. I wrote off the top of my head. I am not going to edit this. My brain is hissy fitting and I must obey its needs. Switching to escape mode. Out.

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Am I ill? Why am I so grouchy?

One of the supremely annoying things of my version of autism is alexithymia. That is, being unable to identify my own emotions. I can, generally, and with greater success AFTER the fact, but usually weeks later and with lots of introspection. I trawl through my memory bank of symptoms and match them to what I’ve learned an emotion entails.

The hardest two for me are illness and being in love. The love one is in my dungeon. It is staying there under 24/7 guard. It is dangerous and causes me the most harm. The illness one is still a mystery. It isn’t until I am obviously debilitated that I even know I am ill. I fractured my wrist at 12 and didn’t know I was even in pain until the next day. I tried to put weight on it by getting up from sitting and screamed in pain. Ok. Not good. Got it.

Yet, I get fibreglass in the pores of my wrist and I’ll hop around in annoyance for hours. I have to scrub it away and wear long sleeves. A paper cut stings like nothing else and a light scratching motion on my skin annoys me in a torturous way.

A month ago, I cut myself at work. I wear gloves to protect my skin coming into contact with anything powder form (MASSIVE SENSORY DISCOMFORT TO THE POINT OF NAUSEA), but it was only an hour later when I took off my glove to go to the toilet I realised the severity of it. Blood caked inside and a long tendril of half fused blood clot. Meh. I bandaged it up and carried on.

I was feeling off my food about two weeks ago. I was also revulsed by my perfumes. I understood my body was out of balance. I looked back at what was different and saw that kidney beans in my lunch was it. Plus, I had drink milk and eaten some more gluten in my diet after the kidney beans. I know that these three things cause a cycle of gastric distress. I get gassy, intestinal pains and bowel movements cease. It takes weeks of clean eating to get it right again.

All this fighting internally leaves me weakened. My immune system is left bereft of support. I should know to up the Vit C, but I didn’t. All I know was that two days ago, I was almost passing out at work. I left at 11am and spent the day in bed – cranky as all hell. Yesterday, I went to work, because being in bed with an alert mind kills me. But I was dragging my feet badly. I felt my head grow with infection and conceded I am ill.

Because I started telling people my sudden awareness (in relief), I get accused of being struck with man-flu. No. I carry on. I rarely stop, like I said, unless I am really debilitated. That seems to escape them. How do I tell people I am proud of myself for figuring out I am sick??

I can tell when D has a bleed. He gets revoltingly grouchy. If he is ill for other reasons, he loses interest in his games. If H is ill, he just drops into bed. He is like me – knocked down initially, and then carries on with the symptoms. H is harder to read like that. He might get a bit quiet the day before, but generally, he’ll eat more. A LOT more.

My mother… she has NO idea of my patterns. She reads me from a text book on neurotypical brains. If I do not fit what the text book says is correct and true, I am wrong. So, if I am grouchy for illness settling in, I must just be a grouchy, nasty bitch, out to be mean to her. It adds to my burden and I find myself not bothering her with any of it. I carry on. I drag myself out of bed whenever possible to make dinner for them all, or to inject D so as to burden my mother as little as possible. She is a whole other story.

So, right now, my body is fighting an infection from my neck up. It means more water, slow down at work (better than not being there right??), and keep up the clean food intake. I feel a bit better now the infection is breaking up. I just wish I’d taken all of the other day off. I’d have avoided the Cinderella moment of being exposed for my autistic weaknesses.

When I am really taxed, energy wise, I cease talking, at least clearly and audibly, and all my efforts at masking to be like them is my least priority. So, people get to see my ugly real me. Only a few understand and accept that. Those people are gold.

Only two more days til I can legimately collapse and not inconveience people… hang in there!

Brain implosion imminent

That feeling is happening. My brain feels it is going to implode. Too much going on and I’m incredibly tired. A recipe for disaster should I venture out in public.

We have quite a few new staff at work and they all look the same. My face blindness is working over time this week. I say a friendly hi and hope none of them approach me. It means more people to get to know and learn to work with. That is one stress.

Another is having worked last Saturday. Those Saturday shifts kill me. I literally fall apart the Friday afternoon after it. So, the following weekend is a write-off. My energy is completely overdrawn and I HAVE to spend the weekend after doing very relaxing things to balance myself.

Then there is the stomach churning expedition to buy trousers for H. He won’t wear denim, track pants, tight/slim styles, itchy material and cuffs at the feet. They must be cargo style, roomy, soft material and just right. I get nauseous and light headed having to buy his trousers. Invariably, they are the wrong sort and I have to start over again. It was easier when Jag had stores in Victoria. I knew the size and style. I would walk in, buy three pairs in various shades and walk out. From now on, H willbe given money and will buy his own. Sadly, though, H will come home with a new mini drone, or a solar powered toy, or a harmonica, and no trousers. He has zilch life skills. He’ll discuss Kim Jong Un’s homogenising project and the North Korean dilemma, but cannot buy 2 pair of trousers.

The rain brings out the insecurities and fears of most people. So, they become irrational behind the wheel of a car. I absolutely LOATHE having to go to shopping centres on wet days. I find it traumatic and stressful. It sounds pathetic, but I always end up worn out from the effort of dealing with stupid driving, people walking wherever in the centre, and the noise of horns and chatter.

I’m out for today. I am going to crawl under my doona, put on Jicky and watch Lucy Worsley documentaries while I eat raisins and sultanas from a hot cross bun.

Paul’s Boutique – brain candy

Anyone who knows me relatively well knows I have a deep love for hip hop. One of my favourite bands is The Beastie Boys. I think their stand out album that pushed boundaries and opened up hip hop to more than slow moving rhymes is Paul’s Boutique.

The album cover gives no indication of the joy contained inside. It is bland, late 80s picture of a street corner in Brooklyn. A bit of investigation would enlighten me as to the significance of the boutique, but I don’t give a rat’s arse really. I’m not here for the minutae of trivial detail. I’m here for the Snoezelen bliss the album brings. So, don’t judge musical genius by it’s cover.

In short, Paul’s Boutique (PB) is a beautifully timed blend of the usual wise crack lyrical lad bondage the Boys bring to all their songs and some of the smoothest funk tunes ever produced. Whereas Ill Communication has wicked bass beats running throughout, PB has an almost late 70s porn vibe. The bass lines are heavy and quick, and the guitar riffs belong squarely in the mid 80s soaring of the pop metal bands ruling the US music scene. I am constantly wondering what Jimi Hendrix would make of the album.

It is squeaky clean with its editing. Not a note is out of place and the rumbling style is brushed up with such precision, adding a razor edge style to the loungey hash scene evoked. I think it is the coming together of so many styles that makes this album the ultimate auditory heaven for me.

There are times during my years when I tried a number of experiences that are purported to give artifical highs. Alcohol, sex, drugs, food etc. I have since discovered I can have natural highs from certain things. Listening to Paul’s Boutique is one such way. It brings me to a place no drug has ever taken me. Even listening to PB’s ON drugs brought me no higher. I enter the music, especially from track 10 onwards, and flow with it effortlessly. The only other song to have the same effect is Heroin by Velvet Underground. In that, Lou Reed masterfully brings us along, musically, on a heroin rush. Which also equals an orgasm to him too. I suppose Heroin is a symbolist stand in for both. But in PB, I am brought along to a drug fest, yet I am not asked to imbibe anything. There’s no need to.

If these Boys were straight as during the production of this album, then they must be lauded as geniuses. I probably need to investigate their production team, for the whole album is sheer perfection. It is of the times, transcends the time of its production and is the penultimate album for a group of Jewish boys who dared to take on the might of East Coast and Chicago hip hop.

Seriously, who else can make a song like Eggman and have it turned into musical perfection?! They take the piss out of themselves and rarely take themselves too serious. Just look at any video clip for the songs on Hello Nasty.

They did, however, propel themselves from PB into an experimental instrumental period, but with little acclaim in terms of record sales. Then came the flippant and fun Hello Nasty. Even that sort of signalled the end of The Beastie Boys as a force. This time was shifting to Eminem and harsher forms of rap.

So, Paul’s Boutique is a high point for The Beastie Boys and will always be their most musically perfect and highly acclaimed album. Best fucking high ever.

The Gulag Archipelago

I am rereading The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn (AS from now on). I first read it about 25 years ago. I have an old copy from the early 70s that I cherish. I have both volumes. I can’t remember where I purchased them, but they were $2 each. I had already read Cancer Ward and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, so was familiar with AS’s work. Even in translation, his voice is uniquely speech like, in that I can imagine him speaking, naturally, the way he writes.

The topic is quite sombre and it is a macabre read. The opening is about the normalcy of arrest. During the Gulag years, arrest became such an ordinary occurance. People rarely objected to the arrest and some even came to welcome the eventuation of it. That alone is enough to warn the reader of what is to come.

On page two, there are three very disturbing photographs. One of AS in the early army days, one during his detention and the last of his release from camp. He becomes a shell; literally. The passion for submitting his experiences to paper for all to read is evident in the photo of him on the cover, many years later. A man who clearly has lived through hell on earth. It is hard to see the photo of the man on the cover was the young man in the army.

It is through reading things like this I remember to be grateful. Life gets hard, but I am not condemned to an arrest, judgement without trial and an unknown amount of time spent in a Gulag. It boggles my mind that for a good 40 plus years, Russia had a string of these camps and prisons everywhere. Train stations had GPU offices and prison cells! AS lived through this!

This, alongside Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, are books that help ground me. I understand we live through some incredibly surreal events; things that are designed to kill us, or suppress our will to live, at the very least. Yet we can, and do, go on to live beyond all this.

What makes me feel ill is that there are probably modern tragedies going on all around us, and I am none the wiser. Am I part of a national shame that I will learn the extent of in the distant future? A whole nation, already ravaged by eons of serfdom, years of being dragged into Tsarist war projects and severe winters during the Revolution era, then had to face the daily fear of an unpredictable Stalin. So much that Russia had to face in the 20th century, and here they are, now free(ish) to learn about the likes of AS, and most probably family members.

Yet, the Russians carry on.

Learning styles

We each learn differently. I guess that is obvious. But even within disciplines, our learning styles can drastically change and our learning needs do a 180.

When it comes to social sciences and humanities, reading hard copy books is my thing. I prefer to pick up a book and read to get the most effective learning. I can go back over sections, take my time and the words hit my brain in the shortest route.

With mechanical work, I need the theory spoken out and then visuals, preferably in 3D, to show the theory in real life. Then I like to watch a person do something, which I will then copy. Over time and much practice, I then adapt it to my own way. It is only then I can find ways to explain what I am doing, and why. With academic subjects, I readily translate and transmit what I learn after a reading.

With history, I respond best to TV shows. I can sit and listen to just the words sans visuals and get more out of it. It is like each discipline has one sense I learn best via.

I’ve learned a lot about the various liquids and solids at work using smell. Some need to taste the oil or touch the metal to gauge its properties. I can tell a lot simply by smelling an oil.

I wish I knew how best to explain my learning style to my boss. It seems to irk him, and my co-workers, that I learn differently. In the mean time, I’ll eek my way through. Somehow.

Corporatisation of socio-cultural identity.

That is, a fancy way of saying we are pushed into a mould of acceptability.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about times when I was pushed into being acceptable. Instances of what I mean:

* My year 12 talent show. I was to sing a Roxette song solo as a task to myself to prove I can hold a tune and face my fears of singing aloud. 15 min before I go on stage, I was told Kylie would be joining me as back up vocals. No. She was there to sing over me. I was that bad. I knew nothing of this.

* I wrote a report for a UWA magazine after I won a travel grant of a few $K. My report was rewritten to look much more professional. My initial report was deemed immature and naive by my department.

* I went to a blingified Italian-Greek wedding with my Italian ex. My outfit was appraised by potential mother-in-law who promptly screwed up her nose and gave me new clothes and jewellery I found hideous. I got changed into my original things when we arrived. Ha!

* My report to the Royal Inquiry into Family Violence in Aboriginal Communities was rewritten by the lead researcher. I had not skewered it the ‘right’ way. Years later, I understand the political ramifications of presenting things in a particular manner, but still…let me learn! It was my first work as a consultant freelancer.

* I worked on an ad for Office Works in late 2014. I did a 2 second cameo, for which I got paid more, but it has never surfaced. I seemed like the office worker next door, but lacked presence in the final cut. That was the feedback. Ok…

* I applied for an ASIO intelligence agent job. Got so far, only to fail the interview because I looked wrong. My clothes were not professional enough. I didn’t make eye contact. For fuck’s sake. Like I wanted to be around such homogenous suit wearers?! I was curious to see how I’d go.

* I’ve never been asked to do any more token female media stunts for work since the first one. Guess I am not photogenic enough. I don’t play the game. I tried in a promo video for VACC and was caught out pretending to be the model employee. I don’t give what they want. They have plenty of 20 yo blondes in light vehicle to do that now.

It is happening to D too. His work was not on display at a recent High Achiever’s presentation night. His projects are all hand drawn and don’t use advanced graphic design programs some of the more worldly kids use in his class. D scores points for ingenuity and effort, but he’ll never have his work paraded as an example of how the HA program excels. It killed me to see him at that night. He felt completely defunct and down. I understood why he was left out. I understood his feelings so well. This won’t be the end of it.

Unless an autistic person has a savant skill, no one really wants anything to do with us. We bring no glory, no accolades. And the ones we get are considered undeserved.

I have received a National Emergency Medal for my efforts on Black Saturday with the local fire brigade. Plenty were upset I was included. Apparently I did nothing.

My travel grant should have gone to a more useful topic than mine. I agree, but my application WAS rock solid. So, there.

My article for a fitness magazine was included simply as payment for a fucking shit load of editing work I did for free. Over many months. It wasn’t merit based and it was token placed at page 118 of 130. I learned a big lesson from that.

So, D may not ever be part of the corporate image. It isn’t that bad. Better than token attempts of inclusion and reward.

Poor H won a second prize for a marvellous poem he wrote in 30 min on black holes. Sadly, his entry was the only one checked for plagarism and sent off to check the details were correct. It was verified by a Monash professor as factually correct. The teacher explained all this in front of the junior school and parents. It was mortifying. Then she said she will send it to Hawking. She hasn’t. H spotted her crap and screwed the award in the bin. He did it out of love for astro physics.

I will no longer play the game. It stops here. I do what I do out of moral correctness, my ethical standard and duty. Nothing else. I recognise I am not bound for glory on anyone else’s terms.

Strangely, I am nominated for Apprentice of the Year by my Tafe teachers. Their rationale is that I keep going when the tough times come. It has not been an easy transition to apprenticeship. I could easily have walked away. It is a daily struggle to stay at it. I see no future where it will pay off, but I made a promise to myself to stay. Whatever comes of it, I know I did it to prove to the world that the woman least likely can … and did.

The only one to know it is me. That is perfectly ok. That is the best lesson I can teach my boys.