The Anxiety Loop

Posted by TechyDad on October 15, 2014 under Stress

file0002062790027When I was younger, I would often berate myself for what I perceived as social failings.  If I said the wrong thing or did something slightly wrong, I’d mentally exaggerate how bad it was and berate myself for days. Given this and the bullying I endured on a daily basis, my anxiety over social situations was quite high.  Over the years, the bullying went away and I learned to stop dwelling on mistakes and instead to learn from and move on.  This doesn’t mean that I’m anxiety-free, however.

A few months ago, while recovering from surgery, I suffered an anxiety attack.  I woke up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Every time I felt myself nearing sleep, my anxiety levels would rise and I’d be wide awake.  I couldn’t even stay in bed.  My entire body felt on edge.  I was uncomfortable in my own skin and I felt like I needed to run around the house.  Obviously not an option at two in the morning.

The next night, I was ready for a good night’s sleep, but as I got ready for bed, my anxiety levels started to rise.  I kept remembering the feeling of the anxiety attack the previous night and the mere memory of it threatened to cause a repeat performance.  Luckily, I was able to get to sleep and show myself that this wasn’t going to become a nightly occurrence.

A couple of nights ago, JSL wasn’t sleeping well.  Every time we got him to sleep, he would wake up an hour or so later.  When he finally went to sleep for the final time that night, we thought we could finally get to sleep.  Then, out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, my anxiety levels skyrocketed.  The blankets on me felt like they were suffocating me.  The sweatshirt I was wearing felt like it was compressing my chest.  I sat up, walked into the living room and tried to calm down, but I couldn’t.  I tried watching TV, but it didn’t help.  Neither did playing games on my phone.  Eventually, the feeling passed enough for me to get some sleep.

The next day, I felt a constant level of anxiety.  I felt on edge like the anxiety attack would reoccur at any moment.  Talking about it or tweeting about it only seemed to fuel the anxiety.  I dreaded going to bed that night wondering if a full blown attack would make a return appearance.  I even went out of my way to not read my usual RSS feeds in case I needed something to do at 2am.  Thankfully, I went to sleep, slept the entire night, and the anxiety attack didn’t come back.  The next day my anxiety levels seemed much lower.

Still, though, it feels like the threat of another attack is close by.  I don’t know what triggered this one and so don’t know what to watch out for.  Was it something I ate?  Stress that I was feeling but didn’t quite consciously realize?  Or was something else entirely to blame.  Perhaps worst of all, maybe there was no direct cause.  Nothing that could have been avoided.  Maybe these things will just happen at random and there isn’t anything I can do to stop them.

Have you ever had an anxiety attack?  How did you deal with it or with the threat of it reoccurring?

NOTE: The "hide face" image above is by hotblack and is freely available from morgueFile.

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The Perler Bead Addiction Continues

Posted by TechyDad on October 13, 2014 under Crafting, Geeky Pursuits, Harry Potter, Superheroes

Three weeks ago, I wrote about our Perler Bead addiction.  Since that time (except for a quick Perler Bead-related Rosh Hashana greeting), I haven’t posted about Perler Beads at all.  So clearly my addiction is over, right?

Wrong.

I’ll admit it.  I’ve been holding back.  We’ve been busy working on so many Perler Bead projects and while I’ve posted photos of most of them on Instagram, I didn’t want TechyDad.com to become TechyDadsPerlerBeadProjects.com.  I wanted to space out these posts a bit.  Now that I’ve waited a bit, here’s what we’ve been doing (in no particular order).

You remember Robin from the first post?

Well, JSL and I worked on the rest of the Teen Titans: Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy, and Cyborg.

Teen_Titans

Titans, GO!

I’ve also been working on some tiny Harry Potter figures.  See if you can guess who each one is.

Potter_And_Friends

Accio Perler Bead Tray!

I made a few Star Wars figures as well.

Star_Wars

When 900 years old you reach, be made of plastic beads you will not. (Next up: Chewbacca and Boba Fett.)

I also made myself a baby Groot.

Groot_Brownie

Groot, did you eat my brownie?  I AM GROOT!

B made Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. and both Perry the Platypus and Agent P.

Perry_And_Mike

Oh there you are, Perry!

I made these parrots to turn into earrings for B.

Parrot_Earrings

Just don’t ask them if Polly wants a cracker.

NHL made a pair of fishes.

Fishes

I think the smaller one’s about to be eaten by the larger fish.

Speaking of larger, I’ve also just got this for large projects:

Super_Pegboard

I’ve seen some "turn a photo into a Perler Bead pattern" programs and I might just try a couple.  Those don’t work well with tiny projects.  Also, while you can connect the smaller boards together, our ironing area is upstairs from where we make the Perler Beads.  As it is, walking up the stairs carrying a tray of beads is tricky.  (One bump and not only is your design broken, but tiny, plastic beads could be scattered everywhere.)  The way the boards connect, though, wouldn’t let me keep them connected as I move them.  Now, though, I can make one big design or a bunch of smaller ones, and just carry one board up to my iron to melt the beads together.

It looks like my Perler Bead addiction might be turning into a full on obsession and that’s just fine by me.

(Lest anyone think that all of these projects are a waste of money – that I iron them, toss them aside, and then work on a new project, JSL now has a pile of Perler Bead figures that he loves playing with.  The other day, he had the Teen Titans being visited by the Doctor and Harry Potter.  He’s only seven and is already a master of the crossover.  *sniff* They grow up so fast. *sniff*)

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Asperger’s and The Humor Struggle

Posted by TechyDad on October 8, 2014 under Aspergers, Autism, Humor

comedytestWhen you have Asperger’s Syndrome, social situations can be tricky.  While neurotypical individuals understand social rules and norms instinctively, those of us with Asperger’s struggle to understand the complex situations.  Perhaps nowhere is this trickier than in the area of humor.  A sense of humor can be a great social tool.  Telling jokes can bring people together and understanding jokes can help people get along.  Unfortunately, humor is a thin line.  Too far one way and the joke isn’t funny at all.  Too far the other way and the joke can come off as just rude or even offensive.  If social situations in general are a confusing maze for Aspies, humor can often feel like a minefield.  Everyone else seems to stride across it without any problem but the instant we try to venture within, BOOM!

I’ve seen NHL in many situations attempt to tell jokes.  To be perfectly honest, it isn’t his strong suit.  He thinks what he is saying is funny, but at best he is referencing something other people don’t know about and at worst he is coming across as being mean.  He can also not know when to stop.  He might say or do something funny, but then he tries to get further laughs by either repeating the action or ramping it up.  This quickly turns from funny to disruptive, but he doesn’t see that.  On the flip side, NHL’s literal nature can mean that he takes a joke told to him seriously.  All too often, I’ll kid with him and he’ll think I’m being serious.  My joke backfires and he begins worrying that I’m going to be doing something really bad.

Of course, being an Aspie myself, humor isn’t my strong suit either.  Perhaps you’ve seen me online telling jokes.  Hopefully, you’ve found them funny.  Here’s my secret, though.  Most of the time, I write those jokes, erase them, re-write them, and slowly hone them from a barely humorous idea to something that might make people laugh.  When it comes to face-to-face conversation, humor is trickier.  If I’m with people I feel comfortable with, I might tell a joke or two if they pop in my head.  Otherwise, though, my joking is very limited.  I often feel like everyone else’s mind is moving quickly when it comes to humor while mine just plods along.  When it comes to getting jokes, I will get many of them.  I’ve spent years learning about the intricacies of humor.  Still, I sometimes find myself taking someone too literally when they were only joking around.

Social media has helped me in real life humorous situations, though.  Social media can often be like a training ground.  Since the jokes don’t need to come in real-time, I can try out various things to see what works and what doesn’t.  If a joke bombs, I’m presented with the usual assortment of screen names, not with faces showing disgust, rolling eyes, or anger.  On the flip side, verbal cues are lost when a joke is typed out.  This means that everyone get saddled with the same lack of ability to tell joke from seriousness that Aspies live with every day.  Many people might add a some non-verbal cues to their jokes – such as a emoticon – to help people understand that they aren’t being serious.  These cues can also help Aspies to spot the joke.  Even if these cues are absent, though, we can read and re-read the statement until we discern whether the intent was serious or not.  Again, lack of real-time helps us and this practice can be carried over to face-to-face situations.

I know that NHL will get better at humor.  He really wants to be funny, but given how often he wildly misses the mark, I find myself telling him not to attempt jokes.  I’m torn, though.  I don’t want him to grow up humorless, but I also don’t want him offending someone or getting in trouble because he told a joke badly.  In the end, he’ll need to walk the thin line of humor until he figures it out.  I’ll do everyone I can to help him across the humor minefield.

NOTE: The "Funny Glasses 2" image is by ghosthand and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

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Farewell Braces

Posted by TechyDad on October 6, 2014 under Life, NHL

goodbye-bracesFor the past 15 months, we’ve been dealing with a oral metal situation.  In short, NHL has had braces for the past 15 months.  This has meant needing to take care what NHL ate, how often he brushed his teeth, and all-too-frequent trips to the orthodontist to check out his mouth gear.  That last one definitely wasn’t cheap.

NHL has been great throughout this.  He has helped take care of his braces quite well.  He would protest when given food that he wasn’t allowed to eat – even if it was food that he really wanted to eat.  Though he would often fight over the nighttime tooth care routine, this was more a function of him being tired than not understanding the importance.

It was amazing how smoothly the braces time went.  Other than some brackets popping off due to baby teeth coming loose, we have only had one major incident.  A couple of weeks ago, NHL was complaining that his mouth was hurting.  When we looked in, we noticed that his wire had popped out.  As this was at 8:30pm on a Friday night, we couldn’t just stop by the office to get it fixed.  No, we needed to make an emergency call, drop a tired JSL off at B’s parents, and then drive out to the orthodontist’s office.  The orthodontist was nice enough to meet us there and replace NHL’s wire with a nice, strong steel one that he said wouldn’t pop off like this.

"This will never break" ranks right up there with "What’s the worst that can happen" in things that should never be said.  The next morning, NHL came into our room to tell us that his new wire had broken.  It turned out that the bracket had somehow released the wire.  Luckily, NHL was able to prop the wire on the bracket until Monday when he already had an appointment scheduled.

But today all this ends.  NHL will get his braces removed and will get a nice, new retainer to wear.  He’ll still need to take care of his teeth, of course, but at least his food restrictions will ease up.  He’s looking forward to enjoying gum, hard tacos, chips, pizza crust, bagels, popcorn, and many other foods that were denied him these past fifteen months.  I’ve got to admit that I’m happy that he’s getting his braces off too.  It’s hard enough cooking for us plus a picky JSL.  Adding in an NHL who isn’t picky but who can’t eat certain foods made things even more complicated.

Now, here’s hoping that the retainer does its job well enough that a second round of braces won’t be needed.

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Fear of Change And the Unknown

Posted by TechyDad on October 3, 2014 under Aspergers, Autism, Fear

Autism-Puzzle-PiecesOne of the things we’ve gotten used to as parents of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is schedules.  NHL will get very anxious if he doesn’t know what is coming up.  Ideally, he prefers to have a schedule that he can follow along with.  To a child with Asperger’s, there’s nothing more frightening than the unknown.  Except maybe change.  His routine is comforting.  It is predictable.  There is much about the world that makes no sense to him, but at least he knows that his routine won’t change.  If it is going to change, NHL requires presetting to let him know ahead of time and to prepare for the change.  Changing his schedule on the fly is a recipe for disaster.  It has only been a couple of weeks, but the fixed schedule of middle school seems to be helping NHL.  He knows exactly what classes he has on what days and at what times.  (Yes, he memorized his schedule just a short while after he received it.)

As a parent with Asperger’s Syndrome, I sympathize with NHL’s need for a plan.  I don’t necessarily need a schedule in front of me, or even a concrete sequence of events that will take place, but I like to have some "anchoring" points that I know will happen.  Given that plans can change in an instant, I tend to "anchor" around meals.  No matter what happens, chances are we’ll be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We might shift from a home cooked meal to eating out to taking food in, but it’s still a meal.  The time of the meal might change from noon to one to two thirty, but that meal will happen.

As far as change goes, I’m tolerant of it to some degree.  The more change that happens, though, the more anxious I get about it.  I try to stay positive and expect the best, but change is scary.  The more changes stack up, the more my brain starts filling in the blanks with worst case scenarios.   Of course, the more this happens, the more my stress levels rise.

It seems that recently my life is increasingly filled with uncertainty and change.  My stress levels have been climbing and I’ve been feeling on edge.  There are days when I just want to scream and run for a quiet corner to hide in.  Obviously, I don’t.  I find some way to cope for the moment.  I delay my melt down or distract myself from the big, scary changes.

Perhaps that is why I’ve gone a bit Perler bead crazy lately.  It’s a simple, structured activity.  Place this color bead here and then that colored bead there.  It ties into my geekiness – I’ve made Doctor Who, Harry Potter, superhero, and Star Wars related projects.  Best of all, it gives me a final product relatively quickly – I can take a small Perler bead project from start to completion in an hour.

Still, despite my escapes, change continues to loom large over me and threatens to push my coping skills past their breaking point.

Do you find change and the unknown to be exciting or scary?

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