Monday, 11 April 2011

Night terrors and self-care

So... I've been having these weird nighttime experiences, and I didn't realise that they might be connected with the autism, or that they were common enough in people with ASD.

I have these experiences, where I am not awake, but not asleep either. I believe myself to have woken up, and I KNOW that I am living a lie, and that I am pretending to be someone that I am not to everybody in my life. It's hard to describe, but it's an absolute and sudden recognition that this is a fact, and it leaves me feeling completely terrified. It's as though I had been hiding this fact from myself, and have suddenly realised it.

I cannot put into words the horrendous anxiety that I feel during these experiences. I don't seem to wake up properly after the experience, I think I go back to deep sleep. I think that these may be night terrors, although I know that the sufferer is supposed to have amnesia about them. I have partial recall of these experiences, which sometimes come back to me in a vague way when I'm waking up in the morning.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that my unwillingness to 'come out' about my Aspergers at college/work may be connected to these night terrors. I seem to be feeling an increasing level of anxiety, which in fairness, is probably the reason why I'm having the sleep problems, and is related to the Midwifery course I'm doing, which is a high stress experience.

I'm actually coping really well with the course, keeping up to date with course work, and mostly enjoying my time on placement, learning how to blend theory and practice, and developing clinical skills. But I can't ignore the anxiety levels, I need to remember to listen to my body, and deal with emotional crises before they arise.

Self-care is so important for us autistic types, I have learned over the years to recognise the symptoms that my anxiety levels are rising. Here's my checklist:

Jaw clenching/teeth grinding - jaw pain at the end of the working day, and lockjaw when I wake up
Hairtrigger temper - Husband can't do anything right (lol)
Hyperactivity and inappropriate humour - my subconscious way of dealing with anxiety (doesn't help)
A sense of rising panic when I think about my coursework that's due in before end of year

I've found out that I'm entitled to free counselling through the NHS, and I will be calling the service tomorrow to get an appointment. That's another lesson I learned years ago:

Only I can ask for help for me.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Social Overload and Downtime

So... I'm having my first day off in 12 days, it's very nice. Actually I just realised I spent 4 hours this morning studying, so not so much of a day off. I guess I've reprogrammed my expectations since starting the course.

I still feel guilty when I need time for myself. Since my self-diagnosis I've been giving myself a bit of a break, as I finally realise what the things are that I'm having trouble coping with, and why I seem to need more 'doing nothing' time than other people to recover from my normal week or whatever else I've got going on.

But I do wonder, now that I'm more settled and at peace with myself, I seem to be able to get by with less of my 'downtime'. Is that because before, I was anxious all the time, and depressed some of the time, which would explain the drive I had to hole up in bed for an entire weekend, incapable of dealing with anybody or anything. Or was it just overload?

It's really hard to figure out what was going on in your emotional past, you can't touch it, and those kinds of memories are so unreliable.  I know that I've had and managed with less downtime since I had the kids, because they give me a reason to be more up, give me motivation to do stuff, and anyway, they don't really let me sit down and do nothing for long!

I do know that in my '20s I would frequently have spent whole weekends in bed, talking to nobody, with  phantom 'flu' or whatever else I felt like telling people. I varied between hyper-social and utterly unable to bear human company, mixed in with mostly normal functioning at work.

Has anybody else experienced this kind of social overload?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

First playdate in over a year!

So... Lucas was invited out on a fun swimming session by a new friend today! we had to cut short our counselling session and rush over to the pool,  but it was SO worth it!

Lucas has been talking about this new friend, James, who seems to be a real boy, while Lucas struggles a bit with rough play, and gets upset when anybody bumps into him. He's come home a few times with stories of things James has said that has upset him. But he still seems to be talking about him, and playing with him quite a bit.

Today, out of the blue, James' mum asked if Lucas could come to a fun swimming session after school tonight, I was so thrilled! It's the first invitation he's had to play with somebody since he started in this school. So we rushed over there, and I got in the pool at first to make sure he was settled in, as soon as James arrived, they started playing together, and were really happy, so I exited to chat up James' mum!

I had a lovely chat with Kate, who's moved here fairly recently after breaking up with her husband. She has a younger daughter a year younger than Pippi, and another daughter a year older than James. She was really lovely, and we had a great chat, she's a laid-back mum like me, as far as I can tell. And she invited Lucas for tea on Friday, and an open invitation for us to drop him off at the weekend any time we want!

This is really unprecedented stuff for us, I was a bit overwhelmed, but of course I acted like this was all everyday stuff. I haven't got into the diagnosis, as we were in quite a public place, but I've arranged to pick Lucas up on Fri, and if the opportunity arises, will have the chat then. It's never caused any problems before, but that was mostly with people who already knew Lucas. I haven't had to do this before, and I'm a bit nervous. Maybe I'll wait a little bit longer. I don't want to wait too long, I know it'll get harder to have the conversation the longer I leave it!

Today is a success story. Actually there's successes every day! But today was really special. I don't really care how well Lucas does in school, as long as he can be around people and be happy, and have friends to play with in the playground. He's so much happier these days, I could almost forget the dark distant days when he didn't have any friends, and played alone every day.

Must remember that strength comes through adversity!

Monday, 4 April 2011

How big a radical am I really?

So... tired but happy, been complaining on Twitter about my job, but I really am so lucky to be doing what I'm doing. There were 20 people who got turned down for my place on this course.

I have had some amazing opportunities over the last few days to remember exactly why I made the decision to study midwifery over 3 years ago, turning our family life upside down in the process! I was at an amazing home birth the other day, which just warmed my soul, and I got to look after one of my friends in labour this week as well, which was a really special experience. I felt needed and able to meet some of her needs at that very vulnerable time. She was looking to me for support, even though I was keeping out of the way of the REAL midwives! She asked me to explain stuff they'd said when they were doing other things, and I know she appreciated having me there. It was the first time I'd properly communicated with a woman in labour, and it was fantastic, being able to explain to her what was going on in her body, and reassuring her.

It was very instructive to see some of the things that midwives do that they think help the woman. The whole directed pushing thing is quite cruel. I think that they made her feel she was doing it wrong, and that there was a deadline she wasn't going to meet. Chanting 'Keep it coming, keep it coming, keep it coming' about a hundred times. But the baby came and was fine in the end - yay! So happy for her.

I suppose what's the most interesting thing for me, with my 'systems focus' is how hard it is to change the way people do things in an organisation the size of the NHS. Directed pushing has been discredited and proven to be counter-productive through serious research. But many midwives are still enthusiastically practicing it - just watch 'One Born Every Minute' for proof.

As a student midwife, it's my responsibility to challenge poor practice when I see it. I'm quite a radical when I see something being done badly, I want to change it, and I've put a lot of energy into campaigning for better maternity services in the past. But it is a totally different thing to swim against the tide in the enormous NHS. As an Aspie, I'm already swimming against the tide by being in a 'caring' role at all. How willing am I to engage with the many things that could be improved in the way we treat women in labour? Can I risk upsetting my senior midwife colleagues with my opinions? Am I going to put my chances of getting a job here when I qualify on the line?

Watch this space...