What Coronavirus has taught me about my behaviors

Rewind to March 16. We were living life in a new uncertainty. After six weeks of being off of work due to personal reasons, I was called the night before by my supervisor and was told that we’d be scheduled off with pay for the next few weeks.

I still had my clubhouse where we were briefed on so social distancing and how interact. The changes in our activities. We went on with our day.

Then that evening we got the word. The clubhouse too would be closed for at least two weeks.

We were left with nothing but guidance and support but we had to play it out. 

Two weeks were almost gone when we learned that Clubhouse Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services would be provided virtually. Work was being prepared to be done remotely with changes in hours.

So we started. At w which point stay at home orders were put in place for our county. We stayed home. My family is part of the #stayhometeam . We did as the officials said, limited our trips into the community to a few times a week. Of  which I began to notice some habits. I was (as when I was on my own) consuming a boatload of soda and overeating vigorously. But in other cases I wasn’t hoarding excessively or overspending like I was prior.

However I would think that I was okay but my mental health was declining.

I was addicted to the soda to the point where I would consume a case in a few days. This would cause arguments with my parents on several occasions about my consumption in excessively high amounts and that I was killing myself slowly by doing this. 

But of course I know everything, right?

No I didn’t listen. 

Then the Economic Impact Payment came. I’ve stowed it away safely and haven’t touched any of it (So proud!) I would say that the Coronavirus has helped me be more cognizant of not spending money on useless stuff that has very little value. That saving money is sound and good thing to do. It and the several trips to stores of all kinds that was occurring pre Coronavirus was helping me understand why it’s important to value what you REALLY enjoy want and treasure and that it seriously doesn’t matter how many possessions you do have. What matters is what you value about you and what makes you happy.

As far as dining out since it has been restricted to carry out only. I know that the only chains I visited was Dominos like 5 times in I over 2 months and a Subway once where before the Coronavirus each visit came with a 2-liter bottle of soda (no more!) And a large fountain drink respectively (Still had one but it was my only soda for the DAY…we’ll get to this later in the post)

Then there were the daily visits to McDonald’s, which since March 16, 2020 haven’t been in. Prior to that I had breakfast several times a week, a and always with a large fountain drink but this has been helping my health.

A few weeks ago, I met a new doctor who ordered me some standard labs. I within a few hours received a phone call from the doctors office expecting bad news due to the phone call being sudden. However I learned that only my thyroid level was not so great and that all other levels were really good. So Kudos to me for doing this. was feel better too!

Now to the soda consumption. I have drastically reduced my soda intake to one per day we go into town. This sums up to 2-3 bottles of diet soda a week (16-20 ounces x 3= 48-60 a week) instead of over 100 fluid ounces A DAY (700 fluid ounces At least a week prior!) Now this O do admit has been a drastic reduction in sugar and I do substitute it with a gallon of iced tea over that span 2-3 days and a day or two of chocolate milk. Now these aren’t then best two substitutes but they fulfill some void and they are more natural and support the local farmers (woo hoo!) 

As far as the food department it does need some improvement as many including those close to me and many others are struggling with this too! This is my next focus for me. I was watching My 600 pound life recently and seen alot of people of size and how they struggle including one who cut out all the sweet stuff and was working on portion control and being active.That’s what I need regularity in and not spur of the moment decisions involving poor food choices. 

All in all I’m proud of the changes I’ve had made this far! Here’s to more!

Almost Six Weeks Later, Still here waiting for the Yellow Light to go to the next step

As I stated in my earlier post today; I stated I would give a more thorough post on how I am doing since we have been following stay at home orders for almost a month and personally choosing to self-isolate since.

But first, we have to time travel back six weeks to see where it all began.

March 16, things seemed normal, the world was having a pandemic. As long as we socially distanced, we would be able to have some kind of normal, although it would be different. However as the day progressed into that evening, services and appointments would slowly be cancelled or changed to a different method. My mother would be teleworking the very next day.

While I knew for my employment I knew a plan was in place for at least the next few weeks, I would learn that staying at home would be the normal of the time. I did go to my psychotherapy the first week, wearing gloves provided to each individual receiving services. I would additionally learn that the staff there would block time between clients to disinfect and sanitize the used area before the next patient. Little did I know that would be the one and only visit thus far with those safeguards.

That weekend I would learn that my mental health outpatient provider would be approved by my medicaid and medicare and the commonwealth license authority to provide telehealth services. I opted in as those transporting me due to family teleworking and changes such as the necessitate to wear gloves, etc. I am so glad I was provided this option, following the tips that I later found out this tipsheet from SAMHSA that was helpful. Anyway, I enjoyed this new venture. Little did I know that I would be preparing for my employment supports to transfer to that method as well.

The following weekend individuals in my employment supports program would learn that it was approved for telehealth services . And we were off the next week. Just ending our fourth week in this method, this has brought a great deal of routine for me as I am the volunteer webmaster and social media liaison for that program so I would be depended on to play a pivitol role in the telehealth process and being that the Program Director was the only staff that did not get furloughed, he would be reliant on myself for a lot of technical assistance that I perform at least a few tasks everyday, even on weekends.

Later on that week, I received a phone call from my employer asking if I would be interested in taking a voluntary furlough. I accepted the bad news as there are coworkers that require a job more than I would. However, the next weekend I would learn that a lot of us, including myself could telework, although my hours would be allotted in half. I was thankful to still be earning and still have time to participate in other facets I was participating in.

With all these services (among others) being delivered this method, I would learn that many other public events would be held this way. Such as Municipal Government Meetings, Support Groups, NA/AA, etc. It is my opinion that this will be a new and welcoming addition to the technology that is already in place in the world. Having virtual tools such as ZOOM and others provides an opportunity to otherwise connect to others for support or other meetings when an in-person appearance is not always the best or can be done.

Now I’m not downplaying the need to no longer have in person gatherings. As for right now these things such as the Facebook Lives and Zoom or WebEx’s, YouTube Live’s are crucial dude to national guidelines, but for meetings or support groups in rural or large communities where transportation may be complex or limited or a need may occur where attendance would be able to be completed in person, then these methods are the ticket.

As for change, as many autistics thrive on routines as their normality, I can definitely relate As in my past two blog posts, I have had quiite a bit of change in the past three months due to first residential issues and now the COVID-19 National Emergency. However, my home is ready for return, however due to COVID-19 regulations in public housing, I will not be able to return a I need critical furniture to return and it has to be moved in with help.

I have seen other autistics in social circles I am involved in not handle the changes with such ease. With my first situation then the added stress of being home with my parents complicated the situation for me. I was acting out. However as mentioned in my last post, I learned the catalyst of what that issues is, something I knew for some time, but with being in close quarters for some time I exhibited the true colors of this effect. I am working on this with my therapist to learn skills to effectively execute the skills needed to overcome this flaw. It is one of my few left, as the others have progressed well, some with the help of the situations I have been in recently.

However, there is some difference to the routine and its like that album from The Cranberries “Everyone Else is doing it, so why can’t we”, where you see others in public doing things that would not be advised by health officials, such as being out in public excessively, not social distancing, not wearing a mask (we’re in a state that requires masks to enter public places.) Yes my parents, especially my mother shares with me her desire to shop like we once did, but she cautions me of the dangers of COVID-19 and the need to stay home. We have the sign from the local healthcare system that we are the #stayhometeam.

Sometimes I disagree with her profusely about this, but at the end of disagreement,when I have had some moments to collect my thoughts,. I remember that she is doing it for not only my safety, but the safety of them because it is their home and they are senior citizens and they have underlying conditions. In all honesty, going to the Walmart produces a magnitude of anxiety. Just getting in is a big hurdle with the associate at the entrance with the people counter with me fearing that they are going to stop the entry with me. Then you progress down the aisles that are mostly directional and a lover of signs I have no disagreement there. However, I dislike when someone travels in the wrong direction.

Even more so yesterday when I seen an associate call out a customer kindly for doing so explaining the why, how and so forth. Nonetheless they agreed, yet continued in the wrong direction,. Then there are those that do not follow the guidance of our governing officials by wearing a mask, social distancing so forth. Finally after you are able to get those purchases that you made, and you follow social distancing by keeping your space to only have the cashier walk away from the stand by turning off her signal light and closing her register after you have been waiting, I was angry, but kept my composure and got into the adjoining line.

Other trips with contact have been limited. I go twice a week to my house to collect the mail. I have gone to the food pantry to get what we needed am grateful for the help I receive from there. It helps me during this national emergency and is teaching me to rely less on restaurants as that has changed in restaurants only offering takeout, some with modified services. Yesterday, we had Domino’s Pizza only because I have seen and heard of their protocols and are aware of their reputation to the community, The other takeout I had during this pandemic was the same, just 33 days before.

The so called new normal won’t be the same and I know that for sure. We will be social distancing and likely masking for some time. I will be less relying on takeaway and more so on cooking from home. As for working, we wont be able to likely return until the green level, again under the same conditions is garnered such as social distancing and masking. Day programs and other services too will be this way for some time due to this pandemic. I personally do not want to contract COVID because I am harsh when sick with the flu, let alone something serious as this. I know it will be some time before normal as we knew it will return but it has brought to light so many possible advances for the less fortunate.

Also, Please check out my Coronavirus webpage as things I find are continually added to it. Today, we had our State Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine point out the Autistic and ID community in her press breifing and provide some resources which I will add later.

Sacrificing For Those we Care About

First of all, please forgive me, for not writing for a while. I, like many other autistics are dealing with the struggles of a stay at home order in a unfamiliar environment due to the Coronavirus. I will elaborate on that in another post.

The main reason I had an inkling on returning to the blog to write is because for several decades of my upbringing, I continually struggled with sacrificing for others although I may not like it. This very issue has been a hotbed of discussion between myself and my parents, more so since I have been staying with them for some time now. Unfortunately my home was having repairs and is again ready, however the Coronavirus has put a delay on me having some essential furniture moved in, so I am in a holding pattern until our state government reduces the stay-at home order.

With that being said, My parents do not think that I am grateful for their multitude of perceived ungratefulness has brought up several dis pleasures in their household. The main catalyst is that for several years growing up while running the acronym gamut of diagnoses as a child, most of the attention of my parents was given on myself. As such relationships not only between my parents and my sister and my parents had struggles at one point or another because so much attention was paid on me. Even after being diagnosed, for some years until early adulthood, no one totally understood the whole Asperger’s thing and alot of times in a rural area such as ours, they didn’t have a clue that it related even to Autism.

Nonetheless, as I somewhat matured over the years in my adolescence and my adulthood. I had several professionals, including my psychotherapist who I continue to have today since shortly being diagnosed continue to press the issue that I had a sense of entitlement. I continued for several years until I hit rock bottom a few weeks ago had a real grip of what that was and how it effects others. I seen it play out in several professional and personal relationships when I didn’t get what I wanted I would and still do to a point manifest a “poor me” attitude by driving negative thoughts in myself and acting it out on others oftentimes my parents. More recently it has with a culprit of a stay at home order has brought the need to fix one of my few remaining flaws.

Now to my parents, as many autistics have difficulty expressing feelings to to others is often the case. With me, if the moment strikes right, It will manifest itself in a proper fashion. For example, One night earlier this week before retiring for bed, I bantered out at my mother “I hate you!” She asked my why I would say something like that out of the blue. I simply did not know. She reacted by saying that in the 60 some years her parents were alive, she had never said that to her own parents. And I admired her parents (my grandparents) A LOT! They took my defense and I think they worried about me more than my parents did. She also asked what if she didn’t wake up in her sleep that night, how would I feel?

As I got into bed that night, I had some difficulty sleeping as it comes and goes. However, later I would burst into tears wondering WHAT IF, something happens to her?, WHAT IF that was the last word?, HOW WOULD I move on? Anyway, the next morning, I had a telehealth session with my therapist, which I do like under the circumstances (I’ll discuss this in a later post.) The situation and I would break out in tears. Also, before that appointment, my father had asked me for his assistance later that day, something I always have disliked. We talked about that like the two or three weeks before about making sacrifices for our family, friends and close ones and even if we don’t like it how rewarding it can be to ourselves as well as make them feel good too. Anyway this week I committed to making that change. Unfortunately, it would take some time to prove my thoughts because it would rain and those plans would change.

So we fast forward to 8 hours ago when I got up. It was one of those nights of having a watch party on Facebook, meaning I would get to sleep late. As I got up, the landline phone in the house would ring. As its never a human being, I would learn that my father would require my assistance. Just getting out of bed, I would be a little grumpy, but I would learn to move on and do as he would ask. As I was doing this very simple task (manning a farm gate), I would see some awes of nature that I deeply regretted having my camera for the “Kodak Moments”

Returning to the house, I felt the need to wash my bedclothes without prompts (a first), then as I would put them into the washer for them to run its cycle and upon completion of it. I would discover a load of bath towels that my parents would have placed in the dryer. Normally, I would have pulled them out of the dryer and walked away after doing what I would need to do (thinking about myself). However, I would not only take them out AND fold the towels (the way my parents taught me at a very young age), BUT I would carry them to the linen closet and put them away. I was proud and my parents were proud.

See, listening in therapy pays off and using those skills even more.

The Caffeine Detox

I attempted to forego sodas several times in the past few years, I wrote a post on this a while back. But this most recent one is seeming to stick because I am thinking about it differently.

Growing up as a child due to the onset of my autism and ADHD, I was always told to avoid caffeine. I always did so growing up through my adolescent years until I left for my first stay away from home at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown. There, I was given ample access to not only vending machines, but an onsite canteen where there was a plethora of caffeinated beverages. This was the beginning of my “I didn’t give a care” phase.

After graduation, when I moved home with my parents until I moved out in 2018, I continued to battle with my parents over my soda consumption. When I moved out on my own in August 2018, I consumed sometimes to the equivalent of four liters of soda a day, without thinking. Throughout consumption, I became increasingly agitated and the addiction grew. I remember one night with my parents I screamed very loud for a trip to the store, just like a little brat.

Since moving on my own, I made several attempts to break the habit. One I distinctly remember was when I went cold turkey, I laid in my bed for several days and had a migraine. So, I was off the wagon.  In February 2020, I decided to give it up no matter what it took. I spent numerous hours on research and found a gradual detox was the best method. For several years before I started, I would never put ice in a cup. So, I started with one large fountain drink a day and filled it ¾ full of ice and the remainder with a caffeinated soda. The remainder of the day I would refill with water until the Ice dissolved. If I craved a soda, it would be caffeinated, however I would attempt to refrain from diet product as it has addictive sweeteners in it. Now I can’t stand the taste of many diet sodas. I will expend the calories if I can have a caffeinated soda, but only I have them to expend in my food plan.

Mentally, I am doing much better than I previously was. My mood has improved, and I am losing weight gradually, which is the preferred method for my weight loss journey. The cup size has decreased each week, and the caffeinated beverages I rarely crave, if at all. I have replaced most of the soda drinking with either ice or carbonated water. I just want to close with the simple fact is that I never thought I would start doing this or lasting this long which truthfully, I don’t know why I didn’t start this sooner. I am feeling much better than I did in the past, although the cravings come occasionally, I dwell them out the best way that I can.

Joining a hobby

Recently, I replied on a Facebook group when a mother asked about getting her son involved in a sport. While responding, I began to think of the sports and extra curricular activities growing up and thought I would enhance on sharing my experiences with them.

My best experience in a team sport was on a jr. Bowling league for 4 years before my behaviors got severe. It was easy for me and my mother’s wishes and i have made some friends later on as a result of my not so great bowling skills. I would be lying if I said I didn’t like it at first. It was rough. The loud stimuli of a bowling alley is no joke. But we many times had the whole venue to myself. There would be times I wouldn’t want to be there, but my mom instilled the importance of being there for my team and it did mold me into a better person in the long run. I would develop some aquaintances from peers and others I met there my adulthood.

However from the age of 8 until the same year I my behaviors became severe, I was forced to join 4H and show a pig in the county Fair. Talk about pressure and overstimulation, there was a great deal of that and I didn’t make any real friends, I was in part living my dad’s dream. I did little care but did what my parents wanted me to do. I get their desire but it wasn’t panning out the way it should have.

Also I was part of a local Challenger baseball league for special needs children in my childhood, where I really didn’t fit in because of my behaviors and intellect being more advanced. In Challenger baseball, the games were. 3 innings, and I struggled with going sometimes from being in a itchy uniform, in the outdoors. While we had buddies, I just didn’t like it, again understanding my families need for me to have social interaction, I just didn’t like it.

The majority of the aforementioned activities were before my diagnosis at the age of 13-14.

However, some activities i did enjoy once my behaviors adjusted was in Senior High School where I was part of the Bible Club and the Swim Team.

I was very interested in both activities and played integral parts of both. While not holding leadership capabilities, I did interact and attend after hours events, which made my parents happy.

Also as a child I was in the summer reading program at the local library and vacation Bible School, bit didn’t gain anything socially from them, but I love going to the same library to destress while becoming a Christian I have issues with the church I grew up in for because it brings memories of my pre diagnosis childhood and the looks that I would receive, although I would become a member in my young adult years.

Recently, I found Jesus on my terms and want to rebuild my relationship with him again. I have severe issues with going to a church service because of anxiety, but I have Devotions and prayer daily. As with my skills of web site design, I share what I read on a blogspot where I share spiritual and local needs daily.

In summary, I get parents wanting their child to be in a extra curricular activity. But you also have to make sure if they will enjoy it and not dislike it and have a meltdown or act out in a negative way that prevents the activity from occuring. Have your child try it out and if they like it, then by all means, please enroll them. However, if it’s a battle to get there and everyone involved is miserable, then my question to you is: Is it really worth it? Pick your battles!

Everything Changes

In my Johnstown days I was introduced to a wide array of music by my roommates, one of those bands would be Staind. While I was enorlled there, their Chapter V would be released. My roommate and I made the two-bus trip across the Greater Johnstown Area to Circuit City to supply our music. Anyway, there is a song on that album that stuck with me for several years after “Everything Changes.”

Those two words are now a common metefore. This months for one reason or another have become a wide array of series of changes that have occured beyond my control. In two weeks time my demeanor has changed about the events immensely. I have also had an epiphany of sorts seeing why I act differently to those close to me, so in a way that has helped too.

Several things have happened within the last two days. Yesterday, I go to the local hospital to get weighed and to workout. Because of the cold weather and Daylight Standard Time, I have been having someone transporting me as I have to be there before sunrise. Another change was that I had my workout clothes on as it was my day off. Nonetheless, my mother dropped me off and I entered the building. As I went to the chapel as I do on a weekly basis to have daily devotion and prayer, of which my cell phone is an important tool in this, I could not locate it. I searched twice and I did not panic, I took a deep breath and proceeded to head to my destination where I know a “house” phone is available to make local calls. I having my prodigy of a memory, call my mother on her cell phone who verifies that she has it and will return it to me after work. I said I would be fine until the lunch meeting with my father in a little over five hours as their was a world before cell phones. (Really?) She said she would let my dad know and we hang up.

If this happened to me five years ago, this could have been a totally different situation. One instance I remember that we were out together, and I lived with them then. When I realized my phone was missing when I was getting out with her at the grocery store, she called my phone for the slight chance that it might be in the car. When the voicemail came on, I screamed “Whoever has this phone, I hope you do the right (Expletive) thing.” I said this not realizing that message could only be heard by me as I was the only one who could (at the time) have access to to the voice mail. What I didn’t also realize was that the one who cared the most was right beside me. Reality sunk in when my we returned home and my mother made me play that message to see how idiotic it made me sound and how I acted. It makes me embarassed for me to hear myself.

Fast forward to the present time, I got weighed, worked out and had breakfast at the hospital. Following that I ran errands then stopped by the library to use texting app on the cell phone carrier website to make sure anything wasn’t wrong, then my weekly appointment, of which I resumed my normal routine with my father until I saw my phone again, yes some friends were checking on me, but I let them know I was fine.

Today, I was notified that there would be slight change in my transportation from work when I return. At first brewed upon it for some time (another blog post for another time) then realized that it hardly didn’t affect me other than one small thing.

In a world where “stuff happens” Autists must accept change and garner the skills necessary to regulate their emotions gracefully. It has been a great process since first diagnosed when change has occurred in my life, however with the proper skills and technique, you can control these symptoms.

Unemployable Part 1: An Autistic Woman Ends Her Time with Career Counseling » The Aspergian

The reality of what it is like to be masked autistic seeking help: gaslighting, dead ends, and dismissive, vague suggestions are the pinnacle of “support” available.Read More →

Source: Unemployable Part 1: An Autistic Woman Ends Her Time with Career Counseling » The Aspergian