365 days, 52 weeks

Note: This was abstracted from a post on Facebook that I wrote yesterday about my yearlong weight journey. Also looking for a series on holistic health (mind body and spirit) to be forthcoming.

365 days, 52 weeks

Same Shirt, froma TOPS Fall Rally in 2014.

Things have changed in those five years
Graduated College, Moved out from my parents.Got a driver’s license,

however
On October 8, 2018, nearly 12 years after I walked thru that meeting room door, I had gained 58 pounds, the largest weight I’ve been in my life. I had been on my own for a few months and lived in a sweet independent “I’ll do what I want to because I can” phase, but on that Monday night I learned that I had to make a change for the better because I wanted to be healthy for me and I have the tools and opportunities to do so. So I did.

I walked around my neighborhood, then my City, I bought a fit bit and tracked those steps, moving more.

Soda is my addiction, as oftentimes with my medicine it will make me hyper, however I had issues with that for some time, but because I was losing excessive amounts of weight I didn’t Care.

I joined a gym by a newspaper special for the summer and went full throttle, six days a week, started really not becoming myself, had more issues physically and not eating a balanced food plan.

On September 13, it was brought to my attention of what I needed to do and how to get back on track. In 11 months I dropped 34 pounds, I didn’t want to but followed the advice of the professionals because they knew best.

As expected I gained weight back to the present level but have the healthy balance of mind body and spirit. Through a benefit of my health insurance, I have returned to the gym but only a few days a week, I plan my meals when possible and track them.

at the event this weekend I learned it is best to take the pounds off slow as hen’s by the name of the TOPS acronym, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, therefore I was assured that I am now doing just that.

Book Review: Demystifying the Autistic Experience: A Humanistic Introduction for Parents, Caregivers and Educators (2002)

Around the time this book was written the author’s name was brought up in conversation as “the one who got it.” Little did I know of 17 years of molding into the man I have become, and a unique 50 cent book in a thrift shop, I would discover that the book would make me get it more.

I was in an interdisciplinary meeting at the time, it was stressful we were about one year out of the RTF, about one year near the completion of High School, yet I was still in services that I now know were at thw time were excessive and not a proper fit given the age. However, in this meeting, a gentleman who was a represntative of the County Mental Health Office, and now serves in a more indirect role of my employment had mentioned the gentleman. Myself and my parents were skeptic and it even brought emotions in the meeting very deeply. However we would move on. By the way that county representative is acknowledged in the book.

Fast forward to two days ago, when I was reading the book, it tells of what we as individuals on the spectrum feel and how we want what we want, and how we express what we express it in the way we do, even if it may seem odd to others, however it is the way it is.

He explains several things that make sense to me. Like the adrediline and cortisol and the necesity to exert energy regularly to relive it as well as the stimming along with the person centered language and the importance of treating an individual on the spectrum for who they are although we are unique in our very own way, to see the entirity of the person as a whole and to have them feel as they feel in their own special way.

Many who have heard of Mr. Stillman have heard of his Wizard of Oz Obsession. As he got older it would be precarious to explain this to a friend, however he was allowed to keep his obsession, in a secluded private place in the home. This being said, any individual has the right to enjoy whatever it is to enjoy. For those who “age out” of that thing to the point where it may seem inappropriate, it is best to find a private place of the home and let that indivual visit that obsesion from time to time. We have to keep in mind this was before the internet came into play, which has made individuals on the spectrum grow their intellect by leaps and bounds. My parents had a conputer given to us by my late uncle in 1998, not many had a computer at the time, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to my uncle for donating that to us. Nonetheless, it has made me mold into my techonoligicla capable self that I am today.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from the Internet and social media and be thankful for the goof old pleasaure of life like the outdoors, friends, family, etc. We are grateful for the advances of technology, however it is important to get active and stay active in many activies that human involvemnt can provide.

Lastly in his biographical chapter of the book, he gingerly discusses his sexuality a bit. While 17 years after this book was published, this was a very heated are to discuss about individuals on the spectrum, i felt it was a necessary component to the whole picuture because sometimes you have no idea what that person feels until you ask them and heck, they may not even know. Yes, the LGBTQ community has come leaps in bounds as a whole, however discrimination still happens, as such I feel there needs to be openess to this subject in both sides of the Autism Spectrum Communities, both in the I/DD field and Mental Health field. Professionals are afraid to ask, training is needed for each and every professional and yes there are views that a person may have, but they have to put them aside to see what makes the person happy. Because once the persons close to them leave, they many not be happy with societal norms and want to believe what they want. We have made policies and statements about this in the governmental communities, however we need to “stick to our guns” in this effect.

The book was one of the best books on the spectrum I have read in a while.

Autism Acceptance Month Day#18 – Autism and Sexuality

Today’s autism Acceptance Month subject deals with yet another touchy subject and is one that is more forthcoming than ever, Sexuality!

Believe it or not it is more common than you know that individuals on the spectrum like to explore sexuality, indeed there is yet another Community out there that signifies individuals on the LGBTQ realm and ASD as Twinabow, because they have two rainbows (ASD and Sexuality). This can be challenging at times as with uncertainty of the I individuals and societal norms are complex alone.

It is something that has to be discovered by the individual themselves. Oftentimes, the individual is pressed by caregivers into societal norms because their caregivers “think” that is what they want to pursue. Many think of sexuality as just same sex or transgender, there is more to that acronym than you think.

Let’s not forget the A , defining asexual as not relating to any sex at all and I, which means intersex, the fact of interchanging. There are also other terms that individuals identity as such as Pansexual and Bianary. While they are confusing, we must be open and accepting of the individuals preference, as long as they are safe in believing what their wishes are.

Yes, we know especially in minors that the ever evident bullying is present and this so called Twinabow will complicate the issue more. This is why as caregivers, allies, etc. we must advocate for what the individuals preference is. Now I must clarify that not all individuals on the spectrum will experience sexuality issues, in fact those on the lower end of the spectrum may have no clue what it is and just fine to be in their own little world, sometimes it is the best.

However, we must be evident that again it is the individuals choice of what course of sexuality, if any they wish to explore and as long as they are safe, then they should learn on their own terms.

Autism Acceptance Month Day #14 – Bullying is a public school crisis that has been occuring for decades. Physical and Mental

In the second half of the subsubseries,we take a look into the realm of bullying. Yesterday we looked at it in the form of advances in technology. Today, we look at the physical and mental bullying aspects.

As I begun yesterday’s post of bullying being portrayed in film. We also covered in the realm of Cyberbullying. However there is still a lot of physical and mental bullying occuring in not only schools but by adults alike. We’ll explore the adulthood bullying tomorrow.

We are ever made aware of bullying nowadays because of the previlance of surveillance cameras, cell phones and social media. While the eyes aren’t everywhere, it’s usage of technology makes it easier to make it public. Reasons for bullying can be complicated and cumbersome. The instigator may have a rough home life of lifestyle, as can the victim. A critical part of what can be an irritant in individuals on the spectrum is the simple fact that things are black and white, taken literally so to speak.

A flash back of this occurred to me recently. My family frequently dines out at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. It is a family owned business, of which their son is employed as a waiter. We have had several instances of him being our waiter. One of the occurrences, when we were making conversation when he came back to check on our meals. He said something I took serious. He then said you can’t ever take a joke. It brought back some memories of not only my junior high years z but my senior high years as well. It also brought forth the instances of where I answered questions posed to me truthfully, however they weren’t intended to be a so.

One familiar instance I recall was the point where I was asked the size of my genitals. I would honestly answer with the correct length and then be kicked in the leg. There were several situations where I was depantsed, hit, kicked, abused shoved in a locker and even robbed of my lunch money, all through no fault of my own. Nonetheless by the time I graduated from high school many of those instigators took responsibility for their actions and we ended the last two years of high school associating frequently.

I have seen some of my former peers after graduation and some I am even friends with on Facebook. However, there are some that have been incarcerated, some deceased and others that are constantly in the local media for one thing or another. Some sadly have completed a suicide and some have moved away.

Nonetheless I know I have overcome those days and look forward to the ones to come. I like myself for who and what I am, not what someone defines me. There’s a saying that goes I define Autism, it doesn’t define me.

Starting next week we’ll be discussing independence and the success and needs of that realm. Tomorrow will bring forth the issues of abuse, neglect and grooming of individuals on the spectrum.

The sugary drinks, the realized effects

As mentioned in the last post just posted (read down) I had a bad Soda addiction and recently gave up diet soda, all shy of having three regular sodas and sweet tea, which I no longer plan to consume.

Tonight at my Weight loss meeting it will officially be 21 days of forgoing soda. I am proud of where I’ve come at this point, yet I’m disappointed that I have been using sweet tea as my new drug of choice and I realized that last week and cut back a good bit to no longer wanting it as of right now.

Nonetheless, all things aside I will mention some of what is bad about not only soda, but energy drinks. I have seen alot of individuals with mental health needs consume them and time and time again have seen some things it causes. Let me make it clear. I have NEVER consumed as much as a sip of that stuff. I know of the cheap ones for 99 cents and the more common ones like Rockstar and Red Bull. One time I saw what the drink actually looked like outside the can and was disgusted, that sold me on never consuming it, nonetheless seeing some of the side effects of consuming them.

In an article online regarding Caffeine and Autism, https://www.livestrong.com/article/519867-caffeine-autism/, the chemical can help improve memory and concentration, but may also worsen anxiety and interfere with sleep. Abnormal fears and increased anxiety are common in autistic patients and are likely a result of a dysfunctioning amygdala.

The article further notes To date, there’s little research to indicate that caffeine plays a significant role in autism treatment. At best, reducing caffeine intake could lessen anxiety and hyperactivity. To find out if caffeine has an impact on a patient with autism, experts suggest an elimination diet, which systematically eliminates foods that could trigger unwanted behaviors prior to gradually reintroducing each food one at a time to see if the patient has a reaction. “Several lines of investigation have shown that the chemistry and function of both the developing and the mature brain are influenced by diet,” writes J.D. Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the June 2000 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”.

In our community, many individuals on the spectrum are now becoming adults and as a result, parents in many cases can’t oversee every food or beverage choice they make. This became more evident in myself. Freedom can be a scary thing, yet it can be wild to the manner that you start exhibiting behaviors that are unusual for anyone, if it isn’t presented to the individual by someone they trust. Maybe at that point the individual will “get it” and realize that it is a danger to not only their well being, but it could be hurt those close to them.

Additionally this just doesn’t apply solely to those in the Autism spectrum, soda and especially energy drinks have a very adverse effect on those taking them to control their mental health or to prevent other neurological events, like seizures and for example. I know of many neurologist who highly recommend not drinking Soda, and if they must, regular. The stuff that sweetens diet sodas is dangerous sometimes to the touch, and you must be extremely careful in what you consume.

Over the last decade, I have had several sodas of choice such as Coke, Diet Coke, Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi and Coke Zero to name some, of which I don’t have The desire to ever consume again. I now realize that a former psychiatrist that had a good working relationship with my mom told me when I had a liter bottle of Diet Coke in my hand during a medication Management session that I needed to quit drinking Soda, especially diet immediately. Until recently I was under the impression that my mom was pressuring him to say this stuff. Now I realize years later that I should have done it then, and then when I had a meltdown the night after I was awarded the Leadership in Recovery award. But that was then and this is now.

Since forgoing soda in most cases three weeks ago, there has been a report by the
American Heart and Stroke associations that in having two or more diet sodas a day could result, especially in females over 50 in clot based strokes, heart attacks and even death. This risk is higher in women that are obese. as well as African American women. While this is only a association, nothing could be more fitting than to give it up.

In a way I’m excited to forgo tea too. It may seem odd and funny but I have been told by told by many TOPS members and leaders, including my mother when she held the leader title once that drinking water is an important function of life and it flushes you out. I know it’s for the best and the way I think about it is peculiar and odd, but it’s what I need to believe to do it. End of story.

The sugary drinks have been winding down the last few weeks and now I find more reason to give it up for Good

As promised, I am going to write that follow up on the detrimental effects on Soda that have affected me for many years. In fact, many of those years I was in denial about quitting pop although several family and friends as well as medical professionals said it wasn’t good for me. I continuously ignored their advice, and drank a lot of it anyway.

When I was living with my parents, my dad hasn’t drank any Soda in 72 years of his life and my mom who would go for a glass now and then would have to hide it from me because I would drink it in spite of it being hers, sometimes after she drank from the bottle. I know that is disgusting. I never knew how truly addicted I was to the Soda.

Soda was eminent when growing up. My extended family always had it in their fridges. Many times it was caffeine free, sometimes not. Being younger and on Ritalin in my early years, I didn’t want anything to eat or drink for that matter. It didn’t really start in excess until I went away after High School to vocational rehabilitation school. There was no one watching or judging me and what I consumed. The facility was barrier free and was connected under one roof, meaning accessing vending machines was no difficulty. There was a bank of them very close to my dorm wing available around the clock. Also at the school was a canteen that offers hot food and yet another bank of drinks for consumption. I constantly visited these places, especially after I began to have social security benefits, because I didn’t have to pay rent, just a cable bill and some other things, so money was no object at the time. Regardless, in the year I stayed there, my weight blossomed from 256 to 280.

When I graduated, I came back home and joined a local gym, but with no real guidance and lack of proper diet, I never lost any weight. I continued to drink the soda in excess. My soda of choice when I first moved back was Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. I loved it, I would usually buy a two liter bottle that would be short lived in my parents refrigerator. We had went to an amusement park later on and we visited the gift shop where it was the end of the season and merchandise was reduced. My mom bought a large blue plastic tumbler with a handle for 50 cents. From that time 12 years ago until I recently gave up pop. I would take that cup and fill it up with soda as far as I could possibly fill it without spilling it. My parents complained, sometimes excessively, but I acted like a jerk and did what I wanted anyway.

Also around that time, I joined the local TOPS chapter, yet still unwilling to make a full change, I would attempt at times to quit, but would relapse. One of the van drivers has for about five or six years would stop every morning at a local convince store so I could fill up on the sauce and this was later mixed with food that wasn’t healthy by any means.

Later I would have a change in transportation that I would no longer be able to get sodas in the morning, but the addiction continued. Everywhere I would go i would be looking for a vending machine so I could get my fix on sugar and caffeine. I kept ignoring the advice and guidance of my parents and others as I thought they were treating me like a child. However, I now realize this simply wasn’t the case, they were trying to look out for my best interest.

One of the days I remember my soda addiction got the best of me was April 21, 2017. I, along with my parents and co-workers made the journey to a hotel where I was awarded the Leadership in Recovery award by the local managed care organization for efforts in my mental health recovery. I knew were the soda spots were in the hotel and I wasn’t social that day alot. I just wanted my fix.

When the pomp and circumstance ended for the day and I was at my parents house. I requested for my mom to take me to the local store. She knew why and adamantly said no. For about twenty minutes I continued to ask again and again, and again and again the answer was NO! I ended that half hour screaming and yelling some pretty inappropriate stuff that someone who had a mother that would do anything in the best interest of her child should had no baseboard right doing. I realized how silly, yet so addicted to this stuff I was. And while my mom would then prohibit me from bringing it in the house from that point on, I had the van driver I currently have and he would stop pretty regularly for me to get my fix. It would be almost another two years before I would give the sauce up for good.

The next year I would have many changes as some of them are outlined here in this blog and some will be discussed later

While I got my learner’s permit early in 2018. One of the biggest hurdles of 2018 was that I began living independently, thus not being under the control of my parents. I began making rules like no Soda and the house. That lasted two days, if that.

Nonetheless, I became addicted more than ever to soda and at massive quantities. While I never took an exact inventory, I do recall instances of buying four liters at time on top of 44 or even 52 fluid ounces of diet Coke zero was my choice. This would be sometimes added with a half gallon of sweet tea.

Also I started learning how to drive at the end of 2018 and I do have to admit it was difficult to judge and stay focused. However over three weeks ago I passed my exam. It wasn’t until one week later at that TOPS meeting that I learned what was actually in diet soda. After drinking over 5 liters of soda within a 24 hours prior (conservative estimate) I gave up the pop, somewhat.

Now I can’t say I am perfect, but what I can assure you that I no longer drink any Diet soda. I have had two regular sodas and a ginger ale this past week. This is only because I was having sweet tea for about two weeks and I’ve gradually cut that back, using water, etc. There are so many affects of sugars. I’ll get into that and relating that with autism in another post.

As of right now, other than the few occasions I had a social soda, I have been free from Soda for 21 days at TOPS meeting tonight. As of today, I plan to go to mainly water as its effects are nothing but positive. I hope it works out for me. Stay tuned.

Body Image: Still An Everyday Struggle

2004-06-04_dustin-cahs-graduationContinued from Body Image, Yes I struggled during childhood and adolescence.

As I entered adulthood, I became increasing aware of my body image. It was my senior year, PE was still adaptive, but was more active and required a shower near the end. This continued to be a challenge but couldn’t be helped as it is a state requirement. Nonetheless, I mustered the courage to trudge through this struggle among many others of body image like disclosing my weight at Cap & Gown Distribution where I was 256#. After graduation, I had the grand idea of going to a new, more expensive gym. This so I thought would be the new solution. However, it was an epic fail as I ate out continuously and spent my graduation savings to nothing. That fall, I would be accepted for an assessment period at the state vocational rehab institute 60 miles away. While square meals were provided, the snacks and other needs would need to be provided by myself.

This was a true test of independence. It was difficult to manage. Papa John’s visited the school weekly for $6 Pizzas, the dining hall food was subpar and the canteen was open several times a day. Nonetheless, I consistently visited the canteen and had a pizza, yes the whole thing, and nearly fell ill as a result. I got to stay an additional week and came home and had a transitional job landed through the support entity a few months later.

dustin_2006-04-16
Easter, Age 20 (Weight was around 280#)

The next spring, I learned in a letter that I was accepted in a year-long diploma program of study. That May, I went back to the studies there and struggled continually with the canteen visits and pizza offers. I also learned takeout and how to utilize public transportation  with access to McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Domino’s a local Pizza Place, Subway and 2 Chinese Restaurants that were good. I didn’t really go for a few months due to financial constraints. A few months later this was relieved and I went hog wild with not a care in the world. I had no idea what I weighed. I began to incorporate soda, especially liters of Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper into my diet. After that Christmas, I became a little bit aware and followed the up and coming fads of that time. The Dr. Phil book, the 7 under 6 grams of fat stuff. The list goes on and on. I graduated the following spring. I came home to live, totally unaware of what my weight was. I had gained the so-called Freshman 15 and then some to over 20 pounds.

Another serious attempt was undertaken yet again where I would opt to purchase a one-year contract at the local gym, however I would not stick with it and result in not monitoring my calories and sticking to the sweets such as soda and the junk. I gave up the gym and in the fall of that year, I joined TOPS, short for Take Off Pounds Sensibly. I weighed in at 271# right before Thanksgiving. I was very well-liked at TOPS, however the food plan is up to you which can be  difficult at times. I continued the soda until recently and as a result gained 58 Pounds until October of 2019 when I was at my highest of 329. Waist sizes have increased to a 46″ and a T-Shirt Size, of 3XL to 4X, depending.

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My Highest Weight (329#, 46″ Waist)

When I was at my highest on October 1, 2018. I realized that a initial photo of me in the same top needed to be taken before each weigh-in followed by a posting scheme on social media to garner support. As of this writing almost four months later, I have lost close to 15# from my highest weight at TOPS. During the last meeting we touched on the pros and cons on sugar and it was stated that aspartame is nothing but rat poison. This sickened me immediately as I drank over six liters of Coke Zero in just the past twenty-four hours alone. I got up and distracted the crowd by lifting the lid on the trash can and throwing the twenty-once bottle away. I no longer plan to drink any artificial sweetners and limiting true sugars. More will be coming in another post on my addiction and how bad it is and how I plan to overcome it.  Plans call for another charm at TOPS in seven weeks with 8 weeks no loss and to lose about 14 pounds in that time to have a weight around 300#.