Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freedom In Autistic Parenting Link, Being Misunderstood and Freedom as an Aspie.

As of late, I have been feeling like my brain is rapidly misfiring and I have lost much of my former intelligence. I felt this way when my hormonal brain was in charge way back when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. Recently, I have wondered if I may have lost a few brain cells in the last year or so? My question proved true when I looked up chronic anemia and brain cells...I guess a few of mine have suffocated. Ha! Anyway, my state of being has been both beautifully peaceful and continually in crisis. It's a roller coaster that seems to follow the state of my health. I can look and feel so put together, young and vivacious yet sometimes in the same time frame I can suddenly go into zombie me- the pale, drained, barely even able to move because of pain- zombie mode me. All that to say, excuse this post because I feel like it may be a in-cohesive mess of thought? I am shamelessly going to quote people who seem to have more mental clarity than I, at the moment, to convey the thoughts going on in my head. Please check out their intelligent, helpful posts in the links provided.

My Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis was the greatest discovery for me because all my life I felt like I had to constantly explain to people why I was the way I was. I excelled at mimicry, which most aspies do, especially the ones who are accepted into society. Unfortunately, this lasted until after my diagnosis and into my parenting. After my diagnosis and subsequent research  I discovered crucial truths that  S. R Salas in her blog (click for link)  expresses eloquently:

"Growing up I knew I was different. It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed with autism that the pieces began to come together. I was diagnosed a short time later and then my oldest daughter after me, and let me say parenting got a heck of a lot easier after that! And it wasn’t the diagnoses of my children that clinched it, it was my own because I finally stopped working myself to the bone observing and mimicking all the other Moms.
I wasn’t worried what these women thought of me I was worried that my kids wouldn’t see me as one of the Super Moms!
When it was just the kids and me I was awesome wherever we were, but when we got in group settings: kids’ birthday parties, school functions, and play dates, I was always in last place (or so I thought). I couldn’t keep up with those women! They were three-ring circus leading, crafting, face-painting, treat-baking dynamos. Holy cow, how could they do it? How could I?! The answer was, without a lot of stress, anxiety and hidden meltdowns, I couldn’t. At home with my kids we found comfort in just being together or in close proximity to one another. We could grab a book or a spot at the computer and keep to ourselves if we wished. It was like a well-run library. Calm, peaceful and orderly we could do! And just like my kids, I didn’t like the crowds or the noise. And until my youngest came along, foisting her imagination on us all, we didn’t see the point in dress-up or crafts or anything else that caused a mess. Learning I was Autistic helped me see that I am not a bad Mom because I hated doing crafts, dress-up time, and three-ring circus-like events, it helped me see I am a different kind of Mom.  And it just so happens that it is helping my kids have a much calmer more autism-friendly childhood because we do everything within their comfort zone, which luckily for me, looks a lot like my comfort zone. And I am a heroine to them because of it! I always give them the option of whether or not to go to parties or play dates because I didn’t like going to those things. I didn’t want to assume that because they’re children they would automatically love them, or because they are Autistic they would automatically hate them, so the decision is theirs – sometimes we go (yikes!) and sometimes we don’t...." S. R Salas in her blog (click for more on this post.)
I strongly recommend the rest of her post and her blog in general. She later writes that she found freedom in Autistic Parenting. I was also on the same diagnosis path after my son and daughter  and I found the same expressions of self. While I admired other mothers, I found their lifestyles exhausting. I never enjoyed the parties, milestone celebrations of childhood, or even the mother talk that often happened at events. I would attend and come home a mess of meltdowns for days because of the sensory overload, executive functioning fails I experienced, and the overall alienation that I couldn't possibly explain.

 I have often heard the phrase, "Everyone feels misunderstood at times." While this is true, being a minority with a very different way of being in the world that is not often socially accepted is NOT the same experience as being misunderstood sometimes. Even my own parents still don't get the real me- sometimes they think I am expressing a fear or trying to get attention when I am actually being completely different. In those moments I go with it because the times I have tried to explain ended up in more of a mess than just letting it go and dealing with my own personal awareness of the situation. It helps that I can digest these scenarios with my understanding husband or best friend, but most of the time, I need to rely on my own strong sense of self to pull me through the many misconceptions that happen in a day with those I love. Luckily, this does not apply to my children and they have a wonderful understanding built in environment because of me. However, when I was growing up at school daily life was a minefield of misconceptions about who I was.

 A small example of daily misunderstanding for an Autistic would be Autistic empathy and "one upping" which Lynne Soraya writes about in THIS (click) post. I often will exchange my personal stories with someone who is sharing a hardship, because that is how I try to convey that I understand where they are coming from and want to express my compassion. However, in most of society this is thought of as selfish "spotlight hogging." (Please read the above linked post for more on this topic.)

 Not only is empathy misunderstood but often simple statements from me are misread as fear, sadness or anxiety ect...when most of the time, I am devoid of any such emotions people apply to me. I am too used to the misunderstandings and too tired to give my energy to explanation. What is the point? It usually does not end well. Most people who misunderstand will continue misunderstanding even with an explanation. While this hurts and sometimes I have a bit of a cry over it, there is not much to be done about it. I made the mistake of sending out links and attempts at explanations in my twenties and learned the tough way that it wasn't well received. Now, I save the energy of explanation for the very few people who actually ASK to hear and DESIRE to understand differing points of view because they are enriched, in their lives by me. They also enrich my life. I  do have to constantly pep talk myself into letting others believe their beliefs. This way of living  (and let living:) requires me to have a very STRONG sense of awareness, intuitiveness and belief in myself.  Sometimes I want to break but at the same time feel immense gratitude that I have this wisdom to begin with.

 These thoughts are tied into a post I read recently written by M. Kelter from Invisible Strings (CLICK link)about what he wishes adults would have advised him during childhood. He writes a list of phrases and ideals he wishes would have been expressed to him. These  three points especially struck me:
"6. Social awkwardness is your social radar; when people react poorly to it, you know to avoid them. When people are accepting of it: they’re the ones to trust. Your awkwardness: love it; use it.
7. When you feel shame, it means you’ve absorbed the values of the wrong people. When you feel at peace, it means you’re living on your own terms.
9. Many people do not value difference, and that’s okay. What’s important is that the right people value difference. Avoid the former. Surround yourself with the latter."
Today I realized that even a little amount of the wrong people during a vulnerable time can crush the strength I need for my family and for my personal survival. When I DO feel shame it is because of my absorption of ideals and beliefs that are NOT my own. My awkwardness is not embraced by many but those who do value it ( and in turn do not talk about me behind my back) are colourful threads in my tapestry.  Freedom as an Aspie is found in embracing myself and those who are able to value all that is different. My hope for those who are also on the spectrum is this wisdom. Read the links above and know you are not alone. For those who are not on the spectrum but desire to love those that are, learn and think outside the box, read and find some understanding.
Be Free.

P.S. For any of you who believe or heard that mental differences were once again to blame for the recent tragedies down south read this post instead: It is not mental differences that are leading to increased crime as I wrote about here:    perhaps our cultural understanding of most things and our collective refusal to be educated is causing violence? Unfortunately one can not force feed ideas to people who believe the ideas to be pure perhaps our culture is at a stand still until we can slowly, one person at a time, intelligently challenge our own positions on every matter? I feel it is a case of futility but maybe it's the fool (or the wise?) in me that dares to hope...
Song Choice: Cup Of Tea- Kacey Musgraves. "You can't be everybody's cup of tea...some like the bitter, some the sweet. Nobody's everybody's favourite so you may as well make it as you please..."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ten Comfortable Clothing Tips for the Sensory Sensitive , Dyspraxics and Autistics/ Aspies...

(Caption: Last Christmas in my favourite Flannel from Roots...Unfortunately I lost weight and this shirt had to go...but I am constantly on the look out for another shirt like this...I LIVED in this shirt. What can I say- I spent my formative years in the  nineties:)

Clothing is a tough conundrum for many highly sensitive people.  THIS BLOG (click) wrote a humorous post on her struggle with finding clothes for women who have sensory needs or whom simply find that they are not able to wear most types of clothing without being uncomfortable or in pain. I have gone through many stages of fashion and un fashion in my life. I am  not an expert nor am I trendy anymore. I simply do not have the time nor inclination. I have had years when heels and dresses were a staple in my closet and years when yoga pants and soft tanks were the only item I bought. Through all these manifestations I have found a few handy tips that have worked for me and I hope can help others who are sensory sensitive/ Autistic/ ect. First I wanted to cover Three General Clothing Guidelines before I get on with comfort tips:

1.) Dress for YOU. Of course it is important to find the colours that mostly flatter your beautiful skin and I would urge you to attempt at least a try in this regard. I also feel that it's often better to find fashion choices that generally compliment your figure (embrace whatever size you are and buy clothes IN that size- donate the rest) but once you have attempted to optimize the way you present yourself to the world...disregard the world's opinions. You tried. Now it's time to feel fabulous in clothes that may not be fashion forward but can still be flattering. Don't be afraid to shop in the opposite gender's clothes if that is what you feel best in. Find what works for you! 

2.) In the initial stages of finding what clothing works best for you- don't be afraid to try styles that look awful on the hanger or that you normally may never consider. You may be pleasantly surprised. Don't just stick to one style as the tried and true. Aspies are especially guilty of this and if you have found what genuinely works for you- that is awesome. However, sometimes stepping outside our comfort zone actually can give us more comfort in the end. I am thankful my sister (who is not at all in my fashion style) and cousins pushed me to try on a few items I would have never considered but which are now a fabulous addition to my wardrobe.

3.) Keep it simple. Keep the Classics. There are plenty of trendy blog posts on this. Minimalism is huge right now. But the staples are an excellent starting point to a wardrobe. Here is an example: My numbers would look slightly different from this but you get the idea.

On to Comfort! Comfortable Clothing Ideas for the Sensory Sensitive:

1.) Buy second hand from reputable vintage stores. Higher end second hand stores also carry nice clothing for good prices. I have found that I am more successful at finding soft fabrics and clothes that fit if they are already pre worn and washed. I find this especially important for jeans. Jeans are already worn in and conform better to my body if I find a pair that fits pre- worn. It's a bonus that I often find designer jeans for at least half the price. Shirts are usually already shrunk so I know that the fit in the store is going to be the fit after a wash too. I have kept most of my clothes from second hand sources longer than new clothes because of these factors. If you are going to buy new, make sure it is from a clothing shop that has a reputation for quality clothes with softer, heavy fabrics if you crave warmth, and light clothing if you need to stay cool. In my twenties I found that American Eagle often had clothes that were comfortable for me without sacrificing too much in price if I didn't end up liking the item later. My store preferences change according to my age and sensory preferences. Don't be afraid to stick to one store if it gives you the sensory requirements for clothing that you desire.

2.) If you have to wear a dress and you are Dyspraxic or clumsy, save yourself some embarrassment and wear little stretchy black shorts underneath. This also gives you more freedom of movement if you need to run and less issues of uncomfortable cold drafts ect. This works under most dresses (even tight ones.) It is possible to find sexy little black shorts and not sacrifice your dignity.

3.) If you are going to wear heels bring flip flops. ALWAYS bring flip flops or an alternative to the heels. Your timeline for being uncomfortable is shorter than a normal persons. Honour that. You can wear heels for a few hours maybe but for the drive or walk, switch to a more comfortable option. I keep black flip flops in my bag because they match any dress/outfit and usually by the time I am ready for another option I don't care what people think anyway.

4.) If you have a job that requires dress clothes try to buy pants that can slip off the hips with a little tug. Sensory people tend to have to use the bathroom quicker than most people. Also Dyspraxics can struggle with buttons and zippers which can be inconvenient during certain moments of life. I buy my dress pants in comfortable textures but classically tailored enough to flatter and fit a tad higher up but stretchy enough to pull down and skip the buttons and zipper. It probably helps that I have sizeable hips to hold them up but this works for me. Also, if you must work in heels, splurge on low heels from a store like Rockport that are known for comfort and arch support.

5.) Always bring a small bag with another clothing option. Sometimes if I am shopping and I feel uncomfortable I will NEED to change. Changing isn't an option. I will start to feel sick if my clothes are causing constant discomfort. Sometimes I wear pants that are too tight but I don't realize it is bothering me till a few hours in... or a shirt that does not fit right and makes me feel awful...or a texture that scratches. If this happens, even if the shirt looks amazing on me, I go to the restroom and change into my extra clothes and donate the shirt to a charity shop (or put it in a bag to do so later.) It is important to remember this step because otherwise I will find myself in the same shirt again going through the same frustrations. Make sure the clothes you pick for your extra emergency clothes are clothes you love and KNOW you are comfortable in, have versatile style for most occasions, and are seasonally appropriate.

6.) Buy 5 different types of underwear to try over a period of time. If you do not know what type is the most comfortable on you this will save you tons of money later on. Wear them, grade them on comfort and stick to the type that wins. Re- evaluate if you loose or gain weight and of course you can keep a few sexy pairs for short (FUN!) bedroom occasions but otherwise, buy only in the type you feel best in and buy lots of varied colours.

7.) If you know your EXACT accurate bra size - order online. I have had more success online shopping for bras than at the store...but that could just be me...I also find the prices are cheaper and if I read the reviews I am more likely to find the bras that offer the most comfort because availability or selection in the stores is usually limited. 

8.) Skip the fashion trends that make you feel uncomfortable...or even "fashion essentials." For example...I can not wear belts. I try to wear belts sometimes because some outfits simply look better with them, but it is guaranteed that half an hour into wearing a belt- I will pull it off. My husband, on the other hand, can not enjoy wearing jeans without a belt. He says he feels less secure and like something is missing. I feel like I am being constricted and my gut starts to hurt- even when I was super skinny this happened. (I think this is due to Endo.) Each persons needs will be different. Find out what bothers you and work around it. I simply don't purchase outfits that look better with belts. I also do not buy pants that are too big and if they do get big on me I donate them.

9.) CUT OUT TAGS. This is so important for many Autistics. I will leave a tag in for the first week I buy something new in case I need to take it back. Unless it is a special item that I want to keep the tag in or has special wash instructions, I try to remember to cut out most tags. Tags look messy when they stick out anyway and they are scratchy. Save yourself some annoyance.

10.) Know your materials. This can save you so much money and comfort. My mother knows her fabrics, and although it is not something I am personally interested in, having her knowledge has kept me from many comfort blunders. I didn't know that buying something all polyester would be a mistake. Lucky for me, she did. Different people prefer different types of fabrics so I can't say what would work best for you but do a little bit of researching. If you find an item that is soft and screams comfort to you read the tag and remember what type of fabric it was so you can repeat your good fortune in the future. Also know for the sake of washing...if you are sensitive you are probably not going to want to take items to the (smell heavy) dry cleaners. Find options that work for you.

I hope this list helped narrow down some ways that clothing can become more comfortable for your sensitivities. Please leave additional suggestions in the comments. I would not describe myself as trendy or fashionable. I try many different styles and sometimes I can be found in a dress and other times I will be in a baseball cap, tee and jeans. I do not particularly care about trends, though every now and then I can enjoy one. I love styles from the 1970's and tend to have a more bohemian style at times...but if there was one word to describe what I wear it would be COMFORT. I sacrifice comfort on rare occasions...but only if it is what I CHOOSE. I don't make the mistake anymore of sacrificing comfort for special occasions because then the occasion becomes less special.  I generally wish to savour special occasions thus the events call for quality, comfort and beauty in my clothing. I don't meet other's expectations of what I should wear as long as I am being somewhat respectful of the general rules of society....but even in that regard there is flexibility. Who cares if everyone is in shorts and you are in a sweater because you tend to be cold? It's not attention's pleasure seeking and pure beauty to respect your own needs.  It's your one short life- live it in comfort.

This is one of my favourite songs to clean to and it applies beautifully to this post...I love this song.