Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Perceiving Beauty

I had an odd dream the night before last.  I only remember parts of it.  It was one of those kinds that the colors are faded and kinda tinted or washed out.  That's how things often look to me when I'm depressed. Everything literally looks faded to me.  When I begin to notice that happening I know it's a warning of sorts to get myself moving in a positive direction before things get too dismal.

Anyway, in the dream I felt overwhelmed with responsibility.  I was carrying one of my kids around and trying to make phone calls.  They were all very important calls. If they weren't made things wouldn't get taken care of and my family would be without. It just had the feeling of everything being almost an emergency and me not having the time to even prioritize anything. 

I was in a house I used to live in before we moved to our current house 5 years ago.  While I was walking through the living room I peered out of the big window.  As a walked past the image changed.  At first when I looked everything looked dead and bleak. It was all dull with big weeds growing in tall brown grass.  But, then as I walked a little further and looked from another direction it looked different.  I could still see the same grass and the same weeds, but  the sun was brighter and shining through the puffs of dandelions.  I could see the white wisps of the dandelions blowing gently in the wind, and I said out loud in my dream "When I look at at things this way, I see a dead, overgrown yard, but when I look at it from another point of view I see the beauty in the weeds.  I see the seeds are floating away to make new flowers for later, even if things look dead now. It is the cycle of nature.  It just depends on how you look at it what you see."  My mother was there and I asked her to look to see if she could see the same.  She could not.  She thought I was being crazy, but that was okay with me.  I knew what I saw and I knew it was beautiful.

This morning when I woke up, things seemed lighter.  The sun was sunnier, the coffee was yummier, the day seemed longer.  It was as if a light was turned on and my perception was better, more accurate, more sharp.  I don't know what happened, but I'm glad it did.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mindfulness Day- 18?- The Lies My Ego Tells Me

So, here we are on Mindfulness day 18, I think it is? I've lost count of what day it is and as I predicted I am too busy to blog often about it.  I'd love to be able to, but life gets in the way.

In these last couple weeks I have noticed something.  It's been there causing trouble this whole time, but I had been unaware of it.  As I am being more compassionate with myself and letting go of perfection thinking I have become aware of some negative thought patterns that were lurking just beneath the surface.  They required my belief to be strong that I was indeed not good at anything and less worthy than others.  They thrived off this mindset.  As I let go of these thoughts that I held as absolute truths these other negative behaviors showed themselves.  These beliefs were that since I held myself in such a negative light and saw this as nothing but the truth, then others do as well.

I approached every sentence, every action and every facial expression from other people to be somewhat malicious.  It was just an assumption that since I thought I was such an awful person others must, as well.  I felt like I was defending myself in every conversation and being on the look out for being the victim.  Something so simple as my husband asking me if I had checked the mail today when he arrived home from work could be interpreted by me as negative.  My thoughts could go something like this:
"What does he mean?" I'd pause and look for any clue that he was irritated or mad in his face.
"I should have checked the mail."
"He probably thinks I'm lazy"
"He's out at work all day and I can't even check the mail."
"I really shouldn't spend so much time _______ or ______-."
"He could probably find someone else that would do better than me."
Then, sometimes (not always) from there I will get defensive, as if he actually said these things. Then, my thoughts go from self loathing to defensiveness. I begin to think things like:
"Well, he doesn't know how hard it is to keep this house up!"
"I'd like to see him find someone who will do it better!"
From here my mood can go to any direction that's negative. I might get angry and resentful and begin to speak to my husband as if he actually said these things.  I might get depressed and whiny, or perhaps go straight for the anorexic route, where I decide I need to restrict my food, because somehow, that will fix this.

It doesn't matter which way I might go with it, because they all end up in a destination of misery.  They all start with my belief that I'm not okay. That I am defective and others know it, too.  Some of this isn't just me being irrational, because I know that as a child growing up in a dysfunctional home where I was always the scapegoat everyone really did believe that I was unworthy. There was a lot of insults and mind games that were hidden in between the lines.  This isn't really just a product of an overactive imagination.  This is the result of years of self preservation.  The issue is, is that the patterns we learn in dysfunctional families only work in that dysfunctional unit.  Everywhere else we apply them, they are a disaster!

This is a major step in freeing myself up from the cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors.  Having this revelation has enabled me to be able to question the authenticity of my assumptions that I previously held as facts, without question.  Now, I can approach life from a different angle and in doing this, get different results. I can choose to view others actions and words through a lens of positivity and kindness, assuming the best of intentions. Of course, this doesn't always mean that others do have good intentions, but I'll let them carry their own hate and negativity around.  I don't want it.  I'd rather keep my head up and move forward, instead of getting stuck in drama of what others think.  There are more important things in life to worry about than if so and so thinks this or that about me and what I'm going to do to show them they're wrong.  My ego doesn't get to call driver's seat anymore. I don't like where it takes me.

A Library Adventure

Yesterday, the boys and I set out to the library.  CJ went to work with Dad,. He was short of help,so she happily filled in.  Kudos to her for stepping up to do hard manual labor out in the heat!  This meant I'd have to brave the library trip that I already promised to Bubby without help.  He even had a certain book in mind: 'Captain Underpants'.  Never mind that it was the same book that he read over and over for most of the school year.

Before going to the library, I needed to stop at the bank.  This was tricky.  I wanted to walk, but wasn't sure about going inside. If I drove, Beans would be securely in his seat as I went through the drive through. Inside could mean a meltdown or me chasing him all over the bank.  Beans is the type of kid that needs one hand on him at all times, or he runs off.  I've been known to pin him with my leg while paying at a check out, but not while writing.  Both buildings are within 2 blocks from my house. I really didn't want to drive, plus all of us could benefit from getting out and walking, so I made the decision to walk. 

As we entered the foyer of the bank Beans let out a loud groan.  He was obviously displeased with my choice of destination.  His loud verbal stims echoed all the way through the big mostly empty room as I made my way to the counter. "AAAHHHH" and "Modom" and "Uhhhhhhh" .  I noticed one teller was on the phone and I was getting anxious that Beans was disturbing her.  I was thinking already that I made a bad decision, but too late now.  We're already here.  Thankfully, there is no line and I'm able to get the transaction going smoothly.  While we wait for the deposit to finish I notice lots of lollipops on the counter and that Bubby has already gotten one.  I always weigh everything by fairness in my head. I don't know if this is the result of my aspie brain, or if it's more about just being a mom.  I want to make sure that I am always being as fair as possible with all of my kids, so when I see Bubby having a lolli, I think Beans should, too. What if it hurts his feelings that his brother got one and he didn't, but he just can't tell me?  Then he has to carry around this resentment forever locked inside about the times his brother and sister got stuff he didn't?  Yes, these are the mile a minute thoughts that plague my brain all day and night.  It's exhausting being me, as much as I over think everything.  I reach up and unwrap a  red sucker for the Beans. I have no idea if he even wants one.  Most times, he doesn't, but this time he reaches for it when I hand it to him.  He takes it to his lips, feels it, and sniffs it.  He taps it with his fingertips, like he does pretty much anything and everything, including every piece of food that he eats.  He tastes it, and looks pleased. 

We get all the finished up and now we're back on our way to the library.  Beans keeps tapping his lollipop with his fingers, causing him to get all sticky.  I start to think I have made a bad decision in giving it to him. We enter our tiny little small town library and head for the kid's section.  Beans seems quite content to sit on the kid's corner on the little loveseat. Bubby immediately notices that there's a young man on the computer playing Minecraft.  He's drawn to him like a magnet and I have to call to him to remind him to get busy looking for his book. I know we could very well be on borrowed time.  Beans may decide at any minute that he doesn't care for the library and wants to leave, causing him to meltdown and run away from me like has happened every other time we have tried to visit.  I try to help Bubby search for the 'Captain Underpants' books, but I don't want to walk too far away from Beans.  If I try to have him follow me, he will get very irritated from being asked to transition away from where he was.  I know that I must keep the transitions to a minimum where Beans is concerned, especially if there is no way for him to understand why we are moving from one place to another.  Bubby asks me to ask the librarian.  I tell him he is going to have to, because I can't leave his brother, so off he goes.  I am proud of his initiative. He knows what to do and who to ask and does so without hesitation.

They finally locate the book and we are on our way to checking out. Except my card is expired. Ugghh.  How long is this going to take?  I wonder. Beans is losing patience by the second and I know that my minutes are numbered at this point.  They get the process going and inform us it will be a few minutes. Bubby has already found his distraction.  In the other corner of the library there is a Nintendo and 2 kids are playing Super Mario on it.  He could probably stay here all day.  Beans loves to watch people play video games, so he finds a seat and is happy to just sit for a few.

When it's time to get the card I get informed that I need to go through a tutorial of how to use it, because now there is new features, including online services.  Beans has transitioned for the last time.  He is angrily tapping on the counter making "Arrrrrrrrr" noises. Meltdown in 3....2..... I rush them through the spiel and rush the boys out the door. I know I have to get Beans home quickly, or I might end up with a boy flailing around on the sidewalk beating his head into the ground.  We are still over  block away from home.  Beans is getting madder and madder with every step we take.  I pick up the pace anxiously moving across main street while trying to not get bitten.  It's hard to hold the hand of someone trying to bite your arm at the same time. I manage and we arrive home, safe and sound.

So, that was our trip to the local library. It was better than subsequent trips, and I think with practice it will get easier.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mindful Thinking-Day 6: Mom's Day Off

Mother's day was yesterday. I decided last week that I was wanting to try to take today (Monday) 'off'.  Not that I can turn off my whole entire schedule of mom responsibilities, but I can take a day where I do less and take some time to do stuff I enjoy.  My son seems to understand this more than I think most grown men! When he heard of my plans to take the 'off' he asked "Well, then who is going to do your work?" He understands that my work is vitally important and can't just be not done, or even put off to a major degree.  This is something that my husband didn't understand the first 10 years or so of marriage and motherhood, so I am amazed at Bubby's perception.

Yesterday, I took the extra help from my husband who did the cooking and did as much housework as I could squeeze in.  I arranged as much to be done and taken care of as possible, so today would be as relaxing as I can make it.  Laundry, dishes and vacuuming, done.  Well, as done as those things can get.  I may have to do some today, but not so much.  No errands to run, no meals to cook, just me allowing myself to relax before the kids get out of school on Wednesday.  Then, it's on.  Full time mom duty.  Blogging and ability to keep up with my favorite on-line activities is sure to decline.  I run my house on a very strict schedule, very much like a school.  I have a specific time for everything.  I may talk about that in a separate entry.

Last week, I also booked a massage for this morning, which was rescheduled by the office an hour before I was supposed to be there for this afternoon. I have never had a massage before, so I was nervous enough without the time change.  I have no idea what to expect and am thinking of doing a search to get an idea.  I need a social story about massages! lol It's not just that I don't know what to expect, or that I'm afraid I won't like all the touching (not sure how I'll feel about that) or that I'm afraid the therapist will want to talk the whole time, which I do not want, but I am having that guilt of spending money and time in ways that I feel are frivolous.  You see, I am cheap.  Notoriously, penny-pinching, over worrying, cheap, frugal, spendthrift, whatever you want to call it.  I don't like to spend money.  I especially don't like spending money on myself, when I know it's not something of necessity.  It is killing me to think about spending $70 on a massage.  Not something I can wear or see, or use.  A massage.

So, today I take on the challenge of being okay with doing something new, which is scary, but potentially very enjoyable, as well.  I have to take that breath feel the anxiety and jump in anyway.  If I don't I'll never know if I like it, I'll never have that experience and I'll miss out on the opportunity to grow.  For today's addition to the Mindful Series I am thinking that my willingness to try new things balanced with a healthy sense of hesitation, but getting through it in a positive way is a step in the right direction to where I want to be. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mindful Thinking-Sensory Awareness Day-4

In continuing with my efforts to blog more consistently about my new ideas of  mindful thinking and what strategies I'm applying to better meet my goals I'm happy to update that today is going okay, as well as yesterday.  The day before was pretty unhappy and unfocused.  Filled with lots of anxiety and negative thinking.  I still have so much work to do in determining triggers and not allowing them to be my primary focus, sending me into a tailspin of fret, worry and all sorts of negative thinking patterns that I would rather not waste my energy on.

Today, I was successful in identifying when I was being overzealous in my attempts to plan out my weekend.  I had this fantasy that since it was Mother's Day weekend I would somehow (don't ask me how) get the whole house sparkling clean and have time for some blogging and extra baking.  I thought that I might be able to get weeks worth of tasks miraculously done in two days.  By about 3 this afternoon I became aware of my illogical thinking.  My irrational goal was exposed for the life-sucker it has proved itself to be for the last 30 some years.  I told that thought that I couldn't listen to it.  I acknowledged it's existence, noticed it was there, thought about how nice it might be to have Monday (my day off I designated for myself, but more about that later) in a nice, orderly house.  Alas, this wasn't my life and the only way I would come close to this goal would be if I manically cleaned, and got on everyone else's case to do the same awarding me the most unpleasant mom to be around this Mother's Day weekend.  Now, I did not want that award.  That is probably the opposite of what I want, so I decided that it was best for me to do what I can and let it go.

As I am trying to be more aware of my feelings, where they originate at in my body, what triggered them, how I react, how they effect me, ect.. I have noticed a great deal of frustration buried deep in my stomach today.My sensory system is overloaded without provocation.  This happens from time to time, without so much as a warning or a reason.  I just have days where nothing feels right.  My clothes feel all wrong, my appetite is out of whack, I feel achey, irritated, and unable to tolerate noise.  Any noise and it just so happens that my house consists of noise coming from competing directions at any given time.  TV, video games, computers, Bean's toys and verbal stims.  My house is anything but quiet.    My husband isn't feeling well and when he feels unwell he wants cuddles.  Lots and lots of cuddles. This is not always my favorite activity unless it's at the designated times, but I do not like my routine interrupted with lots of hugs and kisses(unless you're Beans.  Beans always gets hugs and kisses!).  I'm trying to get things done.  My sensory system is hanging on by a thread of imminent meltdown and he needs hugs.  Denying him this (which is excruciatingly important to him) at this time is not going to turn out well, so I am dealing with it.  Maybe, I am getting sick as well and that's why I am feeling over my sensory limit from the get-go?  Who knows?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mindful Thinking-Anxiety Day 1

Today, I am still actively aware and working on my need for obsessing, and attempts at perfection.

My first thoughts this morning was a loooong list of important 'to-do's' which left me feeling overwhelmed and panicky. I decided to take one small task at a time and not worry about the whole day and minor tasks.  I want to be calm and feel optimistic, but reeling in stress about daily tasks is not achieving that.  I decided that I value being calm and optimistic more than I value having a clean house, all my errands ran, and exercises done. I realized that I could do some of those things without going to the extreme of all or nothing, black and white thinking that usually plagues me and hold my emotions hostage as I get more and more panicky trying to achieve it all.

I am still feeling anxious about possibly not getting everything done that I'd like to.  I'm still feeling anxious about posting this.  Feeling uncomfortable is okay. Discomfort is my body's way of letting me know that I am testing new waters.  That's a good thing, because without discomfort my life will never grow.  You can't get different results by doing the same things, so I am going to keep it up.  I think this is something that is difficult for many on the autism spectrum.  We see the world in such detail that we want everything to be 'just right'.  Combining that with our tendency to be black and white rigid thinkers an, and it's a sure way to a path of anxiety and depression.  I will continue to post daily or every other day on how I'm changing my old habits into new, more productive ones that align much better with the things in life that I value.  Every minute of everyday offers up opportunities to change that one thought, that one action,that one word to be more reflective of a life that I choose.  I choose confidence, self esteem, family, love, kindness over self-defeat, sadness, isolation and frustration.  It's my life and I need to take responsibility to make these things manifest.

So, today my goal is to not worry about getting everything done, staying vigilant in getting what I need to done (means not over-thinking or spending time I don't have on FB and Twitter! lol) and feeling good in knowing that I'm doing what I love, no matter what else happens, or what others may think.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breaking the Habit of Perfection Thinking

The other day on my facebook page I said that I was going to work on holding myself to such a high standard of perfection.I tend to hold myself to such a high standard that it's like a constant pressure.  You know that feeling when you have a really important project approaching due,date? One that is challenging, and is crucial that it's done well and on time?   That's how I live my life, everyday with everything that I do.  

I think that I've made a few other posts on here about being more mindful about time, and how my thoughts get carried away, but I seem to forget.  It's like a good habit that you want to pick up, that you fully intend to incorporate into your day, but somehow it slips away bit by bit, until you don't even realize that you're not keeping up with it at all anymore. I think that I need to work on little chunks at a time to be more successful.  Like, instead of just telling myself that I'll be more compassionate with myself, I need to list specific examples.  I think that if I continue to involve the daily habit of slowing down my thinking and being easier on myself my world would be infinitely happier.  There would be less depression, less anger, less frustration, less anxiety and less meltdowns.

I'm thinking that I might write them down.  Maybe put them here, or on my facebook page?  Maybe just leave them in a notebook for me to see?  The biggest thing is for me to write down the thoughts that come into my head that may be contributing to my feelings of depression and anxiety. Once that I get them on paper, I can see them as their own, without they being apart of me.  That moment of separation is key, because when we think something that triggers an emotional reaction, often we are already in the reacting phase without even thinking about whether our thought is true and where it fits in the direction we want our day to go in.

For example, yesterday I had a doctor's appointment. I was terribly restless about being weighed. I was terrified that the doctor would think that I was fat, or say something bad about my appearance.  So, I guess I could write it down like this:
Thought: I'm fat.  The doctor is going to tell me to diet or the nurse is going to think badly of me for my weight.
What would happen if that actually were true?: I'd feel ashamed of myself for being sub par.
How would this thought and subsequent feeling shape your mood and actions?  I'd begin to feel sad, depressed and paranoid that everyone else thought this, too.  I might begin to resentfully eat less and exercise more. I might even avoid some social situations due to feeling inadequate.
Is this how you want to live?  Is this living the life you value and does these thoughts and subsequent actions push you in the direction of your goals and values?: No.  I don't value being depressed and sad.  I don't want to avoid people, because of my anxieties.  I value being a happy mother and wife and to be the best person I can be.
What thought can you replace it with that might be better in tuned to your personal goals?:  I'm not fat. I don't know what the doctor thinks.  I'll have to wait and see what happens and what she says to do. There's no use in making up the scenario in my head now and getting upset over something that may never be.  I am going to move my energy into something that matters more to me than this.

Also, in some cases I may be able to add something about past experiences to help me move through unwanted thoughts.  In this case, my doctor told me to stop losing weight and not to over-exercise.  The nurse even said that I was super small, so this time it was an irrational thought to begin with.  The next time a weight related anxiety comes up I can try to use this experience as a reference to what thoughts might be better due to the unanimous opinion that this one (while very real and powerful to me) is irrational.

Of course this was just a small taste of the OCD fueled irrational, and anxious thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis making me nervous and feeling so deflated by the end of the day.  This would probably not be this way if I'd been raised more compassionately, but nothing I can do about that now.  I can't change the past, even if what it left me with is unfair.  I can only change how I am and how I deal with things. So, I'm hoping that with some effort things will improve and if you're struggling with a similar problem that things will improve for you, too.