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Posts from the ‘Ranting’ Category

Anxiety: It’s not me; it’s you. Sorry. 

When my anxiety is getting the better of me I feel I need to say everything, put it all into words, make my own sense of it and be heard. 

Every part of this need for openness is problematic:

1. My anxiety involves other people and their actions so to talk about what is upsetting me is to criticise others – or risk making them feel they are being criticised. This results in others being defensive or hurt and my anxiety escalating. And people mistake silence for rudeness so I can’t ever get this right. 

2. People want to give me answers and solutions or explain what is going on and what is real and what is not real. This makes me more anxious and insults my intelligence. I know what is real. And I know about anxiety. I am an expert. 

3. People tell me not to worry. There are not enough hours in the day to explain why this is ridiculous but a comment like this will make me unlikely to share my fears with a person and instead make me feel ill. (Or if you’ve caught me at a particularly bad moment may result in colourful language.)

Most of what makes me feel anxious can’t be stopped. Some of it can be avoided to a point, and my self-awareness and ability to assess things enables me to judge what I feel able to put myself through at different times and in different situations.

4. People offer fixes. When you have lived with anxiety all your life and have been through what I have been through – you have researched, experimented and grown wiser – you become weary of “fixes” and weary of trying. You come full circle and your knowledge is deep.
‘I have found what works for me and what doesn’t, but thank you anyway’ doesn’t cut it for some because here I am still complaining about anxiety. Clearly this indicates to some I haven’t found what works and they feel a need to help. Really: thanks but no thanks. 

The truth is I don’t want to complain about MY anxiety, MY “problem”. I really want to complain about the world around me because I have found what gives me peace but I’m not always allowed it. Instead I must internalise the feelings and do the anxious thing. 

Currently I don’t know if and when our back garden will go back to being peaceful ever again and that is causing me to worry and to pace. The uncertainty and unpredictability of other people has always been distressing for me, and the responses required from me are exhausting – as too is the “put up or shut up” it often seems is required by everyone. I find the best way to heal and recharge is total withdrawal, and being able to escape from man-made noise is important for me. If and when I get that, I feel lost in a delicious calm. It’s my self-prescribed medicine, it’s what works.  

Several times every day, I swallow a rant that is playing on my lips, I hold back an opinion that might result in an argument I don’t have the energy for, I decide again and again and again that I can’t put my needs above others’, that I can’t voice my concerns, that I must disguise my discomfort. This in part is to do with being a woman, a mother, an adult, a responsible member of society. It’s about caring about others but it is also connected to my anxiety, and for me it is pretty constant and I wish I could retreat to my ‘what works for me’ more often to avoid this anxiety. Instead, though, I must keep on, knowing how things should be and knowing I can’t change them – and occasionally allowing myself to blurt out how anxious that makes me feel. I should be allowed that at least, surely? 

Backward Forward Thinking

shutterstock_135498428Somewhere out there, in a parallel universe, there are humans who knew that dragging coal and oil out of the earth was stupid, dangerous, dirty and unsustainable so they left it there and instead they developed products and technologies from safe, clean, sustainable sources, fought the NYMBYs and the luddites centuries ago, harnessed, wind, wave and solar power and will continue to thrive and renew for eons – long after we have fried.

It’s not too late to join them as a sort of sickly, recuperating, penitent relative with previous self-destructive addictions, trying to clean up our act,  but it looks like we’re not even going to bother because we still haven’t admitted we’re addicted and we’re in the wrong.

Well done to the wise inhabitants of that other earth in that parallel universe. I wish I and my descendants could join you.

Peace, please: this Aspie angst.

An open request.
I have Asperger’s, I have anxiety and I have acute hearing. If you sit in your van, behind our garden hedge, in the lane that only leads to next door – and which I only expect to see my neighbours using – having a loud conversation, just yards from my garden door, it feels as if you are in my garden. I can hear what you are saying and I feel I am invaded and not able to have my own conversations, my own thoughts, my own peace. You are not meant to be in my garden idyll – in fact you destroy my garden idyll.
I am not paranoid or stupid, I don’t feel threatened per say, I just don’t know you or why you are there – you are too close for comfort and I need you out of my zone of peace.

My anxiety will rise, I will pace and I will be unable to function properly.

I will start vocalising my concerns more and more loudly until you go away.

This is how it is.

I don’t ask for much. Please give me my peace.



No more Asperger’s stereotypes! Please!

Recently Asperger’s has become a bit trendy in books, TV and films, and I’m seeing a lot of the same ideas about behaviours and traits rolled out, and more stereotypes than you can shake a stick at squeezed and squoshed inside the poor characters, and the individuality and very humanness of aspies insulted and belittled.

In the last few days and weeks, I’ve had a run of simply being a human being and not having to think too deeply about my brain-wiring, so I’m not really in the mood for confronting the “no empathy”, “painfully honest” shit that’s been badly wallpapered onto everyone with Asperger’s – like we’re a bunch of weird, abnormal clones and everyone else is somehow so much more tactful and thoughtful.

BUT.

It is nasty, unfair and untrue, and it breaks my heart every time I’m exposed to said shit. Everyone else is not much more tactful and thoughtful and going around being all nice all the time. We are not two separate species: one with empathy and one without. It simply is not like that. 

I think about other people ALL THE TIME. I think about how my actions impact on others ALL THE TIME. I care deeply about people and watch them carefully and read them intently to gauge their feelings. Just like every other fucker on the planet I can let tactless things slip out occasionally – and when I do that I feel bad. 

Yes, it’s true I don’t see the point in lying when the truth is important. But, no, it’s not true I speak my mind all the time and unnecessarily offend people regularly. Yes, it’s true I can have trouble deciphering what people need from me when I feel their behaviour is coded. But this is cognitive empathy and not the same as emotional empathy and it does not mean I am unable to guess, to judge or to imagine how other people are feeling or to feel very deeply for what they are going through.  Nor does it mean I am unable to show sympathy, empathy, support or help work on solutions for other people. I understand that everyone is different and thinks differently and responds differently to situations; that people learn differently and need different approaches to things they are tackling, struggling with or dealing with, and I understand that might very well be different from things that might work for me.

Speaking for myself, the greatest problem I have is the strange codes and behaviours that exist in the neurotypical (non-Aspie) world, whereby people don’t say what they mean and don’t ask for what they want: they say things they don’t mean, they agree to do things they don’t want to do, they leave things out, and they approach things from an angle that is unfamiliar to me. Importantly, I find neurotypical timing to be slightly different from my own and I believe this is due to some challenges in processing more than one thing at a time. This timing leads me to be off cue, slightly disordered or slow in the behaviour others may be expecting, and people who have spent their whole lives shepherded by neurotypical behaviours (even other aspies) don’t see what they are expecting so make a immediate judgement that there is something lacking.

Neurotypical people, it would seem, on the whole are more likely to pretend. They are more likely to be two-faced. They are incredibly likely to read an autistic person wrongly and make an unfair or incorrect judgement. They are not better at empathy. 

But this post isn’t about widening the gap that’s been created to an extent by common misperceptions, it’s about trying to narrow it so what I want to say is this:
When you find yourself believing someone has no empathy, ask yourself how deeply your own empathy is running to have reached that conclusion. 

How to Avoid the World Cup

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Phase 1.
Turn off your TV until further notice
Turn off your radio until further notice
Don’t read any papers or magazines until further notice
Completely avoid Twitter, facebook and all social media until further notice
Don’t have a job until further notice
Don’t have a family until further notice
Don’t have friends until further notice
Don’t go to any place where other people might be until further notice
When at home keep your doors and windows firmly shut until further notice
Wear headphones or use other devices to drown out the outside world until further notice
Become middle class until further notice.
Do not travel along a street – any street – by any means until further notice. (If you really must get somewhere by means of passing buildings, get someone who can cope with the risk of seeing St George flags or overhearing Tvs to drive, lie in the back of a car with a blanket over your head, wearing a spacesuit, listening to The Best Most Relaxing Not Football Sounds Ever, Volume Eleventy at full volume.)
Be aware that if you go for a quiet walk in the countryside, even there, other people may suddenly appear who may be wearing football t-shirts, talking about football, playing football, listening to football on their radio or just generally exuding a painful air of football enthusiasm.
And on the beach could you cope if someone criss-crossed your raspberry sauce across your vanilla icecream? Think about it.

Phase 2.
On Monday 14th July 2014, you may take off your headphones and open your windows a little.
You may stop being quite so middle class. If you ever were…
You must, however avoid all media for at least 2 more weeks and then you may phone a friend and ask them if it’s safe to come out yet.

Phase 3.
Spend 5 weeks finding out about really important things that happened in the world, and which you really would have like to have known about had not the whole world’s media gone completely mad.
Start eating icecream again
Decide whether to keep the spacesuit.


Help! We’re in trouble!

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We currently have a bunch of people making decisions about our country who most of us did not vote for.

 

These people do not care about:

 

Children – or those who care for them or work with them

Sick people – or those who care for them or work with them

Poor people – or those who care for them or work with them

Homeless people – or those who care for them or work with them

Disabled and elderly people – or those who care for them or work with them

Animals

Our natural environment

Public transport

The planet

The oceans

Equality

Renewable energy

The future

 

Not only do they not see how important it is to protect all of the above, but they have set themselves on a course to bugger up all of the above.

 

The awful, heartbreaking and barbaric decision to allow the murdering of badgers is a perfect example of the dangerous way they make ill-informed decisions. They either don’t understand what they are doing or they do understand and they don’t care – either way they are a very dangerous group of people.

 

I’m angry. Very bloody angry. And desperately sad. 

Not competing is healthy too

As a writer, as a mother, as a member of society, as a musician, as an ex-school girl, as a small business person (I’m not particularly small though!) and as an observer of the media I’ve seen the effects of and discussions around competitiveness throughout my life and something is bugging me. It’s this statement:

“Competing is healthy.”

Well I’m here to say, just a cotton-picking minute! That statement is incomplete!
There are all sorts of words and opinions excluded from that.

This is more like it:

“It is believed by many that competing is healthy but it is by no means necessary have competition in order to be happy, fit, or successful in what one does. Although many enjoy competition, many others do not and, unhappily, find it is forced upon them. Competition is about winners and losers. There are many areas of life and many situations where winners and losers are not appropriate and competition can actually be damaging or destroy one’s enjoyment of an activity. Whilst some people may feel they need to compete, their views should not be imposed upon those who don’t and can cope perfectly well – if not better – without competing at anything.”
(Those are the words I’ve come up with just now. I will probably think of one hundred more throughout the day)

Competing is not for me. It doesn’t make me feel healthy at all. I don’t want to stop other people competing but I wish I could stop it being enforced on those who don’t enjoy it and don’t benefit from it. I also wish I could dispel the myths about competition because I think many of them ARE myths – especially when people say that competition is THE way to create team spirit and communal sense of achievement. It is not THE way, it is A way. There are many things that can be created, built, achieved and enjoyed (including physical activity) together that create community and bonding without winners and losers. In fact I’ve been more physically active whilst deliberately avoiding the Olympics and it has involved absolutely no competition whatsoever.

I don’t enter writing competitions, for instance. I am aware of writing competitions and had a period of about 2 months of my life where I attempted to enter about 3 but I found that I wrote badly and lost my natural flow when thinking about being judged. I write for the sheer love of it, for the almost physical need to just do it, to create, to share, to make something. I don’t want or need to win anything. I have also been involved in reading writing that is being judged and can see how damaging it can be, how subjective it is and how not only does good writing not always win but the winners are not always my favourite. I worry that people think they need to win things in order to feel a sense of fulfilment in what they do. It’s not for everybody but I think people are swept up into tides of common thinking and don’t always stop to think what suits them.

As a mother I see how awards and grades and comparing oneself with others all the time creates neediness. Children find they feel a need to always be better than others and when they can’t be they can be unhealthily disappointed, or even quite unpleasant. These outcomes could be avoided if children were just encouraged to enjoy what they do. I’m not saying, ‘No competitive sport.’ Those that want it can go get it rather than everyone being forced into it and feeling they have to opt out like loser. When I was a school pupil I felt the constant comparing almost unbearable and not a true measure of ability. Top grades does not mean most intelligent yet those who don’t find themselves at the top of the class feel less worthy. I think we are teaching the wrong sets of values.

It upsets me incredibly that we have an almost pack-like mentality in that we have to arrange ourselves into some sort of order like dogs. The angriest, the fastest, the greediest, the bossiest – the most competitive of us all is considered the best. But it’s simply not true that he is. The cave man who runs the fastest, pushes other cavemen out of the way, grabs the meat and gets to eat it all himself is the pushiest but he’s not the best and he has deprived others. It’s an attitude I see in business and instead of being applauded it should be frowned upon as Neanderthal.

Recently the obsession with winning has exploded because of the Olympics. Games with winners and losers as entertainment seems to work. It’s fun (as I have observed! I don’t enjoy it at all though). But whole lives centered around winning and losing?

I don’t think so.

Please stop thinking competition is good for everyone or a necessary part of civilised society. Because it simply is not true.

It isn’t.

No it just isn’t.

No. Shut up.

Are we really nicer “off-line”?

Do social networks change us?
Do they cause more rows?
Do we feel safer “having a go” online?
Perhaps people seem less “real” and we think can forget our manners online… Perhaps we push things a little further than we would in a face-to-face situation? It’s okay to fight with someone we’ll probably never meet, right? Maybe the part of us that normally says, ‘Leave it now, don’t forget his mum does your mum’s hair,’ doesn’t come into play in online interaction.

Maybe people really are nicer to people that they physically spend time with than those they meet online because they don’t really care about those with whom they social-network. That’s why there is so much more animosity online than you would see, say, between people chatting together in a coffee shop, right?

Well, no, I don’t think so.

I think it’s something else: I think outside of social-networking – in the “real” world if you will – interactions are more about body language, powerful voices, confident speakers, even accents perhaps… I think presence often dominates over content and the Internet takes away unfair advantages, meaning we don’t have to let go of issues that we really care about.

I think the Internet provides a level playing field. Those fears, concerns about our appearances, a lack of confidence, a speech impediment, an accent, worries that we won’t be listened to or respected and tens of other physical/social reasons get in the way of us being convincing or feeling like we’re being convincing. These things don’t matter or exist online.

I suspect a lot of people arguing online are not just arguing with the person they are interacting with – they are releasing arguments they have had to internalise when they’ve been overwhelmed, or quietened by a louder character or felt swamped in the physical world. For all its problems the Internet is freeing, it’s fairer, it brings us into contact with people we may never have met because of age, culture, location, or people we may have avoided meeting because of pre-conceived ideas about appearances.

There always has to be a last word though. Face-to-face disagreements generally end before things get too heated. We can physically see if someone’s going to shout us down, try to make us look like a fool, out-wit us with speedier reactions. Or we can tell that we’re going too far and risk losing our audience. And a verbal disagreement often can be interrupted or diverted naturally. We can get distracted or cause our own distractions in face-to-face. In an online chat this stopping seems to be a problem.

Real life, face-to-face situations may seem more pleasant but they are probably only more pleasant on the surface. People are just not always saying what they think. To a point this is surely a good thing. Yes, some things are best left unsaid. And there has to be a point at which we let someone else have the last word – even if we feel they are wrong, or they have insulted our intelligence by misinterpreting what we have said. Otherwise it doesn’t stop. We can end up defending ourselves and not our position.

Online we probably don’t shut up soon enough.

In face-to-face we often shut up too soon because we are not confident enough to defend a point-of-view.

I know which I think is worse.


I didn’t want this post to be about me, but I am adding my personal experience from the comments (below) here so that you can see where I’m coming from:

In over 12 years of online communicating I have come across many situations where things have been said that I know I wouldn’t have been involved with offline. That was the whole point of this: to emphasise that online conversations – on the whole – are good and useful and freeing.

I had one friend at school with whom I felt I could be myself and argue safely with. We were very close friends despite being polls apart politically. When she left at 15 I had no one that I felt safe to argue with. I’ve spent my life feeling dominated and frustrated by other people’s physical presence – even most of my family and my in-laws – so have sat through SO many discussions quietly whilst screaming in my head that I disagree or have an alternative viewpoint. I can’t emphasise enough how big of a problem it’s been for me.

3 years working in a pub taught me a lot about human behaviour too and I noticed a lot of bullshitters dominating discussions whilst quiet clever people looked on. It’s absolutely astounding how many people are fooled by physical presence, or a well-spoken or loud voice.
It wasn’t until I began using online forums with the OU in 2000 that I began to find the security to argue again. But it took time and I made a lot of mistakes, and I still go back to scaredy Rachel in face-to-face situations.

I love the Internet for taking away the bullshitters’ unfair advantage – I call it cheating – of drowning out other people or talking down to them. I wouldn’t even be able to begin counting the number of times a tone of voice has stopped me dead and I’ve allowed someone to “win” (only in their tiny little minds though!) just because they are overbearing. It happens all the time.

I did a psychology course in 2010 and a chunk of the course was about computer-mediated-communication. One of the course tutors remarked (it may have been mine, but I never have anything to do with the tutors!) that an online social life is no substitution for a real social life. And THAT’S why I wrote this post – because I think it can be a VERY good substitution for a “real” social life so long as we remember that we are still dealing with real people and it is actually “real”.

Even online I still think some ignorant and stubborn people have an unfair advantage, perhaps, because you’ll never get them to understand your thinking and you simply have to give up. There will have to be times when I state my opinion and leave it because I’m getting nowhere or I have been misunderstood. It feels like you’re letting someone win and so I find that very hard (perhaps compounded by the fact that it’s been happening all my life and so I LOATHE having my intelligence insulted!) but it’s one of the most important skills of online communication: to know when to let go, and I’ve noticed recently that I’m getting much better at it. 🙂

How to Be a Successful Modern Family Woman

This is one end of our hall. The other end is even messier. There are five of us making this mess. Six, if you include the dog. (He’s responsible for making the carpets permanently filthy.)
Sometimes I look around me and think that it looks more like twenty people live here, we have that much clutter and footwear.
I often wake in the middle of the night and think I am failing as a woman/wife/mother because I am not keeping things tidier (I promise you it’s not all about the hall). But deep down I know that tidiness is not a representation of any sort of success in those roles.

So I thought about how I could get through the days (and nights) without beating myself up over every little imperfection.

And this is what I came up with:

Add “Look tired” to your list of desired achievements for the day. (TICK!)

Make “Emergency ponytail” your favourite hairstyle.

Make “Teaching daughters about feminism” your reason for having breakfast dishes on the kitchen table all day and a confusion of clean and dirty laundry strewn around the house

Add “Check Twitter” to every even number on your “(AS LONG AS IT TAKES, OKAY!?) To-do” list.

Add beguiling entries to said list, such as: “Read that thing I have to read”, “Google that important thingy”, and “clear out underwear drawer”. Tick them and put list on fridge for all to see. This turns the guilt of time spent reading, web-browsing and having no clean underwear into achievements.

Wear a “Period Pains Hurt!” t-shirt once-a-month – or anytime you need people to sod off and stop asking you to do too many things.
(“The Menopause Is No Joke!” “Ask Me When I’ve Had Enough Sleep” and “The Most Productive People Take Breaks” are also useful for sending an important message)

Get “Superwoman Doesn’t Exist”, “Oh, Sod it!” and “All the best people are a bit smelly & messy” magnets for your fridge.

Have a partner who is a partner and not a stereotype.

Before anyone can ask you about all the things you haven’t done tell them all the things you have done.

Every time anyone says anything about how much better things used to be when families were more disciplined, mention the mass, hidden, domestic, mental and physical abuse of women and children of the nineteen fifties and the inequality and fear of the patriarchal figure that stinted the potential of many people for many years and still fuels the guilt and perceived (= made up) duties of the twentieth-first century woman.

Know that the best people trust you and like you a lot more when they know that you are not perfect

Never allow chores or household appliances to remain an enigma. Repeatedly marvel at how fun and easy the dishwasher/washing machine/cooker/vacuum cleaner are to use instead of being truthful about how depressing housework is. (Now that I’ve read this through I want to point out that what I mean by this is other household members should be allowed and encouraged to do more)

Don’t be a domestic goddess because your daughters will think they have to be a domestic goddess and your sons will expect their wives to be a domestic goddess and you don’t want that do you?
DO YOU?!
Well. I don’t.

Not Swimming But Running Away


If you were to write down a list of the top twenty most important things to you and a list of the top twenty annoyances and asked lots of people whom you consider to be like you, or friends or family to do the same, and then compared them, there would be a few disappointments in every list – disappointing ways of looking at the world that leave you wishing they didn’t think like that and you’d rather they saw things more the way you did.

I expect if you asked the whole world to do it and created a database you’d have difficulty finding someone with the same lists. All forty the same? It would be harder than winning the lottery, surely? But perhaps that’s easier to cope with when you don’t know them. It’s weird when people see things very differently from us but if they’re strangers then we can dislike people’s views, even dismiss them as wrong perhaps. ‘Oh, they’re just “other”.’

It’s a simple fact that there is NO ONE that sees the world EXACTLY like us.
I kind of accept that.
Just.
Squirmingly.
Someone else might say they are avid musical-theatre-goers, fans of Bruce Springsteen, think that their hamsters are the most important creature in the whole wide world and that Roquefort cheese should be a main meal on Sundays – just like I do*, of course! 😉 – but there will always be a disappointment in there, a niggle that instantly repulses me for a few seconds, minutes or hours perhaps. Maybe I will remember forever how, despite the fact that we have so much else in common, Susie in Chichester likes planting Leylandii trees and I can never forgive her for that. In fact a little bit of my love for her secretly died when I found that out.
(It’s okay, Chichester people, she’s not real).

We should accept differences, avoid confrontation, and get over it, yes? It’s a rare treat when we find people we feel comfortable being ourselves around and we should come to terms with the fact that we’re all a bit different, you can’t change people so just enjoy their company, right?

And yet I’m still disillusioned and disheartened regularly. I don’t know why. I guess I just want to find more people that I feel completely comfortable with. It would be like a holiday to not have stomach-churning disappointment each time someone said something that didn’t sit comfortably with me. If another parent mentions the words ‘Gina Ford’ for instance, I instantly think, Oh God. Please tell me you didn’t?! And then I never forget. We’re not the same. We have major parenting differences, I’ll think to myself forever and ever after that how I’ll never be able to have that discussion with them about how much I loathe Gina Ford…

If someone says they respect Alan Sugar, Simon Cowell or Jeremy Clarkson… (I have a list) I visibly deflate a little and hope I’m not the only one in the room who doesn’t agree with the person speaking. Sometimes I disagree so much with someone’s opinions that I would rather be alone because to stay in that person’s company would either mean having a disagreement or keeping quiet and being quiet means being unfaithful to my own values. I can’t stand the thought of either.

And then there’s the extreme.
Have you ever been in a position where you find yourself thinking, I don’t agree with what’s being said here. I’m the only person sitting at this table who thinks like this ? I have. Too many times.

I expect it is one of the reasons why I write. And why I use Twitter. If there is only a metaphorical table of people sitting staring at me in bewilderment/horror/shock/pity/ or whathaveyou all ready to disagree with me at the same time at least in writing I can get my own feelings across before they shout me down, patronise me or frighten me into silence.

When I say “frighten” I mean I don’t like arguing – so much so that I shake. Those within my shield of safety will laugh at this because I do argue with my husband. But I don’t like people throwing an entirely different viewpoint from mine in my face and either getting away with it without being challenged or preparing themselves to do battle with my views. It doesn’t change my mind it just makes me want to run away from confrontation. So I need people who see the world as closely as possible to the way I see it around me.

Exactly the way I see it, if possible.

Which, of course, is no one.

So.
We should do that list. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

Hello?

Hell-o-o???

Anybody there???

PS Near the top of my annoyances list would be:
There are far too many cat photos on the Internet. It drives me nuts. Seriously.

Cue dinner party table of people looking at me in bewilderment/horror/shock/pity/ or whathaveyou…

*I don’t like Bruce Springsteen, Roquefort or people treating their pets like children and I don’t go to musical theatre

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