Exercise to weight loss

With the medication I am on I have gained approximately three stones in weight. I can’t blame it all on the medication, my diet has been terrible and my exercise scarce but it wasn’t great before the medication and I wasn’t heavy then, so the medication is at least partially to blame. I have decided it is time to change.

So, today I took the plunge and bought myself an exercise bike. I’m trying not to think of what else I could have spent the money on but it’s cheaper than a gym membership (and I don’t like the gym so wouldn’t use it anyway).

I like the idea of an exercise bike because it is something I can do in the house when I’m on my own but it is also quiet enough not to annoy other people if they are in. (Actually it’s really quiet). I like the idea of doing my exercise alone, I’m also not a massive fan of doing it in front of other people – another reason I don’t like the gym.

The bike works both cardio and legs. I definitely need to improve my cardio and my thighs have always been large so any exercise that targets them will be great.

First workout went well. I managed 5k in just over 15 minutes. Not bad really and I am aiming to slowly increase the distance to 10k over the next month or so by going up about half a kilometre every two workouts. I have also found a simple HIIT (High intensity Interval Training) workout where you do 10 seconds high intensity and then 10 seconds rest, repeating for ten minutes. This is my plan for tomorrow so I will let you know how it goes.

Hopefully, this will result in weight loss or at least inch loss and a change in dress size over the next few months as well as making me generally more fitter.

As I am not a NT (neurotypical) I can’t really comment on how exercising as an Aspie is different or similar. I do get a bit of a rush of endorphins afterwards but not as much as I know my Mum and Dad get. I think that is why I have spent the day looking at goal setting and rewards but haven’t got anywhere yet. I quite liked a points system I found but that’s another post.

 

 

 

 

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Muster on cruises

If you have never cruised then you have never endured a muster drill. A muster drill is required by maritime law on every cruise you take and I hate them.

Muster drills are not good for aspies. The cruise company pack everyone from your part of the shop into an area supposed to take about a quarter of the number. Then they proceed to play a message from the captain offer the internal tannoy system. Don’t get me started on tannoy systems and trying to process what is being said. Basically, they are preparing you for an emergency at sea. A bit like the safety checks you get on a plane.

I wish that cruise ships would consider people with hidden disabilities at muster. I do understand that I need to do it but I’m sure somewhere quieter could be arranged for people who need it instead of being packed into a cramped, smelly, noisy room that I can’t escape from.

What ell, another muster completed and I survived but I’m not impressed by the accessibility of it all.

 

 

A pocketful of monsters

Miniature monsters

Invisible to the eye

Personify life

 

I explain some of the Aspie problems I face as monsters I imagine I carry around with me in my pocket.  (I do know there aren’t really any monsters). Who says Aspies don’t have imaginations?

These cute little things cause me no end of trouble but they’re cute so we’ll let them off. I just have to find ways to tame them or use them to my advantage.

Here are some of the monsters:

Cacophony: The monster of noise that always turns the volume up! Everywhere we go he plays with the volume controls. He never turns them down though, which is a shame.

Shape Shifter: The smallest monster that clings to clothes making them itchy. I think he’s bullied in my pocket so he hangs on to where my labels should be instead, but he’s very itchy.

Attraction: She loves places with strong smells (don’t get me started on department shops and putting perfume right in the entrance). She is like a magnet for smells and then she still hangs round in my pocket, so the smells linger.

Dazz: The monster who can’t help himself but to use the lights as a playground which makes them flicker. Fluorescent lights are definitely his favourite. Since getting glasses Dazz’s antics seem to bother me less.

Squeezer: A furry monster that loves to join in hugs. His arms are extra long making it possible for him to reach around any hug going. He is definitely the cutest of the monsters, unfortunately he squeezes far too hard.

Tib: The travel monster that makes me feel sick in cars, boats (especially pirate ships at themes parks) and coaches. He doesn’t like planes though and tends to hide in my pocket during these.

The dreaded hairdressers

I dislike the hairdressers. It’s not the hairdresser, she’s really nice but going to the hairdressers is definitely not my favourite activity. Last weekend I braved a trip to see her (my hair was looking dreadful, it was too heavy).

So why do I hate going to the hairdressers? I think it’s because of the sensory overload and the social interaction.

Firstly, as soon as you walk in you are met by the smell of hair products and it’s not just a smell either, there’s a taste too. I think it’s the hairspray but when you taste hairspray it dries out your mouth. You can’t help but taste it, it’s in the air. Also, there’s all the other products like gels, mousses and shampoo. All those smells combining with the general smell of people who like to wear perfume or aftershave. Not pleasant.

Then there’s the sound. I can cope with the sound of water running into the sinks and I can cope with the general hubbub of chatter but when you add in the sound of the hairdryers on top of all the other noises… It’s far too much.

It’s busy at the hairdressers and there are a lot of details to take in when you look around but I can cope with that. What does get me is the lights. It always seems that a bulb needs changing and then the light begins to flicker. My eyes are just drawn to the flickering light. Not helpful when the hairdresser wants you to look at the floor because she’s trying to cut the back of your hair. If I have to stay for a long time I begin to get a headache.

Then there’s the social part. I haven’t yet met a hairdresser who cuts your hair in silence. I am rubbish at small talk. I never know what to say and how much to ask or when it’s inappropriate to ask personal questions, especially when they have just asked a personal question. Because I don’t know I spend too much energy wondering if I’ll do something inappropriate and that makes it hard to speak at all. Usually my mum sits next to me and she does the chatting, I can just listen and add an occasional comment if I want to. However, at the weekend she was in the other room having a colour so I had to cope alone. I was glad I have short hair and it only taken ten minutes to cut.

I don’t blame the hairdressers for any of this. Having spoken to both my mum and sister I know it doesn’t bother them. It’s my Aspie brain trying to process too much. At least I have a few weeks now where I don’t need to go again.

My shutdown FAQ

mono-tool-shutdown-2400pxWhat is a shutdown for me?

A shutdown is when I can no longer cope with the world and its demands. If I don’t catch it early it I am likely to completely shut off from the world. I struggle to communicate and I can no longer help myself.

Why is it called a shutdown?

It’s called a shutdown because it is like a computer shutting down and turning off. I no longer work properly and input and output isn’t processed, just like a computer when it is off.

What causes a shutdown?

Lots of things can cause a shutdown. For me, it is usually caused my too much social interaction, too much sensory information or too many different activities going on at once. For example, on Saturday I was trying to do four different things at the same time and that overloaded me and nearly sent me into shutdown. It was too much and it was stressful.

Can you avoid a shutdown?

The only answer I can give you is sometimes. If you spot it early it can sometimes be avoided but not always. I often go for walks or play the piano if I can feel a shutdown coming on. Sometimes it helps but sometimes I go into shutdown anyway. If I communicate with somebody that I feel like a shutdown is coming on then they will often help me to do something about it. In some instances instead of having a shutdown I will have a panic attack (that’s for another post)

How does it feel before a shutdown?

Strange. Not very descriptive I know but honestly it just feels strange. My mind feels overwhelmed, I want to flap around and everything slows down. It’s like I am in slow motion while watching the world, which is on fast forward.

How does it feel during a shutdown?

Nothing. It’s almost like a trance. I remember very little afterwards.

How does it feel after a shutdown?

I am usually exhausted after a shutdown. I need time to process what happened and have some time out. I sometimes need to get rid of excess energy by walking or doing something active. Sometimes I want company but doing my own thing – I just want someone with me while I do it. It is a learning curve though and knowing more and more triggers helps me plan better.

How can people help me during a shutdown?

  • Be calm – I’m already in high alert and can’t cope with somebody else panicking, it will make me worse
  • Be quiet (volume) – it’s quite likely my senses are overloaded and I don’t need any more sensory information coming in. in fact I am unlikely to hear anything you say.
  • Let me have my shutdown – don’t try to bring me round, it won’t work
  • Give me space – as I said I am probably overwhelmed with sensory information and I cannot cope with a hug or a pat even though I know you are only trying to help
  • Be kind – don’t judge me – I am not doing this on purpose. I can’t “snap out of it”
  • Help me afterwards – take me somewhere quiet and give me time.

Is a shutdown the same for everyone?

No. This is my experience of a shutdown but everyone will be different.

Headphones

Listening through headphones,

To drown out the sound,

It’ll still be there when you take them off,

So frighteningly loud.

 

Like a stalker who won’t leave you;

A ghost who can walk through walls,

A twin who knows your darkest fears.

“Don’t you dare!” he calls.

 

Reaching for the headphones,

To block out the vile voice.

A bit of peace. A bit of rest.

Your one and only choice.

 

It’s the only method of defence,

From an enemy you can’t see.

An enemy only I can hear,

That’s supposedly part of me

 

I’ll have to remove them at some point,

I can’t live in headphones forever.

Just two more minutes of peace from him.

But you know it’s now or never.

 

Taking them off it rushes back,

Like the tide coming into the shore,

Fast and furious, powerful and strong.

Never ending is the war.

 

So if you see me in headphones,

You’ll know the reason why,

To rest before I carry on the fight,

For if I didn’t I’d cry.

Hearing voices no one else can hear…

“Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.” J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I love Harry Potter. During my childhood and teenage years I would wait impatiently for the arrival of the next book, which I would read five times on the trot. (This is my Asperger’s I’m sure because my sister enjoyed the books but didn’t re read them over and over again without a break in the middle!)

However, this line was always a bit of a problem for me because I hear a voice. Unfortunately the voice does not belong to a snake and as far as I’m aware I won’t find a secret tunnel down my sink. Ah, the life of a boring muggle.

Apparently hearing voices is more common than you think. According to the hearing voices network between 3% and 10% of the population hear voices. (http://www.hearing-voices.org/voices-visions/) That could be 1 in 10 people. So in a regular class of children (30), three may hear voices at some point.

Yet, it is still seen as a very taboo subject and something not to be talked about. In fact, I bet you have thought of schizophrenia at some point during this post?

I am no expert on hearing voices but I am an expert on how it feels to me and how I am learning to deal with the voice in a better way. I am not there yet and the voice can still cause me a lot of distress but I have more understanding and am learning coping strategies all the time.

To me, hearing voices is both positive and negative.

I like the company, I like the conversation and I love the excitement of another voice. Sometimes I get really excited about a project and nobody else gets it. With my voice he is always excited about the same things I am so I always have a sounding board.

On the other hand, when I have problems the voice knows exactly how to “kick me when I’m down” and choose exactly the right words to send me into a complete meltdown. It knows my deepest, darkest fears and exploits them to the full.

So, how do I deal with it? I don’t always. I still don’t cope very well. When things are bad I go downhill steeply and rapidly but some things do help. Medication is one – as much as I hate it, it does take the edge off. Talking about it works. Due to my Aspie nature I couldn’t talk about it for a long time and even now, in the middle of a meltdown, I struggle to talk and revert to typing or drawing what I’m feeling. It’s a bit like a game of Pictionary sometimes.

However, when I’m not in the middle of a down patch I can sometimes still enjoy the voice and I think I would miss it. I’m quite attached to it really although I’d like to teach it some manners sometimes.

I have debated long and hard about putting up this blog post. It wasn’t the easiest to write and I wasn’t sure I was ready for the world to know about the voices but there is so much stigma attached I felt it was my job to debunk some of the myths:

  • Voices are more common than you think
  • You can’t tell a person hears voices from the way they look or speak
  • It can be managed but not cured
  • People who hear voices are no more likely to commit a crime than people who don’t hear voices (although some police dramas especially some set in America would lead you to believe something very different.)

So, there you go. I’ve told you something I didn’t even tell my parents for years but as I say I hope it helps somebody out there. It will all be worth it if it does.

Normal?

The dictionary defines normal as “usual, typical or expected” and “conforming to a standard”. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/normal)

So, my question today is, what does normal mean when referring to a human? What is a normal human?

I am well aware I am not “normal”. I’m quite proud of the fact that I am not “normal”. I like being atypical, unusual or unexpected but hypothetically if I wanted to be normal what would it look like?

So first, according to the definition a normal person would be usual. Usual is defined as “ordinary”. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/usual) which can be defined as “mediocre”. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ordinary?s=t) I don’t want to be defined as mediocre but according to these definitions the first trait of somebody normal is that they are mediocre. So, that means, they are only okay at stuff, not brilliant. Immediately anybody who is brilliant or even good at something is not normal. That rules out all the athletes, authors, scientists, the list goes on. (Maybe my maths is wrong but statistics would say that usual has to be more prevalent than unusual, right?)

Now, if we look at typical in the dictionary is means “conforming to a particular type”. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/typical?s=t) Lets assume for this particular discussion that the type we are referring to is human so a typical person would conform to human type. Now, I think I’m relatively clever but I have no idea what conforming to being human would be! I guess that some humans walk on two legs, but not all. Some humans speak, but not all. Some humans live in a society, but not all. The only one thing I can assume is that there is something to do with DNA that defines us as human and not dolphin but I will have to leave that explanation to expert biologists (who also are not mediocre so therefore not normal). I think I’ll leave this definition for now but feel free to comment if it makes sense to you.

The last of the three words was expected. Now expected means anticipated (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/expected) which is defined as “realize in advance that it may happen and you are prepared for it.” (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/anticipate)

So, by this definition an expected human is one that you can prepare for, e.g. you know what’s coming. Now I have met a lot of people over the years and I rarely know what to expect. Even things I take for granted as a human, such as walking and talking while common cannot be expected just because they are human. Medical conditions can cruelly take these things away from people. Maybe they are the exception (and I know every rule has an exception) but there seems to be too many exceptions to make a rule here.

Finally, looking at the term “conforming to a standard”, what standard do humans have to reach? Have they got to be able to count, read, imagine, breathe? What is the basic standard of a human? I would hope being compassionate, non-judgemental and understanding would be the basic standards but I’ve met people that I would class as human without these basic standards so I’m guessing I am wrong.

In conclusion, a normal person is one I could expect, somebody who is only mediocre, someone who in my opinion should be; understanding, non-judgemental and compassionate and somebody who has the DNA of a human and not a dolphin.

I am glad that I am not normal because I would hate to live by my own definition. Nobody expects me to do the things I do, or say the things I say sometimes and to always have to be anticipated would surely make life boring. Also, I am not brilliant and know it but I would like to think I am more than mediocre in some things. I hope I’m compassionate, understanding and non-judgemental but as I doubt these are the standards they were talking about it’s quite irrelevant anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever met, or am ever likely to meet a normal human so will people please stop referring to people as normal. I don’t think anybody would like to be “normal” after all.

Courage (a poem)

The waves kept pushing me downwards;

Forcing me into the abyss,

It kept rising high above me

My head, still underneath.

 

You can’t move quickly through water.

Your arms and legs are slow,

You try to move, force them through,

But they refuse to go.

 

You try to fight the drowning,

You try to swim against,

The torrent flowing on top of you,

Your whole body is tense.

 

You think you can make out the surface,

See where it will end.

But have you got the strength?

Has God anymore to lend?

 

Another wave crashes over you,

Forcing you back down,

You didn’t even get a last breath,

Before you’re about to drown.

 

Just one more push you think

I can’t stay down forever

“It will eventually let you up” they say

But to me, it seems like never.

 

Finally I’ve forced myself through

I’ve gotten out of bed

The waves of despair let me up

Just as people said.

 

It takes strength to do it once

For that I’m very sure

But courage to know that it’s a daily fight

That takes many months to cure.

My A to Z of Karate

These are the words and ideas I have picked up in the few sessions of karate I have done. I hope I am accurate but please feel free to post and let me know if I have made a mistake (Be kind though, I’ve only done four sessions!)

 

Aspies – I think karate is great for Aspies because it is so structured. The grading system is structured and the lessons are structured. You are also not required to socialise during karate, in fact it is frowned upon to chat too much (if at all!)

Basics – these are the basic moves. The ones I’m learning are a punch to the middle, a punch with the opposite arm, a kick, a step kick and a stamp kick. I quite enjoy basics but they are hard work. You have to do them with both sides of the body but one side (my right) is always stronger and more accurate. Basics is a very structured part and we seem to do it each week.

Chudan – the middle of the body. Chudan usually follows the name of a punch or kick and tells you where to aim. I keep aiming too far to the side and not central enough but, as I was shown, this isn’t half as “strong”. It was much easier for the sesnei to push me back when I was off centre than when I was aiming centrally.

Dojo – the name of the room where you train. Ours is in a gym. It’s a dance studio with big mirrors. I don’t like looking in the mirror as I have put on a lot of weight with some medication, but there you go.

Etiquette – this plays a big part in a karate lesson from formal bows to the order of where you stand (for me I stand on the right as I have only just started and the black belts are on the left with everyone else in between, in order of course). I like knowing where to stand and what to do.

Future – I’m looking forward to grading in the future (once I have received my license). I like knowing exactly where I am and what I need to do.

Gi – the uniform you wear. A pair of white trousers and a wrap around jacket that fastens with little ties. Must remember that the side with the writing on goes on top!

Horse riding stance – a very uncomfortable position where you have equal weight on your legs but those legs are spread apart, a bit like you would be riding a horse, and you bend your knees.

Ichi – number one in Japanese (pronounced ichee).

Japan – the original home of karate and somewhere I would love to visit. Not sure if I’d cope with the food though! (Aspergers sensory issues to blame here)

Kata – a bit like a dance where you imagine opponents attacking you from all sides and you block and attack in a pre determined set of movements against these imaginary attackers. The first one I learn was Pinan Nidan and there are some good videos if you want to see what a kata looks like.

Left – knowing your left and right and knowing that in left fighting stance you are actually moving your right leg. It’s all very complicated. I’m glad my aspie brain picks up on little details. It definitely helps (not that I’m perfect just that I notice)

Mawatte – a Japanese term meaning to turn. During basics (see B) we go up and down the hall performing the move, turning at each end. Sometimes we just turn and other times we turn and block at the same time. Multitasking.

Noise – every now and again you will hear everybody make a strange noise. They call it kiai and it’s not really a shout. I asked Sensei about it last week and he said it’s releasing all the air from your body and there are several reasons including to startle your opponent, give you extra power and also to make sure you aren’t winded if someone is about to punch you. I feel embarrassed shouting but I’ve been told I’ll get used to it.

Obi – a belt. In karate they come in different colours to show how advanced you are. You start at white and finish at black but the colours in the middle are different depending on which style you are doing. Some places have tags where you get coloured tape wrapped around your belt to show smaller progressions. My belt is brand new and keeps coming undone.

Partner work – These are a bit like katas, in that they are set, but you complete them with a partner. One person defends and the other attacks in a set way. Unlike a kata this involves physical contact although you don’t intend to hurt your partner!

Quiet – I was watching two black belts performing a move and they were trying to land as quietly as they could. So not like a herd of elephants.

Rei – to bow, usually done at the start and end of the session to the instructors.

Sensei – the name we call the instructor (a Japanese word showing respect to the person who knows more).

Throwing – something I’ve seen but never done where one person throws the other person onto the floor – or a mat in the dojo when we are practising.

Uchi uke – a type of block with the arm I need for my first grading. I think it goes from outer to inner but I get confused, as there are two blocks. Ah well I’ve only been going a few weeks, I’ll get there at some point.

Violence – Karate certainly isn’t about violence. It is about defence. Even early on I was told that some things are only used to give you time to run away.

Warm up – an integral part of any karate session. Ours involve stretches, jumping jacks, press ups, squats, sit ups, running.

eXact – movements in karate have to be very exact otherwise you are likely to get hurt or hurt somebody else. Bad technique can result in injury (or a lot of corrections)

Yame – stop. Used at my dojo to tell you when to stop what you are doing and we are going to move on or change over.

Zuki – to punch. Junzuki, morote zuki etc. are all different types of punches.

My A to Z of Mental Health

broken brain

Art – was so important to me. It let me express what I was feeling when no words could possibly do so. This image shows how I wished somebody could put a plaster on and make everything okay. I was ill and needed help. This was my way of imagining my illness – as if my brain needed fixing. Obviously it didn’t but it was an image I often longed for – a broken brain might be easier and quicker to fix

Bottling it up – something I am very good at but it never helps. Please talk to somebody.

CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. I didn’t get on with CAMHS very well but that doesn’t mean they don’t work for everyone. I refused to speak to them because I wanted my parents to come in with me, I didn’t appreciate being in a room with a stranger. The psychiatrist was lovely though and did her best to help.

Depression – a feeling of complete and utter despair. Like it is holding you under water and it won’t let you back up.

escapeEscape – sometimes you just need to escape. I don’t necessarily mean suicide, although don’t get me wrong I can see why people do. Just sometimes you need to escape the feelings and how it affects you. Visiting my uncle when things got tough really helped me escape the four walls that were holding me prisoner.

Food – sometimes you love it and sometimes you hate it. My relationship with food is anything but usual. Side effects of medication (see m) also affected my relationship by making me feel nauseous.

Google, Dr Google – a dangerous tool. A few symptoms can give you a hundred different possible diagnoses, you can easily convince yourself you have several complicated conditions. It is probably best left to the professionals but googling and seeing what other peoples experiences were like is helpful. You are not alone.

Hospital – a place of safety and refuge. Trips to A and E with mental health conditions have been mostly positive. Thank you to the staff who didn’t judge me but helped me.

Information – there is a lot out there. I needed information, statistics. I needed to know everything. It helped me cope.

Judge – please don’t judge me. A mental health condition can hit anyone whatever their background or circumstances. Judging people with a mental health condition is like judging somebody with cancer. It is not my fault.

Keeping going – This is a hard thing to do when everything is too much but stopping and saying I can’t go on can be harder. However it can sometimes be the turning point you need.

rapunzel

Loneliness – however much support you have there are times when nobody can reach you and you feel like you have to fight alone. It’s not true but letting people in is scary.

Medication – would I refuse medication for a physical illness? Probably not but I don’t like my medication for mental health – it has too many side effects. On the other hand it does help. Pros and cons.

Normal? – Are any of us normal? It is not something to aim for. Normal is a hairspray type and does not define those without mental health conditions. I don’t really know what normal does define.

Options – You do have options. There is medication (different kinds), talking therapies, private therapies, eco therapies. Keep trying your options.

Panic attacks – a scary feeling, can be mistaken for heart attacks where you can’t breathe, you feel sick and your heart rate is too high (these are my experiences and your may vary). They are not pleasant but I am better at dealing with them now.

Questions – I had loads (see D) but I needed answers. Knowing everything there was to know helped me to accept the diagnosis and move forward

Recovery – it’s a battle. I’m not going to lie but there will be a recovery. Things always change. Sometimes you will feel better.

Symptoms – don’t ignore symptoms of mental health. Talk to your doctor.

Therapy – Asking for help is hard, receiving help is hard but talking to someone can help. I see a private counsellor where I can talk about anything. Some sessions are tough, others are easier.

Understanding – sometimes all we need is for someone to listen and understand. You don’t have to do anything – just be there.

Voices – A scary experience when you hear something nobody else can. It does not make you crazy, merely ill.

Work – if you are lucky you will have a supportive work but sometimes work can be the stressor that sets off the condition. Taking time off for mental health isn’t always easy but it should be treated just like a physical condition.

eXpress – having autism as well as a mental health condition meant expressing how I was feeling difficult. I knew how I was feeling but putting words to it was hard. I am now able to express myself much better thanks to a lot of help and support.

Your experience – these are my experiences. Yours may differ.

Zest – one day your zest for life will return. I’m still waiting, hoping and praying.

My A to Z of Cruising

cruise shipAnimal towels – I’m sure you will have seen towels folded into animals in posh hotels but it is also the norm, in all cabin grades, on cruise ships. I think my favourite was the monkey hanging from the ceiling when we walked in. My Aspie brain loves working out how the animals were made and recreating them.

Bars – a great place to socialise. We Aspies do like to socialise you know. The bars are generally where all the quizzes, games and activities take place. They can also be very quiet during the day so a nice place to relax if you are not bothered for the busyness of the top deck and the swimming pools.

Cinema – some cruise ships have cinemas on board. I like films but find cinemas too loud which leads to sensory overload. One cruise ship had a screen on deck. This was better because the noise was less oppressive out in the open, on the other hand there were a lot of people on deck for other reasons so processing out their noise was difficult. You just can’t win.

Dressing up for formal evenings. I used to hate dresses and skirts but now I actually enjoy getting dressed up in an evening and own two dresses (we have two formal nights on board)

Embark – getting on board the ship. Usually every time you get on the ship your bags go through an x-ray machine and you go through a metal detector. I don’t like metal detectors. I think it’s because I don’t want them to go off and somebody to do a pat down search – that’s too much physical contact for me.

Flights – I’m not a fan of flying but on the one fly cruise I have been on I found the process easy as all the transfers were sorted and included and they told you where to meet. The only problem was on the final day you arrive at the airport with fifty other people so the queues to check in are quite long. I don’t like queues, people seem to get too close and this makes me anxious – I don’t like being touched.

Gratuities – in my opinion it is worth paying the daily gratuities as they get split between everyone who provides service. Not only the people you see like waiters or waitresses and cabin stewards but what about the people who vac the public areas, cook or the people who wash up after meals? By paying the gratuities the cruise ship set you ensure everyone gets their share and not just front of house staff. I’m very into fairness.

Horizon – one name of the daily newsletter. I love these daily newspapers. We used to get them every evening either just before dinner or just after. I think the reason I love them is because they are like timetables (as well as providing information about ports, currency, time difference, what to wear in the evening etc.) I love timetables – they allow me to plan my day and that’s important to me – it helps me feel less anxious. On the other hand I do find it difficult when they advertise something I plan on going to and then it gets cancelled. This change of plans can really throw me.

Inside cabins – they are the cheapest grade of cabin but the one we usually go for because I would rather spend my money on excursions and souvenirs than on a cabin I don’t spend much time in.

Jumpers – take some it can get cool on deck in the middle of the ocean at night. Even inside with all the air conditioning you might need something.

Keys – your key, on most ships we have been on, is your cruise card that you are given when you first embark. This card is so important you will see lots of people wearing lanyards so they don’t lose their card. This card is the key to your room, the method of paying but also the card that lets you on and off the ship. One of my tips is to make sure you have plenty of pockets especially in eveningwear. I am rubbish at carrying a handbag, especially when the phone doesn’t work and you don’t need money. It’s great travelling with Dad; men’s clothes seem to have more pockets!

Leaving the boat – if you don’t fancy an excursion (see x) you can always just get off the boat and wander. On our cruise around the UK we did this several times and just exploring was fun. Each time we got off the boat we found a tourist information and got a map (for me). Some cruise liners will put on shuttle busses to the nearest town but otherwise you will need to walk or get a taxi. Some places you feel safe enough to do this and other places you would feel much safer on an excursion.

Muster – the most boring part of the cruise holiday. Everyone gathers around, usually with their life jackets, and gets told what to do if the ship were to get into difficulties. It’s boring and very crowded – not great for somebody with Asperger’s when they try and squeeze too many people into the bar area.

Navigation – some of the cruise ships are enormous and navigating can be a bit daunting. One cruise ship had different coloured carpets at the front and back of the ship so you knew where you were. Another ship, at least one in fact, put odd numbered cabins at one side and even numbered cabins at the other side so you could tell if you were walking down the right corridor – especially when they are do identical. My favourite part has to be getting a map of the ship though. I am a big fan of maps.

Oriana – I think this has been my favourite ship so far. It is with P and O and is for adults only. This was the first ship I ever went on and I was very nervous. I had always wanted to go on a cruise but the unknown is still unnerving. It was beautiful however and the wooden deck just made it feel old-fashioned and familiar. We are going back on the Oriana so I hope it’s as nice second time around.

Packing – I have done a whole post on packing for cruises. It’s one of my skills. See the post here: Packing for cruising

Quizzes – I am rubbish at quizzes, I have a lot of knowledge but it is not general, not topical and certainly not based on celebrities. I do terribly at quizzes but they can be fun and there are prizes on offer!

Restaurants – I prefer the restaurants where you sit at the same table, with the same people every night. This is because you get to know the people and don’t have to have the same introductory conversation every night but you also get to know the waiters or waitresses. As I sometimes have special dietary requirements it is much easier to tell a waiter once and then not have to explain every single night.

Sea creatures – a highlight of my first cruise was seeing dolphins swimming by the side of the boat. I was glad I had my camera ready but they were quite far away and I didn’t get a great picture.

Tender – I don’t mind tenders. Tenders are smaller boats that get you from the big ship to the harbour when the boat is too big (or the harbour too small). On one trip it was very rough and the tender was bouncing about all over the place. This affected me and made me feel a bit sick but then I often get travel sick. It’s something to do with the vestibular sense and it being a bit overactive apparently. I think it’s why theme park pirate ships make me ill as well.

Upgrade – we have received an upgrade. I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. we are still in an inside cabin but now have a bath as well as a shower (I do like baths so I’m not really complaining) but also we are now lower down in the ship and I’m worried this will be noisy. We will see.

View – on one cruise we got upgraded to an outside cabin, I have no idea how. However the sea was so rough that by day three they had shut the porthole off and it might well have been an inside cabin – I’m glad we didn’t pay for outside.

Waiters – they can make or break your cruise. We have been really lucky and have had fantastic waiters, waitresses and Maître D. These can be really helpful as they can help arrange conversations with the kitchen if there is no food you can eat.

eXcursions – I love excursions. I have written about this previously but I will say it again. Being organised works for me and excursions are very organised.

Yachts – one day I’ll cruise on a yacht rather than the big cruise ships. I’ll go to small islands and explore and maybe do some snorkelling or scuba diving. That would be a new cruising experience.

Zone, time – these do change on cruise ships but are well documented on the daily newspaper. Just be aware that your phone or other devices may not change zones at the same time as the cruise does.

My A to Z of learning the Piano

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A
llegro – the name of one of the piano pieces I am playing for grade five. Written by Carlos de Seixas. I like this piece but it’s fast. You can find it on the Internet. Try yorkshiremusician on Youtube. (Just be aware there are pieces in both the grade six and the grade 8 exams called Allegro too so make sure it’s grade 5 2017-2018)

Beautiful – apparently my rendition of Allegro (see above) was too beautiful and needed to be more – ow, ow, ow (my piano tutors words not mine). Some pieces on the other hand do need to be beautiful and smooth and lovely.

Chord – I quite like chords, they form a pattern which appeals to my Aspie brain. A major chord can start on any note and then the next note is 4 half notes higher (counting black and white keys) and the final note is three half notes higher (again counting black and white keys). Play them all together and you have a major chord. It means you can work out any chord really quickly.

Dynamics – how the volume of a piece goes up and down throughout. Sometimes it will get suddenly loud (crescendo) and then quiet again. I like playing dynamics in pieces.

Espressivo – apparently this tells you to play expressively but I would have thought you usually play expressively if you want the music to mean something and sound good.

Flat – a b symbol next to the note in music that tells you to play a half note lower than usual. B flat is common where instead of playing B you play the black note to the left of B which is half a note lower.

Grade – Piano grades go from grade 1 (easiest) to grade seven. Grade five is approximately equal to a GCSE. I am currently studying for grade five however I haven’t taken any of the previous exams.

High – the pitch of the note is either high or low in comparison to the last one played. High notes are on the right of the keyboard, low notes are on the left.

Improvisation – making something up in a performance. I am terrible at this, I just wouldn’t know where to start.

Jazz – a type of music that originated in New Orleans, America. It’s not something I play but maybe it’s something I need to learn more about.

Keys – the black and white things you find on a piano. If you look you will see they are arranged in a specific way with alternating three black keys, then two black keys, then three, then two and so on.

Legato – smooth, lovely, beautiful. I’m better at playing like this as opposed to staccato (jumpy)

Metronome – I hate these things. They tick to keep you on an even time but they make me panic and I lose my place every single time.

Notation – how we write down music. I quite like sight-reading which is where you play and read at the same time. Some people can memorise music easily and then play without reading. Other people can just play the right notes after just hearing the music – I can do this but it takes me a while and I still have to write it down. It does mean if you hear something you like you can reproduce it though.

Octave – eight notes that make up a scale (see scale below). The first and last notes are the same but the last note has double the amount of vibrations as the first making it the same note but higher in pitch.

Pedal – my piano (that I love and is very pretty) has three pedals. One is a sustain pedal, one is a loud pedal and the third is a practise pedal that quietens the sound.

Quaver – a type of note that is half the length of a crotchet. Other notes include minim (two crotchets) and semibreve (4 crotchets).

Repertoire – my repertoire is quite small but I hope to expand it so I can play more pieces from memory. Sometimes you just want to sit down and play a piece of music you know well.

Scale – a dreaded part of the ABRSM exams where you have to play a pattern of notes with both hands at the same time crossing the thumb under the hand and the middle finger over the hand so you can play 21 notes up and down the keyboard. The easiest scale C, plays 21 adjacent white keys then comes back to the C you started on. You only have five fingers so you have to twist your hand loads. Can you tell I’m not a fan of scales?

Teacher – you need one of these to progress. I got to grade three on my own without a teacher but then plateaued. A good teacher will make it great. I’m really lucky and really like my piano teacher.

Upright – a type of piano. I have an upright piano and they take up a lot less room than a grand piano (I know it wouldn’t fit in our house but it would be amazing to have a grand piano, even a baby grand)

Vibration – how you get noise. In a piano the keys cause a hammer to strike a string and it is the string vibrating that gives off the noise. Thus why you can affect the loudness by how hard you press the keys.

Whole note – an American name for the semibreve (a note worth 4 crotchets, 8 quavers and 2 minims)

Xylophone – not technically a piano but it has the same keyboard features as a piano with sets of three and two notes set higher than the others which act as sharps and flats. I have an amazing, huge xylophone I love to play. Okay, so I was struggling with x and it’s tenuous but at least it’s in there!

Yesterday – a Beatles Song I can play on the piano. (Okay very tenuous this time but at least I didn’t just miss it out)

puZzle – to me, playing music from listening to it or hearing it in my head is a puzzle. You have to work out whether the next note is lower or higher, which exact note it is and then which chord goes with it

My A to Z of Autism

This is my A to Z of autism as it applies to me! Other people may have different experiences but these are mine and my opinions. Enjoy!

 

Asperger’s: often considered a mild form of autism but don’t say that to an Aspie, there’s nothing mild about it. Asperger’s is just a specific set of autistic traits.

Benefits: there are lots of benefits to having autism: focus, attention span, knowing a lot about specific interests, the list goes on.

Communication: some people with autism are non-verbal and use pictures to communicate. But that is still communication – just a different form.

Diagnosis: It can take years to get a diagnosis but it is almost freeing when it happens. Putting a name to the differences you always knew were there. It is like a signpost to help and advice and information.

Education: Some schools are great but some schools (and some teachers) just do not get autism. There is always the option of home education… I can see a post about home education is coming up.

Friends: Yes we have them. Enough said really.

Girls: Are there really less girls with autism or are they just better at hiding it and learning to fit in?

Help: If I am struggling with overload you can help by:

Not touching me

Finding somewhere quiet

Keeping calm and not shouting.

Idioms: Those strange sayings that people use like “Pull up your socks” and ‘It’s raining cats and dogs” They don’t mean at all what they say and can be confusing. Why would I pull my socks up, I’m wearing tights?

Jokes: Yes I get jokes and yes I find them funny – that is the funny ones anyway. I don’t like jokes where not everybody laughs though.

Knowledge: Often people will have a large amount of knowledge about a special interest. Great if you want to go on mastermind but also that special interest is comforting and helps people with autism deal with the stressors of life.

Lying: To lie shows a lot of empathy, as you know what the other person wants to hear and then tell them. I am very against lying for moral reasons but I do have empathy and could lie if I chose.

Mental health: People with autism often have accompanying anxiety – but it’s no wonder really trying to fit into a NT (see below) world all the time. It’s hard work I can tell you.

NT – Neurotypical – somebody who doesn’t have autism

Opportunities: I wish there were more opportunities for people with autism as I think we have a skill set which is very adaptable to many jobs. The statistics show more people with autism are out of work than in work. That makes me sad.

Processing: Sometimes it takes me longer to process what you are saying to me. I’m not stupid it’s just my brain is processing all the little details of life that your brain filters out.

Quirks: Yes I am a bit quirky but life wouldn’t be half as much fun to me without my quirks. Everybody has quirks (yes even NTs) and that is what makes this world so amazing.

Rules: They are really important to me and I need to follow them. I like rules – they make me feel secure.

Senses: And before you say anything there are seven senses, not five. The extra two are proprioception (knowing where your body is) and vestibular (balance). Sensory issues often accompany autism and senses can be too sensitive or under sensitive.

Timetables: No we are not all into train timetables, although personally I quite like them, but knowing what is happening when – like on cruise ships (see previous post) – is very reassuring.

Unique: This is my A-Z but if you have met one person with autism you have met one person with autism. This list will not apply to many with autism and that’s okay. We are all unique.

Visibility: Can you tell someone has autism just from looking? No it is a hidden disability and therefore some people think it doesn’t exist. It does and some little things can make life for a person with autism much easier. For example it would be helpful if some clothes shops turned down their music.

Worry: Because I know that sometimes I miss social cues I worry that I might miss them. With family and close friends I can be myself and trust them to speak honestly without adding confusing body language or sarcasm into the conversation. Thank you to my family and friends for this – it makes life so much easier.

eXercise: People with autism can find a sport that works for them. I found karate, fencing and rock climbing. Sports that aren’t team based worked for me.

Young: people often know about children with autism, but those children grow up to become adults with autism and sometimes the world forgets about the adults. For example out local cinema puts on screenings for people with autism where they leave the lights on and turn down the volume but they are always for children’s films.

Zig-zag: sometimes we just take a different path but we can still get there.