The Art of Pushing People Away

My apologies for going MIA the past couple of months. Work has really picked up and in between all of that and training, there really isn’t much time for anything else. For those of you who don’t already know, I’ll be launching my own brand of coffee in the coming weeks (exciting news! Yay!) and that’s whats been keeping me busy.

One thing i’ve really not had time to do recently has been to reflect on myself, outbursts and meltdowns. With the increased workload coupled with the fatigue of training, my meltdowns have been extraordinary. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

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While meltdowns have been discussed by me before, the one thing I never really spoke about was being in a relationship with an Autistic / ADHD person. My wife and I have been married for less than a year and I cannot be more thankful for her becoming such a huge part of my life. Looking back on all my previous relationships however, I realised just how good I was at pushing people away from me all the time. Perhaps it was fear of judgment or the inability to understand emotion and stimuli to a certain extent. Perhaps it was my own choice to withdraw from others rather than face difficult issues or maybe even wanting something from a perfect love story that would never exist.

The answer became very simple and apparent to me. The closer people got to me, the further I wanted to be from them. Why? I don’t know for sure but it makes me really uncomfortable when people get too close and you can only imagine how uncomfortable the proximity of being in a relationship must be. Yet, a part of me always longed to be loved and in the world’s greatest irony, would result in me pushing the other person away.

The heartfelt truth in telling this story is something that has wrapped itself in my head for a long time. Is it then selfish for someone like me to want to find love knowing that there is a high chance we will disappoint the other person? The truth is that i’ll never know and I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of this. What I do know is that we feel the pain, heartbreak and irresponsibility of our actions more than anyone else even though we don’t show it. And because of the Autism and ADHD combination, I feel it in multiple degrees but yet struggle to show any emotion when it matters most.

But with every sad sounding story there is always a silver lining and this is where I believe opening up and talking about my condition saved my life and current relationship on so many levels. But trust me, it was difficult. When you’re someone who is hypersensitive to everything around you, opening up and talking about everything that hurts and pains you is truly difficult.

The day she held me amidst the tears of a massive meltdown instead of walking away will always remain engraved in my head. Where so many would have chosen to walk away and brand me as an unstable person, she stood by and held me close as the beast within me got free. It must have been difficult because I had spent the last 15 minutes being a real pain and was even verbally abusive but yet she stood by me, chose to understand and comforted me although the pain within her was probably more than mine.

Has it gotten easier since then? Sometimes knowing that there is someone I can turn to during my worst of days seems to reduce the impact of this monster that lives within me. Knowing that there is someone who will hold and comfort me has also reduced my abusive behaviour and all my past of throwing things around has come to an almost complete stop. There is so much to be thankful for but to her I am the most thankful. Where so many others walked away, she chose to stay the fight and together we will win this war.

Onward.

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Constant pressure

I think one of the most understated issues that we face is pressure. Pressure to fit in, pressure to be accepted and pressure to be everything else that is perceived to be a social norm in this world when quite frankly, we struggle.

As a high functioning autistic individual, I actually struggle a lot with the above because I’m aware of my surroundings, aware of social interactions and though I falter from time to time, there is this constant need to become a norm in society or risk being seen as “different” or “weird”.

But what’s wrong with being seen differently from others? That’s the problem. Because we are aware, we also want to fit in. We too want to be part of the ever flowing silky smooth fabric of society that does not crumple or wrinkle, lest cause any social disruptions. We want to be accepted, to have friends, to have relationships and to have that connection with people that we see all around us happening at any one time.

The irony of being autistic is that while we are so sensitive to periphery noise around us and sometimes even undeniably perceptive of people, we can’t seem to apply this to ourselves and often feel left out, no matter how hard we try. That pressure to feel accepted or to comply with what we perceive to be right or normal can be all too consuming and this ultimately, I believe, leads to other unwanted results, such as early death or chronic depression.

I read an article from a dear friend, Dr. Dawn Joy Leong, a fellow autistic, about how autistic individuals have a lifespan sometimes half of the normal expectancy. It’s a crazy thing but apparently I’m at the age where most autistics or those with invisible disabilities struggle to carry on with life and some give up hope.

Reflecting on the days past, it is not difficult to understand why. I’ve managed to climb out of depression because of an amazing support system around me. My parents, wife and even friends who continuously supported me despite not knowing. Importantly, I chose. I chose to be my own person regardless of what people thought. And by all rights, this should be something we should all be doing but for autistics such as myself, that need to want to be accepted because we know we are different drives an extremely deep wound in our already vulnerable state. In other words, for us, it’s easier said than done.

I chose. And I believe that with the right approach to inclusion that we can share this beauty of choice with other individuals with invisible disabilities.

I chose because it is unnatural to be someone you are not just to fit in.

I chose because I do not believe that autistics should live by a statistic of only half the life expectancy of others.

I chose because being “normal” is a social brand and this brand needs to change or widen to include everyone.

I chose because there are voices out there in the night calling for help but with no light to turn to.

I chose because I want to live.

To all of my friends with invisible disabilities in the world, leave a comment with #inclusion below this post if you believe that we are more than just a statistic that should be pitied. We are more than that. We are autistic but we are also human and in our own ways make contributions to society that no one else can imagine.

#inclusion

Onward.

Gaussian zen

If you’ve spoken to anyone with ADHD, you’ll probably notice the lack of concentration, little to almost no eye contact and the ability to always cut you mid-sentence.

These are some of the problems faced by us and trust me, it does it’s best to really piss other people off. I’m no exception and it happens. A lot.

Can it be cured? Nope. Can it be reduced? Now that’s an interesting question and for over 6 months now, I’ve made self-observations that might be interesting to some.

Find that one thing you hyperfocus on

I believe that I lost 10 years of my life between 2002 to 2012 because I gave up the one thing which kept me in check…. tennis.

Looking back now, playing tennis held the same equivalence and relevance for me as triathlons today. For most, sports or keeping active is an outlet, a breakaway from work and the stresses of daily life but for me and maybe for the ADHD population who are intrinsically focused on sports, it is an obsession. An emotional property that keeps us together, binds us to our roots and importantly, helps us to deal with certain shortcomings.

When I made the horrendous decision to stop competing, my belief backed by absolutely no science, is that a part of me died. The best way I can put it would be to deny an aspiring footballer the opportunity to ever kick a ball. And I believe that with the removal of this obsession that my ADHD took a turn for the worse over the better part of a decade.

For 10 years I indulged in food, drink and an extremely healthy lifestyle in order to find that new hyperfocus that I had willingly given up. Over a decade, I hit rock bottom repeatedly with my career, health and mental state. Depression set in and everything was a source of negativity.

The rest of my story has been told many times so I won’t go there and this really isn’t the point of my post either.

Why the hyperfocus is so important

First of all, it can be anything. It need not necessarily be keeping fit and that’s what I share with everyone.

I believe that because we are so unable to focus on normal tasks daily that being able to focus and hyperfocus on a passion will always contain a feeling novelty that never wanes with time. That feeling of being able to concentrate and to do something above and beyond what we think we can achieve is liberating and that liberation has helped me over the past 5 years, unknowingly to overcome obstacles that might have been insurmountable at my previous state of mind.

Revelations

For some reason I became slightly more self-aware and stopped thinking that I had something else better to do. I paid attention to conversations and became a better listener. I could do daily tasks without losing interest all the time (although it still happens but a lot lesser). Importantly, I could socialise better than before although I still prefer being in a smaller setting.

To many of us, these sound like really mundane issues but to us with ADHD and for me especially, these were breakthroughs.

I’ll be sharing more about this in my survival guide and feel free to share your thoughts about hyperfocus and your experience either as an individual with ADHD or if you know someone who does.

Till my next post.

Onward.

Review : Timex comes really close to simplicity and function. Really close.

Part of my blogging adventure goes beyond just being as open and frank about my conditions but as fitness enthusiast and in using fitness to cope and deal better with my disabilities, I thought that reviewing the gear I’ve found helpful during long training sessions and races would alsp greatly benefit those in the fitness crowd who have invisible disabilities.

Disclaimer : I buy all of my gadgets and devices and these posts are not sponsored. This allows me to be brutally honest. In a case where the post is sponsored, I will indicate it clearly.

Previously when I started my training as a triathlete, my indulgence in gadgets was truly an obsession. Top of the line bike comp, triathlon GPS watch, sensors of all sorts would load my training kit and this inadvertently caused a lot of issues now when I think about it. Too much data and too much to track would often distract me and sometimes cause meltdowns. I’m not sure how many ADHD athletes are affected by this but it just gets overwhelming for me.

Quest to find simplicity

In a world where data is everything, it was truly hard to find a watch that had what I needed, nothing more and nothing less. Less was easy to find actually but it was either too much or too little. Then I chanced upon the brand new or relatively new Timex Ironman GPS watch and their website touted it as the simplest GPS watch ever. Could it be? After all these years that I would finally re-purchase a Timex?

Priced at 100USD, I figured the risk was worth taking and placed my order on Amazon because the local dealer here didn’t carry stock. It arrived within the week and the packaging was as simple as the watch itself. No frills.

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Just how simple is it really?

Standard micro USB charge cable? Check.

Intuitive and easy to learn functionality without having to read the user manual? Check.

Easy to setup and plug and play to my computer? Check.

So far so good.

But the important thing now was to take it for a spin and to test the most important part, GPS connectivity and accuracy. I had just the route figured out and decided that the ultimate test of whether I would put my training fate in the hands of this Timex watch would lie in my next run.

First test run

GPS connected within a minute. Impressive. I did get a bit of a shock when I was looking at my running pace. Then I realised that it was average pace setting and not pace at that point in time, my bad for not checking the settings. Distance was spot on for my usual 8km route and that was great. Battery life was at a whopping 97% after the run and I attribute this to the monochrome screen. Yup, you heard me right, no color screens and everything was made simple and to last. I recently did a much longer run for over 2.5 hours and the battery life was still at 75% with GPS on all the way. Very impressive.

Connecting my watch to the Timex Go App was as simple as plugging it into my PC via the USB charge cable and it synced everything up without a hitch.

Easy.

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My first run with the Timex Ironman GPS. Fiercely accurate.
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After plugging it into your computer, it gives a host of options to upload your SBR stats to your favourite activity tracking platform

So its a great little watch and does what it touts itself for. I believe that the Timex Ironman GPS watch is truly the simplest GPS watch out there and with swim, bike, run and triathlon modes, it should be ample for most aspiring triathletes who are not bothered by numerous data screens. That’s really up to you.

Good :

  1. Light weight and easy to look at
  2. Monochrome screen means the battery lasts forever
  3. Quick GPS and accurate running, bike and swim stats
  4. For a USD100 watch, it actually feels robust and having dropped it a few times, still works extremely well
  5. Simple button layout and easy to navigate
  6. Syncing to PC was easy and setting up was a breeze
  7. Color combinations are quite extensive with different color straps available

Bad :

  1. Can’t seem to attach a HRM to this but I heard there are newer versions with HRM capabilities
  2. Doesn’t sync wirelessly and requires to be plugged in to the computer
  3. For some, it will feel overly simplistic

I wear the watch daily to tell time as well and I must say that the Timex Ironman GPS is a pretty heavy hitter for its price point. Impressive Timex and a job well done and with some further improvements and features, we could see Timex provide some of the brands a real run for their money after re-entering the smart watch market.

Onward.

Surviving.

First of all, let me start by thanking all of you for the comments and suggestions for my upcoming survival guide. This guide can only be made better by the contributions, suggestions and ideas from everyone in the community. I believe we are onto something that will change the way invisible disabilities are seen and included into our society.

Secondly, I get a lot of positive vibes from fellow invisibly disabled friends, peers and those who know others with invisible disabilities. I cannot thank you enough but this has actually inspired this latest post.

How did it all come to this? Was I always so positive about my conditions?

No.

In order to survive, outfight, outwit and go in guns blazing, we first need to know what’s wrong.

I remember what led to all of this in what would henceforth be defined as the turning point in my life. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I were sitting in the car in silence, complete and absolute silence.

My latest meltdown (I didn’t know then) had led me to become aggressive and my temper was flaring at will. I was edgy, agitated, irate and hated everything in the world. Needless to say, it was putting a strain on our relationship and like how I found myself in so many familiar situations before, sat there in complete silence, writhing with anger, hating everything and everyone. We had in the past 30 minutes exchanged heated words (mostly because I was the culprit) and were at an impasse. She knew little of my conditions although I mentioned before that maybe I might be ADHD and we didn’t put much thought into it.

My whole life I’ve always put on a front as strong as I can to block out my deficiencies. But this was one instance in my life that I somehow knew that facing my demons would be the only way to salvage a relationship that was hinging solely on one person always getting out of line and pushing boundaries in negative ways that would eventually lead to it’s demise.

She didn’t say it. She didn’t need to because I could see the tremendous strain all of this was causing our relationship

And so I broke. Every wall I had built over so many years, every defensive structure in place, every reason to deny my right came crashing down in that one instant we sat quietly in the car. I remember turning to her and telling her that I needed help.

It would prove to be a huge turning point in my life, from hopelessness to hopeful, to rediscovering my passion for everything around me that mattered and to finally being able to fully embrace the one I love without excess baggage. And to know that she would return the same, completely accepting me, is and always will be the greatest blessing one can ever find in life.

At the age of 35, I saw a psychiatrist and got myself tested and was diagnosed with ADHD, Tourettes and Autism. The rest as they say, is history.

So, was I always this optimistic and cheerful about myself? No. For 35 years before my diagnosis and for as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed, despised and always hated myself for being so different from the others and sometimes even wishing that everything I held inside could manifest itself into something more visible so that people could see that something was wrong.

But I guess we are all unique in our own ways, some of us more unique than others. I also realised that in life, we seek to avoid our vulnerabilities so much sometimes that we form barriers and it is these barriers that truly make them weaknesses.

My conditions are not weaknesses, in fact with them I have also come to possess a great many other gifts. But in trying to hide them and shield them, I took what potentially could have been my greatest strength and turned it against me, plunging myself in a deep and dark abyss when I should have spread my wings and soared.

Maybe it’s not just about surviving anymore. Maybe it’s about embracing, living and progressing with time, if we allow it to.

Dedicated to all of my friends with invisible disabilities and to those who work so hard to build a more inclusive society.

Onward.

Tourettes…. a true story

Often times we see people with Tourettes and sometimes we hold them at a distance because of their pecularities.

As an individual with Tourettes, I can understand the apprehension when people look at us. Our twitching, uncontrollable movements and in some cases, random outbursts that seem offensive will definitely do it’s best to turn people away. It’s not difficult to look at us strange and to keep your distance. Hell, I would probably choose that path too.

So maybe here’s a way to look at it. With Tourettes, we perform these little repetitive motions and actions because it resets us into a normal state. So first up, don’t take it personally. In fact, be happy that we have a way, though sometimes not the most desirable, to reset ourselves. Second, these tics are beyond our control and to be unable to do them damages us quite badly. Imagine having a itch that you’re not allowed to scratch? That’s exactly how it feels.

In my world of Tourettes, so many activities have become a limited luxury. Cycling on a road, driving a car and even going for long hikes and walks have become increasingly challenging because the tics sometime cause difficulty breathing.

As violent as some of our tics are, we have found a way to co-exist with ourselves and with the world. That’s the true story of Tourettes and me.

Only with basic understanding can we become more inclusive. And inclusion is not one of sympathy but one of genuine understanding and acceptance.

Onward.

Starting on a survival guide

Having spoken with more people in the disability space, I have come to see with my own eyes how dilapidating a simple meltdown can be when individuals are unable to deal with the actual meltdown and it’s repercussions.

So I’m sitting here at a cafe and within my little world that gets so easily distracted, I’ve been thinking of how to put a survival guide together for parents of kids with ADHD and/or Autism spectrum together that is perhaps not just dictated by science but also based on their own experiences and importantly, what else they would like to know.

I don’t know everything and to claim that would be folly. But I can share my experiences as a child, teenager and adult dealing with being “different” till I was officially diagnosed at the age of 35.

My brain wonders and my mind tinkers on. My goal to include and to develop this survival guide has never been clearer.

Leave a comment if you :

  1. Have ADHD, Tourettes and Autism and have an experience to share
  2. Wish to find out more on how to cope with certain conditions that I have personally had to deal with
  3. Wish to contribute survival suggestions that I can include in my journal
  4. A child or loved one who has ADHD, Tourettes and Autism and you wish to share your experience and difficulties
  5. Think there is anything else I can include in the survival guide

Hope to hear from you soon and till then…..

Onward.