“Get over it”: Is my behaviour excusable?

I have been quite introspective over the last few months. This has been to some difficulties. I have been told on multiple occasions during some problematic times to “get over it” in terms of the additional difficulties that my Aspergers’ presents. This does a lot of damage to my morale, particularly when you hear it from loved ones.

 

This attitude to my diagnosis can be very destructive. How can I get over my Aspergers’? Is there some way to re-wire my brain to read all these subtle signals that everyone else gets? It’s like everyone else is in on a joke and you never get it; but my misunderstanding gets me into trouble rather than missing out on laughs.

The following are my own thoughts on the subject. These are not meant to insult anybody, but to start an open conversation.

My view on this issue has been broken up into nice little, organised chunks:

The Problem: Overuse of using diagnoses as an excuse, this can lead to NTs to think that this is an excuse for being rude, manipulating or aggressive. Sometimes I catch myself using it as a prop to excuse myself for being grumpy. As more and more people are getting diagnosed, I have noticed several NTs say that “everyone seems to have autism nowadays”, as if they are sick of hearing about it.

Why is this a problem?: Using my aspergers’ as an excuse for my poor behaviour deflects my responsibility for my own actions. Yes, it’s difficult to control that “filter” that stops offensive sh*t coming out of my mouth. Just because I have Aspergers’ doesn’t mean that I can’t even try to reflect on my own behaviour.

Situations in which using diagnosis as a reason/excuse: I feel that there are, at least from my own unique experience of Aspergers’ that it’s acceptable is when you are growing up, sensory overload, and meltdowns. These instances in which it’s got too much and you have no idea how to cope on your own. I had a recent event at work in a meeting where I had to leave the room due to a very high-pitched noise continually being sounded in the room adjacent to the meeting. I tried my hardest to stay focused on the meeting but then that became a source of anxiety and I had to leave.

Situations in which this is unacceptable: everyday stress, not even attempting to understand other’s thoughts, isolating yourself and generally being unhelpful because you aren’t feeling the task. I work full time and have an hour’s commute into the centre of Birmingham, UK. It’s not great, working quite hard, socialising at work and then being focused with all the crazy drivers out there. It makes anybody tired, not just me. I grump and my “filter” wears down by the time I get home and then a change in my expectations of home can set me off and I make everyone miserable. People dreaded me coming home as the strain became evident. Using it also to stop yourself going to social events can also cause more problems than it solves. Yes, the short-term anxiety passes but what about the people who invited you? They obviously wanted to get to know you and share some experiences. The more you back out of these things, the less you get invited and the more isolate you feel, leading to more anxiety when another event comes along. I agree that it is very difficult going to social events but I have gotten stronger after each one and I even felt silly for even feeling anxious in the first place!

My Solutions (these work for me, maybe not for you): I take responsibility for my actions, whilst I own my Aspergers’, it doesn’t mean I cannot give up and depend on other people. It takes hard work. My old Tai Chi Master said “disability is only the inability to do something in a certain way”. This means I have to, like everybody else, find a solution that works for me.

My second solution is to surround yourself with understanding people both at home and work. Being around ignorant people who dismiss your difficulties make you feel weird and stupid, you don’t need them in your life. When I explained to someone that my hypersensitivity to sound meant that I could hear everything in the open office I was working in ,and not be able to block it out. The response was that I would learn to block out noises when I have a child. It’s just that ignorance that causes problems. Surrounding yourself with people who are aware of these difficulties enables these situations become so much easier to handle as these beautiful people can help when it all gets too much. Just remember to return the favour!

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To Teach or Not to Teach?

That is the question.

Today I am going to discuss something which fills me with a source of anxiety; the future, my career.

I left my previous job 2 years ago now. It was an extremely stressful point of my life, as I didn’t leave on the best of terms with the company itself. I still keep in contact with some of the friends I made there.

I defined myself by my job. I changed my whole personality to fit in within the culture. A whole new wardrobe (2 months before leaving). So when the box of my desk arrived, it struck me. Who am I? 

I was lost. I did plenty of soul searching and the only thing I still felt love for was Tai Chi. Always a reliable friend keeping me calm. So I decided to explore whether I could do something with the only skill I had left. I asked my instructor about the ParkLives classes he runs, and whether I could join in for the summer whilst I was sorting out my head. Over a year has passed and my head still feels lost.

Over a year has passed and my head still feels lost. I searched loads of websites trying to determine what personality I was, how to find out my own purpose, went through all the lists of what my perfect day at work would be. Nothing.

Do I use what I learned to go back to the fast-paced Regulatory career? Regain the respect, intellectual challenge, and salary which I had? Do I stay a Tai Chi instructor? Not making much money but living on my own timetable, helping others?

To be continued…

 

 

The Unpredictable Public

This weekend I was asked to deliver Tai Chi tasters for Park Lives at a stand they were hosting. I figured that this was quite a break for me, getting out there and promoting my sessions and Tai Chi in general. The stand was at the Bullring in Birmingham (UK) outside by St Martin’s Church.

My morning didn’t get to a good start. Having only managed to get to sleep at 3am, I was groggy but determined to make a good impression on the general public.

The stand was very nice, with some turf, signs, benches and fences to make it feel more like a park in the city centre. Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t in our favour and kept knocking over the signs and benches, much to the delight of some of the public.

I managed to get a few Tai Chi tasters in. All the passers-by were more interested in sitting down and eating their lunch than getting involved in some gentle qigong. So I am not sure whether I managed to promote my love effectively.

The public was varied in their approach to the stand, some were happy with their children to play with the Hoola hoops. Others wanted free stuff, others wanted to cause trouble or a conversation. Such is the general public. This makes it very difficult to deal and predict how people will react to what you say. Every person who approached was an unknown, anxiety-causing entity. Children were predictable, it was the adults which made it quite difficult for me to deal with.

Public

So how did I deal with this?

I stayed focused on the goal – Promoting free park activities, giving out leaflets.

I practised Tai Chi – Demonstrating some Qigong and Tai Chi helped me stay calm, doing something familiar.

I hoola hooped – If all else fails I got stuck in playing on the stand to get people/children wanting to play.

It was a very difficult, draining day. I enjoyed the challenge that was given, once I got home and put my feet up.

As much as I hate putting myself out there in the face of the unpredictable public. I have to push myself in order to grow.

When Anxiety Strikes

I live with anxiety every day. Most times it stays cocooned within me, simmering away. It waits on standby.

When it strikes, I get nausea in my stomach. Uncontrollable shakes and tears. It’s not pretty:img_20170116_121045.jpg

I feel trapped. Within a swirl of shoulds, woulds and coulds. Constantly thinking about what to do and not knowing.

I get frustrated at myself. Why can’t I just get on with it? I’m a grown-ass adult, why can’t I deal with this? I make myself worse. Overwhelmed by the physical sensations, the anxiety itself and my other-self berating me.

It comes along in all sorts of events, some small, others larger. Social events, Mice and, being late.

How do I deal with it?

  1.  Calm down. Allow the physical symptoms to settle without feeding them. A bath, book, tv or exercise to distract from the source of anxiety whilst the body calms down.
  2. Be kind to myself. It can be frustrating when a little thing sets me off. I have set myself high standards and I get angry when I don’t meet these expectations.
  3. Explore why I feel anxious. Anxiety is a survival instinct to protect ourselves from future dangers. Why is this making me feel in danger?
  4. Confront it when I am ready. To overcome these challenges I need to face them head on. Sometimes everything can be too much so I take my time to prepare myself to confront the source of anxiety.
  5. Review. After confronting and overcoming the stimulus which sparked the anxiety, it is key that I review what happened, how I feel about them and how I can face similar situations in the future.

What tips do you have confronting sources of anxiety? Please share!

 

 

13 Treatises #2

Understanding the Occult and the Physical

What do I understand from this treatise?

This treatise introduces the philosophy of Tai Chi. It introduces the concept of Chi, the five elements and the Dan tien. It is brief in its introduction, using anecdotal evidence to support the idea of Chi cultivation. It claims that if Chi is sunk into the Dan Tien, it can be mobilised to strengthen physical structures in the body.

As a female, the fixation of the role of semen in this chapter’s example is a bit much; with its stickiness becoming bone tissue, and reinforcing its strength. What do females do to increase their bone strength?

How can I apply this treatise?

By practising sinking Chi into the Dan Tien.

Practising Qigong and relaxation techniques to become aware of Chi enough to manipulate it.

Putting Myself Out There

Socialising and performing fill me with intense anxiety. Why? The butterflies hold me back. It is frustrating to freeze up before I’ve even left the house, waking up full of dread before I’ve even had time to open my eyes. It’s exhausting. I face this every day.

There appears to be a duality within me. I want to be a charismatic and outgoing person. I want to reach out and bring happiness into people’s lives. Another part of me doesn’t understand people and worries constantly about how I say things, the tone of voice, and my gestures. I get bombarded by all the sights, sounds and smells of the world that it can be difficult to focus in on a particular thing and I cannot block it out. Being hypersensitive means my brain is always recording every detail of the day and doing all the sorting out at bedtime. This means I don’t get to sleep easily on my own. I over think about all the social interactions; did I make enough eye contact? Too much? Did I overshare something? How will I know if I’ve offended someone? Will they tell me or hold a grudge? All this, all day, every day.

So why do I continue to try despite it not really fitting in with this side of myself? Why do I get out of the house, drive to my various classes, interact with strangers and teach Tai Chi and Qigong?

It is hard

I am not going to lie, it is difficult running any sort of activity. Always keeping an eye out on everyone, making sure nobody injures themselves and enjoys it at the same time. Trying to remember everybody’s name as I found out that it helps people stay in classes.

I try harder

Just because I have Autism and the difficulties I face doesn’t mean I am not going to strive to be the best human being I can possibly can. Overcoming challenges mean putting yourself into challenging situations. There are two types of people with disability; those who give up, and those who push themselves. I am the latter, despite how exhausting it is.

I love it

I love helping people, I want to see people smile and if I am the one to bring out these beautiful smiles then it makes me happy. I love Tai Chi and I want to share it and the benefits I have gotten from it. I also enjoy overcoming boundaries, looking back and recognising how much I have grown.

 

Do you do push yourself? Put yourself into challenging situations for your own development? Let me know!

 

 

13 Treatises #1

As part of my own personal development into Tai Chi, I am going to read Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Ch’uan by Cheng Man Ch’ing.

These are my own thoughts and interpretations and I welcome other perspectives to expand my knowledge!

Treatise One: Explanation of the Name and Definition

What do I understand from this Treatise?

This treatise summarises the principles of Tai Chi Ch’uan. It prepares the reader/practioner to enter the mind-set to approach the art.

It introduces the concepts of yin and yang, softness and hardness, with emphasis on yin; softness and stillness. This may be due to the western, or even youthful ideas that martial arts focus on hard and fast attacks at the limits of yang. However focusing on yang is important to prepare the body and the mind for the discipline of any martial art.

To learn to “invest in loss” is easy to understand but difficult to apply. We are naturally primed to have an explosive, active reaction to attacks; adrenaline is released which prepares the body for flight or fight (or freeze!). In order to invest in loss, one must first bring stillness and softness to this flinch reaction. By practising stillness to such attacks, it allows you to enact whatever you think without a panicked mind when you are confronted with an opponent’s force. This practised clarity enables the weak to become strong, the sick to recover and the timid to become brave as they gain the confidence in the balance of yin and yang within themselves.

How can I apply this in my practice?

Notice what forces are affecting you. Are they yin or yang?

Practise softness and stillness when encountering yang. Balance the amount of yang received with your yin.

Train to be calm and in control when you would normally flinch/retreat.

 

 

 

Why do I do Tai Chi?

There are many martial arts out there, all amazing in their own way. Why did I settle on Tai Chi? It seemed at the time to be not very popular. Slow and gentle with images of old people in the park. So what’s my reason?

It teaches me how to move my body

Before I started, my knees always used to hurt when I walked. My steps were heavy, jolting my whole body and joints. I was pushing 12 stone at 5ft 5 which didn’t help by adding more strain on my already laboured joints. Ever since I’ve started, my steps have become lighter. I can now walk around in flat shoes with ease. I have become more coordinated.

It teaches me to respect myself

The well-being of my body and mind is essential to allow mindfulness in practice. Becoming mindful starts with knowing yourself, without this you cannot start this journey of self-cultivation. Tai Chi has enabled me to gain confidence; not just against physical attacks but mental and verbal assaults which would have otherwise disturbed me.

It calms my mind

I find that with my Aspergers, my mind constantly thinks. The monkey brain is hyper all the time. I now find that after an hours class, my mind is clear from the chatter. It brings me peace when I am at war with myself. It helps remove the negativity I feel towards myself as I become mindful and present within my body. There is a calm alertness I feel following practice. This last point is the one which has made it so addictive to me

This last point is the one which has made it so addictive to me when everything else has failed. The moving meditation is easier for me to do as the coordination prevents distraction, allowing stillness of the mind whilst my body is in motion.

Do you practise Tai Chi? Any other martial art? Why do you play? Let me know!

 

Taiji Kung Fu Fan Weekend

What’s Tai Chi without learning the fan? Most people who come to my regular classes are always interested in it and to some people, the main reason for learning Tai Chi. It’s an attractive martial weapon; the designs on the fabric, the choice of colours and that satisfying “crack” when you open it.

Learning the fan wasn’t my main reason to learn Tai Chi but it is a beautiful addition to the collection of forms I know. In fact, the only reason I came across this particular workshop whilst looking for trips to China to train and this workshop was on the website.

My birthday was coming up and I decided that this was what I wanted to do to celebrate; as it was a bit expensive to spend on a whim (£125 per person). So I and my boyfriend booked onto the workshop!

The workshop was held by the Deyin Taijiquan Institute in the Chinese Cultural Centre in Telford. This wasn’t too far from our home in Birmingham. There was plenty of parking and we made it there with no trouble.

Upon entering the centre, we were warmly greeted by Master Faye Yip herself. We were made to feel accepted right from the start and we did all the registration and put all our stuff in the cloakroom.

There were plenty of people attending this course, a majority of those were in the uniform of the group but a handful of us newbies too. There were people from Spain and Belgium here too, not just from across the UK, and all ages too. Everyone was friendly and made me feel a part of the family, there was no ego, just enthusiasm.

The first day of the workshop was intense. The plan of the weekend was to learn all of the form; half on the first day and the second half on Sunday.

For someone who has only done Chen Man Ching Yang style, this was quite an eye-opener. This was not only a mental challenge but a physical one. The movements were very dynamic and much larger than what I am used to. I loved it! The flow and the power could be felt very clearly in each move, martial applications are very apparent. Whilst Master Faye Yip made it look so graceful and elegant, my coordination required a bit more refinement. I thought I was quite fit and becoming more flexible has been my goal, but this was another level. Despite being so outclassed, I didn’t feel bad about it. If anything it inspired me to practise more! Faye’s kind demeanour made anything seem possible with some practice.

Unfortunately, on Sunday my body decided to sabotage my birthday treat. Menstrual pain kicked in just after lunch. I hadn’t expected it either which really sucked. I didn’t have any painkillers or supplies which then added to the misery. Epic pain and hot flushes wracked my body whilst I was trying to learn the 6th section of the form. My willpower disappeared when Faye asked me if I was ok. I was so embarrassed that something like this would happen to me. I was frustrated that I couldn’t continue to do something I was enjoying so much. Another student came to comfort me as I was in bits, in a foetal position on a chair outside. A complete stranger was looking after me with such compassion, she reassured me and I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore. She also found some Neurofen for me. What a lifesaver!

At the end of the workshop Master Faye, went through the entire form to music. It was so beautiful and powerful, in her amazing outfit too. Then it was the group’s go. I needed to go through it all with everyone as it was the end of the workshop. My performance wasn’t too bad considering my uterus hated me. Everyone else asked if I was feeling better, the pills kicked in so I was a bit better if not a little bit disappointed in myself. All the other students were so caring so that I didn’t feel nervous to return to the room.

My body and mind were challenged this weekend, I loved it. I will definitely go to this group again. I recommend this Taiji Kung Fu Fan weekend to everyone and anyone who asks.

Now to watch the DVD and Youtube video over and over again to practise!

Do you play Taiji? Have you learnt a Fan form? Share your experiences below!

 

Welcome!

I’ve been playing around with the idea to start a blog for a few months now. Agonising about which hosting service to use and excessively editing content to be close to preparing a blog, procrastinating and getting anxious about it.

I’m taking the plunge. In this first post, I am going to introduce myself and give a prologue to my story.

As the title of this blog states, my two focuses will be on Tai Chi and Butterflies; not the insect, but the sensation in your abdomen when anxiety says hello to you.

 

My journey with the butterflies began at birth, being diagnosed with Asperger’s at 4 years old and dealing with all the fun that comes with a diagnosis in the 90’s. It has given me plenty to learn and love about myself.

 

Objectives

 

I have two aims with this blog:

 

One aim of this blog is to explore Tai Chi; the principles, the movements themselves and the philosophy behind it all. I am not going to be instructing in this blog as there are many other great resources which can teach you. These will be my own interpretations and thoughts on the subject.

 

The other aim is to explore my own anxiety, when it strikes, how it feels and how I manage to cope with it. I hope that my perspective will help others, even a little to think about their own journey with their butterflies.

 

Thank you for reading, I hope you come by again!

 

Stephanie