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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Stress in the workplace: How do I avoid it?

I find myself caught in a bit of a bind at work, at the moment. My co-workers expect me to do the same job I was doing before I had a month off due to stress and depression, while not seeming to realise that the job I was doing was the reason I had that time off.

So today, when I was asked to return to producing a weekly report rather than the monthly one I had changed to since coming back to work, I said no. Firmly. I even then explained that the repeated report writing was one of the reasons that I had had to take time off: too much expectation on me and too much criticism of the report, which was really only meant to be a tool to allow other people to complete their work. The criticism of the report became "shooting the messenger" and attacking it became more of a focus than dealing with the problems highlighted within it.

So after I made it clear that I wouldn't do it more than once per month, what I got was not a head-on attack but a barrage of sideways, sniping comments criticising me for being intransigent and questioning what use this report was.

To be clear, this data is available to everyone. Anyone could do this, given willingness to devote time to it. It’s not like I am the sole source of the information.

Anyway, I found that I couldn't deal with the passive-aggressive criticism and decided to deal with the situation in the best way I could, by picking up my things and walking out of the room. I fear, however, that this may not have been the best solution. It meant getting chased down the stairs by the deputy head of the department (my mentor) who wouldn't let me just go for a walk and clear my head but made me talk about it. As I didn't have the time to resolve it internally or calm down it means I resorted to a foul-mouthed tirade, threatened to walk out and let out my feelings on the guy who caused me the most grief. I don't think any of this was helpful. Looking back on it, my attempt to defuse myself has made me look unprofessional, childish, resentful, aggressive and unbalanced.
I feel I am letting myself down and don't seem to be able to find a way to fix this.

Finding out that I may have Asperger's has certainly opened my eyes to a lot, including why I react the way I do, but it doesn't always help me control my reactions or judge what is the best course of action in a situation. I can't gauge at the moment whether I did the right thing, but it doesn't feel like I did.

Right now I feel vulnerable and alienated, and I feel that I am being judged on the way I am trying to avoid the stress. I don't really know what I can do.

And as a beautiful irony, the guy who caused me to need to leave the room has just come to me to ask for a different report I promised him (this was no problem) and told me how hard it is to walk a line about firmly stating a position without offending people.

Monday, 17 September 2012

AS thinking and data processing

I've deliberately taken some time away from blogging to reflect. While blogging definitely helps it does rather make me obsess about myself. 

I feel much better for it. I also feel better for having told some people about what's happening with me and the diagnosis process. It was interesting that some people immediately processed the knowledge and gave a sort of "well that explains it" response, whereas others seemed surprised, but this was due mainly to their ignorance of what AS is.

My wife's support in this has been outstanding and very necessary, as it is a big life change to adjust to in some ways, even though nothing has changed except my view of myself. We has a conversation last night about logic and processing, as she was trying to respond to me venting frustration that I don't always get what my boss is asking me to do, even when its written out, and sometimes come up with the incorrect information for a data-based task. Wife then spoke to me about how I use Google, and how she uses Google, and observed that my way of using it, to her mind, is strange, and I clearly gert frustrated with her approach to using it.  However, we both end up getting results. Sometimes hers are better than mine and vice versa.

What she was getting at was that we both approach the same task in what we feel is a logical fashion, but our understanding of the task might differ lightly and our processes are different. this can lead to differing results from the same starting point.

And so it is with dealing with my boss. Whether this is a symptom of AS or not we clearly have different interpretations of what is expected, even when the question is written plainly. The process itself can change the results, and my way and my results will not always be what other people want or expect.

If I can bear this in mind when I am dealing with people's requests, it may be that I can help myself clarify what is expected, and most importantly deal more easily with the frustration on the occasions when I'm asked to do it again.

I am different. I think differently

Monday, 10 September 2012

Not knowing is the worst!

In the next 3 days I am seeing a psychologist, and occupational therapist and undertaking an exam on accounts. I am also meant to be undertaking a project for my accounts qualification, but am currently 2 months behind and it is the last thing on my mind.  As well as that I have numerous projects going on at work that I am trying to complete within certain deadlines.

And its all very stressful.  It feels like  my time off for stress has had little or no impact on my work. I still feel under pressure that I am not sure is actually there. 

So tomorrow's psychologist appointment is the first in what I expect will be quite a number of appointments, or just a few strung out over a long period of time, to find out if i am likely to be diagnosed as ASD.

I'd like to say the diagnosis isn't that important to me, but it is. I'm that sort of person. I have to know. I can't just make a self-diagnosis, or have my doctor say "maybe its AS."  I have to know or I will obsess about it forever.  And as it is it is the thing that is on my mind virtually every minute of the day.

Its such an odd feeling, and it does make me anxious that I may have AS. I know there are people who would frown at me for saying that but it does.  Not because of what it is, but because I would have had it for so long without realising, without it being diagnosed, and in a lot of ways it means I don't know myself.  If I knew that I had something that affected my social interactions I would have looked into it and tried to integrate better, rather than assuming that other people have always got it wrong about me and are idiots.  I am open and honest, and very loyal to my friends, but I have damned few of them because I don't come across well on first meeting (except to other people who are similarly unusual, I have found) and this is part of my frustration.

I wish I had known.

But I also have anxiety the other way; that the psychologist is going to say "actually, you're pretty normal. you don't have ASD".  I can't believe it would happen, all things considered, but I can't help worrying about it.  I genuinely don't know what I would do.  I need other people to understand how it is for me. I need acknowledgement that I have these issues. My whole life has been a trial of frustration, loneliness, resentment, outbursts, inexplicable rage stupid, unjustifiable decisions (to any NT person), and as I have got older pretty regular periods of stress and depression as I fail to find a way to cope with my life.

I'm not looking for an excuse, but I do need to find who I am to find how to cope

Monday, 3 September 2012

An inexplicable worry explained

Around my mid-teenage years I remember becoming aware that I could be help responsible for things, a concept that seemed to elude me until then.  It was only when someone pointed a pretty serious accusation at me that I realised that things that I did and said could have serious consequences for me in my life.  At that point I resolved always to be completely truthful. Until then I had used truth or lies as I felt necessary, although there is no doubting that I am an awful liar.

But from that point I have always had the nagging worry that at some point i was going to end up in prison, and i don't know if that is normal. I assume its not. After all, why would people just generally worry that they were going to end up behind bars?

I have never been able to fully grasp this worry. I am generally a straight-up, honest and law abiding individual. Even times when I have broken the law during my wild years are unlikely to have carried jail terms: petty theft, smoking weed, illegal streaming/ downloading. But still, in the back of my head: you're going to end up in prison.  It really didn't help when wife's dad ended up in prison recently. It is the first time that it has been so close to home, and I overreacted hugely (of course).

But I begin to see now that the worry about prison was my brain's way of telling me that there was something wrong, that I didn't quite fit, and that I had to be extra careful as my rules and the rules of the NT world in which I live can clash.  A perfect example of this is when I was driving the other day and someone did a really stupid overtaking manuever on a fast junction.  Because he was breaking the rules I effectively tried to run him off the road, then when we reached the traffic lights I pulled in front of him, blocking 2 lanes, and had a confrontation with him on a busy road.

I started that. I could have just let him go, with his bad driving, but I almost crashed into him (my fault) then blocked the road (my fault) then nearly started a fight (which would have been my fault). if the police had become involved I think i would have been in serious trouble.

Looking at myself through the AS mirror I can see how close it has come a few times in my life that I had never realised before, and I need to be very careful which what I say and do to avoid getting into trouble.  I can't believe its taken me this many years to realise it.

Still, hopefully now I can avoid that prison which has been unconsciously following me around for years.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The strain of relationships

In  my life I have had very few serious relationships, and wife is the first woman I have ever lived with as part of a couple. I am aware that I have always had trouble interacting with girls I find attractive, and have found myself drawn to the  but unable to talk to them, first manifesting in high school with a girl I had a crush on whom I followed round during breaks. If I didn't know where she was it made me feel uncomfortable, and I know that it bothered her.  While she was a nice girl and we were occasionally friendly, she did have to ask me to stop following her around more than once.

It took me until I was 19 to have my first girlfriend (let's just skip over a couple of periods of investigation with other kids my age in late primary school years) and to become sexually active, and while we had a relationship which lasted 3 years it was not often healthy as I was obsessive and jealous and she was sexually liberal (and inducted a number of my friends in the ways of men and women)

Other relationships I have had have been of mutual convenience, self-destructive, short-term flings or simply disastrous   Fact is, wife is the only woman I have ever been with who I have felt comfortable with, who has made me see the world from another point of view.  I find her fascinating as well as lovely, although like all other people there is a lot she talks about that I have no interest in, but I am not so self involved as to completely ignore her. I just do the guy thing of smiling and nodding.


but I wonder what harm I am doing her by staying with her. We have 2 children, one of whom has been diagnosed with autism, one on the path to a diagnosis of AS and then there's me, realising that I have AS, or am at that end of the spectrum.  Its all so very unfair on her. Wife is beautifully free-spirited, spontaneous, life-loving, a hippie and proud of it, but the hand that life has dealt her means that everything has to be organised all the time. There can be no spontaneity, no surprises, no sudden, unplanned decisions.  Routine, planning and organisation are her life now, and day by day I see the joy draining out of her.

And I wonder whether things would be better or worse if I was no longer part of the equation.  Since I have been with her I have been through 3 periods of depression, and there's no guarantee that this wont increase.  I have had 4 significant episodes of poor mental health in 8 years, and none before that(at least none where I knew that was what my problem was).

I am concerned that my mental state will only get worse, and that she will end up having to be nursemaid to 2 disabled children and a disabled husband who is mentally shattered, and I don't want to do that to her.

I am sure that defining the AS will help significantly, but I managed for 30 years without succumbing to depression, 30 years where i must have had AS, so it must be more than that.

What to do troubles me.  I love wife very much and don't want to do the wrong thing, but is it harder for her to deal with 2 disabled kids with the help of someone like me, and have to deal with my issues too, or to deal with them on her own?

Is this my lot in life? To never fit on to a relationship, to take the joy out of living?

I don't know, but its a thought that will certainly remain with me for some time.