Max's shop of horrors

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Month: April, 2015

Contagious Tranquility

You know when someone laughs, and you start laughing too, even if you have no idea what’s so funny? Or when someone yawns, and it makes you feel like yawning as well? (Maybe you’re feeling like yawning right now… :P)

Well, calm can work the same way.

In my experience, few things can be as soothing and comforting as the presence of another human being. Of course, few things can be as stressful either; it all depends on the person.

In the past, I’ve talked about ASMR, which is basically a relaxing sensation some people experience in response to the right stimuli. It’s that feeling you might get when someone brushes your hair or when you listen to a guided meditation recording. Well the thing is, you can “ASMR” someone to calm them, just like you might massage a sore muscle.

Some people do this naturally and unconsciously; they have a very serene manner about them that makes just being in their presence relaxing. My ex-partner was one such person; when I was with her, it was like my OCD demons were tranquilized, and things that normally petrified me suddenly seemed surmountable.

It doesn’t have to be an intimate partner, mind you; it can be a parent, a sibling, or a friend.

One of the most effective triggers is speech. The power of speaking slowly and softly is remarkable; I often find that just listening to someone can be comforting. Another is simply being a stable point when the rest of the world seems like it’s spinning out of control. If I’m panicking, someone else being calm and in control reassures me that the anxiety is unfounded, because clearly they’re not worried, so maybe I shouldn’t be either. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a fear is realistic or just an overreaction, so other people can be a helpful reality check.

Our fellow human beings can be the primary source of our stress, but they can also be one of the most effective antidotes. “Contagious” gets a bad name, but, like a smile or friendly laughter, some contagions are worth sharing. 😉

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Happy Shield

You know that feeling when you’re in such a good mood, that bad stuff just kind of bounces off you? That feeling like there’s a hot ball of molten chocolate spinning like a dynamo in your chest, and you can feel the joy fizzing in your veins like creaming soda?

Well, turns out OCD can bounce off it too.

In my quest to study and control my disorder, I observed that anxiety and panic attacks are mood-dependent. If I’m already feeling like crap, my tolerance threshold will be lower. But it works the other way too; when I’m feeling fantastic, I can shrug off stimuli that would normally paralyze me.

This led to the pivotal realization that I had it backwards; anxiety attacks weren’t an uncontrollable factor that determined my mood; rather, I could use my mood to control my anxiety, at least to a degree. Thinking positively didn’t just lessen the attacks when they happened, it also made it less likely I would have one in the first place.

Whether it was focussing on my interests or spending time with my friends, doing things I enjoyed, or even thinking about things I enjoyed, makes me physically less anxious.

Once I get to that joyous, excited place, it’s like I got the invincibility star off Super Mario and I’m just radiantly immune to all badness. I know it’s a prehistoric cliche that thinking positively heals mental illness, but I’ve found it one of the most helpful tools for fighting off anxiety.

26:19 Autistic Standard Time

First off, I should preface this by pointing out I am not a doctor or psychologist, and that the extent of my medical training is making out with a plastic CPR doll at age 15. This is just a personal observation, based on my own experience living on the spectrum.

Autism is often referred to as a developmental disorder because can involve the delay of certain milestones in social development, such as language, emotional control, and even intimacy.

What we don’t hear as much about, however, is that those of us with autism can be well ahead of the curve in other areas.

For example, I struggled with social interaction well into my 20s, yet in school I had special classes in year levels well above my own, including studying Year 9-10 History and English at the local High School when I was in Grade 5 and 6. It took me until I was 23 to enter my first intimate relationship, yet I was reading at an adult level before I hit my teens.

People on the spectrum tend to move on their own timeline. I’m 26 as I write this, yet I still feel like a teenager in many aspects of my life, such as relationships, and seeing “grownups” as this separate category of authority figures that I’m not part of. The big 3-0 is bearing down on me like a drunk hippopotamus driving a steamroller without a permit, and I still catch myself thinking about how maybe things will make sense “when I grow up…”

As a small child, I found I related best to those considerably older than me; I preferred the company of adults or much older children. By contrast, since about the age of 11, I’ve gotten along best with those younger than me, as I feel like I have more in common with them, perhaps because I’m hitting the same milestones as them years later.

But you know what? That’s okay. I’m fine with moving at my own pace. Life’s a journey, not a race. I spent years fretting about being left behind, but in the end it wasn’t catching up that gave me peace, it was learning to go with the flow.

Silly little lifelines

We all have them, don’t we? Those little things that seem frivolous and silly to others, but are deeply important to us. A secret hobby, perhaps, or a private passion. Maybe we keep them to ourselves, because we don’t think anyone else would understand why we place such a priority on something so outwardly trivial.

It’s not just that these things bring us joy and excitement; they’re also handrails on the tightrope of life. When the hurricane hits and the tightrope wobbles like a live eel that’s had one to any tequilas, they give us something to cling to.

Say work was horrible and I have a meeting I’ve been dreading tomorrow? It’s okay, cos today they revealed the first details for the new Godzilla movie, and it sounds awesome. Say I’m exhausted from a panic attack and my latest attempt at publication was turned down? Not to worry, a new trailer came out for the next Yoshi game, and it’s only a few months away.

They’re a source of comfort and solace in a world of terrifying uncertainty; something to brighten a gloomy day or lift weary spirits. Who cares if others see it as weird, geeky, or any of that rubbish? We all have our coping mechanisms, and if they work for us, that’s what matters.

Game change

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and to mark the occasion, it’s time to unveil something I’ve been working on behind the scenes for some time.

The organization I work for, the I Can Network, is rolling out what we call our “Rethink on Autism”; a fresh approach to autism that aims to enable rather than label, and empower rather than pigeonhole. We are run by people with autism, for people with autism, and we aim to re-frame autism from “I Can’t” to “I Can”.

The way our society perceives people with autism needs to change; bullying, unemployment, negative stereotypes and a lack of understanding are endemic. But this can change, and change begins with people; with you, with me, with every one of us who chooses to be part of it.

Whether you’re on the spectrum yourself, or have friends or family who are, I hope you’ll take a look, and spread the word.

Without further ado, I present to you: “Game Change”:

http://tinyurl.com/ICan-GameChange

You can also support us here:

www.chuffed.org/project/ican.

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