Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: January, 2016

Separation of work and japes

Like tequila, high heels, and vegemite-flavoured chocolate, this blog entry is something I’ve been meaning to try for a while now.

For better or worse, we are often considered ambassadors for the company we work for, or the school we attend. (Something I really should have kept in mind at University where I repeatedly got inebriated while wearing my Year 12 windcheater)

As a result, I figured I should probably clarify that while this blog and my job at I Can Network both deal with autism advocacy, the views I express here do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Everything I write here is merely my own personal opinion, and when I post here, I am not speaking on behalf of I Can Network.

Though there is a lot of overlap in terms of the ideals we promote and the issues we address, (which is not only why I work for them, but why this blog actually brought me to their attention) Max’s Shop of Horrors is its own independent entity.

Alrighty, now that’s cleared up, I can move on to Mexican liquor, impractical footwear, and highly questionable Cadbury crossovers. Which to try first…

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Running up that hill

First things first; if you’re a lawyer from the record companies, I’m too poor to be worth your time suing over the title of this week’s blog. You’d make more money selling raincoats in the Sahara.

Okay, not that’s out the way, what am I actually on about?

Well, I’ve been thinking back to when my battle against OCD was a slow push up what seemed like an endless hill. Back when I could hardly leave the house and would freeze in the street if I saw a cigarette butt.

The thing about fighting an uphill battle is that when you look ahead, you only see an upward slope. You can’t see the downhill slope on the other side until you reach the summit. That’s how it was for me; my current difficulties became such a part of my frame of reference that when I looked to the future, I projected them endlessly forwards.

I know “it gets better” is a cliché as tired and played out as zombies, cat-powered jump scares, and action stars walking away from explosions in slow motion, but it’s important not to use the problems of the present as a baseline when looking forwards.

It may be hard to imagine how things could get better when there’s so tough right now, but if you think back 10 years, there are probably a lot of things about yourself now that you would didn’t expect back then.

So keep pushing up that hill, you magnificent badass, and remember that every hill has a summit, and from there it’s all downhill. I know that might sound cheesier than an 80s punk rock album cover, and you know what, four years ago I would have thought so too. But then it happened to me.

Ritual Starvation

Between my OCD and my autism, I have more rituals than your average cult. “Rituals” are basically behaviours that are compulsively performed as a way of minimizing stress; for example, hand washing, or eating only certain foods at certain times. In a world that’s often frightening chaotic, these rituals can give people a comforting sense of control and stability.

Thing is, they can also be a colossal pain in the gluteus maximus. I hate feeling like I have to conduct extensive rituals like checking all my windows and doors before going to bed. It feels like an exhausting, annoying chore. I waste a lot of my time and energy on such rituals, and as a result I’m constantly trying to wean myself off them.

One method is to consciously go out of my way to defy them. For example, to combat my hand-washing, I began a habit of licking my fingers sometimes after touching something, as if to say, “oh look, it’s been in my mouth, there’s no point washing them now!” Unfortunately, this particular behaviour has become a bad habit in its own right that I am now trying to de-program!

Another very helpful technique though, is going cold turkey by putting myself in an environment where I can’t conduct my rituals; not taking anti-septic handwash when I go camping to force myself to cope without it, for instance. Breaking the habit this way has been very effective for me. It’s almost like going to rehab for an addiction; you learn to get along without your rituals out of necessity. It basically forces my brain to confront the fact that if I don’t do them, the world won’t end.

As always, I’d caution against pushing yourself too far too fast; trying to break more than one habit at once or putting yourself in a foreign environment where you don’t have the tools or the support you need to cope can be a recipe for disaster. But by taking it slow, and “detoxing” from my compulsions in a safe and supported way, I’ve been able to eliminate several rituals which were disrupting my day-to-day life.

A rose by any other name

There’s been a lot of debate in the autistic community recently about which is the preferred phrase; “autistic person” or “person with autism”. My humble opinion, as somebody on the spectrum myself is that…

Frankly-my-dear-I-dont-give-a-damn

I realize this may be controversial or even politically incorrect to say so, but honestly, I think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.

No matter which one I pick I’ll inevitably be upsetting those on the other side of the fence, so it’s really a no-win situation, and I don’t need the stress of walking on eggshells to try to please others.

I have to pick my battles, otherwise I’ll go crazy worrying about everything, and of all the issues surrounding autism, this particular one just isn’t something I consider worth getting hung up on.