Friday, 6 February 2015

Energy, comfort zones and friendships

The importance of boundaries, managing my energy and pacing myself.

Managing my energy is of utmost importance for me. If I do too much, push myself, when something unexpected happens, that will send me into overwhelm and exhaustion. When that happens I find it much harder to manage everything in my life and struggle to mentally let things go so I can rest. I then feel stuck in anxious/stressed limbo about all the things that need doing that are building up (dishes, washing, cooking, etc) and find it difficult to rest to recover. This can very quickly become a vicious cycle in which I am almost always very overwhelmed and in shut down so am not able to think clearly or manage to keep on top of basic responsibilities. If one thing in my life gets out of balance then it's like a tidal wave of overwhelm is unleashed and I find it incredibly difficult to feel rested and able to get on top of everything again. 

I am aiming to work very hard to manage my energy this year and pace myself. I need to.

I am in the process of setting up a coping folder with prompts for when the overwhelm tidal wave hits to help me lessen the impact. I am aiming to have systems set up and organised so that when the overwhelm hits I am able to use my systems to help me get through it. I can do this. I have a much better support system this year and am in a better place mentally and emotionally. It is a work in progress. I am doing this with my disability support worker.

Extra activities and appointments outside of my comfort zone

I only have so much energy most of which goes on managing daily life and family responsibilities and appointments. Trying to fit in building friendships and building connections is very overwhelming, exhausting and stressful for me. I often don't have energy for it or I get caught up doing things to keep up with the day to day and forget. By the time I remember to try and fit in friendships I'm far too exhausted to get words out and articulate what I want to say or write so I don't bother. It's too much a lot of the time. I find navigating social situations very stressful and exhausting. I tend not to bother as I simply do not have the energy for it nor do I want to waste my energy worrying about it. I don't have the energy, in particular emotional energy to worry about if I'm saying/doing the right thing, or if I've offended someone and not realised (I tend to be fairly oblivious in social situations as I'm too overwhelmed and anxious just trying to keep my head above water socially to even notice or think about if anyone is offended) or if I've said too much or too little or asked any questions or whatever else. It takes a lot of emotional and mental energy for me to be social and to be in a place mentally and emotionally to be able to make friends. So I tend to avoid it as I have limited energy which goes to managing my issues, parenting, appointments, household, organization and cooking. Each of those tasks in and of themselves take a lot of energy and I am rarely if ever performing at my peak for each of them.

I have been going to choir for a couple of weeks this year and I went a couple of weeks last year. It was good for awhile but now it is taking it's toll on me.
I am considering quitting choir as it is taking a lot of energy to get myself organised and get there on time and prepare myself and a meal before 6pm. I have found that by that time of the day I fade quickly and have no capacity to engage in conversation to interact with others, let alone navigate all the social crap (as described above) as I'm too worn out and my brain is at a low level of function by then. I just go to choir, sing and try to figure out what my notes are and listen to others in my part sing so I can get my note (definitely do not have energy to fit in practicing at home) and then try very hard to keep my eyes open and my brain at some level of function so I can just process the notes and singing. Then I pay and go home. I don't chat to anyone or anything because I'm so exhausted and just want to get home and wind down then sleep.

I need to take my son to the dentist for the first time. He's nearly 4. I'm so anxious about it for a number of reasons. 

1. I know he will not cope with someone poking around in his mouth. He finds us brushing his teeth hard enough and will only tolerate it for so long. My own anxiety about him not co-operating and feeling out of control adds to his anxiety. 

2. I don't drive so the added stress of organizing transport and trying to fit in with someone else's times to get there, adds to my executive function and anxiety about organising it.

3. I have health anxiety so hearing what the dentist has to say (it's an unknown which makes me feel unsettled and anxious) is one more thing which overwhelms me. I have put taking my son to the dentist in the too hard basket for awhile because I have had a lot of other stress and trauma going on. 

Avoiding it but knowing it needs to be done adds to my anxiety. I am worried how I will manage my son's possible meltdown at the dentist on top of my already high anxiety about organizing it and going. I need to find an ASD friendly dentist if there is such a thing. I doubt there will be one within walking distance for me which adds to my stress. I don't know how to face it. I am working on a plan for how to approach it with my disability support worker, which has really helped take the stress out of it.
This is my thought process for most big things that I know need to be done outside of my comfort zone, I end up frozen with anxiety about it and unsure how to move forward.

The other reason I have not been able to face anything outside of my comfort zone is because I have come to realise that I only have enough energy to manage the day to day, even then I find it very overwhelming and tiring. Anything beyond that, such as appointments and whatever else needs doing outside of day to day living takes a lot of energy, more than I have, so I tend to avoid. If something comes up unexpectedly, and needs doing, that makes it harder to face and re-adjust my plans. Coping with change is difficult for me. I know if I pushed myself to go when I wasn't fully prepared and feeling like I had enough energy to do it then I would end up feeling very burnt out and would take who knows how long to recover. The thought of that scares me, having experienced a breakdown. I don't want to end up there again. I work very hard to manage my energy and manage the day to day.

So here I am able to function fairly well just with the day to day but add anything else which is not part of my normal routine and suddenly I am not able to manage so I avoid it and just focus on what I can do, not what I am not able to. Even though I know some of it needs doing which upsets me as I don't know how to fit it in and have energy for it and figure out how to approach it and have energy to do that. It's all very argggghh!


I find people very confusing and unpredictable which is stressful for me. I don't have energy for their unpredictable, confusing ways, their assumptions, their unsaid expectations and the unsaid social rules. It's too much. My brain can't process it or make sense of it so it basically I have a brain fart and don't worry about dealing with people if I can help it. It's all a big confusing mess which I would rather not stress or worry about. I have had too many painful and upsetting experiences with friendships not working out to feel safe enough to open up to many people.

Having written all that I do like socializing and connecting with people but on my terms and when I have the energy for it which isn't often and they have to accept me as I am and make an effort to understand me or it won't work out because I do not have the energy to deal with manipulative, passive aggressive, petty, judgmental and toxic people. Finding friends who are not like that is a challenge as I have to go through crappy people to find them and I am finding I do not have the energy to deal with being hurt by people. I need friends who accept me and understand me and don’t expect more than I can give. Not being able to drive and get to places adds to my stress about friendships because it is isolating and makes it harder to connect with others.

I am realising I do not have the energy to worry about if I am doing the right friend things and chatting enough, catching up enough, etc. It is really stressful, upsetting, confusing and draining. I will contact people and connect with people when I can and they are free to connect with me when they can. 

I am working on living my life in a way and at a pace which suits me. I am working on letting go of things I know I do not have energy for and learning how to manage and make plans for things that I know I do need to do.

I found these two blog posts really helpful to how I need to live my life in order to cope.

Learning to exhale by Briannon Lee.

In a bubble by Amy Bean

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