On Monday morning, I attended the Midday Music (formerly Morning Melodies) social function at the Cranbourne RSL. Like every Monday, I was basically in “recovery mode” from the weekend with low energy levels, lack of concentration and poor quality of sleep. However it was nice to be in the company of family and friends including Angela Dixon, Jen Angee, Judie Hedrick, Jules and Jim.
Today’s performer was Garry Johns singing the hits of the great American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond. He certainly looked and acted the part rocking a red and blue sequinned top, studded belt and black pants. I found myself half-tuned out and distracted after finding out that my clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Yasmin Baliz was suffering from a migraine and had to cancel my appointment at the last minute.
This plus a handful of other notifications which end up being anxiety triggers for me. It’s something that I’ve been trying hard to work at, essentially taking long periodic breaks away from social media and turning notifications off on my phone. It was becoming far too much for me to handle. I’m learning to “log off” and disable apps much more frequently now and focus on doing more productive activities during the day. Facebook, Messenger and Instagram in particular are very good at sapping all of my energy and time away so I really need to limit myself every day.
Anyway, back to Neil Diamond. Garry played many of Diamond’s classic tunes especially from the 1972 album Hot August Night including Crunchy Granola Suite, Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, Sweet Caroline, Red Red Wine, Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, I Am…I Said and Desiree. http://www.australianentertainmentservices.com.au/gary-johns/
On Monday night, I attended my Men of Doveton program held at Doveton College. This session was very similar in structure to the previous week in that we spent the first half doing footy training and the second focusing on mental health awareness. The footy training this time we facilitated by Alan is who one of the program leaders. I think a few of the guys had mixed feelings about his teaching style especially during the criss-cross hand balling exercise which had most people very confused and uncoordinated.
The thing I’ve really learned the most about participating in team sports is that it’s always been a struggle for me. I remember playing Auskick for a short time as a child and feeling intensely intimidated by the other boys. I was gentle, fragile and sensitive (and for the most part as an adult, still am). It just wasn’t for me back then. I was not the “sporty” type.
You can’t simply unlearn 25+ years of being scared of having a ball flying into your face or feeling self-conscious about being tackled by somebody or sitting on the sidelines wondering what the hell I should be doing. It takes time to build those skills up and honestly I was having a fair crack at it tonight. Whilst I was obviously not the most involved player nor had the most possessions of the ball or kicked any goals, I still tried and I still participated. That’s all that matters. Full stop.
The second half of the session involved listening to a talk called “BE WELL – How to Build Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing” presented by Troy Macris who the mental health team leader for the City of Casey. I found his presentation to be very informative, funny, entertaining and thought-provoking. He started by getting us all to brainstorm what mental health and health in general means to us and wrote a list of words up on the whiteboard.
Next we gave us the definition of mental health by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and discussed the ways in which we can all stay mentally healthy. The major areas include diet, physical activity, sleep, social connectedness, self-esteem, dealing with failures and challenges, relaxation and personal values. Whilst I pretty much knew most of the material in Troy’s presentation, I still appreciated the parts he chose to emphasise. He used YouTube videos to drive the point home about the importance of having good relationships and how challenges can be opportunities for learning and personal growth.
Being part of the Men of Doveton program has already been a good learning experience and showed me aspects that I still need to work on. Like embracing the fact that I’m often quiet, shy, reserved and don’t speak up much in large group settings. And to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m still a value member of this group and do make important contributions to these meetings. Hence why I love the ideas behind this program being about including, encouraging and supporting each other. It’s exactly what I need in my life.
On Tuesday morning, I attended my second NDIS information session held at the function room inside Bunjil Place in Narre Warren. Unlike the intense and stressful Amaze workshop last week, this info session was much more casual and relaxed. Once again it was lead by a lady named Sharna from the NDIA who somehow reminds me of Tammy May from My Budget. I found her presentation to be a lot more constructive, informative and helpful than Pamela’s one was hands down. https://www.ndis.gov.au/news/events/vic
Surprisingly, the function room was only half full of attendees which indicates that a lot of people must have pulled out at the last minute. But this allowed me to concentrate more and take lots of notes. Sharna guided us through the various sections of what an NDIS Planning Conversation will entail. This includes your personal details, community and government services, how you manage everyday activities, your safety, participant statement, your goals, reasonable and necessary supports and how your plan will be funded. https://www.yooralla.com.au/news-and-media/blog/posts/How-to-prepare-for-your-NDIS-planning-meeting
It was information overload for 1-1.5 hours especially when she started talking about the transition from planning into supports which involves connecting with providers, making a service agreement, placing a service booking and then having supports delivered. It is a tonne of stuff to process but the slides were very clearly arranged and organised so I can go away and slowly go through it in my own time. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/firstplan
On Thursday morning, I went to Degani Casey Central to catch up with my support worker Ally Lamb from PHaMs. Honestly I’ve been feeling like such a scatterbrain this week with trying to process all the NDIS information I’ve learned at the workshop and info session, dealing with multiple changes at work, lack of sleep and disrupted sleep patterns, dealing with lots of stress and pressure whenever I’m out and about.
I’m finding that it only takes a couple of hours before I’m worn out and mentally drained so I never stay out too long at one place. Grocery shopping is a classic example of this. At least I’ve now learned to put coping strategies in place before I go out. I make sure to bring a load of reusable shopping bags and write out a list before I even walk into Woolies, Coles or ALDI. Being overwhelmed with product choices is a lot harder but most of the time I usually end up buying either whatever is on special or my trusted brand. https://themighty.com/2017/08/anxiety-grocery-shopping/
And then there’s dealing with the general public and other shoppers. People are always in a hurry. Nobody is mindful of other people, nor takes two seconds to think before they act. I constantly feel pressured and stressed out whenever I’m in a crowded aisle or standing in a long queue at the checkouts. People constantly judge you if you’re in their way or take too long deciding what to buy. It’s all in their body language and impatient stares.
And then there’s the social awkwardness of not knowing what to do when the cashier is processing your order. Should I say something or remain quiet? Where do I look? I’ll just smile and pack my trolley. So getting my grocery shopping done ends up being a massive relief for me once I’m out of that supermarket. http://keepyourcalm.com/blog/how-keep-calm-and-confident-grocery-store
On Thursday night, I attended a social night with the 30+ Adult Aspergers Victoria group at Taco Bill Mexican – Blackburn. I was honestly in two minds about coming to this tonight considering how low and tired I’d been feeling most of the day. But after spending most of the afternoon in bed, I was determined to drag myself out of it. It’s been a few months since I last attended an event with this particular group of Aspies after the discussion went off the rails and felt like I needed to take a break. https://tacobill.com.au/locations/blackburn
My feelings were still pretty much the same tonight but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. Mexican food is pretty well out of my comfort zone and I spent 5-10 minutes browsing the menu. I was pretty indecisive about most of the options on there plus I wasn’t especially hungry so I chose to get a single hard-corn taco with shredded beef, a sticky date pudding and a stubbie of Carlton Draught.
The guys I was sitting with at my table were all intellectuals and difficult to relate to but I did attempt to chime into the conversations when I could. Plus it was a good opportunity to practice my active listening skills and be more comfortable making eye contact. Thankfully the LCD screen and Mexican decor (Tequila anyone?) did offer some brief moments to diffuse my social awkwardness but a shitty reality TV show like The Bachelor isn’t exactly going to hold my attention for long.
After about 1-1.5 hours, I was eager to leave as I was getting bored and restless and had a long drive back home. As usual, at any social gathering, leaving is probably the most challenging aspect for me and so I resorted to the shift ninja escape method of having a toilet break then swiftly walking straight out the exit. It may seem rude but I’m really terrible at saying goodbye to people especially when I don’t really know them that well. Still I’m glad that I made the effort to even attend and face my fears. https://aspergersvic.org.au/events-groups
On Friday morning, I had an appointment to see my Clinical Neuro-psychologist Dr. Yasmin Baliz at CNS: Comprehensive Neuropsychological Services in Narre Warren. I was burning the candle at both ends a little as I was determined to get a workout in at the Casey Arc Health Club and gym. This week I’ve been really been struggling a lot with my sleeping patterns, anxiety and motivation. Besides my footy training session on Monday night, I haven’t done much exercise at all which is pretty unusual for me. Something is definitely up.
We met inside her usual office on the first floor of building 64, Victor Crescent. I literally had half a reusable shopping bag full of notes on the NDIS plus my diary so I was very prepared for this appointment. The NDIS is still a massive web of confusion for me, although it is slowly becoming clearer the more advice I get about it.
There are so many options and factors to consider before I’m ready for my planning conversation. What goals do I have now and for the future? Which providers and services do I want to use? Do I want to self-manage my plan or have it managed by an agency or the NDIA? What things do I need help and assistance with now and in the future? Who are my “go-to” supports? At least I can say I’ve partially answered some of these questions so it’s a work in progress for me. https://bettercaring.com.au/blog/disability/prepare-ndis-planning-meeting/
The next thing to tackle was my sleeping problems which has recently been getting increasingly worse and severely impacting on my daily living and brain functioning. Yasmin suggested the M word, medication, which I’ve been pretty reluctant about as I’m worried about the side effects and getting dependent on them. But she recommended only taking them 1-2 times a week to avoid that from happening. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/safe-use-of-sleeping-pills
She also advised to start making a sleep diary again, improving my sleep hygiene and look into buying a digital sleep monitor of some kind. I’ve tried so many different strategies to help me fall and stay asleep at night (lavender spray, natural sleep vitamins, lighting candles, playing guided meditation and nature sound videos, using a eucalyptus vapouriser, drinking a cup of herbal or chamomile tea and soon using a weighted blanket) with varying degrees of success. So I’m hoping that Yasmin’s suggestions will work better than what I’ve tried. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
“The same sun shines one everyone. If I stumble or fall, it’s good to know we share it all. Singing yeah. We’ve come undone. Yeah there’s water in my lungs. Yeah we’ve come undone. This heart it weighs a ton.” Evermore – Shines On Everyone (2012)
“Everything is fragile. Everything will come and will go. Everyone is fragile, but most don’t let it show. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. And you know sometimes you’ve got to give it all you got.” Evermore – Sometimes It’s Easy (2012)
“Here you go again, rainy day friend. Your head in your hands, won’t you understand That you, are not the first to fall into pieces…So it turns out all your plans. They were built upon the sand. You’re afraid to take a stand. But I know that you can.” Evermore – Pieces (2012)