MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 125, October 2018

With the weather being a mostly sunny 28 degrees, it’s a shame that I didn’t have the motivation to do much of anything on Monday morning. At least I managed to call the NDIA and get an activation code so that I could link my NDIS plan to the mygov account and also access the services on myplace participant portal. My lack of enthusiasm could probably have been detected in my voice to the call centre worker who herself sounded like she was off with the fairies. But I really needed to get this done so that I could start using the funds in my plan. To be honest, I’m still confused as hell about this process but hopefully it’ll get easier for me over time.  https://www.ndis.gov.au/participant-portal-user-guide

I also did a bunch of housework which gave me a good excuse to get myself outside in the sun for a few minutes but otherwise today I’m very much home bound. Despite how little energy I had, I was determined to push myself out of the house and get to the final session of the Men of Doveton – 2018 program. However, I’m still feeling in two minds about it especially after how shitty and overwhelmed I was feeling from last Monday night. So I hesitated…again.

I had to ask myself some tough questions like: Who am I doing this program for? What if I don’t go and don’t finish the program? Will the others in the group be angry, disappointed, upset, worried or simply not care? Is this program making me happy and/or making me feel better about myself? The truth is that I feel like I’m going through the motions right now and attending the program more to please others which is NOT a good reason to be participating.

My relentless anxiety has been badgering me saying: If you don’t go, you’re a failure. The others think you should attend, so you should attend. You’re so close to finishing it. What are you doing with your life? What will the other guys think if you don’t go tonight? I also feel the need to place barriers around myself in order to protect myself from being hurt by others. It’s probably the irrational fears talking but at the same time, I really don’t want to put up with people giving me drama for not finishing the Men of Doveton program. https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Tough-Decisions-for-Yourself

The fact that I’m still stuck on the fence is a decision in itself. That I shouldn’t be forcing myself to attend because of outside expectations or what others will think about me if I don’t attend. I guess my own expectations about what I wanted out of this program have also been pretty unrealistic. You can’t form close friendships with 20 or so other males overnight. Also “dropping out” of a program is not failing. My excitement levels for the Men of Doveton program have significantly dropped since I started it back in July. So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not for me. It’s not making me happy so it’s time to shut the gate on it. https://www.communityreachcenter.org/news/5-steps-developing-healthy-realistic-thinking/

I dropped out of my Bachelor of Science degree at Monash University 4 years ago for the same reasons. Sure I had an interest in science and enjoyed some of the material I learned in my first couple of years studying there. But at the time, I really wasn’t thinking long term, about where this degree would take me. Could I see myself becoming a scientist, researcher, lab technician or doing a PhD? Nope. So there’s my answer. And 4 years later, the world hasn’t ended. I’m still here. Life goes on.

The reality is that I have gained some benefits from participating in this program including counting and recording my steps daily, using a journal to record things that I’m grateful for, being more aware about men’s health issues, tools to help me cope better with depression and anxiety symptoms, being able to successfully participate in group sporting activities, learning new ball handling skills, making a few friends and forming relationships with like-minded males going through similar issues. So in that sense, this program hasn’t been a waste of time for me. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2/2018/07/30

On Tuesday night, I went to an RPM class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last went to a group fitness class so I consciously lowered my expectations. Tonight wasn’t my best performance but everytime I step onto the bike, I make sure to give it my all. Numbers don’t bother me as much as I used to because I’ve got enough awareness around my limitations and capabilities. Placing the bar too high is never a good thing because you set yourself up for disappointment but it’s still healthy to challenge yourself a little bit. https://www.lesmills.com.au/archived-rpm

Tonight we did release number 80 which features the tracks Easy Love by Sigala, Everybody’s Somebody by Don Diablo feat. Bully Songs, New Memories by DubVision & Afrojack and Get Low by Hardwell. It was a challenging set of tracks which featured intense racing sections, multiple sprints and attacks, uphill climbs and power rides. As usual, our instructor Kay was very empowering, motivating and encouraging to get us through the class. I couldn’t quite reach the speeds or resistance levels that I normally get to but I was fine with that because I was still constantly moving and pushing myself through the workout without burning myself out. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/fitness-classes/rpm/tracklists/

On Wednesday morning, I had my annual free health assessment done at my workplace. My experience with doing these in the past haven’t been great mainly because I’m always susceptible of getting a bad reaction to getting my finger pricked by the needle. The good news was that I recognised the female nurse who facilitated the service last time. The bad news is that I still had that damn reaction. No matter what I try to do…take deep breathes, try to relax my body, tel myself that “I can do this”…it still happens and I have no control over it.

“Here we go!” I thought as I broke into a sudden cold sweat, red faced and feverish, my ears buzzing intensely and the blood draining from my face. Luckily, the nurse was switched on and responded very quickly, getting me to lie down on the floor and elevate my legs up on the chair. Thankfully I seemed to recover quicker from it faster than last time but it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing and annoying to go through. The other positive was that we were inside the boardroom and therefore I didn’t have other team members witnessing any of this. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/blood-draw.html

As for the results, they were mostly good. I got a blood glucose reading of 7.0 which is in the acceptable range, a blood cholesterol of 5.42 which is better than average, and my blood pressure was 117 over 74 which is acceptable-good. My BP had to be taken twice as the reaction made the initial reading invalid and dropped into severe-low territory. Waist measurement was 107cm and neck measurement was 44cm. Both of these can be improved with diet and exercise. The one area I was mostly concerned with was my chances of getting diagnosed with type II diabetes especially with a family history of it. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/health-checks-for-men

With all the factors considered (gender, age, waist/hip measurements), I’m slightly over into the high risk category. The good news is that I do have some degree of control over it by improving my lifestyle habits like being more physically active, eating more healthier foods, cutting back on alcohol etc which I try to do but have recently been slacking off on a bit due to increased stress and anxiety, low mood, poor quality of sleep. But I am determined to keep on top of it and try really hard to prevent getting any major heath problems when I get older. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/type-2-diabetes

On Thursday night, I went to my HIIT Strength small group fitness training session at CinFull Fitness. Truth be told, I was in a really weird headspace tonight probably from all the millions of thoughts in my head and external distractions. My anxiety was ready to pounce (Seriously what are you doing here Michael? You’re not female, a mum or a housewife!) but I did my best to tell it to zip it. The female to male ratio doesn’t bother me all much and even if I don’t relate to the other clients, who cares? I’m there to improve my fitness and self confidence, not to catch up on the goss (no offence ladies!).

We did a circuit-style session with various stations set up, doing intervals of each exercise with a short 10 second break in between. There was a mixture of weight training (bicep curls, dumbbell power lifts, kettle bell squats) and resistance training (push ups, mountain climbers, battle ropes). The fatigue set in fast but overall I did okay. I think I just had a lot on my mind but the class was a positive distraction from it and we did have a few laughs which is always a good thing. https://www.facebook.com/CinFullFitness/

On Friday morning, I attended the individual intake session for the research study Addressing Insomnia in Adults with Autism held at La Trobe University Psychology Clinic in Bundoora. This is the first time I’ve participated in research that relates to both my autism and my sleep problems so understandably I was feeling a bit daunted by the whole idea. However, I brought my mum along to the psych clinic for support. Being my first time driving to this university campus, I did freak out a little with the traffic, trying to get my bearings and be sure that I was parking in the correct car park (we even witnessed a parking inspector doing the rounds, enough said!). https://aspergersvic.org.au/Research-Requests

Once I arrived at the Psychology Clinic (located inside the George Singer building), I did seem to relax a little. We met with a provisional psychologist named Eliza who gave me some information about the study and some questionnaires to fill out as well as a consent form and a withdrawal form. She then guided us from the waiting room into one of the consultation rooms. This session was more like a general interview just to get some insight into my medical background and sleep problems.

Eliza was very warm, compassionate and easy going. Certainly not as cold, clinical and formal as I was anticipating inside my head. She asked me about my family history, why I decided to participate in the study, my expectations about the group intervention, what will be involved, what I think causes me to have disturbed sleep patterns and lack of quality sleep and how it impacts on my daily lifestyle and well-being.

I told Eliza that I’ve been having these sleep problems for about two years or slow due to work-related stress, general anxiety and depression symptoms, having lots of pressure and expectations from society, keeping busy and having lots of commitments and not being able to switch my brain off. I usually go to bed around 10-10.30pm and it can take up to 1-1.5 hours to fall asleep. Then I usually wake up around 3 or 4am and again struggle to go back to sleep again. Overall, I get around 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night on average.

These sleep problems have had a major affect on my well-being including poor focus and concentration, low energy, daytime sleepiness, difficult in getting motivated, regular crashes, physical and mental burnout. The group intervention part will involve me wearing a actigraphy watch device that measures physical motion and sleep/wake cycles for 7 days and filling out an online sleep diary as well as attending 4 two-hour group therapy sessions on ways to manage and improve my sleep.

I’m really hoping that this research study will be a pro-active stepping stone for me in helping to improve my sleep problems and all of the symptoms that I’ve mentioned above. I’ve tried many different natural therapies including using a weighted blanket, lavender spray, relaxation and guided meditation videos, using a vapouriser machine, reading, writing down my worries, having a bath or shower, taking herbal sleep vitamins but none of these have been 100% effective. http://otarc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/sleep-help-for-adults-on-the-spectrum/

On Friday night, I attended a ten-pin bowling social night for the Adults in Their Thirties Aspergers Victoria group held at Healthways Recreation Centre – Mont Albert North. I actually found this drive to be a lot more mentally draining than the one I did this morning especially driving through Surrey Hills and Box Hill. The roads are so damn narrow and when you’re not completely familiar with an area, you can easily get yourself lost. Luckily I had my Google Maps navigator lady switched on to prevent that from happening.

Besides the moderate amount of traffic and the long distance I had to travel, it actually wasn’t too difficult getting there. I arrived just a couple of minutes before 7pm and found a few of the other Aspies upstairs where the bowling alleys are located. This particular bowling area has been around since 1961 with a retro 1980’s inspired colour scheme and design, featuring splashes of red, blue, yellow and pink.

The computer monitors are also a throwback to 8-bit computer processors with green text on a black background. As we soon learned, all the scores had to be recorded manually on the keyboard which added an additional level of problem solving to the night (aka figuring out how many pins have been knocked down). It’s been around 6 years since I last did ten pin bowling but I was surprised to see my beginners luck returning with a few spares and a couple of strikes.

It was also nice getting to know a few new members I hadn’t met before and chatting with Marcus Heath and Lucas Eldridge in between turns. For dinner, the group leaders organised a delivery of pizzas in the function room / kitchen area next door as well as some drinks. I honestly didn’t feel like being that social tonight but it was just nice to have some social company for once considering how low I’ve been feeling lately. I really needed this night to get out of the house and be with other Aspies around my own age. https://aspergersvic.org.au/events-groups

“If you can’t wake up in the morning ‘Cause your bed lies vacant at night. If you’re lost, hurt, tired or lonely. Can’t control it, try as you might. May you find that love that won’t leave you. May you find it by the end of the day. You won’t be lost, hurt, tired and lonely. Something beautiful will come your way.” Robbie Williams – Something Beautiful (2002)

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 124, October 2018

On Monday afternoon, Mum and I drove down the Princes Highway and visited the Lady Lavender’s Tea Room in Bunyip. It was a beautiful 22 degree Spring day and we thought we should take the opportunity to make the most of it. We’ve driven past this place a few times on our way to other destinations such as Yarragon, Warrigul and Bairnesdale but today was the first time actually going in there. The venue is located on a large acre lot featuring many rows of lavender plants, a water fountain, scrubs, flowers, a gift shop and the tea rooms.

The tea room borrows heavily the interior decoration styles of the 1930’s with gilded floral print furniture, an old fashioned record player and varnished antique bookcases. Mum and I treated ourselves to a serving of Devonshire scones with jam and cream, a club sandwich and a pot of tea. Next we visited the gift shop next door and picked up a few items including an ABBA vinyl record from 1977, lavender spray, bag and pillow case, a plastic lotus flower.

On Monday night, I attended my Men of Doveton – 2018 session at Doveton College. After my absence last week, I was really in two minds about continuing and finishing off this program. I had so many conflicting thoughts going on inside my head (Do I really belong in this group? Do the other guys really care about me? Am I getting anything out of this program? Should I bother finishing it or just drop out now?). I guess you could say that I’ve always tried to finish what I’ve started and I’ve also started some positive lifestyle habits so it hasn’t been a waste of time for me.

I think I’ve also put a lot of internal pressure on myself to quickly form friendships and contribute more during the talks when perhaps I’m just not ready for that. Maybe letting it all sink in is a better idea. The other dilemma is my attendance record. I’ve missed two sessions and now I’m on the borderline of collecting enough stamps in my passport. If I miss one more session, I might as well kiss the graduation ceremony goodbye. So it’s now or never. Two more weeks to go.

In the first half of the session, we had a basketball training session with Brent from Casey Basketball. This is one of the few sports I actually enjoyed back in primary school, even playing it at lunchtimes and after school with some friends. But that certainly doesn’t mean that I found it easy to play. We began by doing some warm-up drills which tested our hand-eye coordination and ball handling skills. Doing dribbles and figure 8’s around your legs was challenging but fun at the same time. http://www.caseybasketball.com.au/

We then participated in a few games which involved learning how to shoot a basketball into the ring, controlling the ball and defending/attacking the ball from others. Whilst my first few attempts were crap, I was amazed to see myself scoring a few points when I focused and really tried hard. And that’s the one compliment I’ll always give myself: I do try fucking hard even if I suck at it. It was admittedly a great moment when people gave me a round of applauds for getting the ball in the ring from the three-point line. https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/basics/basics.html

In the second half of the session, we had a lady named Sylvia return to present information on the LIFE program which helps with the prevention of type II diabetes. She got us to fill out a questionnaire to determine our level of risk as well as have measurements like blood pressure, weight and waist circumference taken by the nurse. We also had Mo talking about the benefits of physical exercise and doing a stretch demonstration as a group as well as getting us to fill out a weekly exercise planner. https://www.lifeprogram.org.au/

I was doing the best that I could to keep a straight face on throughout all of this. I feel like they tried to pack way too many activities in tonight, which I’m sure was not intentional, but I was struggling a lot. My brain was fried by the end of tonight’ session. I think there was a number of factors at play: lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep, heightened anxiety levels, not eating enough before coming, chronic fatigue, feeling pressured to get the sheets filled out and being too much of a people-pleaser. Plus the talk of type II diabetes was a major trigger and very confronting territory for me considering my grandma had a late diagnosis of it. I pretty much refuse to have the same diagnosis.

I’m still getting to know these guys and the level of trust is just not there for me. I still have a very hard time saying no to people and I feel like within this particular group of men, having a different opinion or disagreeing with someone else will ultimately go against you. It’s probably why I was beginning to feel physically ill and uncomfortable because being a “yes” person and being pressured or manipulated by others isn’t in my true nature. It’s very much an issue of self confidence and not being able to stand up for myself.

I’m all for being encouraging, supportive, positive and helping others but not at the expense of being fake. And that’s not me being negative, that’s me being real. There is also an extreme hesitation to speak up and contribute in this group. Mo does his best to encourage it but I feel like this group is just far too large to feel comfortable enough to open up. The select few that do instant get congratulated. The majority who don’t are left on the sidelines. Like many groups I’ve been a part of in the past, I feel like I’m on the outside looking in, struggling to be noticed and included.

By the time I left tonight, I actually felt relieved to be out of the building and back in my car. I think I just had a lot of pent up energy and releasing it around those guys wouldn’t have gone down well at all. I’m still determined to finish off this program but after that, I think the gate will be shut for me. https://www.caseystadium.ymca.org.au/whats-on/upcoming-events/event/men-of-doveton-free-health-program-2/2018/07/30

On Tuesday morning, Mum and I visited IKEA Springvale. I was still feeling pretty worked up about everything that went down at my Men of Doveton session last night. Not only that, but I felt completely overloaded by so many commitments I had going on including work-related changes, getting my approved NDIS plan, preparing myself for my first appointment with Dr. Ricardo (consulting psychiatrist), wanting to participate in a sleep study for autistic adults, going to the gym and small group training classes, counselling sessions with Ruth, applying for jobs and waiting to hear back from them.

Thankfully going to IKEA was the positive distraction that I needed from everything that’s causing my stress and anxiety in my life. I only go there a couple of times a year but I always appreciate all the changes they make to the showrooms and items that they sell in the store. Of course the layout is still bewildering and sensory-overload with so many things to absorb at once. My favourite part will always be the Market Hall downstairs, particularly the kitchen, bathroom, lighting, wall art, flowers, plants and candle sections.

We spent about 2-3 hours just slowly navigating our way through each section, picking up mostly inexpensive homeware items like cushions, glasses, artificial plants and flowers, a lint roller, plastic bag sealers, Christmas ornaments, a bath mat, an apple-shaped candle holder. My energy levels and fatigue were very much being tested today so we decided to skip parts of it and we had to rest at the restaurant.

I’ve always found most of the food here to be pretty bland and average in quality, though I was really pleased to see that they’ve improved their coffee blend. By the time we got there, the cafeteria was packed with the lunchtime crowd and it got a bit much for me. Luckily we found a quiet area to sit down and have our lunch. Of course being IKEA tradition, we also bought a $1 hotdog each after going through the checkouts.

On Tuesday night, I attended a Yin yoga class with Aaron Petty at Level Up Yoga in Berwick. It’s been a month since I last attended a class here with a lot of other commitments taking up my time. There was also many excuses and lies brought on by my relentless, interfering anxiety (Do I really fit in here? I’m too tired to do yoga. I can’t be bothered driving there). It’s true that I’ve also been rather harsh with myself in some of my previous classes when I couldn’t perform a movement correctly or just wasn’t getting it.

Tonight I managed to let all of my unrealistic expectations and inner critic go. Accepting help from others is often a challenge for me as I used to see it as being incapable or not good enough or weak. Same with making mistakes. I had some trouble getting into the Reclining Butterfly pose with my strap getting all tangled up and not quite in the right position. But instead of beating myself up over it or getting embarrassed like I usually do, I actually laughed at myself and accepted that “Yeah, shit happens!”.

It’s good to see that the sense of community spirit is still alive within this yoga studio. I did have some reservations about coming back to Level Up Yoga but not enough to put me off entirely. A lot of it has to do with my perception of how others view me which of course leads to overthinking. This is still something I’m continuing to work on but it’s nice that other students, even ones that I’ve only just met, make the effort to include me at the studio.

That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back. Another is the fact that Aaron is passionate, committed and genuinely invested in his yoga teachings. He challenges everyone in a beneficial way and never puts anyone down. And that’s the kind of environment that I thrive in, one that is encouraging, supportive and nurturing. Where we all help one another no matter what shit we’re going through. https://www.aaronpetty.com/teaching-schedule/

On Thursday afternoon, Mum and I went out to Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre. You wouldn’t have to be a clinical psychologist to figure out that I haven’t been myself lately. After discovering that my counsellor Ruth had to cancel my appointment this afternoon, my mental health seemed to take a downward turn. Paired with my poor sleeping patterns, I was experiencing severe levels of irritability, poor concentration, lack of focus, low motivation, daytime sleepiness, low energy levels and low mood.

Mum was doing her best to manage my manic mood swings, treating me to coffees, a bacon and egg toastie and carrot cake but these didn’t seem to help me much. I was just spewing up a lot of negative crap like a volcanic eruption. I’ve literally been counting down the days until my first appointment with Dr. Ricardo Peralta and get myself a prescription for medication that will help me. I’m not the easiest person to deal with when I’m feeling depressed and worthless like a lifeless zombie. But Mum has always been on my side, even during the darkest of moments and I’m extremely thankful for that.

On Friday morning, Jen Angee, Mum and I went on a car trip to visit the suburbs of Ashwood and Ashburton. It was a beautiful Spring day with a light breeze and plenty of sunshine. Considering how rough this week has been for me, this was exactly what I needed to feel better about myself: Vitamin D and pleasant childhood memories. Jen gave us a history lesson of her old childhood memories growing up in the Ashburton area off High Street Road and Ashwood off Cleveland Street.

Whilst some building have been torn down, demolished, rebuilt or been renovated on, it was pleasing to see that some of the older commission houses and shops still remain in tact. A mixture of brick veneer, cement render and weatherboard with newly built front fences and modern features, they all have a historic charm to them, surviving for many decades and standing the test of time. http://www.victorianplaces.com.au/ashburton

We decided to have a browse at the nearby Op Shop and have lunch and coffee at the Milk Cloud Cafe. Of course the one thing that has changed is the degree of traffic driving down the main street with a few residents walking their dogs, riding their bikes and rushing across the pedestrian crossings. Meanwhile, the three of us were just taking our time, appreciating the many shops and elements in the streetscape. It really made for a great day out. https://www.weekendnotes.com/melbourne/ashburton/

“When I’m on my feet, I can take the heat. But when I get low I prefer the cold. I can be a hard light to ignite. All my nightmares feel like real life. Wait for the explosion. Only to anticipate. Running in slow motion. I can never get away. Sweet paralysation. No one here to keep me safe. Hyperventilation. I’m about to go insane. Wake me up and keep me conscious.” Broods – Conscious (2016)

“No one can make you change who you are. No one can take one beat from your heart. When you’re standing tall. You’re unbreakable. No one can make you bend, you won’t fold. No one can take your shine, you’re all gold. When you’re standing tall. You’re unbreakable.” Birds of Tokyo – Unbreakable (2018)

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​CHVRCHES – LOVE IS DEAD (ALBUM REVIEW)

Chvrches are a three piece synth/electro-pop outfit from Glasgow, Scotland consisting of Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry. They’re one of those bands that I accidentally discovered thanks to a promotion for an episode of Home & Away. They were using their most recent single at the time “Miracle” which boasts a huge production from Steve Mac and uses some dark industrial synth lines mixed with punchy pop hooks in the chorus.

“Love is Dead” marks the band’s third studio album and also the first to experiment with an outside producer, mostly from Greg Kurstin (Sia, Lily Allen, Kelly Clarkson). His style actually matches the production and engineering skills from Doherty and Cook quite well, further pushing their sound more into a mainstream direction whilst keeping themselves grounded with their trademark electronic sound.

Lead vocalist and lyricist Lauren Mayberry adds a more political and religious tone to some of the albums tracks, particularly on Deliverance in which she intones “Careful when you’re swimmin’ in the holy water. Drowning in your own beliefs.” Later on Graves, she throws out some dark sarcasm when she sings “Oh, baby. You can look away. While they’re dancing on our graves. But I will stop at nothing.”

On the flip-side, there are also lighter moments to be found on the single Get Out and album closer Wonderland which is a big highlight for me…”Can’t live forever with my head in the clouds. Can’t predict the weather with my feet on the ground. You tell me that we’ll be alright. But I don’t know if you’re right.”

The National’s vocalist Matt Berninger features on the moody duet with Mayberry on My Enemy. The stark contrast between the vocalists is a little jarring but it gives the track a compelling edge and a striking upbeat chorus. And Chvrches’ own Martin Doherty brings a surprising vocal turn to God’s Plan which borrows elements from 80’s bands like Depeche Mode and New Order to great effect.

Seeing Chvrches exploring a more mainstream path could have ended up being a disaster but thankfully the strong songwriting and musical production helps to rise this album above most of the cliches and generic pop sounds of today’s music. There is also enough variety across these 13 tracks to maintain the listener’s interests for both die-hard fans and casual listeners. 8.5/10

GET OUT…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHUKKrcXfJs

MY ENEMY…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKuxh0E9mSI

NEVER SAY DIE…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifr3O33UpWs

MIRACLE…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1YqueG2gtQ

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 123, September 2018

On Monday afternoon, I had my first official appointment with my new mental health support worker Vadim at The Coffee Club Casey Central. I was having some reservations about this due to the fact that this was a sudden change that I hadn’t mentally adjusted to yet. Thankfully my former support worker Ally was there to make me feel more comfortable and make the transition easier for me.

I guess my issue is that both Vadim and I have very similar personalities and it could get silent very quickly. This is where I love preparing lists of topics to talk about so that I have a backup plan. I was literally compiling my current list at around 11pm last night as I couldn’t sleep as usual, detailing my thoughts and feelings around work, booking myself in to see a psychiatrist, the local gig I attended last Friday night, the Men of Doveton program and an upcoming Trivia Night with the Young Adults Aspergers group.

By the end of the appointment, we were all laughing in hysterics and I unintentionally got myself burned out. The conversation did dive into difficult territory around how I manage myself in social situations as I put a tonne of pressure on myself and overthink about what others expectations are. One of the most important lessons I got out of today is to not judge a book by its cover. I’ve decided to give Vadim a chance and see how things go until the NDIS takes over my support services. https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/mental-health/programs-services/personal-helpers-and-mentors-phams

On Tuesday morning, I attended a HIIT Power Training and Boxing class with Cinamon Guerin at CinFull Fitness. Honestly getting to this class by 9.40am was very much a struggle for me even during the school holidays with no peak hour traffic. I think it comes down to two main factors: lack of sleep and lack of motivation. But like any type of gym session, making the effort to travel there is half the battle for me. There was another four clients in today’s session which I felt comfortable about.

What I didn’t expect from today’s PT session was my internal fears from last year beginning to resurface. Thankfully Cinamon was on the sidelines to give me some encouragement and realistic advice. There’s plenty of complex issues at play when it comes to my fitness journey: how I feel about myself as a person, self-consciousness, body image, comparing myself to others, irrational perceptions of what’s “good enough”, the internal pressure of needing to “keep up” with the others. https://www.self.com/story/strategies-for-gym-anxiety-at-any-size

These are still things I’m continuing to work on however. It doesn’t help when your first experience inside a gym was full of personal trainers and coaches with massively inflated egos, a penchant for competitiveness, constant gym selfies and videos filmed on smart phones and barely any focus on mental health issues. If you couldn’t handle the workouts, then too bad. That was the philosophy and attitude that I got from them. https://www.fitnesseducation.edu.au/blog/health/how-personal-trainers-can-support-and-enhance-mental-health/

Thankfully Cinamon’s philosophy and attitude is the complete opposite of this. She is very compassionate, supportive, safety-conscious and always considers the client’s needs first and foremost. The first half of the session focused on weight lifting and resistance training: med ball slams, back squats, overhead presses, squats and push ups. We also did some deep weighted squats and hip thrusters with the dumbbells. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/hiit-training-for-strength-athletes-do-it-without-losing-gains.html

During the second half, we did some boxing drills in pairs which included jabs, uppercuts and hooks are different speeds and intensities plus 10, 20, 30 reps and runs in between. My boxing technique is getting there. It’s a good thing that I’m a fast learner because it’s really hard work getting the positioning and co-ordination correct sometimes. Thankfully everyone in the group classes are really friendly, understanding and patience particularly when you’re still a beginner. https://www.facebook.com/CinFullFitness/

On Thursday night, I attended the Young Adults Aspergers Peer Support Group held at MS Australia – The Nerve Centre in Blackburn. This month the group leaders put on a trivia night which turned out to be a great idea. I’ve been to many trivia nights in my 32 year lifetime and I pretty much know what can go wrong (making the questions too hard, not giving people enough time to answer the questions, having the night go on way too long, throwing in unnecessary games/auctions/raffles and overly long presentations, having too many people at one table and also in the whole room).

Thankfully the crew at Aspergers Victoria managed to sidestep most of those issues. We got divided into small groups of 3-5 people to a table which was a wise decision. Socially, this is the most relaxed I’ve felt in a very long time. I think that it shows how far I’ve come since joining AV. I getting to know other Aspies and feel comfortable in that space. I’m also learning that it’s okay to not have much to say or to actively listen to conversations.

There was two rounds of questions with categories including technology, computers, video games, fantasy, role playing games, history, music, TV shows, literature, physics, chemistry and public transport. Obviously I really struggled on the “nerdier” topics but there were a few that were dead obvious to me. We also had the challenge of working out 20 different train stations on the 2018 version of the Victorian Train Network. I’ve studied this map a few times (or at least older versions of it) so I could figure out a few station right away. Others I was racking my brain over.

The night was hosted by a guy named Phil. I actually felt a lot of empathy for him especially when he was having difficulty pronouncing some of the words in the questions and answers. It was also a challenge speaking over the loud conversations that continued to happen in the room. At least the leaders were keeping things in check tonight as things can easily go off on a tangent and not be focused back on what we’re supposed to be doing.

But overall, it was a really enjoyable night. We even got spoiled with a large selection of pizzas for dinner. At just under 2 hours, it was also the right length as my concentration and interest levels tend to dip after that point. I’ll never know why people think it’s necessary to have trivia nights run for 4-5 hours. It’s beyond ridiculous. I personality think a couple of hours is more than enough, otherwise it becomes a very long and tiring night. https://aspergersvic.org.au/young-adults

“Ask for forever when the end is in sight. Showing what you want to. We’re looking for the light in an ocean of night. But will we ever see it through? And I need you to know I’m not asking for a miracle. But if love is enough, could you let it show? If you feel it could you let me know?” CHVRCHES – Miracle (2018)

“Is it alright if I save myself and if I clean up my own mess. Is it enough, yeah? Is it enough? ‘Cause I’ve had enough. Do you ever wonder what we learned? We can raise our glasses, dancing on the ashes as it burns. Have you reached the point of no return?”           CHVRCHES – Heaven/Hell (2018)

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​MR. MERCEDES: SEASON 1, EPISODE 4, GODS WHO FALL (TV SHOW REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Gods Who Fall is perhaps that most intense and exciting episodes of Mr. Mercedes so far. We open with the disgruntled customer Ryan Springhill (Dave MacDonald) complaining about his laptop blowing up and generally being a mean arsehole to Lou Linklatter (Breeda Wool) at Supreme Electronix. Robi (Robert Stanton) quickly steps in and offers his exceptional customer service by repairing the laptop overnight.

Of course, behind the scenes, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) has been playing God down in the basement, hacking into Springhill’s laptop and frying the motherboard. Meanwhile, Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) discovers yet another clue in the Mr. Mercedes case thanks to a suggestion from Jerome Robinson (Jharrel Jerome). Could Olivia Trelawney (Ann Cusack) have had a spare keyless entry remote stashed away in her glove box?

The relationship between Hodges and Janey Pattterson (Mary Louise Parker) continues to deepen and intensify as they hang out at the local saloon bar before returning to Hodge’s home in a drunken state. Lastly we get a greater insight into Deborah Hartsfield (Kelly Lynch) from her high school days as a cheerleader to the unexpected death of her son Gerald (Graeme Buffenbarger) and the toxic relationship with her deceased husband Norman (Travis Sullivan).

Deborah’s drinking continues to worsen and it’s clear that she’s using the alcohol as a crutch to cope with the deaths of both her husband and her son. She begins to hallucinate a young Gerald playing with a toy fire engine moments before choking on the piece of toast and catches Brady red-handed letting him die in the basement.

Phew! As you can tell, this episode directed by Jack Bender is very full on with a lot of events and storylines to process but Bender does it all with panache, even building upon the original novel at times. The climax involving Brady and Ryan Springhill is really worth watching, even though you can probably guess what happens.

This episode also shows how much of a complex individual Brady Hartsfield truly is from aggressive and psychotic to lonely, depressed and compassionate. He is more than just a one-dimensional psycho murderer and it’s good to see the screenwriters (David E.Kelley, Denis Lehane) reflecting that and honouring Stephen King’s source material. 9.5/10

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​PADDINGTON 2 (FILM REVIEW) *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Based upon the characters and Paddington Bear children’s books created by Michael Bond, this second live action adaptation blew all of my expectations out of the water. I really didn’t know much about this going in besides the character of Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) wearing his trademark blue raincoat, red bonnet hat and loves eating marmalade sandwiches.

The film is set in the London district of Windsor Gardens where Paddington lives with the Brown family. After stumbling upon a pop-up book featured in Mr. Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) shop, Paddington is determined to earn enough money to buy it for his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton)’s birthday. He tries his hand at working several odd jobs but sadly ends up messing things up and falling in a heap.

But an opportunity arises at a local fairground in which Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) puts on a staged performance. Things quickly go pear shaped when Paddington gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit and it comes down to the Brown family as well as a few of the prison inmates to prove his innocence.

Directed by Paul King, Paddington 2 mixed live-action sequences with storyboard animation, fantasy, comedy and musical themes. There are a boat load of cameo appearances from many talented English actors including Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd), Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) and Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

King and co-writer Simon Farnaby also cleverly wire together references to familiar classics including The Great Escape, Harry Houdini, the Master of Disguise and Singing In The Rain just to name a few. Of course some of action sequences do defy belief but these can easily be forgiven in the context of this story.

Be prepared to have a tissue box handy as Paddington 2 is loaded with many sentimental and hysterically funny moments. It is a hit for both kids and adults a like. 9/10

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​A NIGHT IN TEXAS w/ Resist The Thought, Iconoclast, Ame Noire & Munt666 @ The Workers Club, September 2018

I’ve calculated that it’s been around 6 weeks since I last attended a local gig. I can attribute this to a number of factors: life getting in the way, jugging other commitments, my mental health deteriorating, lack of sleep and energy, lack of money, the fact that most gigs these days are located around the inner suburbs of Melbourne. And yet there’s still a part of me that misses going out to shows and bumping into friends and band mates.

Social isolation is such a toxic, unhealthy thing to experience and it doesn’t help when you throw Autism Spectrum Disorder and the fact that most of my friends are busy into the mix. I still have a huge craving for social interaction and company with like-minded individuals, that is with a common interest in music. To find a sense of belonging. And I also miss watching bands playing live on stage. So all of this was enough to motivate me to attend this gig at The Workers Club tonight.

Of course with the AFL Preliminary Finals on tonight, the front bar of the venue was pretty busy. Luckily, I ended up bumping into the boys from RESIST THE THOUGHT and they kindly offered me to sit with them. I ordered my usual Workers parma with a pint of Old Mate pale ale. I felt really comfortable hanging out with these guys. Social situations will inevitably always be a challenge for me but a challenge can always be risen to and beaten.

The large flat screens showed a live telecast of the game between Richmond and Collingwood with the national anthem being sung followed by the first bounce. As I’ve stated in earlier blogs, I’m really not a passionate footy supporter even though my family does barrack for the tigers. I just can’t get into the sport no matter how hard I’ve tried. My focus was on enjoying my night and seeing a few bands play.

It didn’t take long for the band room to start filling up with payers. There was probably around 40 or so people over the course of the night which is relatively decent considering it was a footy night. I bumped into a few friends and band mates including Chris GreberUrsula KurasikElgin Huang JialeToby ThomasAlex HillTimothy James RichmondHeath Ese KongasDan Beech and Rondre Threethousand.

Naturally my anxiety decided to be an interfering little biatch and I began hesitating again when it comes to putting myself out there socially. Thoughts swung between “Well, I can tell they’re busy. I don’t want to interrupt them.” and “Oh god! I really have no idea what to say if I went over there.” But this pretty much happens in any social situation I’m in. Still I made a few attempts and felt good that I was hitting the reset button. Even though I do get flustered and overwhelmed at times, I’m better able to control it and not let it ruin my night.

MUNT666 are a Melbourne-based Black Grinding Death Metal band. I’ve known the vocalist Timothy James Richmond for a while now from this band The Seraphim Veil as well as bassist Rondre Threethousand from Overpower. The boys managed to put on an impressive opening set with intense beat down sections, piercing screams and hair windmills. They really managed to set it off and get a few members of the crowd involved too. Be sure to check out their latest single Seeds of the Machine here: https://muntgrind.bandcamp.com/

AME NOIRE are a Melbourne-based Melancholic Death Metal band who always put on a wildly entertaining live performance. The boys were pulling out all the stops with loads of chugging guitar riffs and powerful growling vocals. Lead vocalist Alex Hill has a talent for pulling off the most terrifying death metal facial expressions, showing the whites of the eyes and dropping some druel out his mouth. Similarly, bassist Toby Thomas is highly animated and puts in plenty of energy into his vocal performance. Their debut EP The Tree That Bears Rotten Fruit is available here: https://amenoire.bandcamp.com/album/the-tree-that-bears-rotten-fruit

ICONOCLAST are a Perth-based Heavy Groove Metal band. It’s been a couple of years since I last heard from these guys and now they’re back with Bailey Schembri (vocalist of Bury The Kings) filling in on vocals. Bailey is always bringing his A-game to live performances with gripping brutal lows and dark menacing screams. There was plenty of heavy breakdowns, low-tuned guitars and an intense mosh pit happening during their set. You can listen to their new single In Ashes here: https://iconoclastau.bandcamp.com/track/in-ashes

RESIST THE THOUGHT are a Sydney-based Heavy Melodic Death Metal band who I sadly missed the last time they were out touring in Melbourne. And so tonight I was determined to stick around for them and I was really glad that I did. After a six year break from the local music scene, the boys have returned stronger than ever before. There were loads of massive breakdowns, tight guitar riffs and brutal screams to be heard during their set with some friendly banter in between songs. Be sure to check out their new single Awakened Salvation via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/awakened-salvation/1434603266?i=1434603826

A NIGHT IN TEXAS are a five piece Technical Deathcore band based in Brisbane. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for their set but make sure you check out their most recent single Scorched Earth here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4PxW4iEbfk

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