I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t been posting very much here during November. I posted about this on our social media about a week ago, but it’s just as relevant for here on the blog, so I feel I should write about it here as well. Plus this also gives me an opportunity to elaborate further on my thoughts.
To begin with, here’s what I wrote about this on our fb and instagram (with a couple of minor edits):
It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. I’ve got plenty of things I could have posted about (and I’ll still post about some of them in due course). But I’ve been questioning my priorities a lot since the start of this month, and in that process, posting things online has lost out. But am I getting the balance right…?
There was an incident on 1 November that triggered this episode of questioning myself and what I’m doing with my time (which is essentially OUR time as Penguin is pretty much always in my company). We were supposed to have a great day out, but one thing after another went wrong, and we ended up with a situation where Penguin had a reaction of ’fight or flight’ and my trying to contain him meant my hand got squashed up against a fence. Just an accident really, but the whole situation was somewhat traumatic, and the physical pain added to the general upset I felt about it all.
It made me think and it made me question choices on every level. It made me want to change things, yet not sure in what ways. And I guess I got somewhat paralysed by overthinking, overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. Or if I should even make any changes at all? I mean, most of the time things are great, so perhaps I should just shake my insecureties off and carry on?
I’ve also been following instagram posts in the #necessaryinnovember challenge set by the lovely Gina of @andbreathe_challenges. The thought behind it is basically to simplify and make life less demanding in various ways, by asking yourself ’is it necessary?’. And also, to sort out what things that are actually necessary beyond the basic things we need to survive. What is necessary to make life feel good and worthwhile..? And my current state of mind has (again) led to me thinking and overthinking…
I guess this period of thinking about the balance (or lack thereof) in our lives has been a good thing. Maybe even necessary. But now I’ve come to a point where it’s making me feel frustrated about the imbalance between thinking and doing. I’m still confused as to where my priorities should be, and I still don’t know where to start, with those changes I may or may not want to make… So all in all, none the wiser really!
One thing I did figure out though, is that I don’t want to step away from social media. I’d like to use it more efficiently, so that it takes up less of my/our time, but I wouldn’t want to give it up. The connections I’ve made (some of which I now call friendships), on social media and through this blog, mean a lot to me. YOU, who have made the effort to read my ramblings here, mean a lot to me.
When it comes to being balanced, well… maybe it’s just not me? I mean, I’ve just written a super long post when all I really wanted to say was ”I’ve been in a bit of a slump, but now we’re back. Hello, again”.
I’ve had many very lovely, understanding and supportive responses on this, in comments and messages on both fb and instagram. But I’ve also had a couple of responses which made me realise that I might not have expressed myself clearly enough. And although my post was very long for a social media post, I still left a lot out, in a feeble attempt to keep myself short(er). I said I’d been thinking about possible changes, but I didn’t really go into what kind of changes those might be. And I talked about finding some kind of balance, but was very vague on the components of that balancing act.
So I’d now like to add some more detailed thoughts, and I’m hoping that putting these ponderings into writing might make them a little clearer for myself, too. Perhaps…
As I already mentioned, the event that made me think (more than I already did anyway) about what we do with our time etc was centered around Penguin, and so were the majority of the thoughts that followed. What I wrote in my post might have come across (to some) as if I was feeling unhappy or unsatisfied with my life, on a personal level. But what I’d needed time to consider was more about if we could be supporting Penguin and his development in better ways.
I’ve tried to think of ways of structuring the rest of this post, but I think all I can do right now is to empty my jumbled mess of thoughts out onto the page here. So, here we go:
I’ve been thinking about all the different things we do/have done/could do, when it comes to helping Penguin be as happy and confident, healthy, safe and as independent as possible. In the situation I mentioned in my post, he got stressed and anxious, and acted out of strong fear, panicking. Some days will go to pot however well prepared we are, right? But, what if…
What if Penguin would have coped better that day if he’d been more relaxed and rested at the start of it all. His sleeping patterns could be a lot better, and maybe I should put more effort into improving that aspect. He could have epsom salt baths like he used to for a while, a few years ago. The body absorbs magnesium from epsom salts, and that can help our nerves and muscles to relax, improving the odds for a restful sleep. Maybe there are other nutritional aspects to consider? An upset stomach could affect sleep negatively, and it’s certainly something which has played part previously in Penguin’s life. And what about mindfulness strategies, or yoga, or essential oils? We’ve tried some of these, and frankincense has been one oil that has seemed to have a relaxing effect on our boy.
And what about communication? Perhaps he could have coped better in that recent situation if our communication had been better. If he’d been better able to reason with us using some form of communication other than behaviour. And if we’d prepared him better with visual supports etc, so that he knew more clearly what to expect, would that have helped?
Were there sensory aspects that contributed to his levels of stress that day? Proprioceptive sensory input can be calming, and one way of getting that is through chewing. Penguin had some Polos to chew on, but what if he’d had some kind of ‘chewy’ on the way there, perhaps he would have felt more relaxed on arrival? Maybe there are other sensory needs that could be better met..?
What about the balance between time alone and time spent in more social contexts? Are we getting that balance right? And what about screentime versus ‘green time’? Spending time in front of a screen is something Penguin enjoys, it helps him feel in control, safe and comfortable, and he’s also learnt a good few things from his screentime. We like the outdoors to, and spend a fair amount of time out and about, so I think we’re okay in that respect… maybe? But when we’re at home and I go online (often to share about what we’ve been up to), he’ll be on a screen too for most of that time.
And so on… Many of these things relate to things we already do (such as work on communication in various ways), and some to things we’ve had more of before, like the epsom salt baths as well as chewies and a somewhat more gut-friendly diet.
Central to all of these aspects is stress, in one form or another. I’ve mentioned before about how I’ve come to understand the huge impact of stress on Penguin much better since we started home educating, as I’ve been able to see significant positive effects of cutting a lot of stress out. And I’ve also said before about the studies having shown that stress levels in autistic people are generally on a constantly higher level, meaning it takes less to reach a critical point of ‘blowing up’ in one way or another.
But, would changing things mean less stress… or more??
A few weeks ago I wrote a post on change, and the stresses it can bring. So, if we’d make changes to our bedtime routine (with the intention to improve it), would that be helpful or stressful? If we attempt dietary changes, would the removal of familiar food and comforting treats cause more worry, rather than calm? I don’t want him to go off food and get underweight again like when he was younger. Should we try to fit MORE into our days, like more music, more art, more swimming and/or other physical exercise, maybe try horse-riding again (if he could cope with wearing a helmet). Or will we end up with not enough down-time, if adding more activities which might help with stress management etc?
Learning wise, are we focusing on the right things? We can’t do more of EVERYTHING, as that would be overwhelming (for us both, I think!), and fragmented as well. And Penguin really needs to feel motivated in our learning activities, or they become impossible for him to do, leading to anxiety, frustration and upset. But even if we can’t do everything, perhaps we could still do more, than now? Could Penguin work more independently with learning activities if we got the hang of using the TEACCH method? Should we focus more time and effort on literacy? And what about future work/income opportunities? I’m not comfortable with relying too heavily on benefits for the rest of our lives… Could we perhaps work from home together, in some way? Or should our aim be to set up a pizza parlour one day, or…??
So you see, there have been a mishmash of thoughts swirling around in my mind this month. But in the past ten days or so, things have started to feel a little calmer in this head of mine, and I’m increasingly getting on with DOING things again rather than spending almost all my time and energy on thinking and overthinking about this and that.
November has, as you can probably tell, been a bit of a tricky month for me, but now that it’s coming to its conclusion, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. I think the excitement of October, which was a fairly eventful month for us, was bound to leave me more or less overwhelmed. Taking a step back and allowing more time for thoughts this month has probably been a good thing, and I feel that we’re in a pretty good place now, ready for December to begin.
Thank you so much for reading! As always, any thoughts or comments you may have are very welcome below x