Aspergers and Peri-peri-menopause

Does having Asperger’s make coping with perimenopause and menopause harder or are we already monitoring ourselves closely and notice the symptoms earlier? Does this help? Or is there no difference? I find it difficult to tell the difference between perimenopause, Aspergers, introversion and depression sometimes. There are overlaps and I suppose we are all different and coping as best we can.  I don’t have the answers. I have lots of questions.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning. It was a night sweat. My brain was instantly switched to awake mode and I searched on my iPad for “Aspergers and Menopause.” Most women first think they have menopause but in fact it is perimenopause. Perimenopause comes before menopause and it is the time of irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and irritability. Menopause comes afterwards when the periods have stopped and the hormones are still adjusting to the change in our bodies. For some it begins somewhere in the forties, and ends many years later. Some people have all the symptoms and it disrupts their lives enormously. Others discover that they have already passed menopause without noticing. Lucky them!

Time and time again exercise is mentioned. I am a reluctant exerciser. I don’t know why I have become this way. I used to be so active. Now I have to force myself to leave the house and walk. I have a Fitbit Zip tracker that is a pedometer that automatically syncs with my iPhone or computer. I clip it onto the top of my bra and forget about it. I can see how far I walk. I can record what I eat, how much liquid I drink and other activities as well. It helps me monitor how much or how little I have done at the end of the day. It can sync with bathroom scales Aria but I have never really liked standing on scales. I prefer to go by the fit of my clothing. I think that is a healthier way of measuring weight.

So why did I mention exercise? Movement reduces menopause symptoms. Hearing that is giving me the motivation to reduce symptoms of perimenopause. I don’t enjoy night sweats. They wake me up and break my sleep. Hot flashes are weird as you can feel the heat surging like a wave over your body. The mood swings and irritability I can obviously do without. And the sooner I finish periods the better. I can’t wait for it all to be over.

Good Health
Exercise, eating well and getting a good night’s sleep are the basic fundamentals of giving your body what it needs. Why then do we squirm and perform not to do the right thing? Why is it easier to chose the couch over a jog? An ice cream over an apple? A late night film watching marathon over an early night? Guilt gets squashed in the rush from the couch to the refrigerator to get to the ice cream before the next episode starts. Guilt is not good enough motivation to do the right thing. Perfectionism to always do the right thing creates order but why is it that we prefer chaos? To want to mix it up a little? Is it boredom we resist?

Chaos is when mood swings are in full force and the rest of the family hides behind the couch. For this reason alone I try to veer towards order. Order is better for me. I know that. So to reduce the chaos if I eat better, get off the chair more often and get a reasonable night’s sleep the majority of the time that is improvement, not perfection. I do not strive for perfection but a happier life. If I can have a grace day once a week when I throw the idea out the window then that’s okay too. My husband has that right too. So all up we have two possible grace days a week to kick back and blob. They could be any day of the week. Flexible. I cannot write on the calendar that Tuesday next week will be my grace day as I predict a mood swing, it doesn’t happen like that. I hope that I don’t need four grace days a week but again nothing should be hard and fast. A rigid structure but with the ability to be flexible at the same time.

Caffeine Free
One change I have done recently is to remove caffeine from my diet. I have had one month free of caffeine, no lattes, no black or green tea, no masala chai. Nada. It has improved my mood/energy levels. It makes a noticeable difference. Just ask my husband. It is suggested that caffeine, alcohol and sugar affect perimenopause and menopause and reducing or eliminating them from your diet will improve your adjustment as your hormones change. I tackled the easiest one first, caffeine. It worked for me. Next up alcohol. I will leave the most difficult, sugar till last.

On my search online I came across the Ladycare menopause magnet. This is a magnet that you put in your underwear, just below the belly button. Through the power of magnetism it stays on. The product is made of two parts and the fabric of your underwear is between the button on the outside and the triangular part on the inside. Women who have tried it say that hard exercise doesn’t cause the magnet to fall off. It stays in place. You can wear it all day. Anyway the reason I am mentioning the magnets is that women state that their night sweats disappear, the mood swings occur less frequently and period pain is reduced.

A double blind placebo-based study was carried out on dysmenorrhea (period pain).  Many women say that they have had instant results, others it took a few weeks, and for others longer. For some no change I suppose. Some said that when they forgot to take it away the symptoms returned. Bloating around the stomach region was reduced for some too. Has anyone tried this magnet? I am tempted to try it for myself. What do I have to lose apart from the money? The cost is about £25, US$52 or NZ$65. However if I wear the magnet will my hard drive on my laptop die or will my credit cards still work if they come near the magnet?   I use a computer a lot so I wonder if it is worth the chance that I may wipe my data. I think I have convinced myself that it’s not for me. Losing data equates to losing original work. Not worth it. I’d rather give up sugar in my diet.
Amusingly some women mention getting stuck to supermarket trolleys and filing cabinets.

I prefer not to take pills if I can help it. I prefer to avoid possible side effects. Hormone Replacement Therapy or birth control pills(supposed to aid some in reducing perimenopause/menopause symptoms) are not for me. I suppose my symptoms are not as severe as others. Progesterone creams help relieve others. I would rather first try and improve my lifestyle and make a permanent change for the better. This will not happen overnight. I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not looking for shortcuts.

For night sweats/hot flashes some women have a positive experience taking the SSRI Fluoxetine. For some women they stop completely. I am one of the lucky ones. It did take a couple of weeks to work. Had insomnia during the first two weeks but completely worth it to be rid of the sweats. Not everyone is successful with this but worth asking your doctor about.

Update: I used my exercise bike for 20 minutes today while listening to music and checking the news. That makes five times this week. I felt better for it. Whether that is beating the guilt or just physically feeling better, I don’t know but tomorrow will be easier. Sometimes just the thought of starting something is the hardest part.

Time to move!

*I do not profit from mentioning Fitbit or Ladycare products.

Read more on perimenopause, night sweats and hot flushes

I wet the bed said Ned in his head

It is quite normal for children to wet the bed until six or seven years old. I wet the bed until I was twelve. I was beginning to think I would still be wetting the bed in high school. Luckily I stopped just before then. How did I stop? I have no idea. I just did. There was no miracle cure or treatment. It just happened.

No matter how hard you try to not wet the bed you just cannot help it. I tried with the power of thought. I went to bed with an empty bladder but somehow in the middle of the night I would wet the bed. I would wake up disappointed and a feeling of shame.

My parents were saints. They never got angry but I’m sure they were worried. The amount of extra sheet washing that happened must have been horrendous. I had hospital tests to see if there was a physical problem. There wasn’t. We had a night light down the hall to encourage me to get up and go to the toilet in the middle of the night. That didn’t help either.

It didn’t bother me that I slept in wet sheets. What I mean is that I would sleep until morning in a wet bed. In the morning I would realise that I had wet the bed. I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night while wetting the bed. It happened so often it didn’t phase me.

Hear bed wetting and some people jump to conclusions and associate it with physical or sexual abuse. Usually it is just developmental delay. I was a slow learner.

I slept with a plastic sheet between my sheet and the mattress. The sound was terrible with any movement. I put up with it because I knew of the effort my parents went to protect the mattress. It was already ruined though. I suppose they didn’t want me sleeping in my own urine soaked mattress. My thick plastic sheet even went on trips to stay with my grandparents with parents in tow.

School camps or overnight trips I had to avoid so I didn’t have the chance of other children knowing that I wet the bed. I sidestepped the chance of humiliation and embarrassment. The camp I did get to go on my mother came too as a helper. I didn’t wet the bed that camp. I was just lucky. Instead I gave myself a split lip jumping on a trampoline and received a tetanus shot.

Sleepovers at other people’s house were a no-no. Again I didn’t want to ruin other people’s mattresses nor did I want to embarrass myself. It was a shameful secret. The time I was allowed to go I went with my plastic sheet. This must have been when I was eleven or so and I wasn’t wetting the bed every night. We thought we would chance it. My friend’s mother wasn’t told beforehand. I put the plastic sheet on the bed when my friend went to sleep. It made a lot of noise and woke her mother. She wondered what the crackling noise was. I plead ignorance. The next morning I had wet the bed and I called home very early and woke my parents and they came and got me. They talked with my friend’s mother. I was embarrassed because I had wet the bed and because we hadn’t warned my friend’s mother of my problem. She never told the other kids at school. I am grateful for that.

Going to bed at night wasn’t easy for me as a child. All I wished for was a dry bed the next morning. I spent so much anxiety and worry over bed wetting, something that I really had no control over. If there was someone or someone’s child in the same unfortunate boat as me I would say, it will pass. There is no point in getting angry, worried or embarrassed. I would however try and find a rubber sheet instead of a plastic sheet.  That might have reduced the bed wetting or at least given me a better night’s sleep. I am just pleased that bed wetting is being talked about and shared. In my day it was just a shameful, lonely, dirty secret. Today I feel free of the stigma.

It is a common problem with some children with Asperger’s. Just search bed wetting and Asperger’s and there are millions of  results.


Walking in my shoes

Growing up we were encouraged to be outgoing, sharing, active and out spoken. School reports were glowing if we held those traits and so I blindly tried to copy what the expected norm was. I realise now why I felt school was so difficult with the social side. I was trying to be anything but me. On personality tests , aptitude tests or even job suggestion guidelines I would answer not how I felt but how I thought I should answer to be part of the norm. I was so good at disguising myself I couldn’t see myself anywhere. No wonder it was difficult to fit in, I was too busy trying to be someone else. Who that person was I have no idea. She didn’t know either.

Primary school(5 years) was paradise. No one thought about who played with who or who spoke to who. We spoke to everyone. It was full of swimming, learning, projects, running and singing. But I did have one teacher who told me I was “a little worrier.” That comment has always floated around in my head. Maybe it was the way he said it. I didn’t like it. Yes he was spot on with his assessment. I do worry about the stupidest things even now but an eight year old doesn’t need to be told that. At eight years old we shouldn’t know about worry. I fixated on the word, worry. He probably never thought much about what he said but I have never forgotten. Words spoken have a power.

At intermediate school(2 years) I had the most wonderful teacher and he just encouraged imagination, thought and knowledge seeking. He was my favourite teacher. Learning was exciting. However on the social front I didn’t fit in with the other students but I did my best. I began to see the social cliques being formed and rules being played. It wasn’t something I wanted to follow. I would rather not play at all. Honesty I learnt wasn’t something to be shared with others. I failed one of my first tests in social behaviour. I learnt to keep my mouth shut and say nothing.

I never really enjoyed high school (5 years) unless I was playing sport. This is the time when social skills are learnt and groups are formed.  My so called best friend was not really what I would call a friend. I tagged along where ever I could. I was a tag along. I copied her and was there but I didn’t really understand friendship. I don’t think I shared my thoughts. I listened to her ideas. I preferred this to being alone. This worked out fine until she found a real friend for her. I was then discarded. We only happened to be on the same bicycle route to school. That was really all we had in common. She had a boyfriend. I didn’t. She had braces. I didn’t. She had confidence. I didn’t. I joined another group for lunch. I didn’t want to eat alone. I craved friendship but never knew what to say.

It wasn’t until university that I found people I could relate to and that brought relief of a kind. But again I was following a suggestion of others on what to study. I looked at study as a means to get a job rather than choosing something that would be fun. I chose useful over interest. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy what I studied but if I went back today I probably would have taken a different path. I took practical science and mathematics classes because that came easily to me and there were no essays to write. I kid you not. I didn’t enjoy writing and found it difficult to give an opinion on anything. I suppose part of the reason was that I didn’t know much then. I didn’t read much outside of required reading and I wasn’t interested in the news or anything outside of what I was doing. I lived in a bubble. I didn’t have an opinion then. Oh so much has changed on that front.

All through my schooling I played sport. Without that I would be climbing the walls. I had so much energy. I ran or skipped. I never walked. I think this is perhaps why I couldn’t read. I couldn’t sit still. Not sure about that even today. I am thankful to the endless walking, running and cycling that I did in my early years. Without that I wouldn’t feel quite so complacent about the lack of exercise that I do now. I believe that I have stored my reserves and that I can have a bit of a rest. Sorting out the mind first. But in order to do that I need to keep the body working so I am doing a little bit of exercise. In fact I’m doing both.

Reading for me is a lifeline to sanity. To feed the mind with knowledge is like eating. Something I need to do or I would die. I cannot do without reading. I cannot believe that I had gap years from reading but finding my way back to books has made me stronger and more able to cope in this world. My desire to learn is stronger now than when I was at university. I have a passion for reading. Our library makes me feel like I am in a house full of authors, characters, mentors and friends. It is a comforting feeling. I make use of the city library too. At the click of a key I can request books online from home and collect them when they arrive at the local branch. I select my books differently from when I was a child. I don’t mind the change. Occasionally I will pick a random book off the shelf and check it out. It is always nice to be pleasantly surprised by a new author or a new opinion.

I am only now beginning to understand who I am and where I am comfortable after all these years. I have withdrawn from family and friends by choice. I am physically far from the people I know but that gives me my space. And I realise that I need a lot. My closest friend is an eleven hour flight away. I wish we were closer. The rest of my few friends I neglect. I find it difficult to hold onto friends. I don’t have any friends from childhood left. I moved away, my interests were different, we had nothing to talk about. Some friendships naturally die and that is a part of life, other relationships die because of laziness or neglect or a fear of sharing too much. One friend said that when we first met she thought I was standoffish. But she confused that with my shyness or reservedness. It was nice that she felt comfortable telling me later.

I am never clear of the boundaries of friendship because I want to treat a new friend like a new toy and want to play with them all day. But that is not appropriate. I don’t know why not. But I do know it’s not the right way but I just want to share my enthusiasm. I haven’t had a new friend in a while. I need to go back and rekindle the chosen friendships that I want to pursue and make more of an effort. I think I may give off the impression that I’m not interested but in fact I really am. It might be just the way I act. Nothing is further from the truth. Perhaps I try to hide the enthusiasm and end up hiding it completely. I don’t want to scare people away. It feels like yesterday even though it has been a year since last seeing a good friend. For something to last you need to take care of it and cherish it and it will grow into something lasting. I wonder if someone will like me if they get to know the real me. I always keep back a part of me so I don’t get hurt. Relationships take time and living with my husband who is also my best friend, even now after twenty years there is always something new to learn from each other. For that I am thankful everyday.

I feel like I am rebuilding myself and through understanding myself truly for the first time walking in my shoes and I like the fit. I just have to get used to my style, my gait. In my own time I will show friends the new me.

Annah Mac- Girl in Stilettos

The Cat Came Back

Winston Churchill named depression as the black dog. I don’t particularly like dogs so I chose to name depression the black cat. I also reserve the right to change my mind and call it something else at a later date. Forget superstition and black cats here. I chose to name it the black cat for the reason that I like cats and I want to label depression something that is manageable. Sure cats can’t be trained like a dog but it lives with you as a house guest just the same. I think Winston Churchill name depression as the black dog rather than a monster or an enemy army because he wanted to chose something that he could control. Plus he simply liked dogs. If you allow depression to be labelled something bigger then it takes on its own power and cannot be tamed. I think we all realise that depression cannot be cured it. It however can be tamed. Once got, depression will keep coming back as if it never left. So in actuality it never leaves but is always present.

How we deal with depression makes it easier to to recognise the signs when depression tries to take over our lives the next time. Being prepared and gaining self knowledge is key to recognise the symptoms before they get out of hand. When we are in the midst of depression we feel we cannot get out. To those who advise with the words, “get outside and go for a run.” “Get over it!” or “Snap out of it!” Those people have never been depressed and don’t realise that the action of getting out of bed is an effort. Having a shower or bath is an effort. So to suggest to someone to go and exercise is beyond the realm of function. In reality we know that to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy and to exercise is good for the mind and body. We do know all that. We aren’t stupid. That is not at the heart of depression. That is what makes it harder. We know what we are doing is irrational. Well not always. We know that depression is inside our heads. It is the mind that is playing tricks on us. It is us. We are our own worst enemy. When written related to depression it is so true. We don’t need anyone else to dump blame or guilt. We do a real good job ourselves. We don’t need anyone else to tell how low we feel. We know and magnify it to ridiculous lengths as to how bad we are. Hearing it in our heads over and over, makes it so we believe it, no matter how crazy the idea, we hear it so many times that we start to believe it to be so. Here in lies the deception of self. We do it to ourselves. We no longer can distinguish between crazy thoughts and rational thoughts. When we are thinking clearly the distinction is obvious. To those who are depressed we cannot tell the difference. Am I flying upside down or not? To the clear headed thinker, even the question is a little out there. To the illogical thinker the question receives as much care and attention as a rational question. The ability to distinguish diminishes. The self doubt increases. We no longer feel comfortable in decision making. Confidence is lost.

Sometimes letting go or giving up can be the strongest thing to do. Why should we be strong all the time? What purpose does it fulfill? Perfectionism again is goal that can never be reached and yet we still try to obtain this impossibility. We crash and burn so many times and we wonder why we cannot obtain it. Life is not a point in time, it is a continuum. We cannot possibly maintain this desire to perfectionism and not run out of energy. Rest is required whether we want it or not. It is necessary. We need sleep. We need rest too. Doing nothing at times in our life is necessary. It is a form of rest. Allowing rest to be a part of our lives, gives us space to breathe. Rest allows us the chance to indulge in silliness, the lighter side of life. And through silliness we allow ideas to form that may not have happened if we were always trying too hard. Rest is just as important as Play.

Switching off the voices inside your head, you know the ones that tell you negative thoughts, you can’t switch them off. But you can drown them out with the other thoughts of good things and positive things. We get distracted at times and listen to the wrong ones. Go too far and you start hearing “too big for your boots” comments. Proportion. Balance.

Felicity Groom – Siren Song