8 min read

The stormy road of doing the right thing

Being confused isn't good for me. [issue 40]
The stormy road of doing the right thing

hello friend

How are you? It's been a hot and stormy week. As I write this I have the window open and a fan on. There's a 4pm deadline for me because that is when the sun pours in through the window and I melt.

I've swam in the lake twice this week and will tomorrow. I love it. My wife has been converted to this lifestyle and it's like being back in Croatia, if you ignore the 1 person outdoor spin class blaring generic bass music over the sea front.

Hope you're doing ok ^_^


photography

This week saw multiple storms. Each unique and fascinating to watch. The most violent of them was impossible to capture with my camera. I tried. The rain stopped but the lightning kept on lighting up the sky. I got my camera gear together and set out to capture the sky and the lightning. I failed. The sky flashed blue but the cloud was too dense to capture any bolts. A spectacle to watch and I'm glad I saw it even if I didn't get any good photos.

The following day there was another storm brewing. Everything went a shade of yellow. Our front room. Our kitchen. The road. The sky. The was an occasional rumble in the distance and I checked my lightning tracker app to find it unresponsive due to the amount of activity in the area. "Great Scott!" I thought. Even though it wasn't dark yet the colour in the sky was surreal. I didn't want to miss this.

I grabbed my camera and headed to the promenade to see what was going on. It was eerie and beautiful.


autism / mental health

Last week I visited a museum. It was the first place I've been to that wasn't a shop in months. We had to use public transport, Mersey Ferry, to get there and after the museum trip went to a cafe for lunch. It was 90% fine. The cafe was lovely. My wife and I's first sit down meal out in months. A bacon butty and amazing mocha. I felt for them having to do their own contact tracing which they wouldn't need to do if the government followed the Italian model and built an open source app on the Apple / Google framework. The museum was ticketed which limited the numbers in the exhibition. I spent 2 hours there and felt safe.

The ferry ride made me anxious. While they limited the numbers there was no quiet area to go to. If you thought you had found one someone would come and stand next to you. This happened and I nearly jumped overboard causing the man to look at me like I had seen Hitler naked on a cold day. "It's a global pandemic killing thousands!!!!" I shout with my inner voice while imagining I'm waving my arms like one of those car shop inflatables. It is open air but the announcement does say to wear a mask and maintain social distancing procedures. Getting on / off was problematic because if you social distanced from the person in front it was likely that the person behind would stand close to you. Tense.

This trip out led me to read the government guidelines on how to behave in the public realm. I read those and googled for more clarification on issues. I searched for examples, tweets, and articles in the hope I could find clarity. It led to further confusion. I talked with friends which resulted in confusion.

After a week of doing this I've concluded a few things.

  1. I may have gone mad. rageanxiety
  2. I haven't gone mad. Have I?
  3. No, I don't think so.
  4. Phew.
  5. But you are talking to yourself via a list.
  6. This is fine.

There has been an element of that. The mental back and forth of am I over-reacting here or not? Should I be looking to buy an hazmat suit? Everyone else "seems" ok with the world. Have I read too much?

I stop and think for a minute. There are potentially autistic brain issues here.

  • The need to be right
  • The inability to see things from others perspective
  • Getting stuck
  • "Obsessive Research Mode" - whereby I soak up all the information I can find in an attempt to resolve an issue but instead become entangled in a web of information, scenarios and contradicting ideas.

I've had this "Obsessive Research mode" thing many times. Before going to New York I needed the "perfect" pen and notebook. I ended up with a great setup but at a cost of dropping everything in order to find the "perfect" thing. Add into this an attempt to figure out "How many layers will I need in NYC based on 15 different scenarios and how to cope under each one so what clothes should I take accounting for the ability to buy new ones while out there so I should leave some space but what if I can't find the perfect thing I need?" Put those two things together before going on a big trip and the result was my wife saying "I just want my husband back." I can get stuck sometimes while trying to do the "right" thing.

Therein lies the problem. Finding answers to things without them becoming obsessions and getting stuck. There's a need, a healthy need, to figure out a problem and while being autistic aids in my ability to research things comprehensively something in my brain takes it to the extreme.

Where this road leads to is Analysis Paralysis. I read far more than I should and I cannot make a decision. I am stuck. I needed to research how to say safe during Covid because it is an important topic. I needed clarity. I ended up with more anxiety than I started. I'm stressed because I need an answer and I'm stressed because my brain ceases to function to provide me with an answer. It didn't happen this time but other times when I've got this stuck I shutdown. It is one of the few times I become non-verbal. Rare but it happens and over silly things like how best to paint something or what potatoes are best for a roast while stood in the middle of a supermarket. Unable to make a decision. Unable to speak. I go offline while my systems reboot.

It is an absurd issue. In attempting to fix a problem you fold yourself in half and climb into a drawer till the problem magically goes away because your brain is overloaded by everyone else's version of what is right.

How do you avoid reaching the point of shutdown? For me it's being aware that this can occur if I push myself that far and knowing when to take a break. How do I know when to stop? A lot of the time I don't. I lack the self control to say "Nope. I'm done. Just one more google!" Having life force me to break away helps. The need to do lunch, tea, the dishes, and cat food. Unfortunately I do rely on external forces tearing me away from staring into the abyss. Where's Microsoft Clippy asking "Are you ok hun?"

When I manage to break away the next thing I need to do is debug the issue. I've found the programming principle of 'Rubbing duck debugging' to be useful. It's where you explain the problem line by line to a rubber duck. Instead of being in the stuck state at line 105, staring at it till you burn a hole through the screen, you walk through what you planned to achieve with a duck and in the process discover the problem. My wife makes for a great substitue as she offers better advice than a rubber duck. No offence there rubber ducks but "Quack" doesn't solve everything. In part this is why I do this newsletter. Hello there rubber ducks. I cannot solve everything in my head by going over and over and over the problem till I get a migraine. I can write it down, thus walking through it with a stranger and hopefully finding a solution. If I cannot find a solution I put the problem out into the world. My hope is someone else either has the solution or finds my thoughts interesting / useful.

If I manage to break away before it is too late and debug the problem with my wife I am usually ok. "Usually." If my wife is not around and its a stressful situation with a time limit on it, like choosing chocolate treats in a shop while customers are queuing up outside, then there's a good chance I will break and shutdown. Unable to make any form of decision I'm seconds away from uncontrollably bursting into tears because my brain spun a wheel of random responses and chose that. In those situations I have to forgive myself. I tried. I'm disabled. This happens sometimes. It is ok. No-one died. The world didn't end. It is ok. Sometimes the simple act of choosing anything, even the wrong thing, can be good in that it frees me up to think again. The decision has been made. Move on. Deal with what is in front not behind. If it was wrong then at least I know now and I have more information. Acceptance and forgiveness. It is ok.


On my list of things to do is read about Mindfulness. Being aware of thoughts and letting them go. My basic understanding is it's like seeing a spider in a room, acknowledging the spider is in the room and continuing with your life. My normal response would be "Burn the house down!" I should take time to try apps and read articles on the subject. It is important to better understand the issue of analysis paralysis to prevent or at least reduce the times it has control over me in the future.


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