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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Aspergers and partying at home!

Beginning to regret having my 40th birthday party at home.

Ethan is single-handedly turning our back room into a nightclub with an excess of lights, lasers and twinkly stars all over the place.

And he's just announced that he's going to put a padlock and hazard tape over our trampoline to stop drunken revelers from bouncing on it. Feel like a teenager about to have a party with my well-meaning but embarrassingly uptight dad.

Also, unless he cheers up, it's going to be like hosting a party with Victor Meldrew. He's been totally miserable to live with the last few days. Shouting at the kids, speaking aggressively to me over little things like whether the hamster needs to go in his exercise ball and managing to turn even positive, kind happenings (my sister offered to have the kids for us so we can pack for holiday) into something negative ('We both need to be packing that day. You can't go driving the kids over to Rotherham'). In actual fact, I think the issue is over his mid-life-crisis of a car that he doesn't want me to drive which I would need to drive if I was to take the kids to Rotherham so that he could be packing our family car with the camping stuff. The car in question is the ridiculous purchase that almost ruined us that I never agreed with him buying, that we don't all fit in, that we can't afford and that now, I've discovered, I'm not even allowed to drive!

Happy birthday me!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Aspergers and having two of everything!

Our house is full of money...

We have change everywhere – in pretty much every drawer of the house and in both cars. It can’t be touched or, heaven forbid, used. It’s our back-up money which, it seems, is destined to a life of sitting idly in a drawer doing nothing. Knowing it’s there – that each drawer in the house is fully stocked with loose change, somehow brings security for Ethan. Personally, I’d feel more secure if we gathered all of this change up and used it to pay off at least some of our overdraft. 

Still, that’s the way it is and, I must admit, the emergency stash of pound coins in the car have come in useful more than once (even if I do get told off by Ethan for actually using the money!) 

What’s rather more frustrating is his habit of having to have two of everything...

A toothbrush in both bathrooms (plus a spare in the bathroom drawer), deodorant in both bathrooms, his own special towels in each bathroom, two pairs of sunglasses – one for each car, boxes of tissues everywhere (in the car, on the kitchen side, in the front room, on the hall table, on his bedside table, in the bathroom), two cars, two microwaves, two sheds...

You get the idea. It’s a small matter but why he can’t pick his toothbrush up from one bathroom and take it into the other is beyond me, same goes for his sunglasses. He lost a pair recently. We had a couple of days of frustrated, moodiness when he couldn’t find them. I knew, from previous experience, that they would turn up. And they did – but not before he, unable to live in the knowledge that he only had one locatable pair of sunglasses, that things weren’t right – bought a new pair. The next day I found his old pair, without even looking. That pair has now become his ‘house sunglasses’...for those days when the sun coming through the windows in our north facing house is just too bright!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Aspergers and negative reactions

A short (and not that sweet) entry this week but am sure that many of you will relate...
Sometimes (often) it's the little but constant things that are the most annoying and disheartening to deal with.
Yesterday, over dinner, I was telling Ethan about the activities that Ava was going to be doing on her school residential in a couple of weeks. The conversation went something like this:
Me (cheerily): The itinerary sounds really full on. They get them up at 7am, activities start at 8.30am and go right through until 9pm at night. They're doing abseiling, canoeing, raft-making, climbing, caving, obstacle courses, team-building...
Ethan (disdainfully): I hope they've got some good supervision.
And that was the end of that conversation. It was so irritating that, out of all the ways he could have responded -said how good it sounded, what a great time she'd have, even just an 'oh wow' - that he said something negative and scathing. It's like his mind is auto-set to respond in the most negative way possible to every piece of  information. I understood his point - they would need good supervision with that many kids doing those kinds of activities and it was a valid concern. But maybe mention that after you've said how good it sounds or, if you're going to take that as your initial approach, say it in a half-jokey 'wow, it's gonna be crazy' kind of a way. There was none of that with Ethan, just negativity. And the effect on me was instant deflation.

I finished my food, popped my plate in the dishwasher and went upstairs to put the kids to bed, feeling weary. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Aspergers and how to lace a trainer!

Loved what someone wrote on the Different-together Facebookpage recently about rising above our present circumstances and learning, sometimes slowly and painfully, to let things go...

I loved it because, through experience, I've found it to be the best way. Most of the time my AS husband doesn't mean things the way they come out - he uses the wrong words and the wrong tone of voice and the wrong facial expression (if he uses one at all). All these things combine to produce the overall effect of him seeming irritated, angry, miserable - or all three. The times that I have been able to stay calm, not take offence and gently point out how he's coming across, he's been genuinely surprised and sorry. The problem is that I am human. And NT. And sometimes, whatever my logical side tells me, my emotional side, which feels hurt and cross and fed up, wins out. So too often, the way that I know I should respond isn't the way that I do respond: rather than point out gently, I lash out angrily. This makes Ethan defensive and cross (because, after all, in his mind he was just communicating information and I, as usual, have gone all intense and completely flown off the handle about nothing). Arguments, tension and resentment follow...

...take the incident of the trainers.

We were running late (as usual). I asked Ethan to help the kids get their shoes on. Sam had a pair of new, never-before-worn trainers that he desperately wanted to wear. A couple of seconds later, Ethan's dulcet tone range out down the hallway...

                "Who's threaded these laces?" he shouted aggressively (to my ears). "They're done completely wrong." He followed this angry statement with an exaggerated sigh.
I stomped down the hallway. I was instantly irritated:
a) that Ethan was shouting at me about the laces on Sam's trainers rather than just sorting them out (as I would have done).
b) that Ethan was claiming that the laces were threaded 'wrong' when actually they were just threaded differently to how he would have done it.
c) that Ethan was looking for someone to blame and shout at because he was frustrated (the fact that he was overly frustrated over such a tiny thing annoyed me too).

I didn't process my thoughts so clearly at the time. I just felt generally fed-up and annoyed with him. So I didn't do what I should have done. I shouted back at Ethan, told him how annoying and unpleasant he was, how difficult to live with. I grabbed the trainer out of his hands and started re-lacing them myself. While I was doing this, I told him, angrily, that this was the way kids had their laces threaded these days, that they'd come from the shop like this, that they weren't 'wrong' just not the way he would have them, etc, etc. He shouted back, telling me to stop patronising him, that the shoes were actually threaded wrong because he couldn't pull them tight, that I always had to take over, etc, etc. Exasperated, I shouted that if he didn't want me to 'take over' then he should have sorted it quietly by himself in the first place instead of shouting at everyone else about it. He shouted get the idea!

In the middle of all this, Ava shouted at both of us to stop arguing. She told us that we were behaving like kids arguing over how a trainer was laced up and that IT DIDN'T MATTER!! She laboured the point a bit and, at the time, infuriated us both more. But she was completely right. More importantly, she was showing us how much the kids hate it when we fight.

Later on, when I'd calmed down, I apologised to Ethan (although I couldn't resist pointing out that he was at fault too!) We both recognised that we'd handled the situation badly and he explained that he didn't mean to sound like he was angry. And I was reminded how right that lady was when she wrote about letting things go.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Living with an NT can be really hard work!

There are times - the whole of yesterday being one of them - when I realise that, in equal measure (perhaps more so) Ethan could be writing a blog about how hard it is to live with me!

Yesterday we had a family day out. I spent most of the day jabbing verbally at Ethan. On the car journey there I had a go at him for getting overly irritated with a bad driver - hooting his horn and gesticulating rudely (one of the few times he does employ body language!). When we were there I had a go at him for being 'selfish' for not being willing to go in the haunted house with Sam for a second time (it was a bit - the point wasn't really whether he wanted to or not but the fact that Sam wanted him to, a point that seemed lost on him). When he gave the cone bit of his ice-cream to Oliver I told him he was lazy for not taking it to the bin. And when he got concerned about where Ava was, I criticised him for fussing.

I may have had a point on some of these things (his attitude towards other drivers over tiny things when he himself drives with absolutely no courtesy for anyone else at all really makes me mad) but, over the course of the day, I had done many things that could have warranted criticism or being called selfish. I'd been bossy and controlling, I'd been irritable, I'd stressed over things that didn't really matter. Through all of it, Ethan kept quiet.

Right at the end of the day, Oliver wanted his long-sleeved top on to go on a twisty, turny 'hang on for dear life' kind of a ride with me. On searching for the top, we realised that Ethan had taken it back to the car already. I had a go at Ethan (of course) and then looked for the car keys. I couldn't find them and blamed Ethan for losing them, stating that he had gone to the car last. I was convinced he had and proceeded to tell him, step-by-step, why I was right. He was convinced that I was the last one to have the keys and tried to explain to me calmly but firmly why he was right. I very quickly got really annoyed and louder and angrier, the kids backed away, other people at the place stared at us. I just went on and on about why I was right and why he was so annoying. I was horrible.

In the end, he walked away (we'd found the keys), went to the car and got the top for Oliver. When he got back, Oliver excitedly grabbed the top and pulled eagerly at my arm, pleading with me to come on the ride. Ignoring him, I picked up where I'd left off and continued ranting at Ethan about how wrong and annoying and infuriating he was. He told me how horrible I was to spend time with and Oliver gave up and went on the twisty, turny thing by himself. Ethan walked away. Seething, I cornered Oliver on the ride and asked him whether he'd  gone to the car with daddy before or after the ice-cream (this was the crucial point in the argument about whether Ethan or I had gone to the car last). "We had an ice-cream after we came back from the car, mummy," said Oliver simply and innocently. Just the facts. And, in that instant, I realised that he - and Ethan - were right. I'd been the last one to go to the car. Which meant that, the whole time I'd been shouting at Ethan about him being wrong and unwilling to accept what I was saying,  I'd been wrong and unwilling to accept what Ethan was saying.

I said sorry and Ethan was nice. He didn't give me a hard time or dwell on it or repeatedly bring it up. He accepted my apology and we moved on. That was it.

I can't help but think, if the boot was on the other foot, I'd be writing a blog entry about him right now - about how awful and impossible it is to live with a husband with Aspergers, how thoughtlessly he behaves in front of the kids and how long-suffering I am.

Some of the posts on the different-together facebook page lately are about Aspies being 'right' and I do recognise these traits in Ethan. The difference between him and me is that generally, he only insists he's right about something when he knows he is (so they tend to be practical or scientific issues) and he explains calmly (and persistently) why. I, on the other hand, insist I'm right often and impulsively (when quite often I'm not) and go about it passionately, emotionally and intensely. 
We're not always the easier breed to live with!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Aspergers and learning on the job

Well, we went as a shiny, happy, sociable couple to the wedding reception! 

Ethan was making a concerted effort after the near-divorce proceedings that had arisen in the build up to it (see my earlier post) and we had a really lovely time!

I also, it has to be said, was making a concerted effort to be sensitive to Ethan's needs while we were there. When we first arrived there were quite a few single sex groups of people we knew a little bit that ordinarily I would have zoomed right in on and joined the conversation, leaving Ethan floundering. This time, knowing that Ethan would find this group chat overwhelming, I held back. We 'warmed up' in the little seating area next to the main bar where the music was quieter and chatted amicably one-on-one (which is really the only kind of chatting Ethan can comfortably do) with the other people who were hiding out there!

After a while, seeing that Ethan was safely enjoying a conversation with one other man, I went and had a dance. Ethan was able to legitimately excuse himself at regular intervals to go to the bar (I've never been so well attended to!) or the buffet table (proper man-size sausage and bacon butties!) meaning that he had short but regular 'breathers' from conversation.

After a while, when we'd both had a couple of drinks (and sausage sarnies) and were feeling relaxed and people had dispersed a bit either to the bar or to dance or to sit at tables, it was easier for Ethan to chat to one or two people at a time - and he did. I didn't even have to be around. Allowing me to catch up with my friends and to dance  - with all the gay abandon that comes from three glasses of wine!

The fact that he was feeling relaxed and comfortable and was chatting easily with people boosted Ethan's confidence which, in turn, made him more sociable which made him more confident. It also helped that he had something specific to talk about that he was interested in and that was interesting for other people (blokes at least). Yes, you've guessed it, (that bloody car) that I ranted about in an earlier blog has come into its own in more ways than one!

We came home and didn't argue. There was no awful feeling of dissatisfaction or embarrassment or frustration or of not fitting in for either of us. And we fell asleep cuddling (a bit too much wine for anything else!)

The night really was an on-the-job tutorial for how to get the best from a night out with an AS partner. And all it took from me was a bit of patience, a bit of understanding and, until Ethan was ready to wade in, a bit of holding back.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The ups and downs of an AS/NT life (Or how I loved him then hated him then loved him again)

“I’m going to take the kids to stay with my mum and dad on 10th April,” said Ethan to me one morning as I was wiping breakfast from around Sam’s mouth and simultaneously trying to pack three lunchboxes, “it’ll give you a break and I don’t go and see them often enough. It’s all arranged.”
“Oh right, erm,” I looked at the calendar to check my suspicions, “that’s the weekend of Becky’s wedding reception.”
“Oh for goodness sake,” said Ethan in the angry tone he uses when something isn’t going the way he wants. “Well there’s always something. I’m going anyway.”
What followed was two weeks of delicately bringing the matter up and suggesting gently that perhaps he could go during the week since he has that whole week booked off for the Easter holidays. Then he wouldn’t need to miss the wedding reception and I wouldn’t need to spend Easter Sunday at home on my own while my three children and husband are at my in-laws.
Each time I tried talking about the impending weekend, the subject was met with sighs, defensiveness  and an unwillingness to talk about it. He didn’t want to go to the wedding reception anyway, he said, “it’ll be awkward, I don’t really know anyone, there’ll be loud music playing so that I can’t hear anyone anyway. You’ll have a better time if you go without me.” This helped justify his decision, “And they won’t miss me,” he added, “they won’t even notice that I’m not there.”
I’ve tried not to be selfish but, the thing is, I don’t really want to go to this wedding reception on my own. However he justifies his absence and however unsociable he is when he’s there and, to my shame, however much he hates it and struggles his way through it, I’d rather have him there than not. It’s not particularly nice going to events like weddings on your own – particularly when you are actually married! In any case, I don’t fancy trying to get myself there and, like a charity case, looking for someone to share a taxi home with. I know, selfish, but there it is.
I accepted that Ethan wasn’t going to budge and texted the girl getting married to apologise profusely that it would only be me coming to her wedding reception and not both of us as per our original reply. I didn’t hear anything back. And I started to worry that she was really annoyed. And then I started to get really annoyed that I was in this position of letting her down and annoying her over something that Ethan had done/the way he is. The resentment continued to fester....
Things trundled along in this unsatisfactory, unresolved manner until yesterday when I realised that I am actually working all day on the Tuesday anyway and that therefore Ethan will have to entertain the kids by himself that day anyway and that, with all of these factors considered, it really made far more sense for him to go to his parents on the Tuesday and Wednesday rather than Easter weekend.
I calmly presented Ethan with the facts and suggested the Tuesday and Wednesday as an alternative. He sighed, shouted, said again that I’d have a better time at the wedding reception on my own to which I had to respond and drop the bombshell that, actually, going to events on my own isn’t fun and isn’t what I want. He got even more irritated by this as it didn’t give him the get-out clause he wanted. I also mentioned that it would be quite nice to be together as a family on Easter Sunday and to be able to see my kids that day and perhaps do an egg hunt with them in the garden.
I tried to keep things calm but he got increasingly agitated and angry, grabbed the phone, called his mum and said that he was going to come on the Tuesday and Wednesday instead. I appreciated that he was taking on board what I’d said but that wasn’t really the reaction I was looking for – I simply wanted a discussion about what dates made the most sense.
Ethan spent the rest of the day being distant and grumpy with me. When I finally challenged him at tea-time he said that yes, he was angry with me, that I was trying to control him and emotionally blackmail him and why should he have to ask his wife’s ‘permission’ to take his kids to his mums and dads anyway? I was seething and heartbroken and incensed and sorry-for-myself all at the same time. Wanting to discuss options for when would be best for him to take our kids away over Easter was not, I felt unreasonable. That he resented having to involve me at all (in his words ‘ask my permission’) was hurtful (he used the same expression when he got angry over me not agreeing to his purchase of a £12,000 convertible BMW that he bought anyway). Also, that he’d been angry and unpleasant to me all day just because I’d stated some facts and presented an alternative opinion was pathetic. 
I really resonated with what someone said on the My story section of the different-together homepage: 
The stress seemed to be caused by very “normal” conditions and yet I was not witnessing typical responses and behaviours from the man who was supposed to be my equal in parenting and all things "grown up".
It was at this point that I hated him. And told him so. Which the kids heard. Which made me hate him more.
I went up to our bedroom and cried and felt sorry for myself some more and thought about divorcing him.
After a while he came up and said how sorry he was and how he knew he’d been horrible and an idiot. And explained that he didn’t want to change the dates because that’s what he’d decided. I told him that was just stubborn - it made no sense, that he couldn’t admit that he’d made a wrong decision. He said he knew – he was stubborn, that he found it really hard to accept that he was wrong. That it didn’t make sense but he just felt really stressed at the thought of changing what he’d already decided was going to happen. He looked so sad and dejected and defeated slumped on the bed that I felt sorry, not for me anymore, but for him. He hugged me and said that he wanted to support me at the wedding.   
He’s now going to his mum and dad’s on the Tuesday and Wednesday and coming to the wedding reception with me on the Saturday. Now I’m the one feeling guilty and telling him to stick to his original plan and go to his parents at the weekend if that’s what he’d rather do. He of course is refusing and determined that we’ll have a good time at the wedding. And I, even though we’ve gone the long way round, love him again for his humility, his sacrifice and his commitment to keep trying.
The rollercoaster goes on and on!