Category Archives: The Dysfunction Junction

Technical Difficulties – 2nd Edition


Image Description: a “Very Demotivational” meme, which is a picture of a panda trapped on a branch, with a black border around the picture with white-text captioning down the bottom of the picture: “Technical Difficulties: We has them…”

I’ve been thinking of starting up (surprise, surprise!) another writing project, the big problem is that I’m currently torn between what kind of platforms I should use, I don’t know if my intended project is more suitable for Podcasting, a YouTube Channel or perhaps a combination (somehow?). Perhaps I should discuss my new writing project and maybe it’ll help me with he decision process. I want to set up a platform where I talk about Mental Health and ADHD (as well as some related topic things like stim toys). As I’m not a qualified therapist or counsellor, I would only be able to talk from the podium of my own experiences, so the video path would involve journal-like videos talking about my diagnosis, my personal diagnostic process, as well my interconnected mental health problems.

I’m going to be honest, YouTube has a large market on the “journal/confession” style of video, and while that results in great content like Katie Morton’s YouTube Channel and Annie Elainey’s YouTube Channel, it leaves me wondering “What do I bring to the table that is unique and different?” and “how can I possibly stand out?” See, the funny thing is that there is a lot of ADHD journal-style channels already out there, usually they have ten videos and then they haven’t been updated since or they have been updated but there are irregularities in postings or big gaps.

The problem is that I understand only too well why that is the case, I’ve been doing the same thing too pretty much all my life and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to embark on yet another project, invest a lot of my time, effort and limited financial resources into a platform only to give up half-way through. And, yeah, I’m perfectly willing to admit that my scatter-gun approach to… pretty much everything might be apart of the problem. My usual method of throwing things at a platform and seeing what sticks isn’t working for me or isn’t working as well as I’d like it to. It’s not that I’m not willing to give both a go, its not that I’m not willing to take risks, what I’d like is some feedback before I make the attempt.

What’s the Project going to be about?
My objective is create channel (regardless of whether its YouTube or Podcast) that covers the following:

  • journal-style content of my personal mental health and Adult ADHD diagnosis process.
  • Facts About ADHD – episodes that focus on the facts and resources regarding ADHD (like books and support groups available). I want these episodes to have a more Australian approach to it and my focus will primarily be Adults with ADHD, because unfortunately the majority of resources currently available tend to be more geared towards children with ADHD and their parents.
  • Interviewing Mental Health professionals or people involved with positive Mental Health support (like social workers or support groups)
  • Mental Health Q&A videos (possibly?) or stuff that’s connected to Mental Health like Stim Toy reviews, Bullet Journal stuff, or Journal exercises

I suppose I should include the possible pros and cons of each platform.

YouTube Channel Pros:

  • Dramatic reenactments with my collection of Weighted Plushies: this is the aspect of making videos that I’m looking forward to the most. I’m already thinking and detailing in my mind the jump-cut sketches I could possibly make.
  • Editing: I enjoy the editing process of film-making, I’m currently using Adobe Premier, which is great if not a little complicated (I’m doing a Skills Share tutorial for it, just to make sure I know exactly what I’m doing). There’s also lots of help and tutorials online.
  • Equipment: I already have all the required equipment to start making videos (I found a tripod at Big W for roughly AU $25), I could literally start tomorrow if that’s what I wanted.
  • Audience Interaction: YouTube is a great method of interaction and for building a community and there’s a proven track-record of people building successful and supportive mental health communities. It’s a big component of why I want to do this.

YouTube Channel Cons:

  • Super Awkward: When it comes to making movies and taking photographs, I’ve spent most of my time behind the camera, and I’m pretty good at directing (aka telling people how to do their jobs). But I don’t have that same sense of confidence when I’m placed in front of a camera. I tried to make a short introduction video for my YouTube Channel, I tried four times to do a short 30 second clip and kept fucking up the short basic script I had devised for myself, eventually I thought “Fuck it!” and decided on doing a voice recording with my phone and pictures instead of video footage (you can view the intro video down below, don’t feel bad for laughing, the video is very much a rush job)
  • Marketing: From the research I’ve doing, a lot of the ADHD journal-style channels are created by people presumably in the USA, now this could give me an edge, an Australian woman talking about her personal experiences would be unique, but there is a risk that this is too unique and that only small percentage of people are going to interested in it. There’s also the problem that there are A LOT of people doing this already, and while I think this is awesome and I’m very much for ending the stigma surrounding ADHD and other Mental Health problems, I still need to ask myself “What am I bringing to the table?” and I’m not entirely certain that I would be adding to the conversation.
  • Interaction: Lets be honest here, YouTube isn’t known for being a safe place, where online harassment is taken seriously. While I know I have reasonably thick skin, the problem is that I don’t know if the possible good I get from this channel is going to out-weight the potential harassment I’m going to receive online. I’m not saying harassment or bullies should hold you back from doing what you want to do, because there are always going to be bullies and nay-sayers out there telling you not to try, this is more from a self-care and time management perspective.
  • Timing: I mean, with regards to filming, it’s lot more work involved in making YouTube videos in comparison to writing blog-posts on WordPress or Tumblr. With videos, you need time to film, organise a guest and/or work around guest’s schedule, edit film, possibly edit audio, publish it on YouTube, and then also make a blog-post about it on WordPress.
  • Length: I’m going to be honest, I talk a lot and at a fast pace, There’s also the problem with YouTube that videos are expected to be short (the implied maximum being 12-15 minutes) and I often feel that this time-constraint isn’t always appropriate for Mental Health discussions, a Mental Health problem can’t always be tackled in a 15 minute video, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. It also doesn’t give much time for me to answer any possible questions people might ask of me.

Podcasting Pros:

  • Comfort: I have no problems with recording myself via audio, I’m also super comfortable with Adobe Auditions (from what I remember, it’s super easy to use, although my memory isn’t the most reliable). In contrast to Adobe Premier, which is a little more difficult (or at least it is for me) and it wasn’t obvious how to use certain features like captioning
  • Experience: I have some limited experience to creating audio files due to taking a University unit Radio Production, I’m also looking into volunteering for a community radio station once a week.
  • Marketing: Mental Health Podcasts, such as The Mental Illness Happy Hour, have a proven track record of success.
  • Accessibility: For transcription, I can use a paid-service such as Trint and I can make my podcasts as long or short as I like.

Podcasting Cons:

  • Equipment: I have yet to obtain the recording equipment I would need to begin podcasting and that’s mostly because of cost, the audio recorder I have in mind (which is the cheaper of the two options) costs AU $180. Unlike the equipment I have for video recording, if I decide I don’t want to make videos, I can still use my camera and tripod for other things, but this isn’t the case with the audio equipment and I don’t want spend money on equipment I’m only going use once or twice.
  • Experience: I’ve been making short films since I was teenager, so I kind of know what to expect when making videos with other people, but I’ve never made a podcast before so I’m not sure what to expect, and that’s a little scary.

Problems that would affect both projects:

  • Effort: Maybe taking on a new writing project isn’t the best idea at this point in time. I’m struggling creatively, everything feels like too much effort and I just can’t, my situation kind of does have a “Going Through The Motions” type of feeling. I’m not doing well with my novel-writing, I had hoped to have a 1st draft of Orion finished by now, maybe I should focus on that instead and figure out why it’s not working for me. There’s a serious concern that I’m just using this idea for a new project as an excuse to procrastinate.
  • Knowledge: Maybe I’m not the best person for this type of project, I have no formal qualifications and I only have subjective experiences to work from,
    I also don’t have the best social skills, a key component required when trying to get people to agree to interviews
  • Interviews: While I would love to do interviews regardless of my platform, getting the right people to agree to interviews will be a challenge.
  • Social Media: I would have to set up some separate elements of Social media for this new project, not a lot but some, possibly a separate Twitter or separate Tumblr page for people to ask questions, and seeing as I’ve just recently had to shut down my Havering blog because I just no longer had the mental capacity to maintain it, I feel a little anxious about the idea. I don’t want to set up social media for this project, only to delete it a few months later.

Maybe this is something I need to think about for a little while longer, however, I’d really appreciate it if readers could let me know what they think. Is this something you’d be interested in? Would you prefer YouTube or would you prefer a podcast? What about a combination of the two? I don’t know, I’m just putting ideas out there. If you’d like to check out my introductory video for my channel, the video is just below:

The Dysfunction Junction: Is There A Specialist In The House?

Image Description: a large cluster of smiley faces in the centre of the picture. In the background are multicoloured words against a black background like breath, here and now, accept, track, sense repeatedly printed in the background over and over again.
Image Description: a large cluster of smiley faces in the centre of the picture. In the background are multicoloured words against a black background like breath, here and now, accept, track, sense repeatedly printed in the background over and over again.

Since the end of October 2016, I have been trying and failing to find a specialist doctor qualified to assess people on whether they have ADHD (or possibly something else). One of the unfortunate side effects of Mental Health services is that financial status is often the deciding factor in accessibility.

The only reason I can afford to have therapy sessions for my increasingly unstable anxiety and my pursuit of an ADHD diagnosis is because I have a partner who is willing to support me, he earns a decent wage and we have some savings set aside.

It’s funny just how big a factor money really is in gaining the mental health support services one may require, and by funny, I mean fucking awful. The sheer cost factor was one of the many reasons why I hesitated to pursue an ADHD in the first place, that and, because of my past bad experiences with bad/incompetent doctors, trust is a big factor.

How do I know this person is qualified? What’s their range of experience? Do they have experience with Adult diagnosis? Do they have experience diagnosing Adult Women? And the most terrifying question of all: What if I don’t have ADHD? What if I’ve just been slightly dysfunctional the whole time, and I’ve just been wasting all this time and money for nothing?

Whenever I was given a referral letter to a specialist, I made the effort to google search and attempt to find as much information about these “specialists” as possible. Unfortunately, the clear majority of specialists regarding ADHD are male doctors. I regard this as a bad sign, especially considering the shitty attitude some people and the medical industry have towards Neurodiversity and people who aren’t white cis-boys.

It was why I was so happy when my local GP found a female doctor in Ballarat who stated she was qualified for Adult diagnosis for ADHD and Autism, unfortunately one of the downsides was I would be waiting a minimum of two months before I could see her.

Another downside is that each hourly session was $400, however, I did some research on her, found positive comments, noticed she had a minimal internet presence (a website with a photo and brief bio) and I booked an appointment, expecting the worst but hoping for the best.

I had previously tried to contact a male specialist and due to the rudeness of the receptionist, I never bothered to book an appointment, I figured if you’re that rude to a paying customer, clearly that specialist doesn’t need my money (sad part is that it’s probably true).

But when I contacted Ballarat Psychiatry Group, the receptionist was super nice and very helpful with my inquiries. If you work in the mental health industry, don’t be an arsehole to people over the phone, the people calling up clearly have enough problems to deal with, I can’t stress this enough.

And then the waiting began…

In the almost three months prior to my appointment, I figured it would beneficial to do as much research as possible, print out things to give to the specialist in a bid to minimise the wastage of time. To maintain a vague illusion of organisation, I purchased a specifically set aside compendium-folder (bright pink of course) so that I could keep all my “Mental Health Stuff” all in the one place.

In my view, I had only an hour to distil twenty-eight-years’ worth of dysfunction, I did not have high hopes for this, especially since in therapy sessions I tend to go off on unrelated side notes and forget what I was even talking about in the first place. To try and combat this, I made sure to take lined paper and pens with me, so that I could take notes or make dot-points before the session.

When I went into the doctor’s office for my appointment, she began with the usual scripted dialogue people with when meeting for the first time:
“Hi, how are you?”

I responded with “Fine” automatically, because that is what we are taught to say, we are taught to say we are fine even when we are not (especially when we are not), “fine” is the only socially acceptable answer. Then I reminded myself that I wasn’t paying $400 an hour to be “fine”.

I corrected myself, “Well no, I’m not fine, I wouldn’t be here if I were. I’m inquiring into an Adult Diagnosis of ADHD, I’ve done all this research,” I handed over a bright pink A4 sized document-wallet filled with documents. “And I thought we could start there.”

The fact that she discarded the document-wallet pretty much as soon as I gave it to her was a bad sign to me, however, it was the expression of bored disdain that irritated me (and continues to irritate me whenever I think about it, yes, I’ll admit it, I’m at times terribly petty).

It turns out she’s not qualified at all to assess people on whether they have ADHD (even though it says so on multiple internet resources). Apparently, she primarily dealt with patients who came to her looking for help with ADHD, but it turns out they don’t have ADHD, they just have Anxiety or Depression. Personally, I feel that’s a weird kind of specialisation to have, I mean, what would she do if she came across a person who had Depression and Anxiety but also had ADHD as well?

Anyway, I was offered two choices, choice A was she could email a referral letter to my local GP doctor, and then I would have to book an appointment with my local GP and obtain the referral letter via my GP (the Ballarat doctor couldn’t just print out a referral letter then and there and give to me). Choice B was that I continue with the appointment and she would attempt a paper-form of assessment over multiple sessions and then refer me onto a specialist.

My thought process was that a person who isn’t qualified to assess me is going to ask me questions (if she’s not qualified, how can I trust that she’ll ask the right questions?), over multiple sessions (3 x $400 = $1200) and even at the end of that, I still wouldn’t have a definitive answer because at the end, she’d still have to refer me to a specialist.

So that would be at least three appointments with her and an appointment with an actual qualified specialist (for the sake of argument, let’s assume the qualified specialist charges at the same rate), so that’s $1600 worth of appointments with no guaranteed answers. I’ll admit my first knee-jerk reaction was “shove that up your arse” but somehow, I managed to contain my frustration and annoyance at having my time wasted, although I’m sure my emotional state was probably obvious.

I chose to cancel the appointment and deal with the ADHD specialists directly (or as directly as I could).

I was ranting to my councillor about this and she gave me the suggestion of contacting the RMIT Psychology Clinic and encouraged me to inquire if they had the ability to perform an Adult ADHD assessment.

My councillor informed me that the doctor seeing me would be a graduate doctor (with a senior doctor to supervise) which was why the session would be cheaper. So, I decided to check this out first, and keep the ADHD specialist referral letters for later, in case the RMIT thing doesn’t work out.

Unfortunately, and perhaps this is only me, but I found the website confusing and vague so I’ll try to add more information.

Without a concession card, the doctor session will cost AU $30 and the Assessment Report will cost AU $100 (plus the cost of petrol and possibly parking, IDK, the place is located in Bundoora), however, I want to point out that if you have a concession card, fees and such will be cheaper for you, I can’t say specifically because it will depend on what you’re pursuing the clinic for (the website does have some information about fees, I just didn’t find it clear enough for me).

You will need a referral letter from a GP to gain access to the service. My GP didn’t know about this service (Latrobe University also has a psychology clinic as well in case that university is closer) and, as a result, the RMIT Psychology Clinic has been added to the database my local medical centre maintains for services like these, so hopefully this will help other people too.

When I contacted them, it did involve a bit of fluffing about (a short time on hold while they found the right department/right doctor to speak to, standard university stuff really), but my assigned doctor got back to me within an acceptable time frame and I’ve only had to wait a couple of weeks before I could get an appointment.

Like with all good deals that seem too good to be true, there is a catch, one of the conditions of gaining access to a cheaper assessment is that my appointment will be recorded for training purposes. Apparently, according to the doctor I’ll be seeing for my appointment, a lot of people don’t engage with the service because of this, which is why I’ve made sure to mention it directly.

I’ll be going for my appointment with the RMIT Psychology Clinic next Wednesday and my thought process on this is that perhaps it’s a good thing a recording of my appointment will exist, hopefully it can be used as evidence to help support other people like myself.

Although I don’t have high hopes at this point, I must test out my options, even if this is simply a process of elimination. I’ll ask if I can receive a copy of the recording. I should be able to under the Freedom of Information act.

Speaking off obtaining information, I’ve also been investigating into getting a copy of my records from my forced attendance at Orygen Youth Health, now I wasn’t forced to go there because of a court mandate.

The doctors involved with Orygen Youth Health just repeatedly told me I had to go to appointments and I couldn’t leave the program until I was a legal adult. As an adult, this comes across as “that might not be technically illegal, but definitely sounds unethical” category.

Making a traumatised teenager feel as though they have no choice but to attend therapy sessions with a doctor who won’t listen and keeping said traumatised teenager ignorant of their medical rights belongs in the “Dodgy as Fuck” category.

But then again, the Orygen Youth Service was free for me to access because my mother and I had concession cards, so maybe this is more of a “you get what you pay for” type of situation (not that it makes what they did okay).

I began investigating my Orygen Youth Service medical records back in December and still haven’t received my records, but my thought process was that “What the hell was that Doctor thinking?” and then I needed to know the exact answer to that question, or at least the closest approximation I’ll be able to obtain.

I also thought as I’m not doing my assessment through the education system (not by choice I may add) it may be beneficial to obtain “official” medical documents and see if they can help my cause. Although, I have strong doubts about this.

If you’re in a position where you’re able to pursue a diagnosis for a Neurodiversity condition through the educated system, I encourage you to do this, Doctors are like University Admins, they require an almost bureaucratic level of paper-work to justify you getting an appointment.

I just wanted to add thanks if you managed to get this far through the post, I know it’s absurdly long, especially since it’s a super long post about how not much progress has been made, hopefully next Wednesday will put me in better position and I’ll know where to go from there.

The Dysfunction Junction ~ An Introduction

Image Description: a large cluster of smiley faces in the centre of the picture. In the background are words like breath, here & now, accept, track, sense repeatedly printed in the background over and over again.
Image Description: a large cluster of smiley faces in the centre of the picture. In the background are words like breath, here & now, accept, track, sense repeatedly printed in the background over and over again.

Welcome to The Dysfunction Junction, a series of blog-posts I am going to write as I try to figure out whether or not I have ADHD or if I am just Weird. Now, I know some people will object to my use of the term Weird, but as I have spent my entire life being made to feel Less because I am Different, I think at this stage I’m entitled to reclaim Weird and Crazy if it so pleases me. Especially since every time I try to figure out what that precise Difference is exactly, I have been (and continue to be) denied access to a label and a diagnosis, and therefore to services that could potentially help me handle my Dysfunction.

Instead, I am left with labels like Weird, Crazy, Freak and Broken by default. But I am not Broken, I am not Less, and recently Kim gave me another word, a glorious inclusive word that matches me, and that word was Neurodivergent. It was in a Tumblr post, but unfortunately, I cannot find the direct quote (I have been looking through Stim Toy posts trying to find it) so I will be paraphrasing here, but it was essentially along the lines of:

“From what you’ve told me about your experiences in general and your experiences with mental health, you’re not Neurotypical, you definitely sound Neurodivergent, and you’re welcome to play in our sand box.”

It will sound silly, but I almost began crying when I read Kim’s response, I was so happy not just because of Kim’s acceptance but for the underlying message of “it’s okay, I see you, and you don’t have to pretend to be normal.” Because for most of my life I have been trying and mostly failing to adhere to the role of “Normal Person” without a script. I am not “normal” or Neurotypical, I never will be, so naturally I keep failing and beating myself up about it (if everyone else can do it, why can’t I?), although my failures as an adult are small and possibly dismissive in comparison to the failures I committed as a child and teenager. I have learned how to blend or appear “normal enough” by rote, not because it comes naturally to me, socialising and interacting with other people is hard work for me.

I am trying to change my current situation by pursuing an Adult Diagnosis of ADHD, but until I get a Yay or a Nay, I’m kind of stuck in this state of Purgatory. I can’t move forward with possible treatment (more on this in a later post) and I can’t go back to pretending I don’t have a problem. I recognise I have a problem, some of my closest friends and family are willing to recognise I have a problem, but because in the past certain doctors have refused to recognise I have a problem, I can’t get the appropriate help I need now without a diagnosis.

These posts are not to function as a self-hosted Pity Party, but rather to act as a guide for other people who might be considering the same type of options as I am. But as I live in Australia, I have limited access of Australian doctors qualified to assess Adults with ADHD, and the Australian Medicare System also limits me, my approach will be primarily Australian-orientated (just in case that wasn’t obvious).

But I would also like to mention up front that the diagnostic criterion for an Adult with ADHD is similar to an Adult with Autism or Adults belonging to the Autism Spectrum. While I don’t think I have Autism, I can’t deny the possibility that I could be Autistic instead of having ADHD, although I think it’s unlikely. There is also the possibility of having both ADHD and Autism, although I think this also unlikely, if I had both, surely someone would have noticed or said something before now (maybe? I think? At this point I really don’t know anymore), however, having said that, I have often found resources or articles for people with Autism to be helpful for me.

Concerning Autism and ADHD support groups, there is a lot of focus on international organisations like The National Society of Autism (located in the UK) and Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) (which is predominantly located in the USA). I’m sure both these groups do amazing things for Neurodivergent people in their respective counties, but their helpfulness is limited in international situations like mine.

Amaze (formerly known as Autism Victoria) doesn’t get nearly the same amount of attention as GRASP or The National Society of Autism, although Amaze does produce a magazine The Spectrum (if anyone is interested in contributing to it). I have found that Wrong Planet and Autism Women’s Network are more internationally friendly or more internationally appropriate.

On the ADHD front, I found valuable articles and resources at ADDitude Magazine, but for something more Australian orientated, I have also found this website Every Day with ADHD which has resources for parents and children for different states in Australia but also in New Zealand.

While I’ve been able to find Australian support groups and online support groups for transgender people (this post has a list of resources), I haven’t been able to find an organisation or support group for transgender people who also have Autism or ADHD. If anyone knows about transgender-focused support groups for Autism or ADHD, please leave me a link in the comment section, I would be happy to add the link/s into the post.

The key objective here is to help and to inform, so at this point I want to add the obvious disclaimer that I am not a qualified or experienced medical professional. I cannot and will not offer a diagnosis for Autism or ADHD, however, I will add resource links at the bottom of the page, and what you do with them is completely up to you. If someone out there stumbles across my blog and finds this helpful, then great, otherwise this is just going to be me ranting about how messed up the Australian Medicare System is and just how lacking the Mental Health services available in Australia are.

Links:
~ADDitude Magazine – Home

~ADDitude Magazine – Self-tests and Quizzes

~ADDitude Magazine: The Truth About ADHD in Women

~Decades of failing to recognize ADHD in girls has created a “lost generation” of women by Jenny Anderson

~ADD on my mind: diagnosing attention deficit disorder in adults by Yasmin Noone

~So Much Stranger, So Much Darker, So Much Madder, So Much Better: Autism with a side of ADHD

~The link between autism and trans identity By Bryony White

~Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)

~Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, LGBT Groups Release Statement on Needs of Trans Autistic People

~The Chameleons: women with autism | The Feed SBS (YouTube Video)

~Different As Pie: So You Think You Have Asperger Syndrome? (Youtube Video)

~Musings of an Aspie: Aspie Tests

~Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life by Cynthia Kim

~Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone

~Bitter Autistic (Tumblr): a collection of quizzes and other tools to help with self diagnosis as well as tips and tricks for ADHD

~Bitter Autistic (Tumblr): NOT SO COMMONLY TALKED ABOUT/ATYPICAL AUTISM TRAITS

Audio Stimming: Postmodern Jukebox

Image Description: The keyboard of a piano with a single page of sheet music on top of it
In my family, Music is a big deal, and every Christmas I would make Mix-Tape Style CD’s for my friends and family. Unfortunately, one of my parents would regularly work Christmas Day, and would listen to the CD on the way to work. My father is a walking encyclopedia on the History of Music. If you give him the name of a band, he will rattle off the band’s history and placements of specific songs on radio charts. My partner on the other hand, as kid, did not possess an interest in music. He had limited exposure to FM Pop radio stations and ABC on AM, which didn’t change until he finished secondary college and moved to the “big city” of Bendigo for University access. The only time he listened to music regularly was in the car as he and his step-father traveled into Melbourne together.

This was a strange idea for me to grasp when my partner told me this. It was very difficult for me — a person who is sometimes overwhelmed by sound — to comprehend that for my partner, bands and songs were not distinguishable from each other, but rather blurred together to form one large homogenized blob of decade-associated-noise. Which is why my partner and father will occasionally have weird moments, such as when I play a song my partner vaguely recognizes and I tell him it’s (for example) by Fleetwood Mac. He’ll raise an eyebrow at me and say “That’s Fleetwood Mac?” (though in his defense Fleetwood Mac does change it’s vocal-line up frequently). My father will be incredulous at my partner’s inability to detect a particular band’s style by a mere few bars of music. My partner will shrug non-nonchalantly (“What are you getting all riled up for? It’s just music.”), which will naturally annoy my father further.

Although, I have exposed him to my weird and strange assortment of music, I must confess it mostly consists of 90’s alternative rock — I am a product of my time period in some ways. As my partner’s car is a Japanese import, it can only access AM radio stations, which makes it a little difficult to keep up with modern music. So, it has only just recently come to my attention that auditory stimming is a thing. I hadn’t realised it until I saw a tumblr post mentioning a list of stims, and “listening to the same song over and over again” was one of them, which is something I’ve been doing since I was kid.

The thing is, I still do this and I’m starting to think it might be one of my “feel good” stims (as opposed to my “stress relief” stims which are fidget/hand orientated) and I hadn’t realised it until now. It’s funny, I’ve been trying to figure out “feel good” stims for my characters in my Pushing Boundaries series, and I should have realised sooner why I was having such difficulties. If I couldn’t figure out my own ones, I could hardly figure out ones for my characters. At this point, while I can figure out Mary’s “feel good” stims, it’s going to be more difficult for a character like James, who mostly listens to audio books and classical music, and I have a feeling that it’s going be a process of elimination.

So, for the last two days, I’ve been listening to Youtube videos made by Postmodern Jukebox, and these videos have been helpful for character development and Auditory Stimming:

The Original Artist:
~All About That Bass by Megan Trainor
~Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
~Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Habits by Tove Lo
~Hotline Bling by Drake
~Lovefool by The Cardigans
~Stacey’s Mum by Fountains of Wayne
~Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging by Fall Out Boy
~Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
~Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys and Barbie Girl by Aqua (the 90’s was a weird time)

The Postmodern Jukebox Version:
~All About That Bass – Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version ft. Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Morgan James and Ariana Savalas
~Bad Romance – Vintage 1920’s Gatsby Style ft. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich
~Closer – Retro ’50s Prom Style ft. Kenton Chen
~Habits – Vintage 1930’s Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Hotline Bling – Vintage ’40s Swing ft. Cristina Gatti
~Lovefool – Vintage Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Stacy’s Mum – Vintage 1930s Hot Jazz ft. Casey Abrams
~Sugar, We’re Going Down – Vintage Big Band Style ft. Joey Cook
~Sweater Weather – Vintage French Pop / Edith Piaf-style ft. Cristina Gatti
~Barbie Girl – Vintage Beach Boys Style ft. Morgan James

This is just a small sample I’m working with. I’m hoping if I use a small sample, it will make it easier to focus my attention. I am so easily distracted by noise and sound. There are way more songs available from the enormously talented singers and musicians that work with Postmodern Jukebox.

All About The Bass: I’ve already written about my issues with the Megan Trainor version (link is here), however I can’t deny I enjoy listening to this version of the song. Morgan James also changes the line to “go ahead and tell those skinny ladies that”, and coupled with her delivery of the “Naw, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat” line sort of makes it more tolerable? IDK, it’s up to personal interpretation. My favourite part of the song is when all three ladies harmonize together (which is audio catnip for me). The first time I listened to this song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and sigh; I was not aware I was doing that until my partner raised an eyebrow at my behaviour.

Bad Romance: The funny thing is that Lady Gaga herself is a self-taught pianist, so she often performs Poker Face in this style, which I think is great. If anything, I encourage artists to be able to sit back and strip down their music to the essentials. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich work great together as a team, with Sarah performing tap dancing. I would have thought the tap-dancing would make it distracting, but it’s complimentary (or at least that’s the case for me).

Closer: While it’s clear that the guy from The Chainsmokers could not sing to save his life, this is not the case with Kenton Chen and the other vocalists Mario Jose and Vince Cannady. They provide lovely tenor and countertenor harmonization. But this song highlights the fact that talented musicians and vocalists are still restricted by the song. The lyrical clunkiness of the chorus is highlighted because these are talented musicians and vocalists. Much in the same way that Elvis Presley’s bad acting was highlighted further by surrounding him with a cast of talented actors. But, getting back on topic, I just love this style of music. Amongst my favourite songs are I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops and Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers.

Habits: I love the Haley Reinhart version of this (I’ve replayed this countless times over the last two days). I adore Haley Reinhart’s smoky/raspy Mezzo-soprano voice, or at least I think that’s what it’s classified as (I am in no way a music expert). Haley Reinhart is an engaging performer and she is exquisite to listen to.

Hotline Bling: While I despise the original version of this song, I do enjoy the Hotline Bling memes which are hilarious (the Star Wars one is the best, no exceptions). But much like All About That Base, when Cristina Gatti sings this song, it somehow becomes more tolerable (is that the right word?). When I asked my partner to listen to it, he said “Great, now I have to take this song seriously.” He described it as “like Amy Winehouse”, to which I replied “Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing?”, especially since I also love Amy Winehouse’s music such as Rehab (I play this constantly), Back To Black and Valerie (I know this is Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse, but you get the general idea)

Lovefool: As stated previously, I adore tracks performed by Haley Reinhart, but I also really like the original as well. It’s one of my favourite songs, I think both versions are good, but my partner thinks this version is too close to the original. Let me know in the comments section if you agree or disagree.

Stacey’s Mum: This song is a bit of guilty pleasure of mine, and while I enjoy both versions, I’ve got to say that Casey Abrams is mad talented.

Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging: Although I am a big Fall Out Boy Fan, I love it when female artists do covers of songs originally sung for/by men. After all, despite the fact that Otis Reed originally did sing it, Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect is the one that’s most well known, and it’s obvious Aretha Franklin’s version is the better one (not sorry in the slightest). Joey Cook’s version does not disappoint, it sounds just like I imagined a vintage big band to sound like, and the black and white visual adds to the jazzy atmosphere.

Sweater Weather: While I do like the original, I prefer Cristina Gatti’s version, not just because she is lovely to listen to (singing in French!) but also because, unlike the original song, the music composition is consistent throughout the track, the original track slows down the melody for some weird reason near the end. This reminds me strongly of Dancing With Myself by Nouvelle Vague, although I do also enjoy the Billy Idol version of Dancing With Myself as well.

Barbie Girl: With regards to Aqua, I actually have a copy their first album (I give full permission to laugh) and while Barbie Girl was most certainly overplayed, it wasn’t Aqua’s best song, my preferred Aqua songs would be Good Morning Sunshine (even though it has a weird rap moment?) and Happy Boys and Girls (if you could turn Diabetes into a sound, I’m fairly certain it would sound like this). With regards to The Beach Boys, I think Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys is an overrated and, quite frankly, jarring song (there’s a reason people only use the first minute and thirty seconds of that song). I feel that Wouldn’t It Be Good (one of my favourite songs) and I Get Around are better examples of The Beach Boys trademark harmonizing vocals.

And this is why Youtube is both a terrible and wonderful thing. For the last two days, I’ve been feeling happy whilst listening to music, but feeling positive and feeling productive are not the same thing. It’s impossible for me to write and sing at the same time (I’ve tested this). Words can be distracting to productivity, which is why one of my PWE teachers recommended listening to instrumental sounds while writing like cinematic soundtracks or classical music instead.

I have found that I’m more productive with music playing in the background with speakers. I’m not as productive when I’m listening to my mp3 player and headphones, but then again, I live with just my partner and me so that’s possible for me to do that (I understand that’s not possible for everyone). If using Youtube, make use of the playlist function, I found that the playlist function was super helpful and I didn’t have to worry about what video to play next, it automatically went to the next one. This way I could just run it in the background while I did the dishes and the laundry.

So, let me know in the comments section down below if you’re into this type of music or if you like an alternative cover version of a song.

Links:
~Queer Without Gender – Experience Atypical: Sound
~Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist: Signs And Symptoms Of Dysfunction
~Todd In The Shadows: Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Todd In The Shadows: The Best of 2013
~The Rap Critic: Hotline Bling by Drake
~When you try all the sounds and beats on your synth while only playing coldplay – viva la vida
~Auditory Stimming

My Social Skills – Part 2

social-anxiety-infographic

social-anxiety
I’ve been friends with my mate Robert for nearly ten years, since Secondary College and he’s one of the few secondary college friends I’ve managed to keep in contact with. However, my mate Robert has Autism, mild Aspergers to be specific, and while early on in our friendship it did cause a few communication problems (mostly on my behalf), he and I get along well. We get along mostly because I’m blunt and tend to speak my mind a lot (perhaps more than I should) where as with Robert, while he may have difficulties socializing and does suffer from anxiety (the social and general kind), he’s quite diplomatic.

That doesn’t mean he’s not without his eccentricities (as we all are). Robert and my partner are massive gunzels (train enthusiasts), they can go on for hours about trains (model and make), track design, the train signalling system (so the stereotype of people with Autism being obsessed with trains is definitely true is his case). However, as socially awkward as I am, I don’t expect things from Robert the way most people do, like eye-contact or touching. As a general rule, I don’t generally like touching people I don’t know or having people I don’t know touch me.

I understand that some people are “huggers” as they introduce themselves and I can handle that (as long as people are clear about it), but I’m not good at establishing those types of boundaries, I’m not good at judging at what’s appropriate for a certain social situation. I’m also not very good at comforting people when they’re upset, the whole process is incredibly uncomfortable and/or awkward for me, and from what I’ve observed in and talked about with other people, this behavior is seen as not normal, which I don’t think is fair. Different people have different comfort zones and that should be respected.

The thing is, I’ve noticed a trend with people with vision impairment or are blind. For example, when I was doing my Certificate IV and Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, I was walking to the train station and a blind gentleman suddenly stopped and asked me if I was going to the train station (which I was) and if I could take him there, I said sure and guided him there until I got off at my stop at Southern Cross (he did reassure me he’d would be okay). During the whole train trip, he held my hand, not tightly, but never letting go until I had to leave.

Due to my researching into how to interact with people who are either vision impaired or are blind, his behavior makes more sense to me now than it did then. I had thought he had picked me at random, however in retrospect I was one individual person (easier to talk to one person) and I carry a loud and heavy key-chain (easier to hear my approach).

Then there’s this morning, I was catching the 07:19 express train and a young man approached me on the train platform. He was blind in one eye but was able to see with the other. He approached me, introduced himself to me, then refused to let go on my hand the whole train trip from Bacchus Marsh Station to Footscray Station, meanwhile I proceeded to babble at him and make ridiculously pointless small talk.

I will point out that he asked if I was okay, he also asked before I left the train if I was going to be okay catching the bus in Footscray (which I said I’d be fine and I was). However the entire train trip, I was very anxious (I had to take a few deep calming breaths), and while I don’t consider his behavior inappropriate, I also have no idea how to handle such a situation. However I will point out that my experiences are limited and my experiences have only involved blind men, perhaps blind women act differently, I don’t know, I’m trying not to be judgmental.

I’m not trying to demonize anyone here, or that I deserve a cookie for being nice, I suppose I’m just trying to say that interacting with people who have Aspergers and interacting with people who are blind requires two very different sets of social skills. I’m trying to improve, but it’s difficult when interacting with anyone is seen as so easy, it’s not easy, it’s one the hardest things I have to do. So if I seem like a shitty friend, I’m sorry, please know I’m trying to improve, I really am.

Links:
A Million Shades
10 Tips on How To Communicate with Autistic People
Communication and Interaction – The National Autistic Society
How To Communicate With Autistic People
Personal Style and Interaction Tips for Working With Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders by Barbara T. Doyle

Do’s and Don’ts When Interacting with a Person who is Blind
Communicating effectively with people who are blind or vision impaired – Vision Australia

The Howl of The Black Dog

stubborness
On the 5th of March, my step-father Norman passed away from a heart-attack, his passing, on the surface, appeared to be a sudden shock and still does not seem real. However, in retrospect, the incident of a heart-attack was simply inevitable, my step-father’s male lineage is severely afflicted with stubborn men suffering and dying from heart-attacks.

Norman works for a cleaning service (cleaning public places like public toilets, barbecues, emptying rubbish bins) and Norman’s job was to empty public bins along the Calder Park Freeway. Norman was on his normal routine when he picked up a bin to bring it over to his truck to empty (the truck has an automatic lift thingy). The bin was filled with dirt, sand, bricks and other gardening/landscape rubbish (that shouldn’t have been there in the first place but regardless) which meant the bin was extraordinarily heavy, Norman (foolishly I may add) picked up the bin and brought it over to the truck. When he came home, he was in a lot of pain, he thought he had merely strained himself

During the Week, my Mum insisted they call an ambulance or go to the doctor’s, however Norman insisted he was fine and his pain situation appeared (on the surface) to be gradually improving. On the 5th of March, a Thursday, Norman was at work (performing his usual routine jobs) and he suddenly felt worse, he then called his employer and told his employer he wasn’t well, his employer drove out and brought him back to his place in New Gisbon, his employer’s wife called an ambulance, the ambulance got there in about 6 minutes, worked on him for roughly an hour and a half, stabilized him enough to get him into the ambulance, unfortunately despite the best efforts of the paramedics, Norman passed away before the ambulance could leave the drive-way.

The real tragedy of this is if Norman had just been willing to go to the doctors, if he had taken his health seriously, he might still be alive. There is a toxic culture of hyper-masculinity that Norman was afflicted with that prevented him from acknowledging when he had injured himself (sometimes very serious injuries like a broken knee-cap). It is this toxic-masculinity and a phobia of Doctors that prevented him from properly addressing his issues with mental health. However, in the last 3 to 6 months, my step-father had gone to a GP and a psychiatrist, got his anti-depressants adjusted (and was taking them consistently), he hadn’t had a drink for 3 months. Norman was doing everything he could improve his current situation.

Normally, I don’t like to share these personal aspects of my life, I’m not doing this as a way of fishing for condolences or compliments, I am well aware that there is always someone else who is suffering far more than I am, the only reason I’m posting this is in the hope that my step-father’s death will serve as a cautionary tale to others. My mother is haunted by the regret of not forcing my step-father into the car and making him go to the doctors and I would not wish that upon anyone.

My step-father loved Enya and Led Zeppelin and these will be the songs played at his funeral and cremation on Monday.

If I Was A Carpenter by Robert Plant

Pilgrim by Enya

Sea of Love by Robert Plant

Amazing Grace by Bagpipes

Bron Yr Aur by Led Zeppelin

A Day Without Rain by Enya

Black Dog by Led Zeppelin

Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

Links:

Heart Attack Facts – Learn The Warning Signs (men)

Heart Attack Facts – Learn The Warning Signs (women)

My Social Skills – Part 1

Welcome, this week’s post is about My Social Skills and, most importantly, my Lack there of them. I’m not sure if I should turn this into a series, I certainly have enough material to do so, but I’ll see how it goes, technically I’m not supposed to be posting anything at all and should be working on my NaNoWriMo Project.
procrastination
However, I feel strongly about this and it was going to distract me from Metamorphosis anyway until I posted it up, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Anyway. my day-job is a customer service occupation at my local supermarket. For people who require special assistance with shopping, for example an elderly person or a person in a wheelchair (though we do have a wheel-chair accessible trolley available), a customer can come up to the service desk and request someone to assist them.

By circumstance, I’m often stationed at the Disability Access Register, which is a register with a wider lane-way so that people in wheel-chairs can move through it easier, though it’s often used with people who have walking frames, oxygen tanks and certain prams because the other registers are simply too narrow for those types of mobility devices or other equipment to go through. There’s only two of these registers available in the supermarket that I work at and can be identified by the extra light (with a person in a wheel-chair sticker on it) next to the number light that tells a customer a register is open. Now, these registers are at opposite ends of the store, registers 1 and 8 respectively. Register 1 is a pain the arse to use because while it’s a disability access register, it’s often the last register to be updated, there are problems with the eftpos machine (you have to press extra hard on the buttons), it’s not a major problem, but it’s a complete pain in the arse because I get a lot of customers who come into the store and buy things, but don’t bring their glasses along with them, I figure it’s because they’re ashamed to be seen wearing glasses, to be seen as less than perfect. Perhaps a small moment of Vanity might seem insignificant, but it has a whole domino effect on the shopping experience. I’ll give an example:

I once had a middle-aged lady come through my register, spent the whole time leaning close to the register, squinting at the screen, and when it came time to use the eftpos machine, it took her almost ten minutes for her to select her account and type in her pin. That might not seem like a long time, but in Customer service, that is forever. Now, as I said the eftpos machine on register one is difficult, you need to press harder to key in your pin, but a customer shouldn’t need to nearly press their face right up against it to see it. When I asked her if she needed assistance, she snapped at me, saying something along the lines of “I can use an eftpos machine, thank you.”, this mostly because she was embarrassed about the fact that she couldn’t see and she was holding up the other customers. Now, logically that could have all been avoided if she had just worn her glasses, or she could have paid cash, or she could have handed over her eftpos card to me and I could have processed it for her. The person attending the cash-register will generally know how to use the eftpos machine better than a customer (it’s not always the case, I’ve experienced some pretty shitty customer service skills myself, but that’s an indicator of a bigger problem).

The point I’m trying to make here is that, if it’s considerably difficult for a person with impaired vision to perform basic activities (like use an eftpos machine to buy food), imagine what it must be like for someone who is completely blind, how much more difficult those day-to-day things must must be.

Take yesterday for example, the 22nd and the 23rd of November is the annual Strawberries and Cherries Festival that occurs every year (the dates aren’t always the same but it generally happens sometime in November). Most of the time, I work both days of the festival, so it’s not big deal but there’s usually a lot of slow moving people out on the footpath, there’s live music performances going on and there’s a stamp trail (you go around to a bunch of different local shops and collect a stamp on a bingo card, if you collect all the stamps, I think you get a prize? Not entirely sure). Yesterday was the first day of the festival, I was working 14:00 to 17:30 (because my manager likes to give me weird shifts for some reason) and there’s a blind gentleman who comes in on a regular basis, usually on a Saturday.

The gentleman had his guide dog with him on this occasion (he doesn’t always have a guide dog with him, sometimes he only has a cane) and I’m there talking to him, asking how he is, if he was okay with the large amount of people on the sidewalk. I mean, I personally don’t like crowds and I get anxious at being in closed in tight spaces with lots of people, but I can navigate around it. But no apparently he was fine, apparently his dog was very popular with lots of people coming up and patting him (which you really shouldn’t do by the way). The conversation kinda went like this:
“He’s very popular, but people don’t notice me, I’m invisible,” the gentleman said.
I laughed and said “that’s terrible,”

You know, because my brain doesn’t work a lot of the time, and then I realised he wasn’t joking about the being invisible part, so my brain kicked in and told me “WARNING: You just laughed at the idea of a blind man being invisible, you are an awful human being.” and I was guilt-ridden mess for the rest of the time he was there, it doesn’t help that the supermarket I work at is located in a shopping center, where there is LOTS of noise and I often have to speak up or lean closer in order to speak to the gentleman.

To make matters worse, this isn’t the first time I’ve said something really bad and only realised that was an awful thing to say afterwards. Like the time I talking with the gentleman about his previous guide-dog which had to removed from the guide-dog program because the dog was going blind. The conversation went like this.
“Fair enough, we wouldn’t want either of you to get hurt,” I said
“Oh no, he was my best friend, I wanted to keep him,” he said.
I could tell how sad this made him, just by his tone, and then my brain helpfully kicked in and told me “WARNING: You just advocated for a blind person to have his best friend taken away, you are an awful human being.” *GUILTY AWKWARD SILENCE*

So yeah, I suppose the take-away message here is that I should probably not interact with people who have a disabilities or just people in general, perhaps I should just become a hermit and spare everyone my presence. And you know what makes it even worse? I don’t even know his name, or the name of his dog and he probably doesn’t even know mine, which is especially bad as introducing yourself is one of things you’re supposed to do when interacting with blind or visually impaired people (no doubt he knows me as the weird one at the supermarket), and because I’m usually always working on a Saturday and as there’s only two registers he can go through, there’s a high chance he’s stuck with me. So I figured I would look into how to improve my lackluster social skills and apparently there’s a couple of websites that have helped (links are below) and hopefully they will help other people too.

If there are any links to websites, organisations or helpful tips readers would like to suggest, I’m happy to take recommendations.

Links:
Vision Australia
Blind Welfare Association
5 Shocking Ways the Modern World Screws Blind People by J.F. Sargent and T.L. Swedensky
Ten Tips For Interacting With People Who Are Blind by Shelley Johns
Interacting With A Person Who is Blind – Blindskills Inc.

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