How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Family’

Let’s Keep Moving!

"I've Got to Keep on Moving!"-Matthew Wilder

“I’ve Got to Keep on Moving!”-Matthew Wilder

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how being active has alleviated the worst parts of my Asperger’s Syndrome and helped me eliminate the need for prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I’m very happy to say that I’m not only maintaining this lifestyle, but I’ve found new ways to keep myself healthy and vital. It’s a gradual process because I still need to take small steps to change my established routines, but I have a variety of activities that don’t feel like chores at all.

I believe it all starts with perspective. Some people still don’t realize how Aspies can be very sensitive to disruptions in routine. Generally, the lower functioning the person, the more likely they will act out in nonverbal, hard-to-understand ways. Even though I have High-Functioning Autism, I’ve still had my moments of vocal protest.

Can you imagine being so sensitive to disruptions in your surroundings that you become gripped by paralyzing fear and heart-pounding stress? Think of a high-stress, no-relief day with no end in sight and no way to communicate how you feel! This is what can happen to someone living with Autism on a daily basis!

Fortunately, with years of counseling, specialized therapy, and a strong support system, I developed coping skills like using different activities that not only boost my physical health, but also improve my mental health and well-being. I feel like physical fitness starts with improving the body and evolves into strengthening the mind and soul. Everyone including those on the Spectrum can benefit from variety, it just takes time to find out what works best.

Some activities I learned to enjoy with time, and others I took an instant liking to. I’ve written about the different exercise tapes and DVDs that got me started on my fitness journey. Since then, I’ve also utilized my membership at a local gym. One of my favorite activities is playing the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game and the different dancing games for Xbox 360 and Kinect. They give me a fun workout and an adrenaline rush that lifts my spirits to new heights! I’ve talked about this extensively in a previous post entitled “You Should Be Dancing

In the past two years I’ve developed an interest in hiking, which used to be out of character for me, I didn’t really consider myself an outdoor person. There is such a centering, affirming quality to hiking. Looking for different trails and walking a path in the midst of nature is a great way to clear my mind. When I focus on where I plant my feet, I’m reminded of the spiritual strength that comes from walking meditation. I regain a clear perspective on life, and that’s worth feeling tired at the end.

At the gym, I take advantage of the special classes that are offered. I’ve found the most energy, excitement, and sweat equity in cycling and kickboxing. Doing the early classes helps my day to start off in a positive way, and that’s something, considering that I never used to be a morning person!

I participate in several runs for charity each year: perfect opportunities to test my fitness level in the real world. I’ve also discovered farmer’s markets, museums, parks, and outdoor festivals are great not only for walking, but for socializing as well. It may not seem like much, but I enjoy living in the moment.

I’ve come a long way from the boy who was afraid of P.E. and ate junk food to hide his insecurities. I’m more alive and youthful than I was in high school! Now, what kind of activities keep you in motion? How long have you enjoyed them, and do they lift your spirits? Everyone’s at a different place in their journeys, and I’m just glad to be in the place I am today with the ability to keep moving!

Today’s musical inspiration is a fun little ditty from the 1980s by Matthew Wilder: “Break My Stride

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In My Life

Every day is a gift & so are the people in my life.  -Anthony

Every day is a gift & so are the people in my life. -Anthony

People in my life have influenced me since I was born, and the impact has been good, bad, and everything in between. Truthfully, it’s often difficult for people on the Autism Spectrum to appreciate or even understand the influence others have on them; even some neuro-typical people may not realize it. What I do understand is that my outlook on life has been enriched in lots of ways. I could write many posts about all the people in my life, but it’s better for me to articulate what I know for sure through the stages of my Autism Spectrum journey.

From the time I was little to when I started community college, I experienced the highs and lows of learning to be in social situations. Where most neuro-typicals easily learn how to socialize, my social awkwardness kept me from having real friends until I was in high school. Then I was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at fifteen and began to understand just how different and special I was. I owe a debt of gratitude to those people who stood in my corner and helped me to discover an important part of myself. By knowing myself better, I felt like I could devote more attention to learning how to be a true friend.

When I was in community college and I transferred to a university, my world views were honed and developed, but that’s when my classmates became something more. Years before, I didn’t know how to talk to or deal with other kids in my class; the college dynamic changed all of that. Because I had a better sense of self and maybe because I wasn’t competing for attention from the teachers, classmates became the people I practiced learning about the workplace with. Working on different projects and bouncing ideas off of each other during class helped me discover that with the right partners and the proper motivation, I could be an asset to a team.

My closest friends and family are the ones who I can open up to and trust with my life. I’ve experienced disappointment, of course. That was because I used to hold some people in such high regard that I felt let down when I learned about their frailties and mistakes. Still, I learned that there are some people I can love from a distance in order to stay away from their negativity, as well as preserve my own sanity. Sadly, there are a few people in my life who are no longer living. Even though I may have lost touch with people, or lost their presence in this world, once in a while I still remember how they made my life a little sunnier with just their presence. They may not be with me physically, but in my heart I can still feel them.

I’ve realized that every person you meet comes into your life for a reason. No matter how large or small their impact, you are changed forever. It wasn’t easy, but I learned to appreciate every person who comes into my life, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. The gratitude I have cannot be put into words, but to know that it’s in my heart is worth the joy, pain, relief, and grace that I’ve found with this important life lesson. Now I ask you: who’s made an impact in your life? Have you learned to be grateful, even for the negative experiences? Where are you with your own relationships? I hope that you take time to ponder that. You might experience what happened to me and discover something amazing you never would have thought possible.

Today’s musical inspiration is a wonderfully appropriate song by the Beatles: “In My Life”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zicw_dVwhfM

Merry Christmas to All!

Merry Christmas with Love & Hope!

Merry Christmas with Love & Hope!

On this beautiful Christmas night, I have a special message to all who have supported me this year and all who have recently started viewing this blog. I wish you all Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart. I’m grateful for your support and encouragement, and I hope your Christmas has been full of love and togetherness with your loved ones. I share with you peace and blessings for the coming year and I share with you my hope that we will grow together on our own journeys. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas with love for everyone.

Here’s a special present from me to you! It’s a beautiful rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” by one of my favorite music groups: Pentatonix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc5qePnxg2g

Happy Christmas Eve!

"Every day is a new chance at living."

“Every day is a new chance at living.”

Hi, everyone! With Christmas Eve here, I just want to take time to thank all of you who have supported me for the past couple of years. It’s true that I haven’t had any new posts in a month, but even I’m not immune to the onrush of winter holiday events. As you all carry out whatever plans you’ve made for Christmas, I just want to say Thank You for your support and energy to keep bringing my message of hope to the world. I’ll see you on Christmas day with some very special blessings. Have a great Christmas Eve. Be safe and joyful.

Love,
Anthony

Gathering Gratitude

A Happy Thanksgiving to all who have supported me!

A Happy Thanksgiving to all who have supported me!

Hello to all of my supporters! On this beautiful day, I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to your families and friends. No matter what happens, any day that I wake up and live a fully engaged life is a great one. I hope that all of learn to feel the same gratitude that I have learned to embrace on my own journey with Autism. May we all be appreciative for what we have. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I give thanks for your continued support.

The Gift of Time

Every day is a gift.

Every day is a gift.

With many holidays approaching, I’m just like a lot of people wondering about what gifts they’re going to purchase for whom. Truthfully, I have a pretty short list of people I’m closest to, but I love feeling like it’s the quality of the relationships rather than quantity. Like many people, I’ve puzzled over what to purchase as gifts. However, thanks to my growing self-awareness and my advances in intuition and empathy, I’ve learned how to give something valuable to the people on my list. What I’ve learned to give them…is time. What do I mean? Well, I mean quality time and an opportunity to connect.

There’s no denying that today, we live in an age of distraction. Electronic devices, jobs, family, and friends all compete for our attention and drive so many of us to nervous insanity; this is nothing new to me. I believe that when I was very young, my heightened sensory perception, a common side-effect of Autism, led me to being more prone to distraction and subsequent frustration afterwards.

I could see the writing on the wall, and I knew something had to be done. I knew I was different before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at fifteen, and I wanted to explain myself, but I couldn’t. After my diagnosis, I chose not to believe that I was a “typical” case in any way. I was determined to overcome the challenges and find a way to use my gifts to embrace who I am at heart.

It hasn’t been easy or fast in coming. I had to learn a lot about patience and understanding before I gained the confidence to be present and happy with myself. Personally, I think multitasking is overrated and I couldn’t do it to save my life! By trusting the process, I learned that I was ahead of the curve when I gained a new coping skill for daily life and was better prepared when new technology and jobs made the world both more connected and more distracted. I trust such things as blogs and social media, but my life is not defined by them. For me, human connection is too precious to take for granted; I welcome all opportunities to test my ever-evolving social skills.

An added bonus I gained was an ability to be observant of people’s needs and desires and to take action with them when possible. This enabled me to buy gifts that were sincere and from my heart. I enjoy giving people a chance to reconnect and just be present with one another. Whatever the situation and relationship is, in my heart, I find a way to make it work. What matters most is that I made a difference in people’s lives and my greatest satisfaction is their gratitude and appreciation.

I’ve come a long way since my diagnosis. It’s not common for people on the Autism Spectrum to relate to “neuro-typicals” on a deep level. I have been blessed to be able to find a way to be socially competent while staying true to myself at the same time. To give something to a friend or family member that is from the heart is like being the vessel for a small blessing from God to reach the hands of someone in need. I’m blessed and grateful to give such precious gifts to those I love. For me, this is what the holiday spirit is all about.

Starting Over

o-BOOK-SCULPTURE-570“Starting Over”: that simple two-word phrase that’s just loaded with meanings and connotations.  The first thing that may come to mind is when a person suffers a tragic event in their life and has to “start life all over again”.  One does not have to go through a big terrible event or even rebuild their entire life from scratch.  You may wonder “isn’t that what always happens to someone when they have a mid-life crisis?”  Hardly!  You don’t have to let half your life pass by before feeling like you need to change.  Hell, you don’t even need to live a quarter of your life to make readjustments!  I believe there’s a cycle to life and that we each have the power to determine our quality of that life.  It isn’t completely dictated by chronological age, it comes in chapters during different ages and many of them happen at the same time.

With the help of this blog, I’ve made my life an open book.  I’ve started many new chapters and ended many others; sometimes the changes are sudden, sometimes they’re gradual.  I recognize the moment when a certain chapter of my life has closed and a new one has begun.  I wonder if being aware of these transitions is just an Aspie thing or a part of human nature.

As a little boy I was told that I could sing, but I didn’t know what it meant until third grade when I was persuaded to join the elementary school choir.  From that point on, music was always present in my life.  I knew that singing and performing on stage was a great source of joy that rested at the core of my being.  This is a part of me that will never be done until I’m ready to leave this world.  Music is so important to me that I can’t imagine living my life without it.

When I graduated from one school and entered a new one, that was one chapter ending and a new one beginning.  For a while I didn’t know what the next chapter would be after I graduated college but after talking it over with Mom and Dad, I believed that I could make a difference with my words, and soon this blog was born as my next chapter of growth and learning.  I feel like humans should never stop growing and learning when they’re out of school; if you stop wanting to, you’ll miss out on some great experiences.

When I was in community college, I realized that music was not a viable option to make a living.  The pivotal moment came when I was preparing to transfer to a nearby university.  One day, I met a woman at an Autism conference who told me about a university that was farther away, but with smaller class sizes and a youthful dynamic well-suited for someone like me on the Autism Spectrum.  I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for that meeting, I never would have considered moving out, renting my own apartment, and changing my major from Music to Literature.  Funny how a chance meeting can close one chapter and open another at the same time!

By far, one of the most important moments of my life happened when I was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I received the formal diagnosis when I was fifteen, less than one year into high school.  From that moment on, my hazy feeling of living unaware began to disappear.  I took that first step into the larger world of life on the Autism Spectrum by first coming to terms with what it meant.  Gradually, I learned to speak up as I acquired the knowledge and language with which to explain myself.  Today I advocate for myself, but look forward to the day when I begin to advocate for other “Aspies” on a larger scale.

My chapters about love are…complex to say the least.  In my family, I used to look at my relatives as special and they could do no wrong.  As I got older I began to notice how some their words and actions didn’t feel right to me.  Thanks to my network of supportive family and friends, I have come to terms with their flaws, frailties, and differences.  I have turned a page and learned to love them, but some of them I have to love from a distance to avoid being baited into drama and negativity.

I was with a special woman for two years; we were each other’s first real love.  When I realized that we were leading very different lives, I was forced to end our relationship.  For nearly a year I felt as though I was in limbo; the shock of the breakup was so much to deal with.  One year later, I received a letter of apology from her saying how much she regretted the way things ended and how it forced her to look at herself and own up to her mistakes.  That began the slow process of writing our last good-byes to each other and closing the door on the past with no hard feelings.  I don’t know exactly when my next chapter of romance will begin, but I have faith that it will be even better and more fulfilling because of how far I’ve come.

In my life I’ve started and ended many chapters before I even knew how to articulate them.  Some are over for good, others are ongoing, and others have yet to be written.  With the groundwork of a new family business underway, I’m looking forward to this new chapter.  Stay tuned for updates on this very special project.  In the meantime, I am blessed to close this chapter of my blog and open a new one.  I’m proud of the story I’ve written so far and thank all of my readers!

PS: Part of my inspiration came from a classic song by John Lennon: “(Just Like) Starting Over”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWWbu_RSh7Q