A marathon to the 42km:
🎶 Day has begun, and I stumble to the front, there’s no real control of a random event 🎶
- The Finn Brothers
My new outlook on life had begun. Pre-diagnosis I was struggling, blind to the fact that my current way of functioning was completely at odds with how I could more effectively be navigating the world around me. When I put on the glasses of autism, I began to see so clearly the things that had to change in the environment that we (my wife and I) were trying to maintain. No process of change is ever without pain. We chose to give up my job, home, and even our high energy family dog. It may seem extreme, but so is trying to live with the over sensitivity of autism. Being Aspergers means that with my intelligence I can, to some extent, hide the chaos, confusion, and panic that goes on in my mind and body. Even though there are plenty of positives to autism, it is still a disorder. Making these choices meant that we had the freedom to look for a new place to live, choosing a quieter town that borders on a National Park and coastline.
Having identified my biggest stressors, my wife and I decided that the main priority was working on learning tools and techniques to deal more effectively with my stress. It may seem like I took the easy option by choosing to leave the work force, but there are so many small things in life to master which lower stress factors associated with my autism. It would take me a further two years before I could even start thinking about work without triggering panic attacks. Pre-diagnosis I had simply accepted all the things that would overwhelm me in my day to day life, and the costs involved as a result of these stressors, as unpleasant yet unavoidable burdens to bear. Post-diagnosis these stressors were no longer acceptable as I now knew that, with some forethought and planning, they could be potentially avoided, or at least reduced to a more tolerable level. Simple tasks like taking the kids to school, or going shopping, would result in sitting for hours on a chair fatigued from the anxiety and stress. How do you learn to function effectively after functioning poorly for your first 30 years of life? Having an environment where you can disappear into nature and revel in the beauty and rest to be found, is a good place to begin.
For me, learning to function started with a simple google search; “running and autism”. The search returned no information to answer the question I really wanted to ask, but it got me thinking in the right direction. I am well aware that I have an obsessive and addictive personality, and once during a talk with a psychologist she challenged me to stop completely removing things out of my life once I’m obsessed or addicted to them, but learn to control the obsession and make it work for me. Whiskey collections, gaming, beer, cigars, and running were the current obsessions/addictions I had to work with at the time. Running, of course, was the only choice that had any redemptive value to give back to the family as a whole, so I chose running. I had ground my body right down and it was in poor shape. I would have to do some reasonable research into the toll running takes on your body then create guidelines to recover and rebuild the body I had worn out so thoroughly.
Knowing what needs to happen was only half the solution, as I had to also learn how my autism/obsessive traits would be constantly fighting with the guidelines that I imposed. To maintain my running I had to create structure: No more than a 10% increase in mileage each week, long run no more than 40% total weekly mileage, no running with pain, mandatory rest days and so forth. These guidelines meant that my daily routine became more structured, I was forced to carefully plan days ahead, and with the regular intake of serotonin my mood was starting to stabilise. Physically I was getting fitter, and with this comes pride and respect for the body so cigar smoking stopped, and drinking began to decrease. I really look forward to going into the aspects of this in more detail in future blogs, but for now; I was finally taking control of my life, guided by the lessons running provided using structure, discipline, and planning to more knowledgeably look after the body and mind.
The most important element is of course, the feeling of success. The morning I set out on my own into the National Park and completed my first marathon, signified a success that will stay with me always.