Weight

Sticking to an eating regime long term……..

Losing weight is hard for everyone. The human body does not like to draw on its fat stores when calorific intake is insufficient for its needs. The physical sign of this is the feeling of hunger but there is also a profound effect on the brain. When hungry the desire for food can be all consuming and the feeling of satiating this hunger can be very comforting. This can lead to people seeking that feeling of comfort even when they’re not hungry. I am a comfort eater and it is for this reason that I became morbidly obese when suffering from clinical depression.

When faced with having to lose a massive amount of weight it can be very daunting. I knew that if I was to reach a healthy weight I would have to put my body in calorie deficit for more than a year; maybe even two. The thought of having to bear my brain screaming for food for that length of time was enough to keep me procrastinating for years.

I have discussed my weight journey in detail in a previous post so I won’t repeat it here. I have successfully been losing weight since early August last year. It would be easy for people looking at me now to think that I’ve found it easy but that is not true. I stick to my healthy eating plan rigidly but this doesn’t stop the internal struggle. I walked into a supermarket this week and was faced with huge displays of Christmas food; boxes of mince pies, boxes of chocolate biscuits and tins of chocolates. I felt a tremendous sense of loss that I could no longer eat the way I used to. It’s almost like I was grieving for my old eating habits. I managed to resist the temptation and later at the doctors surgery I saw two ladies who were the same size as I used to be and it made me realise that the sacrifice is worth it.

Today my BMI dropped out of the obese category, so medically I am just merely overweight now. The improvement in my health is huge and I’m hoping with more time, I will stop longing for my old way of eating. I know I will never be able to eat that way again because I will just regain the weight; my healthy diet has to be for life.

Atheism

We need to give ourselves and each other more credit……..

One of the most insidious aspects of religion -and I speak here of Christianity in particular- is that we are all labelled as helpless sinners who need to be reconciled with God. The ever popular hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ contains the line ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me’. The fact that Christians see themselves as wretches really bothers me. There is nothing more pure than a newborn baby. At birth a baby has the potential to do wonderful things for humankind and to label them as a ‘wretch’ is so wrong.

I have been told that some people aren’t as strong as I am and ‘need a crutch’ to live. I don’t consider myself to be a strong person. I have crumbled many times under stress and even had a total breakdown in 2003; there is nothing special about me. I understand that a lot of people derive solace and comfort in their faith and I don’t have the right to take this away from them. However this perceived need for comfort comes from the religion itself. Matt Dillahunty (a host on ‘The Atheist Experience’) has often said that ‘religion breaks your legs so it can give you a crutch’. If people didn’t rely on a God to sort their life out they would realise that the only person who can change their situation is them.

When my Dad was terminally ill with cancer I didn’t spend my time praying to God for healing, I spent my time doing everything I could to make his last months meaningful. I spent time with him, told him that I loved him. I’m not to going lie to you, it was a bloody hard time but when he died I knew I had done my utmost for him.

Twelve step programs help people who have addictions but one of these steps is often acknowledging that you ‘come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity’ (taken from Alcoholics Anonymous). I think the first step to recovery in any situation should be acknowledging that we are totally responsible for our own actions and consequently it is up to us and us alone to get ourselves out of our current situations.

Earlier this year 12 boys in Thailand got stuck in cave with rising water. The whole world banded together for the rescue. One diver lost their life in the rescue and was heralded, quite rightly, as a hero. Over a period of days all the boys were rescued. Social media was full of people praising God for their safety. This made me really angry, everyone of those rescuers risked their lives for those children and people were giving God the credit. It is the same when people come through difficult surgeries; the surgeon is often not given his dues.

I have achieved a lot this year. I have lost a substantial amount of weight, got my body moving again after a decade of illness and totally changed my thought processes. I’ve only managed to do this through sheer hard work and I am unashamedly proud of myself. This has had a knock on effect on my whole life; everyone around me has benefited from the ‘new me’.

Imagine what humankind could achieve if we all took credit for are own actions!

Fibromyalgia

The final fibromyalgia barrier…….

The current medical advice for fibromyalgia patients is to engage in some gentle exercise combined with regular stretching to avoid the muscles becoming tight and causing more pain. For the past couple of months I have finally managed to achieve the former. The latter is another story.

I did a coping skills program approximately 10 years ago which provided a guide to which stretches I should be doing everyday; I found them excruciating. This was at a time when I had initially had to give up work and I was in a bad place mentally. I just didn’t see the point of causing myself anymore pain. Fast forward to today and I still haven’t done anything about it.

Since introducing my short daily walks I have started to feel so much better in myself. It still hurts to walk and it does tire me out but I feel I have more energy over all. I’ve been able to do a few things around the house which I haven’t felt able to do for 10 years. What more would I be able to do if added the stretching into my daily routine?

Unfortunately I have lost my notes from the coping skills program so I am searching the internet for something similar. I don’t want to overdo it and end up not doing it at all. I have considered trying yoga and have even found a beginners class I could attend. I think my muscles maybe too tight at the moment to even attempt it. There is also the hurdle of going to a group and not knowing the people there. My lack of normal social skills is always at the back of my mind and I just don’t feel that I have it in me to try at the moment.

So where does this leave me? I think for now I will try to get a hold of the proper stretching exercises from the hospital where I did the coping skills program. Hopefully I will feel able to start doing yoga at a later date.

Atheism

Where I stand on the big questions……..

When I was a small child I attended Sunday school at a local church. I don’t remember when I was first told about God and Jesus. I do remember thinking that I wasn’t good enough to go to heaven when I died but as it was in the distant future it didn’t bother me that much. At primary school we sang hymns and said prayers but I never thought deeply about God. Even when I was a junior soldier in the Salvation Army I was there for the music and not for God. I always thought that everyone believed in God so I was a bit perturbed when I found out that David didn’t.

Apart from the story of Moses and Jesus I hadn’t read much of the Bible. This was to change in 2003 when I started attending church properly. This was at a time when I felt that something was missing and thought that going to church might help. I not only read the Bible but also other Christian literature. I loved the ‘Left Behind’ series which introduced me to the concept of the rapture and end times. Had I lived in the US I would have attended a church that had adopted this doctrine. The minister at the church was a very kind man and I took to him immediately. He was able to answer the questions I had when they were fairly basic but would always deflect them when he found them challenging.

The more of the Bible I read the more disillusioned I became. The God of the Old Testament is jealous, angry, vengeful God who condones slavery. I know Christians say that Jesus brought with him a new covenant but Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to change the law but to fulfil it. When I tried to pray, deep down I knew there was no one listening. It finally took reading Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ for me to finally admit to myself that I was an atheist. It is very difficult to let go of a belief that you’ve held since childhood and it took some time.

Earlier this year I found the ACA (The Atheist Community of Austin) on the internet and I have found a group of people that I really identify with. I have watched countless debates and documentaries and have learned so much. I have seen how the arguments for God’s existence do not stand up to scrutiny and are full of logical fallacies.

I am so fortunate not to live in the US where atheists are one of the most distrusted groups of people in society. For a nation founded on secular principles I find it very disturbing how much religion is integrated into their society. The ACA is campaigning for separation of church and state but they’re facing an uphill struggle. Religious groups are trying to legislate that creationism should be taught in schools as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution in science lessons. I have nothing against religion being taught in schools but I think all of the world’s religion should be taught.

I have many online friends in the reborn community that come from the US and it has taken me years to let them know that I don’t share their beliefs. The most common response I’ve had is that they’re ok with my atheism as long I still ‘respect’ their beliefs. I can’t respect their beliefs but I do respect their right to have them which I think is an important distinction.

I love science. I have studied biology and chemistry at university and have tried to bring my physics knowledge up to the same level over the years. Over the past 300 years the scientific discoveries that have been made have proven that there are natural explanations for phenomenon that were previously thought to be down to a supreme being. There is no reason to think that the questions that remain in the world of science won’t be answered in this way.

Personally I find the natural universe around me far more awe inspiring than any universe that could be created by an omniscient being.

Autism

The positives of being autistic……..

Good memory.

I have mentioned my excellent memory in a previous post albeit in a negative sense. However having a memory like mine has helped me immensely especially during my student life. My first degree was in molecular and cellular biology and there were endless biochemical pathways that I needed to know and remember for exams. I was able to not only remember each step on the pathways but also the full chemical structures of the intermediates together with each enzyme name for every step. In one 3 hour exam which only contained 4 questions I received 100% for 2 of the questions because they involved these pathways.

I have an insatiable desire for knowledge but only in the areas that interest me. These are usually the areas of science and mathematics but there are a few subjects outside of these that I also love such as history and the origin of religion. I watch documentaries in preference to other programmes. I have also done many online courses since I have been unable to work. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery I’d do some more degrees with the Open University.

I am particularly good at remembering names and faces. I can remember everybody that I went to school with; even in the infants and not only them, but also their parents and siblings. It really freaks people out and I take some weird satisfaction from that.

What you see is what you get.

I don’t have hidden agendas when I interact with people. I am brutally honest if even if I know that it may upset the person to hear the truth. I hate it when people try to bullshit me and I call them out on it. Everybody knows where I stand on any issue and I think that can be refreshing in todays society.

Intelligence.

Many people with autism are extremely intelligent. The last intelligence test that I took estimated my IQ at 155. For me, being intelligent is a double edged sword. I have had a lot of academic success and consequently a comfortable life. I relish any opportunity to learn something new and I am in awe of the universe around me. However I find interacting with people who are not at my level difficult. I don’t know how to talk to them. I often use words that they don’t understand and I worry all the time that they think I’m weird. Over the years I have tended to stick with people who are likeminded.

Attention to detail.

I am able to concentrate for extremely long periods of time when involved in something of interest to me. I can of pick out tiny errors and imperfections in any tasks that I’m working on and will always strive to eliminate them. Consequently anything I produce is of a high standard even if this is at the expense of it taking me longer to do than a neurotypical person would. This trait was very advantageous when I was working as a software engineer when I was involved in producing safety critical systems.

Diverse interests.

Autistic people are known for their intense interests. I have had several in my lifetime and at the moment it is reborning. Reborning is the creation of realistic baby dolls and is a very involved process. Before I started reborning I did an incredible amount of research and taught myself how to do it from videos on You Tube. I continue to work at my craft and I am striving to make the most realistic doll that I can.

My husband’s interest is in machine lathing and has been through the exact same process of research and learning. My younger daughter taught herself to play the guitar and within 3 years had aced her Grade 8 exam; the highest grade possible. I don’t think that any of us would be at the standard we are without our autistic brains.

Non conformist

I don’t follow the crowd. I’m no longer bothered about fitting in with other people. I wear the clothes I like, that are comfortable regardless of fashion. I don’t like the feel of makeup on my skin so I don’t wear it unless I’m absolutely forced to (such as family weddings). As long as I am clean, I don’t see the point of trying to make myself look good for other people. My husband finds me attractive the way I am and that’s all I care about. I think that people who are obsessed with their looks are shallow and judgmental. There’s no point looking beautiful on the outside if you’re mean on the inside. I never judge a person based on the way they look and I think society would be a happier place if other people did the same.

Summing Up

Neurotypical people often focus on the challenges facing autistic people. I hope I have managed to show some of the strengths in this post. I often wonder if I could go back and choose not to be autistic would I do it? I definitely would have had an easier time growing up but most of what I value about myself -who I am and what I do- are a direct result of my brain working the way it does. I am happy with my lot.

Autism

My relationship with music……..

I’m going to categorise this subject under autism because I’m uncertain whether my feelings about music are the same as neurotypical people.

Music has played a massive part in my life. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t affected by it. My Mum said that at the age of 18 months I would climb on the settee as soon as the BBC program Songs of Praise began and I wouldn’t move until it had finished. My Dad took me to see Walt Disney’s Snow White at the cinema when I was four years old and I came home crying my eyes out because the music at the end had moved me. Not all of my reactions to music were positive. At the age of 8 I listened to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and was utterly terrified. It’s only as an adult that I can listen to it without breaking out in a cold sweat.

I taught myself to play the recorder at age 7 and was able to play any tune I wanted by ear. I did progress to the flute at senior school and as an adult I have had piano lessons. I do enjoy playing music but I have been frustrated in my lack of ability to make the instruments sound the way I want them to. I used to love singing and sang in choirs at school and church. Unfortunately my voice was severely damaged after a serious bout of tonsillitis which developed into quinsies.

I love going to the theatre and try to see a show in London once a year. I wish I could go more often but my fibromyalgia prevents me; it takes me at least a couple of weeks to recover. I love live music – especially rock concerts- but I lack the ability to stand for long periods now.

My taste in music is very wide. I love everything from classical right through to hard rock music. The sheer beauty of some music makes me cry. I never thought I would be able to choose a single favourite song to mention here but I can honestly say that ‘Let me Fall’ sung by Josh Groban is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard – hear it here,.

Music has always and will always play a huge part in my life. I cannot imagine my life without it.

Autism

Not being able to let things go……..

Writing the previous post brought up a lot negative emotions for me. I have been blessed -or is it cursed- with an excellent memory and can recall things that have happened in my life vividly; unfortunately these are not always happy memories. People with autism mostly adhere to rational thought, routine and rules and when these are not met they feel they have to find an explanation.

I worry what people think of me and I really hate it when I feel that I’ve upset someone usually because they’ve misunderstood my intent. My instinct is to always try and talk it out to make sure they understand what I really meant even if the person is hostile. This has been a source of great distress to me.

There are a number of people over the years that have really hurt me and I have found it very difficult to forgive and forget some of them. I had a teacher in the infants that really disliked me and would never miss an opportunity to berate and humiliate me in front of the class. I had the misfortune to have the same teacher for a year later on and suffered the same treatment. I have never been able to let go of the anger and hurt I felt back then. I wish I could, but my brain won’t let me. It’s the same with anybody that has hurt my girls.

I don’t sit and continually go over in my head everything that has ever hurt me. However if a memory is triggered the associated anger and hurt will surface at an intensity that can overwhelm me. I know it isn’t healthy but I can’t seem to do anything about it.

I have managed to let go of some of the painful memories surrounding my childhood experiences with my father because as an adult I can understand the reasons for the way he was. I don’t remember feeling as if my father loved me when I was little but he had a difficult childhood and just didn’t know what to do with me. My Dad and I became a lot closer as adults and I was able to tell him that I loved him and mean it when he was terminally ill.

I can forgive and forget as long as I understand the reason behind the bad behaviour and the person has sincerely apologised. The things I can’t forgive are cruelty and selfishness. I will continue to try and let these go because I know that it will make my life better.

Fibromyalgia

The fear of not being believed………

I have mentioned before that during my adolescence I experienced periods of feeling very unwell. I know that both my mother and grandfather (who was a retired nurse) thought I was playacting or that my way of eating was to blame. Not being believed has had a lasting effect on me.

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia there were many people who thought I was malingering. Even my husband thought I was exaggerating my symptoms. What was so hurtful was that my mother in law was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome a couple of years earlier and he was full of sympathy and understanding. It took a number of years for him to realise that I was really ill.

One of the problems with fibromyalgia is that the symptoms are pervasive. It is very difficult to decide which symptoms are down to the fibromyalgia and which are indicative of something new. In May I had severe back pain and was told by a doctor that it was down to fibromyalgia. I had the same pain a month ago which I ignored even when it became so severe that my strongest painkillers didn’t touch it . It took me two weeks to go to the doctor and I was told that I also had a fever and tachycardia. I was diagnosed with pyelonephritis (infection of the kidney) and was nearly hospitalised. Fortunately I responded well to oral antibiotics and I’ve now recovered. This situation wouldn’t have escalated if I hadn’t had the fear of not being believed. I now have urine testing strips and a digital thermometer at home so I can check both if this happens again.

There are some in the medical profession that don’t accept fibromyalgia as a genuine medical condition. I have been fortunate enough to have a GP that is open minded. It is very difficult to get an appointment with him if I have an emergency such as a few weeks ago; it’s just the way the NHS is at the moment. I live in hope that current research will eventually find the cause of fibromyalgia so that I and other sufferers can feel some vindication.

Weight

Things that are going well……..

Having reached the end of my back story I am now wondering where to go from here. Things are great at the moment but I know that my situation is not stable. It wouldn’t take much for me to slip back into old habits.

I lost my father in June 2017 and understandably took it badly. We knew it was coming as he had been very ill with cancer for 18 months. I made the most of those 18 months with my Dad but it was a very stressful time. In 2014 I’d managed to lose 4 stone in weight but during those 18 months I regained all of it plus a bit more.

In August 2017 I made the decision to rejoin Slimming World and haven’t looked back. I’m still 10 lbs away from my lowest weight in 2014 but I’m definitely going to get there. The thing that has helped me the most was realising that I had a big problem with chocolate. There was never a maximum amount of chocolate that I could eat that I wouldn’t go over; it never made me feel sick. I craved it like an alcoholic craves a drink. When I started Slimming World I decided to cut it out completely and I haven’t had any since August 2017 (apart from the tiny amounts on hifi bars). The cravings eventually stopped but I know that -just like an alcoholic- if I were to start eating it again I’d be back to square one. At the same time I also gave up biscuits. I’m not a saint, I still allow myself the odd piece of cake or a dessert but I have it in place of a meal and as I only do it once a month or so, it doesn’t affect my health or my weight loss.

I love my Slimming World group and I actually feel that I fit in there. There is so much support and camaraderie that I look forward to going every week. My brain is finally on my side and I am able to stick to the Food Optimising plan with ease. I only have to lose another 16 lbs and I will have a lost a whole 100 lbs from my heaviest weight. I have had this goal for the past 10 years and I know without a doubt that I will do it.

Uncategorized

Bringing it all together……..

It has been difficult to talk about my diagnoses separately as they all interact to make who I am. Genetics has a lot to answer for. My father almost certainly had autism/Asperger’s syndrome although it was never diagnosed. I think that autism is something that is innate and is not the result of environmental influences. I have to mention here that there is no evidence whatsoever to link vaccinations to autism.

I have often wondered whether I would have developed depression if I hadn’t had autism and experienced all the associated difficulties. However both of my parents have been treated for depression as was my maternal grandmother. I think that I was almost certainly genetically predisposed to both depression and fibromyalgia and my life experience led to the development of both conditions.

I have had periods of being very bitter about how my life has panned out. I think that this was only natural but I soon decided that there is futility in self pity. I am so fortunate in many ways. I have a loving husband who loves me unconditionally and two beautiful daughters. Although I always have some degree of pain my condition is not life threatening. I just have to make the best of what I have.

It is only in the past year that I feel I have made any real progress. I have worked very hard at getting my anxiety under control and David is reaping the benefits of me being more independent. Although he hardly complained it was becoming obvious that my condition was a source of stress for him. We have both been a lot happier in recent months. As previously mentioned I have also lost a lot of weight and found a level of exercise that is maintainable. I just hope that I don’t slip back into old habits.