Thursday, June 9, 2022

Autism Answer: Quitting Lying Meant Learning The Truth


My sister and I (then)

My sister and I were tall-tale tellers as little girls. We loved to invent entire worlds of reality and put ourselves in important roles at the center of them. We shared some of these stories with friends and cousins, insisting we were truly as fascinating and valuable as our stories suggested. I don't know about my sister, but I honestly believed we were being believed. 
As we got a little older both my sister and I quit lying. If I'm remembering correctly, my sister did so in more of a slow weaning herself off way. Me, I quit cold turkey. As I would do with my unhealthy addictions later in life, I didn't try to balance it out or dabble when it made sense, I instead decided absolutely no. None. Never. Nope. 
Now, I have quite a few things this way. Makeup. Smoking. Alcohol. And with them it was less complicated than lying. Sure, I fell off the wagon a few times with those addictions also, but hardly. And quitting was, mostly, simple.
Not so with lying. Partly, I suppose, because it was my first time quitting something. Partly, because it was a habit I had honed in all my environments. It had followed me everywhere. But, mainly, it was oh so challenging because to quit lying I needed to know the truth. But the truth - who I was, what I wanted, where my skills were - had largely been invented to impress. I hadn't taken time to figure out the truth and, in fact, hadn't thought it was of real value. I wanted to be like the stories I read and the songs that moved me. I wanted to be a story that made people feel, dance, change. So I tried to make me up as such. 
But lying, I had noticed, did not give me the feeling of those stories. Instead, it gave me the feeling of denying them. Of faking it. Of wanting to be an important story and desperately pretending. 
So I quit cold turkey. But I didn't stop. Sometimes, because I fell of the wagon. But mostly, because I didn't know the truth. 
I was trying, truly truly truly trying, to dig down to where I was, to where my beliefs and feelings and dreams were, so I could always tell the truth. Some I found easily, most I spent years and years discovering and tweaking. 
Lying, to me, felt like denying myself. Felt painfully duplicitous. I had a belief that being wise, which was something I wanted to be, and being kind, which was something I also wanted to be, and being a good influence on the world, something I extra badly wanted to be, especially as a parent, meant being authentic, in touch with my simple self, and learning to change, to grow different when that different was in line with what I believed was right. 
Hence, every lie - big or small - meant I was not wise, kind, or a good influence. It meant I didn't like me enough to say what was true. And since I am me it doesn't make any sense whatsoever to be someone I don't like. I have the power to be a me I like and not doing so is cowardly. 
I am now sometimes honest to the point of ridiculousness. It can be challenging for me to give a simple question a simple answer because I'm in the habit of taking ten hours to follow all my thoughts to the core of the truth of the answer. People are often sorry they ever asked me, "What song are you in the mood for?" 
And I still sometimes lie. I recently said, "I don't have to pee badly, we can keep going," when I really did have to pee badly but I didn't want to make our group stop to pee. And yes, worse lies too. Not even all that long ago. But I then told the truth. 
I don't like lies. For me. However, interestingly, I don't worry much about lies others tell. I would rather people tell me the truth but mainly because it's more relevant and insightful to build on honesty. And where my children are concerned I hope for the truth more because I want so badly for them to feel they can be truthful with me. 
I can't know what it means to others, lies and lying. So if they are lying it isn't for me to say how good or bad that is. I'm fine working with what I'm given. 
But me? I can't allow lies from me. When they happen, and they do, I get to work figuring it out; seeking the truth, exploring the reason I lied, making necessary changes, and telling the truth.
My sister and I told some interesting tales when we were little. If you remember a couple of girls wearing pretty nightgowns to school and explaining it was because we were angles from heaven here on earth to take notes and report back, and these pretty nightgowns were our heavenly attire, well, nice to see you again! 
But now we both work at living our lives with truth. In line with our beliefs, values, personalities, and preferences. Which, we've discovered, is not only more comfortable and pretty, but also far more fascinating. There are more layers, more sensational stories, in discovering and living our own truths than either of us could have ever imagined! 
And guess what?
That's the truth. 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
My sister and I (now-ish)


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Autism Answer: Something About This Does That - A Way of Thinking About Behavior


A snuggle, a smooch, a long stretch of the arms and legs, a comment to or from my partner about how quickly the morning moves and oh my goodness we're getting up late again, a pee, a brushing of the teeth, and all of this while the promise of morning coffee percolates in my mind. Something about anticipating, picturing, brewing, and drinking my morning coffee fills me with feelings of purpose, joy, maturity, contemplation, and peace. All are feelings I enjoy and all are feelings I experience deeply while sipping my morning coffee, and then off an on in a variety of ways throughout the day. 

 It is tempting to say "my morning coffee gives me these feelings" but that wouldn't be right, or helpful. What if one day (dare I even type the words?) I can no longer drink morning coffee? *Ouch! That hurts!* What if, one day - not soon, please! - I am faced with reasons to no longer settle into my day by sipping this delightful drink? This gift of goodness? This beautiful brew? Though it hurts to imagine, I actually have reasons, even now, to consider this option. 

If my morning coffee gives me these feelings I adore, what would I be left with? So, no. The truth is this: something about my morning coffee fills me with these feelings. Feelings I love at the beginning of my day. Knowing it's not my morning coffee but, instead, something about my morning coffee, leaves room to explore what it is about it and find it somewhere else. (Going further, of course, I could say: Something about starting my day with theses feelings fills me with happiness. So, if those feelings are no longer lovely, I can explore what it is about those feelings I liked and find that somewhere else.) 

This is powerful shift in thinking. Less important, I admit, when talking about my morning routine. However, when thinking about how to help your children, or how to yourself or a loved one with autism, well - the shift is life changing! 

For example: "Something about the way he jumps and screams around new people is helping him," is more true and useful than "He has to jump and scream around new people." 

Even if you know nothing about how the brain works, the shift helps. It gives you the freedom to find new ways, less startling ways than jumping and screaming, to help your autistic loved one around new people. Rather than avoid new people, or tell all the new people merely "get over it he's autistic," you can all work together to figure out what it is about jumping and screaming that helps. Is it a way to push the anxiety outwards so it isn't hurting inside? If so, practice other ways of pushing anxiety out. Is it a way of pushing people away because the anxiety is too much? If so, maybe practice meeting one new person at a time for less anxiety. Or, if that is worse, many people at once for less anxiety. 

I admit, these are not the best ideas but they are ideas. And they are grown out of the knowledge that something about a behavior is helping (even when our behaviors hurt us we are doing them because in the moment they somehow also help or alleviate a hardship) and that we aren't just doing them because we're bad, crazy, attention seeking, etc. Also, it allows for the truth that we can find other ways as well. 

However, if you do understand a little about how the brain works, then you can find even brighter, better, more impressive, faster-changing ideas and actions. My mom, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") and her protege, Louloua Smadi, are building a website (called All Brains Grow, here is a link to their Facebook page --> All Brains Grow) specifically meant to help people with this. Using the arousal model they help people become detectives who are able to follow behavioral clues in order to bring brains and bodies into balance. Are they jumping and screaming because of too many high frequency brain waves? Or, quite possibly, because of too many low frequency waves causing a need to stimulate higher frequencies by jumping and screaming? It's fun to find out and life changing to realize it is always true that we can find healthy ways to help ourselves. 

I wish All Brains Grow was around when I thought my son, Tyran, needed to have his Linkin Park CD playing at full volume in order to fall asleep. Back then I didn't realize it was "something about" his Linkin Park CD playing at full volume that helped him fall asleep. Had I known it was something about the loud as heck rock music, and not only the loud as heck rock music, I would have been more able to help him discover specifically what was going on in his brain at bed time. I would have been more likely to be less annoyed and more curious. And even if we never quite figured it out, we would have been a team. A team trying to figure it out. 

Note: the All Brains Grow website is not yet available, but there is a lot of valuable autism, neurofeedback, behavior, and brain growth information on my mom's Brain and Body website. Click the following link:
So, when you're tempted to say to yourself: "I need quiet mornings to be happy," try maybe shifting it to, "Something about quiet mornings helps me wake up happy." That will be more honest and helpful. That way, if your rowdy grand-kids spend a few weeks with you or your neighbors get a new yappy dog, instead of thinking these noisy mornings mean you can't be happy, you'll have an opportunity to dig down to the core of yourself and discover what it is about quiet mornings you like. Maybe you can recreate what you like but in a new way. 

Heads Up: You may discover the most delightful way to wake up is to the sound of rowdy grand-kids and every quiet morning away from them is a challenge of its own. Something I heard from a friend. tee hee! 

The point isn't to not like quiet mornings of course, but to remember that it is something about quiet mornings you like - a not so urgent jump into the day, perhaps, that potentially messes with your high or low frequency brain - and you absolutely can find a way to like mornings of all types if you find yourself confronted with them. 

So, if there is something about this idea you like, yay! Feel free to share your thoughts. And if there is something about this idea you don't like, silly you. Try again. Giggle! No, feel free to share your thoughts. 

There's something about people sharing their thoughts that helps me think bigger, feel more, and learn from lives I cannot live. In encourage you to thoughtfully share your thoughts. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!