A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Archive for January, 2012

The Road to Success

It’s now one month into my second term of graduate school and so far everything sounds really promising. I’m getting great marks on all my assignments with a lot less stress than last term, I’m getting in some writing, learning how to relax, and best of all my social life is increasing little by little.

How is everything working out so well? Well, again, it has to do with pain and the misery I felt last time when everything seemed to be working against me. I think I’ve really transferred that pain and misery to my advantage, which is why everything is working out. For example, in my last post, I pointed out that the aftermath in last term included an increased feeling of sexual frustration because the work last term really sucked any chance of a social life right out of me. I’d like to share some of the strategies I’ve used to get everything back on track.

Two of these actually came from a psychologist I saw because of the stress I’d endured last term. He asked me what really contributed to the misery and I told him that because the work had completely overwhelmed me, other areas of my life that I thought were important, for example writing and a social life, weren’t really pursued at. What he suggested I do then if I really wanted to pursue them was to build a schedule. Also, because my math, writing, and a social life were very diverse interests, he also suggested that I try limiting the time I spend on each one to make none of them overwhelmed the others. For example, I decided that I would spend a maximum of two hours on my writing per day (which includes my novel and this blog I’m writing now). So far that suggestion has worked out nicely. Putting such a limit on it has helped me keep its importance in perspective. Mind you, I certainly couldn’t live without it given that my passion for it is so high and I’ll certainly see about finding even more time for it in the future, but for now when I’m still young trying to adjust to everything around me at most two hours per day is certainly sufficient.

As a result of my scheduling my time, I’ve become more productive. Mind you, I rarely stick with the schedule down to the half-hour time slots within it (unlike a lot of autistics who I know would be very uncomfortable about not doing so), but it keeps everything in my life in check.

The other thing that the psychologist suggested is a relaxation CD suggested one that would probably help me Feeling Deep by Eli Bay. I got it off amazon and am now getting into a regular routine of playing it. It works so nicely. It really made me help me cool down. I sit or lay down and imagine things happening with my body that are making it relax.

And finally the social life. It’s getting better bit by bit. I asked a fellow math student to hang out at the grad house, which we did last week, as well as go play pool with a few other grad students. And I now have plans to have supper at the grad house with another math student tomorrow. I even joined a dating website as another avenue for talking to girls. And I’ve talked to a few on there. And all because I took action.

What can I say? It’s been one heck of a crazy year. I certainly hope it keeps up!

Taking Action

Well, a couple of weeks into my second term of graduate school, and I can’t complain. The workload is much more manageable. The math assignments are certainly easier, which is true even in the graduate course on logic I’m taking (managed to finish the first one before the day it was due!) and not have to work like a dog. I also passed my exam I took a week and a half ago for my functional analysis course last term so I passed that course. I’m now done one half of the courses needed for my masters!

But now there’s been an interesting turn of events over the last week. Not school-related. School’s fine now. What I’m talking about is feeling pain for a whole different reason, namely from sexual frustration. Now sexual frustration is nothing new for me as is probably clear to you if you’ve read my previous posts Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 1 and Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 2. I’ve felt it for a solid decade. About a week ago, however, it really started bugging me a lot more. It was actually painful. Luckily, my roommate has a couple of shelves full of self-help and psychology books, and I actually managed to find a book called How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Dr. Henry Cloud. Even though the book has a religious theme running through it and I’m not religious, I’ve since found the book to be a good read.

I think part of the reason why I’m feeling like this, however, is because of last semester. Last semester, because I was so worried and suffered large amounts of stress and anxiety due to my school work, it was like I didn’t have time to worry about anything else that needed to be addressed in my life. The pain from school stress completely numbed my pain from loneliness and sexual frustration. I think it’s analogous to why a person who experiences emotional pain cuts themselves. They do it to make the physical pain overtake and make the emotional pain seem trivial. In the case of me, however, the pain from stress from school certainly wasn’t intentional, although it had the same effect. Now that school is no longer a problem, my sexual frustration has radically increased.

So what could I do about it? I had a problem on my hands and while I doubted there was a quick fix I wanted some way to manage it. I have since used one piece of advice from the book I mentioned above and not only do I now feel a lot better, I’ve actually taken a step further in improving my social life.

Let me explain. The book actually posed the challenge that I try practising to talking to random girls that I’ve hardly met before. The conversations didn’t have to be long. Just a few minutes or so. I didn’t have to know anything about the girls in question or likewise they didn’t have to know all that much about me. When I first read this, I first thought that there was no way I was going to do this. I was having a hard enough time trying to talk to the ones I was acquaintances with. But after thinking about it for a day or two, I decided to test it out.

As it happened, I got a chance at the first meeting of the philosophy society. Last term, at philosophy society there were no girls, but at this meeting two of them had showed up. I decided to try talking one-on-one with one of them at the end of the meeting. I started by asking her where she was from and it turned out she was originally from Africa, but was now permanently living in waterloo. I didn’t get much further than this at the end of the meeting because one other guy joined us as we were heading out and we were all talking philosophy again. Once he left, however, she started asking me questions about my life, which I answered, and reciprocated. So after a few minutes of this, we said our farewells, hoping to see each other at the next meeting.

I was amazed with myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I had that good of a conversation before with someone I had just met.

Then I went on. In one of my undergraduate math classes I had on Friday morning I caught a girl I had never seen before who was sitting alone. I hesitated, wondering if it was worth the risk. I decided to go for it. I sat down beside her. Boy, I was a bundle of nerves! I felt panic. I asked myself what on earth I thought I was doing. What were the chances that this would go well?? But somehow my determination simply matched to all these worries that were going through my head. I sat there for a couple of minutes without talking to her, although that was more because I felt it impolite to start talking to her when she was texting on her cell phone. Luckily, she finished with that activity and I grabbed the chance and introduced myself. It was better than I thought it would be. Not as extensive as it was with that girl from philosophy society, but we said a few things about each other like how I was a masters student taking this course to beef up my background, while she was a math undergrad student in another department in the math faculty. I even commented on the weather and how we had least gotten a sprinkling of snow so far.

Afterwards I posed a task for myself that would surely be even more challenging than this. I decided that I would go to the Chapter/Indigo bookstore in Waterloo and try conversing with a girl I would see there. Not wanting to think about the possible pitfalls that would happen here, I decided to go ahead with it and did so today. At first I just pretended to be an ordinary customer browsing for books. Girls came and went and I did indeed find it more challenging! Not only was this a place where people moved around in random fashions, but I became worried not just what the girl would think of me, but also what the others around us would think of me. At least in the math class, others were talking and so talking seemed the natural think to do in that setting. The store certainly wasn’t empty today, but hardly anyone was talking, at least not to perfect strangers it seemed. And it was in a much more unofficial setting unlike philosophy society or class. Certainly as someone who loves structure, I had a difficult time.

Then I decided to just go for it. I walked up to some girl and asked if she had found anything good. It turned out, however, that we weren’t into the same type of books (she into personal non-fiction, I into fiction), so we said bye. Even though it wasn’t much, I was proud of myself that I had had the courage to do what I just did.

I wasn’t going to give up that easily though. I was determined. I caught a girl looking at some science fiction novels and made the general comment once again if she had found anything good. I managed to get this conversation to last longer. We talked a little about what a great activity reading was and she even recommended some science fiction novels that I might enjoy.

I walked out of that bookstore feeling very amazed and also very strange. I’ve completely surprised myself over the past few days. Something that I think has helped me, however, deals with a passage in the book: ‘Return to the way you were in the safe, structured settings of high school or college where this kind of interaction happens naturally. As an adult, you have to make it happen for yourself.’

Looks like I’m succeeding in making it happen for myself. Even some of the sexual frustration has gone away. Now that I’ve started playing an active role in improving my social life in a way I hardly pictured myself doing, I feel less afraid of the world and more connected to it.

I’m taking action. It feels damn good!