This Old House is Killing ME

So, during one of my son’s telehealth speech therapy sessions, we found that he was a lot happier outside in our screened in porch. Of course, I decided to turn it into an outdoor classroom IMMEDIATELY. Because my biggest special interest is my son, like you might imagine.

But our sweet little screened in porch was being held together by vines, hole ridden netting, and rust. So honestly, I’ve been working non-stop for the last four days, and the following things have happened.

In no particular order, because my brain won’t function in any particular order.

-I bought a bee house to pull the carpenter bees away from my porch

-The carpenter bees decided that my paltry little house was insufficient and continued to eat my big one.

-I punted one bee coming at me with my boot. It felt like an angry little shuttlecock.

-While changing the old exposed outlet covers to proper outdoor outlets covers, discovered a wiring problem that resulted in a small fire. Immediately shut off the power.

-No, first screamed obscenities while stamping out said fire with my glove. Then shut off the power. First, then.

-Murdered a garden hose trying to remove it from my old tap.

-Murdered a second garden hose when I neglected to clean off the sediment from the old tap.

-Cleaned off the sediment, and attached my favorite, most fancy hose yet. Turned on the tap to have water gush out of the aluminum siding in several places.

-Removed aluminum siding to fix trillion year old tap and discovered that my house used to be pink (YAY!)

-Decided to remove all the siding in just the screened in porch. Found what was holding it together was spiders, mold, and a wretched smell.

-Cut my hand on a sharp aluminum edge. Used my son’s mickey bandaids, which has caused him to try and steal them from my hand every time he sees my wound.

-Made watercolor style drop cloth curtains to save some money and return some of the lattice I planned to use for privacy. (The new tap and tools for dealing with the siding were busting my budget. It’s apparently a very fancy tap. Also, I’ve bought like three cans of liquid wrench to deal with all the rusted bolts and screws.)

-Fixed storm door that kept crashing open at the slightest breeze and causing my sensory issues to flare.

-Re-listened to the Raven Boys series read by Will Patton. His voice is delicious.

-Digged a drainage ditch in the hardest clay I’ve seen since I lived in Georgia, all to stop wood rot. So not even pretty.

-Hauled rocks from the garage to the porch, for said drainage ditch, thinking of greek mythology characters.

-Bent my machete on a bunch of vines, but felt like a total badass for like two seconds. Used my much less badass pruning knife to take out the rest.

-Dug up old rocks and bricks in my backyard to use in the drainage ditch, hoping I wouldn’t unearth a dead pet or anything. There were some really pretty rocks, I would have considered them tombstone worthy. There was no pet cemetery though.

-Spray painted an old chandelier for a planter.

-Had a waterballoon fight with my son to make him happy.

And now I am currently waiting for the liquid wrench to dissolve the corrosion around a pipe that is stuck, with my water off, trying not to loose my mind.

Sensory Issues = Short Temper

I was perusing facebook and I found a gem of an infographic from @mombrain.therapist. So of course I hopped on to instagram, followed her immediately, and found a bunch of other great infographic gems, one on pandemic parenting, another on comparing yourself to other moms, all cute and cartoony with really great information. You should go look. But this particular pic was it for me. It helped me so much.

Visual clutter, bad smells, and bright lights are my biggest hotpoints.

Now technically, I knew a lot of this information already as an autistic person. But for some reason I had not connected it to my patience as a parent (or as a wife really.)

I just knew it was why I was feeling so wrong and why I needed to hide in hyperfocus tv bingeing or some other kind of distraction. Which always makes me even more irritable because there is no progress or problem solving when you’re hiding out in hyperfocus mode. It’s like running in place.

I hate running in place. Treadmills? Don’t get me started. Like, I think Dickensian orphans would be horrified that people use treadmills for exercise now. What’s next? Voluntary debtor’s prison? … There might be a university and student loan comparison, there…. but offtopic.

So, how do I deal with this? I’ve tried the usual fixes. I did the candles, I did the audio book, I upped the ante to some of my favorite music, but with the inability to have my cleaning time without my family… not to mention all the walks that my buddy has me going on (And that whole gluten rash debacle) I’m just stuck. And I was really pissed about it.

Was… that’s the key word. Why am I no longer angry? Was it meditation? Therapy? Good old fashioned gratitude?

No!

I took a Klonopin!

I am not making fun of meditation, therapy, or good old fashioned gratitude, those are definitely a part of my bag of tricks. But the reality is, this isn’t just a foul mood. It’s not a lack of perspective. It’s a sensory reaction. It’s physical. And sometimes physical problems needs physical answers. So I took a klonopin with my daily cocktail. And it helped a lot.

Truly, if I could add klonopin to my daily meds, I would. But I don’t want to develop any kind of resistance to it, because it can be a lifesaver when you are dealing with something just that much extra. Like a global pandemic, near house fire (oh yeah, that happened. I’ll tell you more later) and so much visual clutter that I’m tripping over it.

This is a sidenote, but to explain just how insane my environment is right now… My son… has decided to collect all the floor vents in one place, leaving these rabbit-warren-like holes in my hardwood floor, that I’m pretty sure he’s thrown some toys down. I definitely stepped in one. And for some reason… he pushed my chair into one so that it looked like a sinkhole had developed in my dining room? I am not kidding. I almost wish I had taken a picture but it was just too much.

And in a wonderland like twist, last night while we were sleeping, he woke up and found my cache of slinkies that I bought for him. So there are dozens of slinkies hidden amongst the laundry and clutter. And every once in a while, one will just spring out at you.

I also had started a few projects that I didn’t finish, my fault there, so there are bins of my books and storage and one of my statue models from art school just hanging out in the living room. But really… my kid has been loving that, so I’m not as angry on that one.

I won’t mention how he keeps fondling the butt on this statue. I think it’s the texture… yeah… we will go with that.
The infamous wedding typewriter. Bubba has been loving that too.

So, yeah.

Uh… Now, I just found a melted green crayon in my fresh load of whites.

What was I saying about meditation again?

The struggle is real

In my quick little “hello” that stays on my main page. You will see the part about “psyching myself up to do the dishes.”

This is not a joke.

Dishes are literally one of the hardest things I do. This comes down to three things- hyperosmia, ADHD, and Executive Dysfunction.

If you remember from previous blog posts, hyperosmia is a sensitive sense of smell. And dishes are one of the worst. Usually it is because it is a very complex smell of food particles, old pipes and garbage disposal. So, to even contemplate doing the dishes, I have to first make sure that there is no draining water from the washing machine or dishwasher itself, because that will cause water to back up the badly managed pipes and the smell will literally slap me in the face.

No, I meant literally, not figuratively. That’s how hyperosmia works. It can be a very physical reaction to scent. Something that is also more ASD related is my very sensitive sense memory. So, just contemplating doing the dishes causes me to get a whiff of those kinetic memories.

I know, I know. It’s just the dishes! Stop being a wuss!

That’s what I said to myself for all those years. It was also what my shittiest therapist said. I’m still a little annoyed at him for this one.

He claimed to “blow my mind” with the particular “revelation” I am about to tell you. (And first of all, if someone says, “I just blew your mind” They didn’t. So don’t be that douce-bag. Let someone tell you that you blew their mind.)

Ok, so I am explaining to him my issues with the smell and the sense memory, and the executive dysfunction (more on that later) and he stops me.

“Have you noticed that all the things that you have described, laundry, dishes, garbage- they are all things that you don’t like doing?” he says. Then he smiled at me like he was the fucking Wizard of Oz, finally giving me my brain.

I was dumbfounded, it’s true, but not because of his “revelation.” But because he fucking didn’t know how ADHD worked.

So I said, “Because that’s how ADHD works….”

He looked confused for a moment. And then my mind truly was blown. I knew more about ADHD than this fucking professional.

For a quick lesson to anyone reading that doesn’t know as much about ADHD (and that’s ok for the average blog reader. If you’re a therapist, I might suggest brushing up before your next session with someone who has ADHD.) Anyway, when you have ADHD you also have low dopamine levels. So you are drawn to things with instant gratification to increase your insufficient dopamine levels. Say like, if you dig video games. You will play hours, and hours, and hours, of video games just to feel like you have the right amount of dopamine. (From my understanding, that’s why things like stimulants work for people like us.) I know, I know, say “dopamine” again.

Dopamine. It’s that important.

Anyway, my point is, the therapist took a legitimate physical problem I have and turned it into a character flaw…

ADHD is not a character flaw.

So, withstanding this ridiculous man, how do I deal with things like dishes with a sensitive ADHD mind? First, I try to not let it pile up. Try and do them as I dirty them. But that’s not always easy. Like when you come down with a once in lifetime pandemic virus and you have to quarantine yourself from your family. (Just an example, of course.)

In that case, things did get piled up. My husband, who’s routine did not involve dishes, and was already being pushed to a breaking point with his own quarantine changes, couldn’t pick up the slack. For part of the time, we honestly just switched to paper plates. (I know they aren’t environmentally friendly. But sometimes you have to put your mental health above everything else.) I understood why he couldn’t do the dishes. His focus needed to be on his job and our son. And honestly, I know a large part of his focus was distracted on whether or not to take me to the hospital a couple of times.

Again, so how do I deal with this?

When it gets piled up like that I do a few things. First I address the scent as much as possible. I light my favorite candle. Pour a little alcohol or baking soda, or something with a very strong scent, down the garbage disposal and run it for a few minutes with hot water. I also have some garbage disposal foaming cleaners if I really need to feel like I have eradicated the irritants. But they kind of make me feel weird. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really gross because often the foam will bring up “old particles.” Uhg, I can’t say more without giving myself some kind of gag reflex.

Then I glove up. Rubber dish gloves are a god sent. I have a minor problem in that my son keeps stealing my gloves but I usually have a pair that have not been absconded with- so I glove up! This gives me a very basic separation from the sensory issues that come with doing the dishes. (I apron up, too. I am an ample bosomed woman, and I don’t like having my own wet t-shirt contest when I am having sensory issues already. Wet clingy shirts may be “sexy” but they make my skin crawl.)

Then I organize. It’s easier to handle the dishes if they are in like piles. (I do the same thing with laundry by the way.) This is just to bring order to something that makes me feel chaotic. That order can overtake the anxiety and lessen the severity of feelings. It’s also just a good distraction.

Then I do the dishes. Sometimes it takes several loads and that can make it a little more difficult, so honestly, I do a load and then hand-wash the rest just to reduce any sensory issues like bad smells for when I eventually come back to put the rest through the dishwasher for sanitizing.

What about the ADHD brain and executive dysfunction?

First, I make sure that I took my meds. Meds won’t fix everything but they will take the edge off of your issues to give you the chance to deal with it yourself.

Then I do my best to appease my dopamine thirst while still doing what I need to do. So I will usually put an interesting audiobook or podcast on my headphones while I do whatever is unpleasant, dishes, laundry, sweeping, chores in general, really.

And then for the executive dysfunction, a common problem for people with ADHD or ASD, I give myself direct instructions. I say to myself, “Collect all the plates and put them here… Do it now.” Then maybe followed by, “Use the scrub brush to get rid of any big particles of food. Do it now.” Do it now, is actually very important. It’s a cognitive impetus, a shove in the right direction. It may feel stupid, but I assure you it’s necessary.

A lot of times when I am dealing with dysfunction I will straight up narrate my actions, out loud. It’s ridiculous. But sometimes you have to embrace the ridiculous to get shit done. At least, when you’re like us.

And you know what is more ridiculous than that? Listening to a medical professional imply that you are lazy for having a condition that you know more about than he does. That’s ridiculous.

So, yeah. Really, what I am getting at… is I have to do the dishes. Sigh.

Ok.

Do it now.

Sensory Issues or… GhOsTs?!

I think my son’s room is haunted.

We’ve gone so far as to name the ghost Steven, in hopes that familiarity will breed contempt, and it will fucking go already.

Now, typically, I don’t really believe in the common idea of ghosts. Like, yeah, I believe in some kind of entity separate from the body, whether that is a soul or energy I don’t know…

But something in my son’s room… is creeping me out.

My theory is that it is something sensory related. Perhaps there is a wire that is pulsing with just a little too much energy. Perhaps it’s the swing that hangs from the ceiling. Something about it is tweaking my vestibular input. It also happens to be the coldest room in the house. Whether that’s ghosts or because the house is facing a certain way? I think there is an answer to everything.

I think it bugs my son too. He’s non verbal so he hasn’t told us so. He’s had a few night terrors in his room, though. (Night terrors are not uncommon with Autistic people. I’ve had them when I’m on particular medications. Remind me to tell you about that another time.) He’s more sensitive, like I am, though. My husband thinks I am a nutter butter. An adorable nutter butter, but a nutter butter.

All I know is that when I try to sleep in there, whether it is to keep my son company or because he has taken my spot in my own bed and I don’t want to move him… I always feel like I am about to be attacked.

I’m not seeing any shapes in the shadows. Which was a difficult problem for me as a child. You see, I’ve always been able to see shapes in negative spaces. Not ghosts, just shapes. It’s actually one of the things that makes me a good artist. But shapes can come together to form a man, or worse, a monster, and when you’re a highly imaginative child and see something perched on the ceiling beams in your living room, you will scream for your parents. (Seriously, just very imaginative. It wasn’t psychosis or anything. Though I could see why someone might make that assumption.)

This makes me wonder how many hauntings are the result of undiagnosed disorders. Because anxiety can make you feel a “malevolent presence.” Usually, it’s just life, but you still feel it all the same. I know there are the big scary illnesses that can result in seeing things that aren’t there. Some more severe forms of my own bipolar can lead to hallucinations, mine is the more ragey, manic, buy too much stuff at Target, kind of bipolar. But what about things like anxiety or other neurotypes, like autism?

We are extremely sensitive to the world around us…

So, is Steve a person who died in this home? It’s old enough that it could have a few deaths… Or is Steve just a part of my nervous system prematurely hitting a warning button?

Honestly, I think my answer will be to redecorate my son’s room. That’s my answer to almost everything. And possibly look for any hot spots of electricity? I’ve seen it done before on fun shows like Ghost Hunters. If I find one, maybe I can bring in an electrician to re-route whatever is bothering me? I already need to bring in a professional to fix my vintage stove that is trying to murder me. (It has legitimately electrocuted me several times. I just don’t like inviting strangers into my home to fix it. Don’t worry, I’ll force myself to call an electrician before it kills me.)

Murderous oven. I thought it was so adorable when we moved in. Possessed.

So I looked up if there were any real life phenomena that could explain that haunting feeling. And of course there was an article for that. This 2016 article attributed it to three things, suggestibility, electromagnetic fields/sounds, and… toxic fungus.

So suggestibility and electromagnetic fields and sounds I can totally understand. But now I have to look for toxic mold?? Oy!

Yep. Sometime in the near future that kid is getting a whole room makeover, a sterilizing, and possibly an exorcism. On a totally unrelated note, does anyone know where to find a good shaman? How about sage? Hazmat suit?


Just a quick note on the picture. You might think, “Duh, Holly, it creeps you out because you have a RED LIGHTBULB in your son’s room.” Red lightbulbs are the easiest on the eyes when you have photophobia. So we have color changing bulbs in every room that can be changed to amber or red. Sometimes we do a slight pink color to give more light without the pain. It’s fun on holidays because you can have it periodically change, easiest Christmas decorations ever.

And to another person that is like, “Your son is totally gonna end up strangling himself with that hanging lamp.” Way ahead of you. He started using it like it was a chandelier and he was a swashbuckling pirate… so we installed a more sturdy swing and stored the lamp to be used at a much later, more mature date. He now has a plastic standing lamp that he occasionally uses as a light saber… but what can I say? He’s a special kid.

Pinteresting My Plans

I am almost entirely recovered! (Yay!) I’m taking the weekend to really rest and then I am gonna get to work on all the projects that I have been lusting after while I was too weak to do anything else. Since I am not quite ready to get back into BEAST MODE, I have been pinteresting and youtubeing up a storm to pacify my want for action.

Pinterest is also a pretty good personification of the natural ADHD mind when you think about it. All these pretty pictures that take you off on a tangent, that leads to another tangent, that leads to you wanting to bleach your own highlights? What? What just happened?

So I am at least trying to stay on target. The target is mostly my house. Because I haven’t been able to clean, and my son is actually diagnosed with Whirling Dervish Syndrome, it’s a total madhouse.

His favorite thing to do is to pick up something that is interesting from a sensory point of view, so like multiple copies of the same cutlery (usually spoons) takes them, runs away with them, and relocates them to the bathroom or his bedroom. Today it’s been hangers, specifically the hangers from my closet. But over the last few weeks he has relocated- every DVD and blue ray that we own, all his toys, the balls from his ball pit, the clean laundry, the dirty laundry, the files from my husband’s briefcase, the books from my library, almost everything within reach in my bathroom, unidentifiable power cords, weight plates from my husband’s dumbbells, the cable- right out of the wall, rubber dish gloves, spatulas- most of these have been transplanted to my bedroom so that it looks like I have some kind of kitchen supplies sex fantasy- ALL THE BELTS, and the can opener.

So, obviously, the first thing I am going to have to do is put things away. BUT THIS… IS BORING. No, I want to focus on the fun things that I want to do to my house. So I present to you… (Drumroll, please)

Continue reading “Pinteresting My Plans”

Our House: Buying The Before

That’s Our House. Or as John Mulaney says, that’s the bank’s house, but they let us keep our stuff there. Despite this bit of technicality, that is Our House, and I love it. I loved it from the first time I stepped foot in it. Which according to John, my John, was part of the problem.

Continue reading “Our House: Buying The Before”

Clay happens

So my Mother’s Day gardening was a bit of a bust.

(For those that didn’t read my endearing Mother’s Day post I had a whole thing on how stay-at-home moms never get a break, and so Mother’s Day was our only work holiday. And with my work holiday I was going to spend the whole day gardening. No Nemo, no diapers, just gardening. Then I gave a nice tribute to my own mom, cause that’s what you do when you’re a writer on Mother’s day. Unless you have a bad relationship with your mother then you probably write some bad poetry.)

But like I said, the gardening was a bit of a bust…

Continue reading “Clay happens”