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Zeno
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28 Oct 2007, 8:46 am

Getting enough sleep, especially deep REM sleep, has always been my key to achieving mental balance. The effects of a meltdown are largely exacerbated by sleep deprivation. There has been some confusion over what a meltdown really is. Some people think that it is an emotional outburst similar to a tantrum. While such outbursts may happen, a tantrum is not by itself a meltdown. The best analogy to describe a meltdown is that of a computer system hanging. It feels like there is a program in the brain that is eating up all the system resources and getting in the way of the normal functions of everything else. Complex activities like social interactions become very challenging as the required signal processing just does not take place. An emotional outburst is a possible outcome as the Aspie become immensely frustrated with this internal blockade or because the wrong expression actually gets out due to the impaired ability to process.

As I described it, meltdowns are brain events rather than psychological issues. With only the close observation of my own mental state for reference, I believe that the problem lies with the primordial parts of the brain – cerebellum, hypothalamus, limbic system and brain stem. One trigger for my meltdowns is an immune reaction. Living in a tropical country with lots of air conditioning can often mean prolonged and constant exposure to air borne pathogens. Someone somewhere is bound to be sick and the air they breathe out will be recycled by the air ducts to become the air I breathe. What I have noticed is that when others are falling sick around me, I may not fall ill but the immune reaction triggers a neural cascade in my brain stem that sets off a meltdown. For some reason, that part of my brain goes into an infinite loop that at its worst, can cripple the rest of my brain. Hyperactivity in other parts of the primitive brain like the limbic system can trigger off feelings of rage and heighten my sex drive to the point that the woman can be a turn on. My autonomic nervous system becomes affected and excretion functions like micturition and defecation become irregular with extreme changes in my bowel movements.

There is nothing at all pleasant about meltdowns but I have discovered a way to mitigate some of its worst effects. An injury a few months ago forced me to abandon my running routine to take up calisthenics – push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats and so on. To my surprise, just by doing a few sets of these exercises, there was a dramatic effect on my sleep. Previously, when I was in meltdown mode, the autoimmune reaction caused sufficient pain in my knees to make running impossible. The lack of exercise compounded the problems with sleeping that usually made the meltdown worse. By doing these simple, anabolic exercises, I found that I was able to sleep even when I could feel the onset of a meltdown. The meltdowns do not disappear completely, but by getting some sleep, the effects are dampened considerably. The key is to do exercises that are anabolic in nature which seem to really help shut the brain down and reset the problem areas. Stretching exercises are also a part of my daily routine.



Last edited by Zeno on 03 Nov 2007, 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sarahstilettos
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28 Oct 2007, 8:53 am

Its nice to know that I am not just imagining the good effects of a sensible lifestyle on cutting down my meltdowns, and someone else has noticed the same thing. I find just 100 sit ups every morning, a run every sunday, good sleep and a sensible diet make things so much bearable, (even if it is boring beyond belief).



Zeno
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28 Oct 2007, 6:51 pm

There is no cure, but at least there can be relief. I have found that sleep is the key and a boring but sensible life is one of the best ways to secure a good night's rest. I do part of my exercise routine in the morning as well. The work out relaxes me through out the day and focuses my mind. Even when my mind is "running", the endorphins that are released when I have pushed myself to the point where I am sweating profusely seem to switch off the brain stem. It still runs, but just not quite as bad as before. I am able to get things done and then come back, do stretches in the evening before heading to bed at night. It sounds rather prosaic, certainly not the miracle cure that people might be seeking, but of all the things I have tried, this one works.



longNstrong
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01 Nov 2007, 5:21 am

Zeno,

This is one of the most helpful threads on WP, IMO. I have noticed much the same thing in my life (look at my posts on exercise and sleep if you are really bored). Exercise, even simple calithenics, that gets me to a breathless, sweaty state fundimentally changes my outlook, making me calm and focused. If I become highly irritated, the best thing for me to do is take that nervous energy and sprint, climb stairs, or do calisthenics. I think everyone with AS should explore this as a way to have control over their life, which to me is better than anything like a 'cure'.

Ditto with the sleep. After multiple nights of 8.5 hours of quality sleep, I have a calm, focused demeanour that takes most challenges in stride. Really good stuff, all AS folks should see how lots of sleep makes them feel.

All of this ties to one of my theories of AS. That we (AS folks) are in need of some deep physical things, like sleep and exercise. If we get those things, dealing with our sensory difficulties is almost not a problem. Maybe I am wrong, but if I get a straight month of quality sleep and regular exercise, I can be more productive and deal more easily with challenges.



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01 Nov 2007, 6:31 am

Great post Zeno. Even as a baby I needed 9 hours a night to function properly. I'm useless if I don't get enough Zzzzzzzzs. I find exercising in short bursts during the day can help keep anxiety at bay. I do a combo of stretches, pilates, boogying around the house and pretending to be in martial arts movies :twisted:


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Zeno
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01 Nov 2007, 9:46 am

longNstrong wrote:
Zeno,

This is one of the most helpful threads on WP, IMO. I have noticed much the same thing in my life (look at my posts on exercise and sleep if you are really bored). Exercise, even simple calithenics, that gets me to a breathless, sweaty state fundimentally changes my outlook, making me calm and focused. If I become highly irritated, the best thing for me to do is take that nervous energy and sprint, climb stairs, or do calisthenics. I think everyone with AS should explore this as a way to have control over their life, which to me is better than anything like a 'cure'.

Ditto with the sleep. After multiple nights of 8.5 hours of quality sleep, I have a calm, focused demeanour that takes most challenges in stride. Really good stuff, all AS folks should see how lots of sleep makes them feel.

All of this ties to one of my theories of AS. That we (AS folks) are in need of some deep physical things, like sleep and exercise. If we get those things, dealing with our sensory difficulties is almost not a problem. Maybe I am wrong, but if I get a straight month of quality sleep and regular exercise, I can be more productive and deal more easily with challenges.


Thank you. Not being a frequent visitor to the site, I missed your threads on the topic but I am glad to find like minded people who share the same experiences. Of all the things I have tried, finding the right exercise regiment has been the only one that worked. My three year old niece is showing signs of mild autism too and a few days ago I brought her on a short run. There was a very visible and positive change in the way she behaved right after the run and I was told that she slept beautifully that night; an achievement for a little girl who has problems falling asleep.

What I have found is that certain types of exercises shuts down the parts of the brain that needs to switch off but for some reason does not. After just a week of exercises and good sleep, I too experience that calm feeling which you have described. It felt as if my brain was made whole and the signals were no longer getting crossed. Flash backs and random feelings of rage just disappeared as I focused on the task at hand. For the first time for as long as I can remember, I felt at peace and dare I say it, happy and normal.

My theory is that parts of my brain are asynchronous with other parts of the brain when I am in an autistic state. At it worst, just like when my computer hangs because of some bad program, nothing seems to work the way it should. It is like the primordial sections of the brain starts to tick on its own tock and disregards the other more developed components. When the effects are mild, conscious thinking is still within my grasp but there is impairment of physiological functions. As it gets progressively worse, my command of speech deteriorates and mental effort like working through a logical argument becomes difficult. At its worst, I can actually start to behave like someone who is deeply autistic.

Ever since I have discovered the way to dampen the effects of these meltdowns, I have exercised religiously 6 days a week. And it works, it really works. What is more, it is free. An exercise program for young autistic kids would work wonders for them.



Zeno
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03 Nov 2007, 7:12 pm

No one has changed the world by complaining about it. I am interested in finding out how others may be coping with autism. Aside from physical exercise, meditation appears to have some effect on me too. Actually I sort of combine the two in my daily routine. For instance, every squat is matched with a deep breathe in and then a deep breathe out. Doing this has the effect of stabilizing the mind and forcing it to come together and focus. Doing these simply exercises lessens the effects of the running mind to the extent that a serious amount of work can be done. Acupuncture and massage might also be helpful but I cannot afford massage therapy and thought of exploring acupuncture therapy is a little daunting and time consuming, even for someone like me who is fluent in Chinese. The basic idea is that stimulating certain parts of the brain, sort of like a big stim, could simply bring down the effects of autism.

What I am looking for are the strategies that others have employed to cope with their autism. Nothing would be too ridiculous.



longNstrong
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04 Nov 2007, 2:19 pm

Zeno wrote:
My theory is that parts of my brain are asynchronous with other parts of the brain when I am in an autistic state. At it worst, just like when my computer hangs because of some bad program, nothing seems to work the way it should. It is like the primordial sections of the brain starts to tick on its own tock and disregards the other more developed components. When the effects are mild, conscious thinking is still within my grasp but there is impairment of physiological functions. As it gets progressively worse, my command of speech deteriorates and mental effort like working through a logical argument becomes difficult. At its worst, I can actually start to behave like someone who is deeply autistic.

Ever since I have discovered the way to dampen the effects of these meltdowns, I have exercised religiously 6 days a week. And it works, it really works. What is more, it is free. An exercise program for young autistic kids would work wonders for them.


I think you have an interesting take on this. Asynchronous is probably a good way to describe the feeling I have when I have NOT exercised enough. When I do exercise and get my sleep, my activities and my desires (perhaps conscious and unconscious?) sides are alligned. It is a wonderful feeling. I am still me, so I don't feel drugged or anything. But I definitely feel better.

And like you, I think we all need to be open minded about what can help us feel better. As long as we are not hurting others, we should be willing to try stuff. I was viewed as something of a freak for liking to run up the stairs at work and at my apartment building. But this alone would make me so much friendlier with people. And like you, I am working on meditation.



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04 Nov 2007, 4:22 pm

Hi Zeno,

I do a number of things to cope - specifically accupressure along meridians, aromatheriapy, song and prayer, working with stones and being around trees and nature as much as possible. When it is possible, I do outdoor work in the yard, on a conscious level. The most important elements in healing this is re-experiencing sensory input in a positive way, centering the self and soul with earth at its axis and fostering a psychological/spiritual attitude of gratitude. That this too is for the greater good and my learning. All of these practices are helping reverse the condition.




Zeno wrote:
No one has changed the world by complaining about it. I am interested in finding out how others may be coping with autism. Aside from physical exercise, meditation appears to have some effect on me too. Actually I sort of combine the two in my daily routine. For instance, every squat is matched with a deep breathe in and then a deep breathe out. Doing this has the effect of stabilizing the mind and forcing it to come together and focus. Doing these simply exercises lessens the effects of the running mind to the extent that a serious amount of work can be done. Acupuncture and massage might also be helpful but I cannot afford massage therapy and thought of exploring acupuncture therapy is a little daunting and time consuming, even for someone like me who is fluent in Chinese. The basic idea is that stimulating certain parts of the brain, sort of like a big stim, could simply bring down the effects of autism.

What I am looking for are the strategies that others have employed to cope with their autism. Nothing would be too ridiculous.


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Zeno
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05 Nov 2007, 6:56 am

longNstrong wrote:
I think you have an interesting take on this. Asynchronous is probably a good way to describe the feeling I have when I have NOT exercised enough. When I do exercise and get my sleep, my activities and my desires (perhaps conscious and unconscious?) sides are alligned. It is a wonderful feeling. I am still me, so I don't feel drugged or anything. But I definitely feel better.

And like you, I think we all need to be open minded about what can help us feel better. As long as we are not hurting others, we should be willing to try stuff. I was viewed as something of a freak for liking to run up the stairs at work and at my apartment building. But this alone would make me so much friendlier with people. And like you, I am working on meditation.


It is interesting that you should mention walking up stairs. At one of my previous jobs, when the dysfunctional politics of the office got to me, I would sneak into an empty stair well and walk off the frustration. It helped a little but the stress and the long, largely unproductive hours plus a tense commute erased whatever benefits climbing those stairs had on my sleep patterns.

Feeling good is wonderful, but there is more to it than that for me. When I do these exercises, I can readily enter into a "trance like" meditative mode. What happen is my vision sort of "disconnects" where I am seeing but my mind is actually focusing deeply. That is when I feel my brain is folding back into its proper harmonious shape and the pistons are firing in unison. And this can happen when I can snatch an odd minute or two like when I am waiting in line or sitting down for lunch. It would appear like I am being absent minded but at those moments I have to say that I am more mindful than I usually am.

When my brain has "resynced", where, as you put it, both my conscious and unconscious thoughts and desires are aligned, there is unity of thought; the parts of the brain which code for desires, rage and fear seem to just get slotted into a cerebral sheaf and the resulting effect is calm rationality that to me is happiness. Not only are my meltdowns and the destructive effects ameliorated, the carnal aspects of my nature becomes curtailed. For instance, my sex drive loses its potency and celibacy becomes the most agreeable way to exist. Food discipline improves and I stop thinking about eating all the time. My focus on the work I do improves dramatically and sustainably.

In a way, it is not about the exercise at all but about how the exercise can help me achieve this meditative state. I wonder if it may be possible for us to control the unruly mind that comes with autism and by doing that provide the closest thing to a cure.



Zeno
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05 Nov 2007, 7:05 am

jjstar wrote:
Hi Zeno,

I do a number of things to cope - specifically accupressure along meridians, aromatheriapy, song and prayer, working with stones and being around trees and nature as much as possible. When it is possible, I do outdoor work in the yard, on a conscious level. The most important elements in healing this is re-experiencing sensory input in a positive way, centering the self and soul with earth at its axis and fostering a psychological/spiritual attitude of gratitude. That this too is for the greater good and my learning. All of these practices are helping reverse the condition.


Could you describe the accupressure therapy that you undertake. Specifically, how is it done and what effects does it have. Having been trained to some degree in modern medicine, I try my best to seek what I consider to be scientific explanations.

Doing yard work did help me a lot too. But it was not mowing the lawn or digging out unwanted trees that made me feel good, it was the physical labor that set my mind on the right trajectory. In a sense, it is not too different from doing the calisthenics that I have talked about.

One problem that I have encountered is that I usually do not want to sweat. There is always a tendency to not work, especially when the work is physical. And when that happens for more than a few days, I start to get problems with sleep and symptoms of autism start to rear its ugly head.