Relationships with having Autism…

Relationships Week 2020 #RelationshipRocks

This is my thoughts on relationships with Autism, as someone who has Autism.

Types of relationships

This is just to name a few:

  • Friendships
  • Toxic
  • Open
  • Unhappy
  • Long distance
  • Complicated

Do people with Autism find it far harder to date, or form relationships?

Adults with Autism do struggle with creating and maintaining relationships, as a lot of people struggle with turn taking, so forming relationships is hard. Dating is hard as well, people don’t know what Autism is and what types they are, but over the years it’s become more known to the world with how many children/adults who have been diagnosed with some type of Autism.

These are some quotes that people have said:

“I was always under the impression that if you didn’t understand something then ask for it to be reworded in a way it makes sense to them.”

Anon

“We can date people who aren’t on the autism spectrum.”

Anon

“If you go online before our date and find out we have Autism, don’t jump to conclusions.”

Anon

“If you’re shocked that we have Autism, don’t be.”

Anon

“Just because we may want to be by ourselves at times, doesn’t mean that we don’t care about you.”

Anon

Feeling emotions

“Many on the spectrum can feel emotions and empathy for others, more often than not, they just have difficulty identifying them.”

Love and affection

Autism Spectrum Disorder often experience difficulties understanding and expressing emotions. Especially emotions as confusing such as love.

Relationship and Autism

Initiating and maintaining a romantic relationship, and many other social relationships require the ability to interact socially, have good communications skills as well as having the ability to take the perspective of others – areas of which individuals on the spectrum often struggle with.

“Social relationships are an essential factor of quality of life for people with as well as without a diagnosis.”

Achieving a successful relationship

In order to achieve a successful relationship, that individuals on the spectrum both understands and respects themselves, as well as understands their own need, in order to see how they relate to others and achieve independence

“The ability to create friendships will improve self-esteem and greater maturity, reduce teasing or bullying, encourage teamwork abilities for both successful employment as well as laying the foundations for adult relationships.”

Michael
https://www.relate.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/videos/relationships-week-2020

Blog by Michael

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Becky’s Blog – Anxiety…

Anxiety is a reflection of our self-esteem 

As an aspiring therapist in my final year of training, and someone who had relied on anti-depressants (for anxiety) for over thirteen years, I was harshly awoken by my mother-in-law who finally sought me to do something about it.  

“How can you help people overcome their problems, if you can’t address your own,” she said to me.  

Was she right? After all these years of blissfully sailing through my calm stress free life was it finally time to come off my anti-depressants? 

My mantra had always been, “life’s too short to worry all the time.” 

So if I had found something that takes that away, surely it was a no brainer’? 

The problem was I was starting to see more and more clients who were struggling with anxiety and I couldn’t promote the anti-depressants – so I needed to get to the root cause of what anxiety really was before I could help other people address their own.  

After reducing my pills from 20mg every day to every other day, it was a fairly calm start. A few days where I would break down and cry or shout at my husband for not making the bed right but nothing too major that affected my day to day life.  

Finally when we were away on holiday for ten nights, I decided that this would be the time where I would finally come off them for good. I had reduced them to every three days for some time now, so really they were having little effect anyway.  

For weeks, I barely noticed a difference. But then all of a sudden bursts of anger would overcome me and emotions would over whelm me and I would cry nonstop for hours.  

Was this my body finally adjusting and getting back to the old me?  

I had forgotten just how sensitive of a person I used to be and just watching a sad advert these days can make me well up.  

That’s when the penny finally dropped. 

Anti-depressants don’t cure anxiety, they mask the problem. They numb your emotions and senses so you care less about what’s going on in the world around you.  

I had heard so many times how anxiety was a chemical imbalance or something you can’t control and even talking to the doctors to try and get a straight answer as to what anxiety really was, was proving pointless.  

The older generation of doctors would almost dismissed mental health and the younger GP’s promoted the anti-depressants.  

It was obvious (now that I look back) that they don’t want to tell people the truth.  

The real problem lies within.  

When I look back to when my anxiety began at 21 years old, I had just secured an insurance job and was living at home with my parents and 5 siblings.  

I shared a room with my sister and knew that we were both too old and too different to be able to share this cramped life style.  

Deep down I knew I wasn’t happy, but I was filled with fear of moving out of home by myself. I didn’t feel ready to fly the nest. I began to imagine the worst case scenario of every situation I was faced with.  

I also began to develop a habit of touching my head every time a bad thought entered it (i.e. touching wood).  I kept thinking if I didn’t do this – I would jinx myself and others.  

As I grew older my anxiety got worse. I began to worry about how my old school friends would view me or potential boyfriends I would meet if I told them I still lived at home with my parents.  

Eventually everything I did became a concern about how other people would view me.  

I never went to university and therefore I am not intelligent enough.  

My job wasn’t exciting enough and doesn’t pay enough.  

That man I met on Saturday night wasn’t good looking enough.  

I also constantly thought the grass was always greener elsewhere and would just envy people who were away traveling the world.  

Everything about being in your twenties is about image and how other people view you.  

My self-esteem was rock bottom but no-one told me how to fix this. Despite countless doctors’ appointments, I was just prescribed anti-depressants over and over again until eventually I caved. 

I took them because the over thinking and self-loathing got the better of me.  

Within a week I was a different person. Skipping to work I felt so happy, free from caring about other people’s opinions and free from obsessively trying to control every aspect of my life.  

For thirteen years this carried on until the strong words from my mother in law awoke me up to the harsh reality. I wasn’t cured from my anxiety problem I was just masking it. And now here I was trying to emphasise with people who were in the same position I was thirteen years ago.  

I guess the good thing about training to be a therapist whilst coming off anti-depressants was all the information we continue to learn within the classroom and from the clients and supervisors we see on a regular basis. We are also made to go and see a qualified therapist of our own so we can fully appreciate and understand how it feels to be in the client’s position.  

I always believed I was quite a grounded person, mature and also quite self-aware, however, I never realised just how badly I spoke to myself, how much I criticised and put myself down on a daily basis. That’s when I began to realise just how low my self-esteem really was, and how I had no confidence in myself or my abilities.  

Now my body was free from the anti-depressants, familiar patterns started resurfacing just as they were thirteen years ago. I started over analysing the way people spoke to me. We’re they angry with me? Had I said something offensive the day before at the school gates for example. I would chatter my teeth to the conversations I would play over and over in my head. I felt lost without my pills and so many times I contemplated about going back to them.  

I didn’t however, because something inside of me really wanted to get to the root cause of anxiety and improve it without medication.  

As the months passed by and the training and therapy I was receiving became more in-depth, I began to look deeper into my childhood and why I had such a low opinion of myself.   

What we fail to realise is that throughout our lives significant others will criticise us, belittle us and generally make us feel worthless about ourselves. This could be our parents, teachers, older siblings or other kids in the playground. Where ever these messages come from , they stay with us as we grow into adult hood and we continue telling ourselves these messages until we realise we have the power to break the cycle.  

People with higher self-esteem care less about other people’s opinions, so if I really wanted to overcome my obsessive thinking, over analysing and self-loathing -all I needed to do was work on my self- esteem.  

But how do you work on your self-esteem? 

Well here are some techniques and tips I have learned to help my self-esteem soar within just a few weeks. 

The first thing to remember despite what countless people may tell you is that you don’t have an anxiety problem. What you have are habits! 

For example; everyone is addicted to something –even if this is cleaning obsessively or exercising.  

These are habits that we have adopted along the way to help us feel safe, protected and in control of our lives.  

What’s important to remember (above all else) is that habits can be broken!  

Never forget that.  

It’s takes around 30 days to break a habit so it’s important to remember that it’s a gradual and repeated process that we must keep up every day until our brain finally adjusts to our new way of thinking.  

For example; if we continue to tell ourselves on a daily basis that we are fat, ugly and useless, our mind believes these messages and stores these messages in our brains just like a computer.  

So the first thing I started to do was change the messages I was repeating to myself every day.  

For example; as I previously mentioned – I would touch my head when I had a bad thought.  

Next time this happened however, I didn’t touch my head.  

At first I felt overwhelmed with anxiety but I started to tell myself that regardless of whether I touched my head or not  –  we cannot control what happens in the world so if something bad does happen,  it is not my fault and is out of my control.  

What you will usually find is that after 5 – 10 seconds, the anxiety starts to feel less and less.  

It’s the first 5-10 seconds of not doing your habit that feels intense but this lessens as we continue practicing our new thought process.   

When it comes to the negative self-talk and the critical comments we tell ourselves, it’s sometimes best to start off slowly.  

For example; I tell myself every day that I am a wonderful person and I love and value myself. 

However, when I tried to teach some family members this technique, some of them couldn’t even look at themselves in the mirror to utter the words.  

So maybe just starting with, “I like myself.” 

Or  

“I value and accept myself,” are great places to start.  

Eventually moving it up a notch when you feel more positive about yourself.  

i.e. I am beautiful or I am the perfect weight for me. 

What you will eventually see if you practice this technique every day is that the messages in your brain will eventually change and you will naturally begin to give yourself more positive messages.  

You basically adopt a new habit – but a much more positive one! 

My famous saying that I would tell myself especially before an interview or a presentation was, “I can’t do this.” 

But telling yourself this doesn’t help you overcome your fear.  

Our brains are developed to protect us, and therefore, if we tell ourselves we cannot do something; our brain will think we are in danger, and will set out to protect us.  

By changing the messages we give ourselves, we change the way we view and treat ourselves going forwards. This will then reflect on how other people treat us.  

If we value and love ourselves, other people will too.  

A second technique I embraced when overcoming my anxiety was breathing.  

Never under estimate the power of breathing!  

When we are anxious we forget to breathe properly and our bodies go into flight or fight mode.  

Our heart pumps faster and our minds race faster. 

I started watching you tube ‘meditation’ videos every time I felt like I was over thinking or over analysing a situation. Meditation videos always start by telling you to take big deep breaths. In through the nose and hold for 5 seconds and out through the mouth for five seconds.  

I would watch these videos for literally two minutes and just the breathing alone would be enough to adjust my mind and calm my irrational thinking down.  

I practiced this breathing technique every day for weeks (whenever I was overthinking) – in the car on the way to work or in bed at night when I was struggling to sleep. Eventually my brain could see that there was no danger and naturally learnt to calm itself down. I hardly ever have to use this technique anymore.  

Other ways in which we can help our self-esteem grow (as well as being nicer to ourselves) is to enhance your life in any way you possibly can.  

For example; surround yourself with positive people and let go of negative people that drain your energy.  

Read more and educate yourself more.  

I used to think I was never one with words or good in a debate – however the more you read, the more you expand your vocabulary.   

Exercise more (Just walking or even housework). 

Drink more water and herbal teas (your skin will glow). 

Join courses and groups (follow whatever energises you because this is where your true passion lies). 

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I went back to college aged 25 to study English (A Levels). I chose English because I was good at it in high school and it led me to eventually become a counsellor.  

Follow whatever you are naturally good at and just watch where it leads you.  

Becky

Student Counsellor

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Becky’s Blog…

Stop saying you don’t need therapy – everyone does!   

I was born in the 80s, a generation where crying was shameful, and most men did not express a lot of emotion.  

The problem was I was a sensitive child, so crying came very naturally to me, and I distinctly remember coming home from school one day, and  explaining to my mum how my teacher had shouted at me for talking in class.   

Instead of consoling me, the first words that came out of her mouth were, “did you get upset?” 

I stumbled over my words as I could sense her frustration, but eventually admitted that I did.  

The look of disappointment on her face was one that stayed with me for many years after that.  

Don’t get me wrong I don’t blame my mum for wanting her daughter to have a tougher exterior; I’ve had enough therapy now to understand that if the 80’s were a silent generation, just imagine what the 60’s were like!   

“If we spend our time blaming others – we just stay stuck in victim patterns. 

This is exactly what she had been taught by the society and generation she grew up in, and therefore she didn’t know any different.  

In short – she was raising me the best and only way she knew how! 

The only reason I grasped an understanding of this and can now feel complete empathy towards my mum is because I went to therapy! 

This very understanding has then enabled me to bring up my very sensitive son in a completely different way.  

You see, if we don’t get to the root cause of why we behave in certain ways, then we just repeat the same patterns as we go into adult hood, and raise children of our own.  

Now a therapist myself, I have lost count of the times I have heard people tell me that they don’t need therapy, and they believe it’s only for people who are having some kind of emotional and mental breakdown.  

But how do you think those people got to that mental state in the first place?  

Here are some reasons;  

  1. By being shut down by others (throughout their lives) and not being allowed an opinion, or to make their own decisions.  
  1. Not talking things through to allow their brain to process why other people have hurt them, controlled them, criticised them, etc.  
  1. By suppressing all of their feelings and emotions every time they ever felt angry, sad, or confused.  
  1. By not crying and breaking down when they just needed to let it all out.  
  1. By not releasing all of that built up frustration, anger, resentment, that they have buried deep inside their bodies for so many years.  

Imagine your mind is like a backpack.  

Now imagine filling up that backpack with lots and lots of rocks.  

Eventually you have to take out some of those rocks to be able to carry on, without collapsing with complete exhaustion right?  

Well our minds are just like the backpack, and get so clogged up with thoughts, that as the years tick by, if we don’t release some of those thoughts, everything becomes so jumbled up, and confusing that we are just heading for an emotional and mental breakdown ourselves!  

Throughout our lifetime, we come into contact with so many people, and many of those people will leave a scar (i.e. by criticising us, controlling us, judging us, belittling us etc). 

These people can be our parents, school teachers, other kids in the playground, work boss/superior (the list goes on) 

But Instead of allowing our brains to process why they have acted this way… 

(i.e. because we are children and we don’t know any better, or because we have low self-esteem and don’t believe our points are valid). 

…we bury all the hurt – and believe what they say is true.  

The anger and resentment however, still festers – just waiting for a time when it can all come back up again. 

This may be triggered by a traumatic event (i.e. a bereavement) and may cause us to have panic attacks, anger outbursts, anxiety or deep depression.   

Over the years, I have had a number of clients come to see me who have never been taught to express their emotions.  

One client turned up with a walking stick because the pain of not expressing emotion was now coming out physically and taking its toll on her body.  

Another client told me how he would talk to himself or would sit in the dark at home just staring at the tv, not realising he hadn’t turned it on.   

Now I’m not saying it’s an easy process.  

How can you begin to do something you have never been taught to do?  

I know many of you may also feel that talking to your loved ones is all the therapy you need, however friends and family have so many different opinions, judgements, and biases on a situation, that we often end up even more confused than when we started.  

Also if you put yourself in this situation, (and it was your friend coming to you for help) many of us, (if not all of us), will go into some kind of ‘rescue mode’, and instead of just listening, we will tell them exactly how to handle the situation and what we would do if we were them.  

As much as our intentions are good, we are actually hindering a person by doing this.   

For example; by rescuing a person, we are taking away their power, and the ability for them to realise that they can cope on their own.   

“We draw our strength from rescuing other people because it makes us feel wanted and needed, and therefore we are actually just doing it for ourselves. 

They will then constantly rely on other people’s opinions to guide them through life, and never truly believe that they have the resources (within them) to sort it out themselves.  

“For real change to happen, it must come from within. 

A therapist however, has been trained to understand that we are the best experts on ourselves, and nobody knows our back story like we do.  

“All the answers you will ever need are within you right now.” 

When we start talking in a space that feels safe and non-judgmental – all your problems will start to unravel and it will soon become clear as to what the real issue is.  

A therapist is also taught to go underneath the presenting issue (i.e. money worries, relationship breakdown, childhood issues) and look for the root cause of our problems – (i.e. which is often low self-esteem).  

Once we work on the root cause of our problems, we won’t keep repeating the same patterns of behaviour – because we will now understand the reasons why we keep on hurting and punishing ourselves.  

I recently had a client whose mum had passed away somewhat ten years ago now, but he had pushed his grief aside and carried on with his life the best and only way he knew how.  

The problem was he could only suppress his grief for so long, before it reared its ugly head once more.  

He began to tell me how he struggled with the guilt and the shame he now felt towards himself because he felt that he was never there for her.  

She struggled with a terminal illness for over two years but he would go out drinking with his friends instead of visiting her in hospital.  

For so long he pushed his feelings and emotions aside, but now that he had children of his own, he had a different perspective on life, and was becoming anxious, depressed and withdrawn. 

“What would she say to you right now if she were here,” I asked him…  

As things started to unravel, he told me how his mum had also brought him up to show little emotion and how everything was swept under the carpet and never spoken about.  

“Big boys don’t cry,” she would say to him every time he had tears in his eyes.  

A common theme I knew only too well.  

The more and more he spoke (out loud in a space that felt safe and non-judgmental); the more he began to come to his own conclusions.  

He had continuously been blaming himself for something he had never been taught to do… 

For example: Visiting her in hospital, buying her gifts, talking about how she was feeling…  

All of these things involved emotion, but for 26 years, he had been taught to suppress all of his feelings and emotions, and now he was racked with guilt, shame and fear.  

“She would tell me that she understood and that I shouldn’t feel guilty anymore, because I didn’t know any different,” he said. 

After just 6 sessions of therapy he walked out a different man.  

Now that he had a clearer picture of why he behaved the way he did, he was facing his future with a different set of beliefs that his own children would now benefit from.  

Going on a journey of self-discovery is one of the most exhilarating experiences you could possibly do with your life, and the only way you will ever find true happiness.  

This all starts with going for a counselling session and figuring out who you are, and what you want, and not relying on other people to guide you through life. 

Once we have that self-belief – we become unstoppable! 

Becky

Student Counsellor

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

COVID Counselling for families in Leeds…

by Hayley Watson

The Relate Bradford Team would like to use our 70+ years’ experience of Relationship Counselling to support families in Leeds (remotely- video/telephone) using the Aviva Community Fund.

https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/covid-counselling

  • Leeds families do not have access to fully funded/’free’ Relationship/Family Counselling as there has been no Relate branch in Leeds since 2018
  • Nobody should suffer because they can’t afford to get help
  • This project will offer a service which is accessible to some of the most vulnerable in our society
  • This project will tackle mental health inequality 
  • Family relationships are under more pressure than ever e.g. job losses, school closures and confinement
  • People are having more arguments
  • Parents are struggling to support their children and deal with challenging behaviours
  • Our highly trained (BACP approved) counsellors will help couples and families to build and nurture stronger family relationships, improve family functioning, reduce harmful behaviours and reduce the likelihood of family breakdown 
  • Let’s remove the financial barrier to help 
  • Let’s improve the mental health and wellbeing of families when they need us the most

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020…

Kindness…

We love the theme of ‘kindness’ for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, as for us at Relate Bradford, it is one of our core guiding principles; kindness to one another and kindness to those we are fortunate to work with and support. #KindnessMatters

Special thanks to Jen and Jessamy for these fab posters!

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees”

Amelia Earhart

Becky’s Blog on Grief…

When it comes to Grief, let the pain come.

For the past two years I have been working as a volunteer for Cruse Bereavement as part of my Level 4 Counselling Diploma.  

Having also lost my mum (in my twenties), I have also experienced the long and painful journey of grief first hand.  

I have always been someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, and find it incredibly hard to keep my feelings and emotions inside, so when a client tells me that they are struggling with their grief, the first thing I ask them is…  

“What is their support network like outside of counselling?”

I then start to see a familiar pattern arise, as I am met with similar responses.

“I don’t want to burden people with my problems.”

“They don’t understand and just want to put a positive spin on things.” 

“They tell me I should be over it by now.” 

“I must not cry in front of the kids.” 

Death is such a taboo subject in our society, and some people will even go to great lengths to avoid someone who is grieving because they don’t know what to say or how to act around them. They may even feel a sense of responsibility to try and make that person feel better.

I make no exception to this.  

Before I worked as a counsellor, I had a friend who lost her baby (at 22 weeks pregnant).  

Even though I had suffered bereavement myself, I was so afraid to go round and see her.  

I was scared I wouldn’t know what to say, or I would just blurt out something stupid to try and make her feel better, and she would shout at me for being so insensitive.  

Eventually, I did pluck up the courage to go round and we cried together and looked at the photos of her beautiful baby boy (together).  

I didn’t need to say anything because just being there was enough

Thankfully I have now learnt through my training at Cruse, that the best and only thing we need to do for the bereaved is to just be with them.  

No Advice.  

No Afterlife Stories.  

No Positive Quotes or Mantras.  

Just look them in the eyes and show them you are listening.  

You may think that this isn’t enough, or it doesn’t feel like you are doing anything, but by listening, you are allowing that person to process their shock, their anger, their guilt, and even the painful images (they may have had to of witnessed in the final few weeks – leading up to their loved ones death).  

If a person doesn’t feel listened to, or if they have been shut down most of their life, (by other people such as their parents or other authority figures) then they may learn to suppress their emotions, and this could eventually manifest into anxiety or depression.  

“If we feel we were not helped in life – it’s because we were not listened to.” 

Anon

What many people don’t realise when it comes to grief (and something I tell anyone that is struggling to express their emotions) is that –  

Crying and breaking down is the recovery. 

If we try and stop the crying, we are merely putting a plaster on top. 

The more we confront our grief, the more we move towards the acceptance stage.  

If expressing emotions is not something you are used to doing, then writing things down or saying it out loud to yourself (in the car on the way to work for example).  

Anything but keeping it in! 

Some even find that exercise helps. Many people will find that going for a long run will help bring out the tears.  

We must stop the stigma around crying,  

Crying is not a weakness. It is a strength! 

It is actually very healthy to cry and release the toxins and stress from our body.  

Explaining this to our children is also very useful. If they see mum and dad crying for example, they may feel a sense of panic – but explaining that this is perfectly normal and healthy will allow them to express their own emotions going forwards.  

The reason why counselling is so effective is not because a counsellor is telling you what to do (because you already have all the answers) – but because when we say things out loud, (in a space that feels safe and non-judgemental) our minds can make better sense of everything that seemed jumbled up and confusing.  

We can therefore process it better and figure out a way forwards.  

Many people struggle with the guilt they feel, and that maybe they could have done more.  

They also struggle with the final images of their loved one (especially if their loved one died from cancer).  

But the more we suppress these images and feelings of guilt and anger, the more they will linger.  

Many people will talk about the painful images just once or twice, and they will already start to notice a shift, as the images don’t seem so raw and distressing.  

It’s the same with the feelings of guilt. Say it out loud.  

Say whatever it is you feel guilty about.  

Allow yourself to feel that way but also learn to forgive yourself.  

We are all human after all. 

Life events lead up to how we deal with grief, and past events, childhood issues and even relationship struggles may resurface when we are grieving.  This is all completely normal.  

It’s important that we allow them to come forwards because if we keep suppressing our emotions, then we stay stuck (in life), unable to be truly present and happy.  

Grief will help us grow as a person.   

We become more resilient and are able to cope with other losses in the future.  

This blog was written by Becky, student counsellor.

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.