How to Deal With Anxiety


This weekend Withteeth and I went to a writing conference. I haven’t talked about my writing in a while, but it is still something I’m pursuing. However, conferences are incredibly difficult for me. As such, I wanted to write a bit about the struggles with anxiety and how to deal with it both for people who have anxiety and for people who may have to deal with someone elses anxiety.

Before I get too deeply into this, everybody struggles with and deals with anxiety differently. There are different types of anxiety disorders, though I have the most common type. But my anxiety is caused by autism and ADHD, so I will not necessarily express my anxiety in the “typical” way.

People are a pretty common trigger for anxiety. Some people suffer from social anxiety, which means that any social situation becomes that much more difficult to handle. I do not have social anxiety, but people are still a pretty big trigger for me. A lot of this is simply due to my sensory issues and issues with reading people. Noise is awful for me. Most people can cancel out a lot of the noise that happens around them, but my ADHD makes it impossible for me to do that. That means that I hear everybody talking, that pen hitting the floor, the setting of seats and movement of paper, someone pouring themselves water, and the laughter in the other room at the same time. My ADHD makes it so I hear all that, but my autism makes that noise seem much worse. I explained it to my psychologist as being like a wave hitting you when you’re not expecting it. You know the water is moving, but you aren’t expecting the powerful force that suddenly slams into your back, knocking the air out of you while simultaneously threatening to send you under water. It’s difficult not to panic in situations like that, but there are ways to deal with it.

Generally, conferences are made up of various tracks of speaking events, sales tables, and social events. The noise issue works differently in each of those situations. In the speaking events, I like to find seating near the edges. It can be tricky to find a good spot as far as front or back goes, because my ADHD makes it better if I sit up front, but my autism makes it better if I sit at the back. When I’m at the front of the room, it is easier to pay attention to what the speaker is saying and I’m less likely to turn to look at distractions. But the front of the room also means that all of the noise is behind me. If I sit at the back, then I don’t feel quite so attacked by the noise. But sitting to the side gives me some breathing room. It means that I can get out of the room quickly if I need to, and it means one side of me is not exposed to the noise. From there, I can decide where I feel the most comfortable sitting.

Sales tables and social events are much trickier. At this last conference, my anxiety was bad enough that I didn’t even bother with the social events. Sometimes I can handle them, but other times it’s not even worth it to try. It’s really upsetting to me when I can’t make the social events, because those are the best opportunities to network, but anxiety is a balancing act. Sales tables and social events are difficult to gauge, the people aren’t sitting in one spot and the noise level changes. This is where other people-related anxiety issues come in. People aren’t great at paying attention to their surroundings, especially when they are in groups. When space is limited, people bump into me. Obviously they bump into others too, but I’m short and have a strong dislike of being touched. It gets my anxiety going. When I’m in a room full of people making noise, it’s a lot to handle, but when I’m in a room full of people who are moving around and making noise it can be enough to send me out of the room screaming, or, worse, cause me to freeze all together and be able to function.

While this weekend was particularly hard, I do have a number of coping mechanisms. The most basic of which is simply doing breathing exercises. When I first feel the anxiety coming, that is my go-to. But, as the anxiety grows, which is inevitable when I can’t gt away from the anxiety-inducing situation, I need another out. That’s where safe spaces come in. I need some place quiet to go where I can be alone or, at the very least, where I can be with few people. I think my anxiety got as bad as it did because I didn’t really have that option. If I needed to get away from people, I had to leave the conference all together. I had to make use of that a few times this weekend, which meant missing multiple speakers. But I know that sticking around would have been worse.

Which leads me to some advise for anyone planning a conference: keep mental health and developmental issues in mind. The conference that I went to had panels on diversity and various issues, including mental health and developmental issues, which was nice. But the panel on mental health and other related issues was on the last day at the last hour. That’s not really when you want to bring together a bunch of people who are struggling just to be at that conference. It was a nice panel to have, but it wasn’t organized with it’s target audience in mind. Were I to organize such an event, I would have put that panel at the beginning of the conference when people are feeling energized and relatively calm. The rooms were also quite cramped. The organizers obviously can’t really control the size of the rooms, but they could have utilized the space more effectively. I believe the organizers were too ambitious. The conference went on for three days and they had five tracks of events going on every hour. The lengths of the events were great, but it’s impossible to see everything you want to see when there is so much going on. I think they would have been better off to double up on certain events so that people could get to everything thy wanted to see, or maybe increased the room sizes (most of the rooms had removable walls) to accommodate more people. As it was, there were more people in a number of the events we attended than there were seats. They made the same mistake in the sales room by having way too many booths. It was difficult to walk through the sales area, especially as people would stop and talk. I thing they would have been better off to have half as many booths, even though that would cut down on sales. There also wasn’t actually any place quiet to go. I’ve never actually been to a conference that has a safe space, and I know that many people buy into the “there are no safe spaces in the real world” argument, but I think that a safe space would be great for conferences to implement. For one thing, a conference isn’t the “real world” in the same way a college isn’t (though, to be honest, the entire idea of what is and isn’t part of the real world makes little sense to me. My not living life the way my parents did is more a result of changing times than anything else). For another, all conferences will attract people with mental illnesses. They aren’t as uncommon as many people think. Keeping your audiences needs in mind is good both for the conference and for the attendees.

Overall, the conference was good, and I’m glad that I attended, but anxiety makes doing what I need to do to lead the life I want far more difficult than it needs to be.


Real or Not?


It is really easy to dismiss anything we cannot see. It’s something we as humans do often, whether we realise it or not. As an atheist, one of my biggest reasons for not believing in any gods is that I can’t see them. But that alone isn’t enough. I also can’t sense them in any other way. No piece of equipment will allow me to sense a god. But what about the things we can sense with the help of technology? Mental illnesses and developmental disabilities are often dismissed because we can’t see them. At least, we can’t see them without the help of technology or other processes. Those of us who live with the issues notice them. We can see them in the way that others respond to things that are so normal to most people yet so strange to us. But the average person seems blind to the things that are so obvious to me.

Take ADHD for example: so many people argue that ADHD isn’t real. That it’s just adults not letting kids be kids. This is probably true in some cases. Many adults do seem to be under the impression that children are to be sen and not heard. But that doesn’t mean that ADHD doesn’t exist. I wasn’t even diagnosed until shortly after my 27th birthday. But I can see, and have always seen, how my hyper-activity level is higher than most. Anybody who has seen someone with ADHD knows how their behaviour is different from most. The problem is, the average person doesn’t know what they are seeing. I’m hyper-active, but not all people with ADHD are. For those who are interested in learning more about ADHD, here is a great link that lists the common symptoms: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-symptoms.

For me, I’m pretty stereotypical as far as ADHD goes. Like I said, I’m hyper-active. I struggle to sit still for long periods of time, I like to move, heck, I still like to climb things. I pretty much have the activity level of the average 10 year old rather than someone who is nearly middle age. I also struggle to pay attention and often lose focus and daydream. Basically, the “Squirrel!” joke is aimed at people with my type of ADHD. But I still didn’t even consider ADHD as a possibility until about a year ago. I knew three boys with different types and degrees of ADHD. Two of them were a lot like me. But they were boys. I may be genderqueer, but most people still read me as a girl (or a woman depending on how proper they want to be). To most people, that means I can’t have ADHD, or, at least, I have a low chance of having it. It didn’t matter that my teacher saw how I behaved next to the kid that already had the ADHD diagnosis. It didn’t matter that I struggled to sit still and pay attention. It didn’t matter that all of my books were covered in doodles and I spent more time looking out the window than at the board. I was a girl. Girls can’t have ADHD. So I never considered it for myself. After all, if I had ADHD, wouldn’t somebody have noticed?

But people don’t notice. I had to be the one to pay attention, because I was the one who was struggling. I had to notice that my anxiety didn’t seem to fit the patterns of anxiety of those around me. I’m socially awkward, but don’t have the symptoms of social anxiety. I had to be the one who thought that may mean autism. Even my doctor and therapist thought I must “just” have social anxiety. It didn’t matter that my “social anxiety” didn’t fit with how social anxiety tends to work. I don’t like being surrounded by people, I get uncomfortable, but I don’t seem to feel the need to socialize that people with social anxiety tend to feel. I don’t desire human company very often. In fact, I rarely ever think about it. But nobody took notice of that. They labelled me as shy without noticing my lack of interest. They also tend not to notice the actual symptoms of my anxiety. They don’t notice when I shut down. They don’t notice when the noise gets too much. They assume I’m just quiet or disinterested, they assume I’m being rude. In short, they ignored the symptoms in order to see what they wanted to see. And that makes it so much easier to deny the existence of something a person doesn’t experience themself. They can just say I’m rude or lazy, or simply shy, rather than accepting what I struggle with.

All of the things that nobody saw drive me towards wanting to teach. It is so difficult for kids to describe what is bothering them. They throw fits because they don’t necessarily have the words to describe how they feel. But adults often just assume that the fits are a result of a lack of discipline or from the child being spoiled. They tend not to consider other factors. I don’t know how good a teacher I’ll be. I certainly don’t fit the type of person who goes into teaching. But I want to see what others won’t bother looking for. I want to prevent kids from falling through the cracks like I did. Because life is much easier when you can identify the things you struggle with. Once you can identify those things, it becomes possible to find ways to cope, however that tends to look for that person.


Update On Baby


This post is for anyone who is interested in reading about my pregnancy to date. About 2 years ago I had an abortion followed by a miscarriage. I wrote about both around the times they took place. Since then I have really wanted a child, but Withteeth and I needed to wait until we were in a better place in life. While we aren’t in the best position, it is difficult to see us getting their until we are in our 30s.We also aren’t in a terrible spot. So we decided to start expanding our family (it seems silly to say “start a family” since we’ve been together for years and we have two fur babies in the form of cats). This pregnancy isn’t what I would call completely planned. I was just starting to track my periods and the due date is in December. But it’s close enough.

Anyway, I missed my period in March. I didn’t go to the doctor right away because I was worried about another possible miscarriage. I initially suspected I was pregnant when I started feeling nauseous for no reason (both of my previous pregnancies came with early nausea, so I knew what I was feeling). A home test confirmed the pregnancy at about 4 weeks. I booked a doctors appointment for around week 6, but ended up having to go to a walk-in clinic 2 days early due to vomiting (I’m about to get a bit TMI right now, so if you have a weak stomach please skip ahead). I was throwing up once a day beginning at week 5. That’s actually how my mom found out. She came over and I ended up having to run to the bathroom to throw up. So much for waiting until the second month😛. By week six I was throwing up so much I couldn’t keep anything down, so I went to the doctor. They prescribed some pills, but didn’t give me a high enough dose, so my actually doctor upped the dose when I went to my initial appointment. A word of warning for those of you who are in the early stags of pregnancy or are trying to become pregnant: throwing up once or twice a day can be normal, throwing up more than that is not normal. If you feel like you’re struggling to keep food down, see your doctor. It is very bad for both you and baby if you aren’t getting the nutrience you need. Anyway, the pills I was prescribed helped a lot. At the initial low dose I was prescribed, I was throwing up about twice a day, but I was able to keep most food down. At the higher dose, I was throwing up about every other day. My doctor considered putting me on a second drug to completely end the vomiting, but all of the drugs already had me feeling fairly woozy (I’m still taking my antidepressants at my doctor’s insistence). I couldn’t really afford to take more drugs that would make functioning difficult.

In the end, I lost 6 pounds after becoming pregnant. While I still experience mild nausea, I rarely throw up now. I’m down to about one pill a day. Unfortunately, the morning sickness caused me to miss about a weeks worth of work, and the pills were making my sleep about 14 hours a day. I can now function with about 10-12 hours of sleep (I used to only need 8-10 hours), which I’m thrilled about. Other than the morning sickness, this pregnancy has been fairly typical. I’m gaining weight now, though I’m a bit smaller than I should be. But baby is a bit bigger than thy should be, so no worries there. Baby is also super active. I’ve had three ultrasounds and baby would not stay still during any of them. Baby kicks me constantly. I’m at 22 weeks and Withteeth felt the baby kick for the first time yesterday. I, however, haven’t gotten a break since week 17 when I started to feel the movement. All of my blood tests have come back normal. Baby doesn’t have downs or any of the other trisomies. Baby has ten fingers and ten toes, and is capable of opening and closing their fists. They also like to keep one fist in front of their face, much to the annoyance of the ultrasound technician. But I’ve definitely gotten some good pictures despite baby’s inability to stay still.

While I don’t feel as energetic as I’m used to, my anxiety is also way down, which is great. I’m able to gt some moderate exercise in, so I’ve been going for plenty of walks, but I can’t push myself too hard. I don’t feel as though I look very big compared to the average 5 month pregnant person, but I feel huge compared to what I’m used to. People don’t seem to recognize me as pregnant yet, but my stomach feels like I ate a basketball. My breasts are also rediculously sensitive and are most definitely growing. One more than the other. I don’t think I’ll ever have what most people consider large breasts (good riddance), but they are far too big for my taste already. My on cat seems to recognize what’s happening (she was a mama herself) and has been kind enough not to step on my stomach and breasts, but my younger cat seems blissfully unaware of the pain he causes as he tries to lay down on my stomach every morning. All in all, I’m feeling pretty good, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting this kid out of me (just not too soon).


Why Is Raising a Child So Controversial?


It seems like it is impossible not to do something controversial when trying to bring up baby. Something as simple as letting a 4 month old sip water can cause some people to threaten to call child services. Personally, I think it’s dangerous to assume that parents always have their child’s best interests at heart, and it’s even worse to think of a child as their parents property. That said, does everybody need to have an opinion on what I do from now until baby is…when do people stop analyzing everything?

But Withteeth and I already know we’ll be raising baby in ways that’ll make some people cringe. For starters, we won’t be taking baby to church. We aren’t Christian. We want baby to choose their own religion, or no religion, when they are old enough. We also intend to cloth diaper and won’t be waiting until baby is six months to start them on solids. If the baby is male, we won’t be circumcising either. And then their is the Homeschooling thing. But that isn’t the most controversial thing we plan to do.

The most controversial aspect of our parenting will revolve around baby’s gender. We don’t know the sex, though I could have found out weeks ago. We don’t want to know. For one thing, it’ll tell us nothing more than what’s between baby’s legs. For another, it prevents others from enforcing their own stereotypes on baby before baby has even entered the world. In other blog posts I have discussed my being genderqueer. That hasn’t changed. In fact, pregnancy makes my own gender more obvious to me. Because of my own gender, I want any children I have to feel safe expressing themselves however they prefer. For that reason, Withteeth and I have chosen to refer to baby as “they” until they choose a preferred pronoun. We have also collected an assortment of gender neutral clothes for the first two years (most of which were given to us by friends). Studies show that gender begins to develop between age 2 and 5, so we plan to allow baby to pick their own preferred clothes at that point. We also won’t be cutting baby’s hair until then. What baby wears and what they do with their hair will be their choice. After all, it’s their hair and their body. So what if they don’t look fashionable? I was too busy getting dirty to look fashionable at that age, and I can’t imagine my child will be any different.

As for how they identify, we don’t really care about that. We may have a masculine child, or a feminine child. More likely our child will fall somewhere in the middle. If they pick pink Disney princess everything, great. If they prefer trucks or dinosaurs, great. Many parents worry about such things. They think the child will be confused. Confused about what? What they like? Has anybody tried to divert the attention of a toddler away from what they want before? It isn’t exactly easy. Isn’t it more likely to confuse them if you keep forcing them to play with things they don’t like? Or wear clothes they hate? It’s certainly not going to cause me anything but a headache. No, when it comes to things like clothing, hair styles, and toys, I’ll let baby lead. I’ll save the battles for the things that matter: health, food, spending, education, etc.


How to Homeschool While Secular


One thing I’ve noticed since becoming interested in Homeschooling is that there really aren’t a lot of options available for non-Christian Homeschoolers. The pre-set curricula is all very Christian focused. Most science curricula are written by Creationists, the logic and philosophy that’s offered has an obvious Christian bias. History is from a Christian perspective. Even math is Christian! But what about the rest of us? English is easy: read books that fit your own lifestyle best. It’s also possible to buy workbooks that fit state/provincial standards. But that means fitting your child’s curriculum with the government curriculum. This doesn’t work for everyone.

This issue has given me two questions for everyone out their:

  1. For those secular homeschoolers out there, how have you dealt with this issue?
  2. We lack a child to homeschool now, but is there any interest in Withteeth and I doing a How-to series in secular homeschooling as we homeschool?

How Young is Too Young to Start School?


Since Withteeth and I are interested in Homeschooling, on thing we have to think about is when to start what. Generally, school starts between age 4 and 6, and there are a number of different theories about when kids are ready to learn certain tasks. For example, kids in Canada and the US tend to learn to read before anything else, and most kids start to grasp reading around age 6. However, many kids are ready to learn math before they are ready to learn to read. So why teach reading first?

Personally, I’m not sure I actually want our kids to start school. I want them to learn, but I don’t want them to associate learning with school. I want them to think of learning as a lifelong endeavour. You see, in my family it is commonly believed that the biggest issue with the world is that people overthink. Many of my family members are more proud of their ignorance than they are of their intelligence. I think part of this is due to the fact that they associate thinking and learning with school, and not with progress. But I want our children to think of learning in association with progress rather than school. So I don’t know if we’ll actually use the word “school” in association with our Homeschooling.

It’s guaranteed that we will Homeschool at least for a time. I’m not sure when we’ll stop Homeschooling, be it for Kindergarten, Grade 9, when they start University, or sometime in between, but we’ll likely start as soon as baby is born. We won’t be pushing the child to learn anything they aren’t ready for, but babies learn so much so fast that it doesn’t make sense not to consider the first few years as part of their education. I expect the first year will consist of us reading to baby, talking to baby, playing with baby, and playing music for baby. So nothing we wouldn’t do anyway. As baby gets older, colouring will become part of the curriculum. Hand-eye coordination is necessary for later writing skills, so it makes sense to get them colouring as soon as they can hold a marker. Plus, who doesn’t love colouring? We have decided on a no TV policy until our child is 2 and no video games until they are 6. This is simply because we feel such things are unnecessary, and enforcing such rules will get Withteeth and I away from our computers. As such, any early curriculum we do will be based around books, workbooks, games, what’s available in the community, and videos once they are 2 and older.

Me being who I am, I have looked quite a bit into various types of Homeschooling. We like the idea of playing lots of games and doing lots of hands-on activities for learning. We also like the idea of reading and listening to books. Since I have ADHD and tend to fail miserably at sitting still (seriously, I’ve gotten up like 6 times since I started writing this just to move around), I know that action based learning was best for me. But we don’t want to use just one style. Not only will our children learn differently from on another, but they will learn different topics differently. As such, we also want to use workbooks and documentaries/films as well. This means that we will be doing an eclectic style of homeschooling. My preferred styles are Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson (or Leadership), Classical, and Unschooling. I’m not quite sure how I’ll work all that together, but I have plenty of time for trial and error.

We also like the idea of Homeschooling all year round, and we like the idea of taking few breaks. Rather than doing four hours of Homeschooling a day four days of the week, we’d rather do little bits of school at a time. This may change as the children grow, but at least at first I think doing an hour of school work a day is best. After all, small children aren’t really that great at sitting still for long. And I still struggle to sit through hour long classes.  Withteeth also feels we should focus on on subject at a time. I’m not sure what my opinion is in that regard, but it can’t hurt to try. He also wants to focus on math first, which I agree with. We’ll figure out whether or not we’ll put the kids in public school as they approach school age. If they are ahead of their peers by then, I doubt we’ll bother. If they are behind or where their peers are, we’ll probably try public school and see how that goes. But, again, it depends on the child.

Now I just have to figure out how to make Homeschooling work while I teach. I should have my teaching certificate by the time baby is a year and a half. That should be a fun experiment.

For those of you with experience Homeschooling, what styles of learning do you prefer? When did you start Homeschooling and how often do you Homeschool? In general, what has worked for you?

Everybody else, thoughts? Opinions?


To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool


In my last post, I mentioned that I am pregnant. I’m a little over halfway through, and I’m definitely looking forward to being done with it. I was diagnosed with severe morning sickness at 4 weeks and spent about two months throwing up constantly. I’m still fighting the morning sickness, but it is now far more manageable. At this point I’m assuming I’ll have to deal with it until I give birth, which is not something I’m looking forward to, but there’s really nothing for it. Otherwise, everything is progressing as it should. But that’s all beside the point.

I also mentioned going into Education in my last post. I want to teach Elementary kids. But school was not a good experience for Withteeth or myself. He had (and still has) undiagnosed dysgraphia and dysthymia. I had undiagnosed (now diagnosed) ADHD, autism, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Had we been diagnosed, life probably would have been easier for us. But we weren’t. All of those disorders have genetic components, which mean our children could have on or multiple of them. To be honest, w aren’t so worried about the disorders themselves. We are happy with our lives. We know how to cop, and we can teach our kids to do the same. The problem is lack of understanding and ability to deal with these issues in general society, especially in Education. I want to help children who struggled like I did. I want to make their lives easier. But I don’t know how many of the teachers I’ll work with will have the sames goals or understanding. In short, I don’t know how willing I’ll be to trust them with my kids. For that reason, Withteeth and I have been considering Homeschooling.

Very few secular people accept Homeschooling as a legitimate form of education, but Withteeth and I both believe that the public school system needs to be reformed. We also don’t know if we’ll b able to afford a decent private school education. That leaves Homeschooling. We are both educated, and we have a number of friends in different fields to our own. As such, we have little fear that our child won’t learn something because we aren’t trained in that field. Not that the average public school teacher is an expert in every subject they teach. Since the main argument against Homeschooling is that parents aren’t qualified, it seems as though most people should should feel satisfied with that, but Homeschooling makes people uncomfortable. I can understand the discomfort, but I don’t agree with it. I believe that children should b educated in whichever way works best for them, and that way might be through Homeschooling. However, I think that Homeschooling should be regulated. I don’t think just anyone should be allowed to Homeschool, and I don’t think parents should be allowed to have free reign. Children need to be protected, and sometimes it’s their parents they need to be protected from.

What are your thoughts? Would you Homeschool? Should Homeschooling be allowed? If so, should it be regulated and how should it be regulated?


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