Is a barking dog sending you barking?

I have a neighbour that probably shouldn’t have a dog. During the day the dog is shut inside while they are out. When they are indoors during the day they mostly shut it outside. It doesn’t get walked and doesn’t get much attention. It must be bored out of skull and so it barks – a lot. When it barks outside I don’t hear it at all in my room. When it’s inside it echos throughout next door and into my room. To make matters worse, when it barks it throws its metal bowl around making it sound like somebody next door is playing the cymbals – very badly. Yesterday it barked for 13 hours in bursts of 20 minutes once or twice an hour except for 4 quiet hours in the middle. Banging on the wall sometimes quiets it. One time though the neighbour happened to be in and banged back 🙂

So what to do? No point asking the neighbour to train her dog to bark less often or find a way to quiet it because she clearly doesn’t care enough to even bother walking the dog. Also the neighbour is a rather belligerent, inconsiderate and entitled character (NPD?) – a polite request to turn her stereo down slightly is usually met with “I can play my music as loud as I like in my own house” followed by a torrent of aggression and verbal abuse. Thankfully she has matured a bit and has largely stopped the loud music. Being unhinged seems to run in her family – her brother has a long criminal record and now commits crimes just to get back into either prison or the mental hospital because he can’t deal with life on the outside.

Reporting noise nuisance to the local authorities is bureaucratic, time-consuming and usually pointless. If she got reported for noise nuisance she’d know about it and make the neighbours’ lives a misery. The same would go for her being reported to the local humane society for neglect.

Which leaves possible solutions that I can use on my side of the fence. BarkingDogs.net has a really useful page full of tips on how to shield your home from the noise of your neighbour’s barking dogs. As I’m typing the cymbals have started for the day which means the barking is imminent and so up go my anxiety levels. Long term I hope to move somewhere quieter, but that can’t happen until I’m diagnosed and put on the waiting list to be rehoused (Delays and more delays). In the meantime, I’m looking into how I could use my computer as a white noise machine. My 32dB earplugs are on the way and I can’t wait! They should help with the other noise from next door (slamming doors and shouting) and the noise from the street (kids playing and car horns) too. Peace! Hopefully…

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I rise

This poem could easily have been written to somebody who used to abuse me:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

The original is by Toni in the comments on this page at GoodTherapy.org

Delays and more delays

Well today was meant to have been my first autism assessment appointment, but they cancelled at the last minute – again. The last cancellation was because they sent me the wrong appointment dates. This time it’s because the Advanced Practice Nurse at the Autism Service is sick without anybody to cover for him. The last time this happened the waiting list was delayed for 3 months and I got knocked off the waiting list because they mislaid my file.

The annoying thing is that as far as my family, support worker, the Advanced Practice Nurse at the Autism Service and the Psychiatrist who made the referral are concerned the result is a foregone conclusion, but I have to be formally diagnosed to access the support I need to live independently. I can’t access any talking therapies for my mental health issues until we have the result. Basically the only treatment I can have is antidepressants, but I’ve yet to find an antidepressant that actually does anything more than keep me from killing myself. I’m stuck on welfare and I’m lucky if I can handle a 2 mile bus journey most days. I want to get better – this isn’t a life, it’s an existence. My life is on hold. 16 months from referral and still waiting.

Rant over.

Finding Out About My Autism as an Adult

I can’t add much more to this. What she says is pretty much what I’ve been feeling for nearly 40 years.

Anonymously Autistic

When you find out you are Autistic as an adult your world is suddenly completely different but still exactly the same.

My entire life I’ve felt out of step with the world. I am awkward, clumsy, often confused, but at the same time I can be shockingly clever – probably why my Aspie nature went undetected for so long.

Once you learn and begin to see yourself and the world from the enlightened perspective of Autism you can no longer return to pretending you might be “just like everybody else.” It is a shocking and undeniable truth that strikes you in the face like a cold hard fist.

Finding out you are Autistic as an adult feels so final. Before there was more hope that I may someday outgrow some of my more eccentric traits. Now I am more aware of my unique (or not so unique) habits and needs than…

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Autism and Empathy

Well, the Autism pre-assessment has happened. Mr S (Advanced Practice Nurse) took down some of my history and symptoms and then talked about the assessment procedure with my mother and me. Thankfully the Crisis Team Psychiatrist who referred me had taken a very comprehensive history and symptoms, so there wasn’t much more history that needed to be taken down. At various points in the history where I had been in contact with child psychiatry, educational psychology or mental health services, he asked if Autism had ever been mentioned. “No” each time. He seemed increasingly bemused, as if they had repeatedly missed the blatantly obvious. Things that never used to make sense about my childhood now make sense. I had a feeling that I was backward compared to my own age group in communication, manual dexterity, co-ordination and social skills. My grades in English, Art, Music and PE bore that out. It turns out that the Ed Psychs’ reports reinforced that. I was ahead of my age academically in the other subjects. My IQ was above average academically, but in all other areas I was effectively learning-disabled. No wonder there were disagreements over admitting me to secondary school early. The average 11 year old finds the transition to a much bigger school daunting, so I can see why the local state secondary school would have been reluctant to admit a socially backward 9 year old. Hence why I was eventually sent to a small all-age private school for a while to smooth the transition. It seems that the Ed Psychs weren’t too worried about my social backwardness – they figured that I was intelligent enough to compensate for it or even catch up eventually. Clearly that hadn’t happened otherwise I wouldn’t be seeing Mr S or, indeed, posting this monologue.

The assessment process involves three questionnaires, one of which relates mainly to behaviour between ages 4 and 11 and so is to be completed by the parents. The questionnaires are completed over the course of 3 weekly appointments. They are a lot like questionnaires available online, but examples have to be given to support the answers to each question. Once completed, the questionnaires together with case notes are given to a panel who determine whether the client is or isn’t on the Autism spectrum. A more detailed diagnosis as to position on the spectrum would usually not be done on the NHS, but that shouldn’t be a problem as DSM-V only talks about ASD rather than breaking it down further into Asperger’s, HFA and so on. The diagnosis of ASD and accompanying medical evidence should be enough to prove care and support needs.

One questionnaire has 50 questions which scores specifically for Autism spectrum traits. I recognised it instantly as being one that I have done before online a few times and scored consistently in the high 40s. The name of the questionnaire escapes me.

The other questionnaire is an Empathy Quotient questionnaire of 60 questions. It was much harder for me to figure out what they were trying to assess. I’m aware of the fact that my empathy is stunted in areas that NTs have no problem with. And from my reading about Autism vs Narcissistic Spectrum Personality Disorders, Autism usually involves deficiencies in different sorts of empathy to the deficiencies experienced by Narcissists. According to this article, the EQ doesn’t pick out which areas are deficient, it simply calculates an overall score. The lower the score the higher the probability of ASD / Narcissistic Spectrum PD.

I think we can easily rule out Narcissism Spectrum. Narcissists know when they’re hurting people or manipulating them and don’t feel much remorse if any. When I know I’ve hurt people I always feel remorse. Usually I don’t realise until somebody tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings and what it was that I said or did. Usually I’m surprised that they are upset about it (usually it’s something that wouldn’t bother me if they did it to me), but I’m still remorseful for the upset caused. I usually then remember it as something that NTs get bothered by and try not to do it again. It’s a bit like living in a foreign culture (e.g. sniffing is ruder than blowing your nose in the UK, but in Japan blowing your nose is ruder than sniffing because the loud noise draws attention to you)

All in all, the process seems very forensic and thorough. A lot like what I’ve read about the process of diagnosing personality disorders. Perhaps not surprising given that both diagnoses involve assessing pervasive impairments in social functioning across most of the client’s lifetime. Indeed, Autism was originally classified as a type of personality disorder, but was reclassified when it became clear that autistic behaviours appear much earlier on in child development than behaviours typical of personality disorders. Advances in neurology have also made it clear that autism is invariably linked to neurological variations and that nurture rarely has much effect on the outcome. PDs on the other hand either have no neurological underpinning (only early psychological trauma), or neurological differences give a propensity for a PD which is then sometimes (but not always) triggered by early psychological trauma. This is why PDs show up later in child development than autism.

If Mr S’ instincts are right, then I am indeed Autistic, something I’ve suspected for over a decade. Odd how I’m only now starting to see the down sides of the diagnosis, though. I guess I always used to be able to say to myself that I could well have been wrong about my suspicions, but wanted to be right. Now it seems that I could well have been right, but I’m not sure I will be glad about it. When my problems seemed to be anxiety, depression and being a bit of a klutz, there was always a sense that I would completely recover eventually. Now it’s looking like a long hard slog to learn enough social and emotional skills to try and get by in a world that I’ll never truly easily understand and will always scare the cr*p out of me. Daunting…