Gig – CualaÉire Shebeen

To my followers in Ireland; I will be performing as part of this event tomorrow in City Hall, Dublin at 7pm. I’m truly honoured to be playing alongside a great selection of Ireland’s up and coming poets and song-writers. Tickets are available here:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/cualaeire-shebeen-tickets-30441925619

An evening of words and music to launch ‘New York Rising,’ a graphic novel that tells the remarkable but largely untold story of New York and Ireland’s shared history of the 1916 Rising. Hosted by Grammy-winning Dubliner Susan McKeown, the event features songwriters and spoken word artists including Vickey Curtis, Ailbhe Fitzpatrick, Ciarán McGann, Oisín McKenna, Sian Ní Mhuire, Colm Ó Caoimh, Tadhg Ó Ciardha, Dan O’Neill and Joanna Siewierska. Presented in partnership with Fighting Words, SIPTU and Super Paua with thanks to Dublin City Council.

 

 

 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities & “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want — Celebrating Individual Abilities

Thanks to dlberek for posting this, an important post about an important issue.

Although most awareness months and days are on a national scale, this December will feature a global undertaking to raise awareness and promote advocacy. December 3 is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This is an effort to “promote action and raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits […]

via International Day of Persons with Disabilities & “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want — Celebrating Individual Abilities

ASD & Empathy – Guest Post by Finn

“ASD: Myths and Legends” took place in Dublin Castle last Saturday. The event went really well and I think definitely gave the audience an insight into the sheer broadness of the Spectrum. It showed clearly those of us on the spectrum are individuals. We don’t just fit into a stereotypes that society has set forth for us. The following is the speech my friend Finn made during the event. I found it really thought provoking; he discusses a really important issue, so I asked if I could post it here. Finn has written for this blog before here.

ASD and Empathy

Hi, my name’s Finn and I’m on the autistic spectrum. It’s pretty mild, but it’s there. Most people are diagnosed in their teens and early twenties, if they’re ever diagnosed at all. However, I am unique in that I was diagnosed when I was six due to a random but fortunate turn of events. I’m comfortable with my situation as I’ve never had to question why I’m different from people.

 

I think this is why I’m relatively well-adjusted for social interactions. I know about about my quirks and can adjust to them. However, if you spent most of your life having no idea what was up with you apart from just being ‘weird’, you can’t adjust to it. You can only roll with it.
Not helping with this is a common syndrome of the autistic spectrum; troubles with empathy.. If you don’t know much about it, this can be mixed up with ‘lack of empathy’, like a sociopath. Does that mean I’m secretly a serial killer? Yes, but that’s another talk altogether.

 

I believe ’empathy’ is the wrong word to us. It means to understand somebody’s feelings by, well, feeling them. People on the autistic spectrum can definitely do that. If anything, we have too much empathy. I know this myself. When I hear people getting into an argument, I can feel the anger; it’s like they’re shouting at me, even if I’m not involved.
The trouble isn’t with empathy, it’s with the Theory of the Mind. This idea was conceived by Simon Baron-Cohen, an emenient psychologist specializing in autism. And yes: he is related to Sasha Baron Cohen. Moving on, he defined the theory of the mind as the ability to understand your own and other people’s beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions. This is similar to but seperate from empathy. You don’t need to have experienced a death in the family to know someone’s upset about their mother’s passing, for instance.

 

He came up with the Sally Anne test to demonstrate it. The idea is, you show two dolls to a child. One is named Sally, the other is named Anne. Sally has a basket, Anne has a box. Sally puts a marble in her basket and goes away to where she can’t see her basket. Anne takes the marble and puts it into her box. Then Sally returns.

 

A drama to last the ages.

 

After this, you ask the child, ‘Where will Sally look for her marble?’. Neurotypical children, even if they have low verbal I.Qs, almost always say she’ll look in her basket, since she last saw it there. But autistic children will say ‘Anne’s box’.

 

How did that happen? It’s a confusing mistake to make, considering how a common syndrome of autism is above-average intelligence… In case you haven’t noticed. The issue is, the autistic child didn’t think from Sally’s perspective. They saw the marble was put in the box and assumed that Sally would know too.

 

The fact is, most people are bad at understanding what others think. Take any marriage. But the majority of people think in the same pattern. Terry Prachett once talked how some people think in zig-zags, some in circles, and rarely in straight lines. It’s a good metaphor for autism. Because most people think the same way, it doesn’t take too much effort to determine what they’re thinking. After all, your methods of consciousness look about the same. But when you encounter an entirely different model of thought, trying to think like they do is difficult at best.

 
I hear it mentioned a lot that people on the autistic spectrum ‘find each other’. Close friends and romantic partners often have traits associated with the autistic spectrum, if not a full-blown condition.. I have an inkling that meeting someone who thinks in the same pattern as you do is refreshing and invigorating. If you’ve never met someone like that before, it could be downright revelatory.

 
I don’t think it needs saying that if you can’t connect with others, the loneliness can get unbearable. Depression can strike, and with autism it can be a bad combination. After all, a symptom of depression is feeling that everyone secretly loathes you, and after a lifetime of misunderstanding people and a near-total inability to determine their motives… That thought gets very persuasive.

 
So, if you meet someone on the autistic spectrum and they’re lecturing you about, I don’t know, the existential horror of the videogame SOMA, please understand that we can’t really help it. I mean, it’s just such a fascinating subject, surely you wouldn’t mind me talking about it for forty minutes. The funny thing is, if you mentioned to that totally hypothetical person that they were boring you, they would feel dreadful about it. After all, we’re not sociopaths. Just different.

ASD: Myths and Legends

To my readers in Ireland, if you can, please support this event that I will be taking part in at Dublin Castle on the 24th September 2016. Six teenagers and adults on the Autistic Spectrum (the “legends”) will be speaking about their life experiences, debunking popular myths about our condition and, most importantly, making Autistic voices heard! The event is organized by Dublin Castle in conjunction with Aspire Ireland.

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9 Tips for Those Who Have Trouble Sleeping

As promised, here is my post on how to get a better night’s sleep ( a month later than I intended to post it, shhh…) The tips described here are all things that have either worked for me or things I have heard worked for others. One or a combination of these tips might work for you, or maybe none will. Everyone is different. This is mainly aimed at people with  ASD or a sleep disorder, but most of these tips are pretty universal. At any rate; if this post helps at least one person, then my work is done.

  1. Reduce your screen time before bed

We are increasingly more and more attached to our phones and other devices. I’ve heard people describe their phone as “like an extra limb” to them. The pros and cons of technology is something I’ve discussed here on this site before. Like most people, I’ve found it hard to reduce screen time before bed, most of us feel a constant need to be online. It might feel like this is just helping you relax, but the bright light of the screen actually signals to parts of your brain to stay awake. Not looking at device screens for long periods of time before sleep does actually lead to a more restful sleep and the benefits can be clear to see even from the building. Ideally you should try stay away from devices around an hour before sleeping. Instead of reading online, consider reading a physical book instead before sleep. If you must use a device before bed, dim the screen to reduce the effects of the screen backlight, also many devices now have a nighttime feature which filters out blue light for night time reading.

2. Listen to something to help you get to sleep

As a kid, I used to listen to audiobooks to help me sleep, which I found really useful. This is something I’d definitely recommend to parents of young kids or really just anyone of any age. Listening to music can also help, though preferably something calming; bedtime probably isn’t the ideal time for death metal! A lot of people find it useful to listen to white noise to help them sleep, others prefer nature sounds like rain, birdsong, whale song etc, you’ll find loads of playlists of that type available fore free on YouTube and Spotify. At the moment, I, personally, have been listening to podcasts as I sleep (my favourites being The Cracked Podcast, Yo Is This Racist? and Professor Blastoff.) If this tip doesn’t help, it at least makes lying in bed awake more interesting! Listening to something calming or distracting before/in bed also can help with sensory overload.

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3. Don’t eat too late at night

This is another trap I’ve often fallen into unfortunately. Sometimes routines can get messed up, it’s part of life, and you may end up eating dinner much later than you normally would. This is nothing to worry about if it happens on occasion but try not to eat close to bedtime on a regular basis. We’ve all been warned by our mothers not to eat cheese before bed to prevent nightmares, but we should have also be warned eating dinner close to bedtime prevents sleep! Food gives us energy so eating a large meal before bed can only keep you awake longer. However, a small snack is fine and sometimes can make it easier than sleeping on an empty stomach. Certain herbal teas are also great for aiding sleep.

4. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important factors in combating sleep problems and stress. When the mind is not at the peak of health, having a healthy body becomes more important than ever. We live in a world where highly processed, sugary foods are readily available, the body was not built to cope with this. The bulk, if not the entirety, of the diet should be from natural, unprocessed, plant-based  foods. In my opinion, a balanced vegetarian/vegan diet is the healthiest a person can have, so of course that is what I would recommend. If you have problems, like I have had in the past, it may be that you’re not eating enough food to give you the energy you need, eating more wholegrain carbs can especially help with that issue, as well iron (spinach is great for this) and protein (beans, tofu, nuts, lentils, quinoa and chickpeas are all great sources of this, protein is also found to varying degrees in every vegetable.)

 5. Exercise

A lot of us see the word exercise and immediately think “Ugh, the effort of that…” or “I wish I could but I just don’t have the time.” I was just like this until a few months ago when I made the conscious decision to exercise at least once a day, whether it be running or just a taking out the dog for a walk, and it has had huge benefits for me. The human body wasn’t built to stay inside all day in schools, offices, on the sofa in front of the television; we evolved to move. Exercise obviously has lots of health benefits, including better sleep. Each person has different abilities and circumstances, adding a slight bit more exercise into your life, no matter how small, can have positive effects on your life. Exercising in the evenings, though not to close to bed time, can really aid restfulness  and promote a better night’s sleep.

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6. Learn about sleep cycles

The way in which our ancestors slept is completely different to how we sleep, the way we sleep changed with technological advancements such as artificial lighting. Up until the late 17th century, the common practice was to have a “first sleep” and “second sleep”, one would go to bed when it gets dark, sleep several hours, wake up for several hours and then fall back asleep. Obviously for the most part, it be impossible to revert to our natural sleep cycles, not without a fundamental change in society that I highly doubt we’ll see, but I find it very interesting to learn about. This TED Talk explains sleep cycles in a quick and engaging way, I recommend watching it if you have an interest in the topic: http://www.ted.com/talks/jessa_gamble_how_to_sleep?language=en

While most of us can’t fully return to our natural sleep cycle, an understanding of one’s own internal “clock” can be vital for solving issues with sleep. We often hear “Experts recommend eight hours of sleep a night” rattled off as absolute fact. This statement is a generalization, some people require more sleep than that, some require less. Many people don’t actually know how much sleep they need. That’s something I think it’s very important for a parent of a child with ASD to know, sometimes their lack of sleep may not necessarily be a problem, some people actually just can run just fine on less sleep. Sleep has different stages, there are 4-6 cycles in a good night’s sleep, ideally you’d want to wake up at the end of a cycle, waking up in the middle of sleep cycle can cause you to feel groggy when you awake. This is why you can sometimes sleep for a long time but still wake up feeling tired. A friend of mine showed me this website. it allows you to calculate the ideal time(s) for you to sleep, based off when you go to bed or when you want to wake up:

http://sleepyti.me/

7. Examine the role of stress and anxiety in your life

Stress and anxiety have a huge effect on our sleeping patterns. Changes in sleep are often the first sign you notice when you, or someone else, is going through a period of anxiety or depression. Recognizing the role of stress and anxiety in your life is the first step to solving the problem, then you can begin to assess the causes of your stress and find solutions. Seeing a counselor or even just speaking with a friend or family member can really help with this. Many find it helpful to write down all their stresses just before going to bed, so they can sleep with a clearer mind. As a side note, I personally write a large portion of my work just before sleeping.

8. Relaxation

For many, it can be hard to wind down in the evening. In particular for those of us with ASD, the transition between wakefulness and sleep can be hard. I know from firsthand experience how frustrating it is when your body needs to sleep but your brain just won’t shut up! This is really a continuation of my last point, going to bed stressed, or even just while still feeling energetic, won’t help you sleep. Try doing something calming before bed to help you relax like taking a bath or shower, reading, listening to music or writing down your thoughts, as discussed above. Meditation is extremely beneficial before bed, though it takes practice to really get into it. It is my current aim to include meditation as part of my daily routine.

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9.Speak with a medical professional

If trouble sleeping has become a major problem in your life, you should not hesitate to speak to a doctor. You may have a sleep disorder such as insomnia. Trouble sleeping can also be an indicator of a plethora of mental issues (as I discussed in my last post) and physical conditions. If the sleeping disorder is very serious, sleeping pills may help. If you don’t like taking medication, there are also plenty of natural remedies to research and explore, most of which are readily available at most chemists and health food stores.

One or none or a combination of these tips may work for you, different things work for different people. Generalization is a big issue when it comes to medical research and advice. I only speak from experience, my main hope from this blog is to get people thinking. I hope this article has been of some help, I’d be interested to hear any other solutions people have found for trouble sleeping in the comments below this post. Also, as always, suggestions for future posts are always welcome (post ’em here.)

Till next time, sweet dreams 🙂

© Tadhg Ó Ciardha, 2016

Sleep, ASD and Mental Health

Sleep is a huge part of our lives; the average person will spend a third of their life asleep. Yet sleep is not something many people give enough thought to. There is a huge correlation between Autism and difficulty with sleeping, this is not something that affects everyone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder but it affects nearly the majority of us Aspies at some point in our lives (myself included in that number) and many others. In many people with Autism these problems may be severe enough to warrant a dual diagnosis of Insomnia. Sleep and mental health are also deeply linked, changes in sleep pattern are often the first sign of the onset of depression. Here, I’ll briefly discuss the importance of sleep for healthy living and my experiences.

A significant anount of research has gone into the correlation between Autism and Spectrum disorders and sleep. One study of found that 56℅ of the children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their study struggled with Insomnia (Liu, X., Hubbard, J.A., Fabes, R.A. et al. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev (2006) 37: 179. doi:10.1007/s10578-006-0028-3) with other sleep problems also prevalent. More research needs to be done to find the exact reason for this correlation. In my opinion, one defining correlation will not be found, rather, trouble with sleep in the Autistic population has a number of factors and those vary from person to person. Autism is complicated, as much as it would be nice to have grand sweeping statements applicable to everyone, what I call “one-size-fits-all psychology” is merely fantasy based off what we wish to be true rather than real world, unbiased observation. We can say for sure, that many people with Autism have trouble sleeping because of sensory difficulties, or have difficulty winding down at night or find it hard to stay asleep. For many of us, we feel tired but our mind isn’t in tune with our body and we can’t stop thinking. This can also be the case for those with ADHD too (like me). Difficulty sleeping can be incredibly frustrating as we all know, so it is not difficult to imagine how terrible that feeling must be on a regular basis. It can be incredibly stressful for a parent also of a child who has trouble sleeping, particularly a very young child. Their lack of sleep can often lead to a lack of sleep for the parent too!

Sudden changes in sleep pattern are often indicators that things are not quite healthy in the brain. In particular, this can indicate depression. Sleeping too much or not enough, or fluctuating between, can be signs of depression. Some people with Bipolar Diaorder, when experiencing symptoms of mania (extreme highs), can go without any sleep or without much sleep for days. However it’s not only our mental health that affects your sleep cycle, it also works in the opposite direction. It doesn’t take a doctor to figure out the effect lack of sleep can have on our mood. Staying up late working consistently has very detrimental effects on mental health.

Dreaming, is, of course, a big part of sleep (for most people anyway.) Humanity has always been fascinated with dreams, and their interpretation. Belief in oneiro-criticism, the art using dreams to predict the future, is widely recorded throughout history, a phenomenon discussed at length in Charles MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (an incredibly interesting book which I’d thoroughly reccomend.)  Freud’s work in the early days of psychoanalysis often focused on dreams. Though much of his work has since been disproven, his focus on dreams may not have been entirely misplaced. In general, our dreams are nothing to worry about. However recently psychologists are finding a correlation between frequent, severe nightmares with depression and even suicidal ideation. Everyone has bad dreams from time to time, it’s only when they are severe and frequent that we need to worry. Nightmare Disorder or Sleep Anxiety Disorder is an official diagnosis in the DSM.

I personally do not have the best relationship with sleep. My sleeping pattern frequently fluctuates. For example last night I slept for ten hours without having done anything strenuous, one day a few weeks ago I slept for four hours then walked for three hours. I’ve really struggled to get a sleeping pattern that I can keep consistently. Strangely according to my mom, as a baby I never had trouble with sleep. It’s funny how things change with age. For the seven months for which I was on Prozac for my anxiety, my sleeping pattern was even more unhealthy than unusual. I would often sleep during the day. I would go to sleep immediately after coming home from school nearly everyday. Thankfully I’m off that medication, however sleeping during the day became a habit which has been hard to shake off. I have never had trouble remembering dreams, and unfortunately the majority of those dreams are nightmares, pretty severe ones from what I can gather. There have been times (recently, not as a child) when I have forced myself to stay awake for fear of the dreams I might have. I have been thinking that the dark content of my dreams might be explained by OCD since dreams are said to be mixtures of sounds, thoughts, sensations and images experienced during the day.

There’s a lot more to say than what I’ve said here. My next post will keep with the theme of sleep, I’ll discuss some tips for helping sleep problems that I’ve found helpful or I’ve heard have helped others. Till then…

That’s all for now, folks!

©Tadhg Ó Ciardha

New Music Blog!

I have set up a second blog, with the purpose of promoting my music and blogging about my research into the history of folk music. If y’all are interested, stop on by (and follow 😉 )

https://tadhgociardhamusic.wordpress.com/

There’s nothing on it just yet, but there is a lot I have planned

500+ Likes!

I was really excited today when I saw that I’ve reached 500 likes on my blog. Thanks to everyone who has supported my blog over the last a year and a half, I really appreciate it! Writing this blog has really helped me through some tough times and I hope my writing helps others even a little!

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Good Morning Blues

At some point last week, I went to sleep and the next morning I woke up feeling awful for no reason and haven’t been able to shake it off. This isn’t going to be my best post, but I feel like I need to get my feelings down.

 I was pretty excited about the start of summer, I was feeling pretty stable for the last weeks and now I can feel that starting to slip back down all of a sudden for no apparent reason. I feel as if I don’t ground myself, I might end up back where I was before. I’ve been feeling really tired a lot lately for no reason and my outlook on the world has become quite pessimistic mainly as a result of current world affairs (though I can at least celebrate that we here in Ireland managed to scare Trump away from visiting last week XD). I’ve also started having negative thoughts about my body again, I feel like I’ve put on too much weight but everyone tells me I’m healthy so maybe it’s all been in my head. What distresses me most is when I can’t tell iif problems are real or just in my head. June hasn’t been all bad though! I’ve began attending counselling (as I think I may have mentioned in a previous post) and I think that I can, if I try hard enough, I can force myself to be atleast a little optimistic. I took part in a play this month and I have also began writing a play. Being off school has allowed me to get back into photography, I’ll be posting some of that here. I am hoping to try get back into  drawing and reading too. Over the past year I have at times lost interest in things I used to love. I feel detached now but I think maybe there’s a chance I can rebuild skills I used to have. Maybe there are ways I haven’t discovered yet. 

So anyway the title of this post comes from a song by Leadbelly. It’s a song that I really like and one I play a lot on guitar. Playing music, especially blues, is really stress relieving. I feel like this song’s lyrics are easy to identify with for a lot of people. I really like how this song personifies the blues; if some of the voices in my head were real, they would certainly be the most irritating people I know. Laughter can sometimes be the best cure and this song, to me, is about having a laugh at your problems. That can be useful point of view to take sometimes, we often take ourselves too serious I think. Obviously depression and mental health are very serious issues, however humour can be and is, by all accounts, used to spread awareness about mental health issues. It’s no coincidence that there are so many comedians with Depression! Sometimes I say to myself “at least I write more interesting poems when I’m feeling down” it’s probably not true or a healthy way of thinking but hey, it helps me through. Anyway here is a recording of me performing the song from a few months back:

Sorry this post was really rambly

First blog post — Girl Masked

 

Hey! I hope everyone’s doing well! Since this is my first blog post I’m going to take this opportunity to give you a little insight into the name of my blog; why I chose it and the meaning behind it. You see, I started thinking about masks and what they symbolise. While hanging out with […]

via First blog post — Girl Masked

My friend Kate who has written for this blog before has just set up a new blog, please stop by it and take a look! Great stuff is to come from this blog! 🙂

You can read Kate’s post for my blog here Teenage Mental Health – Guest Post by Kate

Peace,

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