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Asperger's Men and Midlife Crisis

“All of a sudden my husband (who has Asperger syndrome) is telling me he is happier being alone. He is trying to find "HIMSELF" and says he loves me and is physically attracted to me but doesn't love me the way i love him. He says he needs space. He is very stressed about his current job and is looking for a new one. His father who he was extremely close to died a little over a yr ago, and he did tell me since his dad died his life has fell apart. He said he has lost enjoyment in things he used to do. We used to hang out and go everywhere together and had fun, but that hasn't happened for a quite a while and now says he needs to keep his distance from me to figure out what he wants. He suffers depression and anxiety. He is 42 yrs old and we have been married almost 23 yrs. Can you please help me …give me some insight …tell me how i should and should not approach this? Does this sound like a midlife crisis?”

Many men – with Asperger’s or not – go through a phase when they take a hard look at the life they're living. They think they could be happier, and if they need to make a big change, they feel the urge to do it soon. These thoughts can trigger a midlife crisis.

Below are some of the symptoms of the “man-version” of a midlife crisis:
  • has little interest in spending time (or having sex) with his wife
  • displays the classic signs of depression (e.g., sleeping more, loss of appetite) 
  • drinks too much or abuses other substances
  • is overly nostalgic and constantly reminiscing about his youth or his first love
  • suddenly makes hasty decisions about money and/or his career
  • thinks about having an affair (or already has)
  • makes a dramatic change in his personal appearance
  • says life has become boring

If you believe your Asperger’s husband is indeed going through a midlife crisis, here are 20 crucial tips for helping him through it (however, keep in mind that it will probably get worse before it gets better):

1. Find support for yourself (e.g., through a trusted friend or colleague, therapist, clergy, support group, etc.). Taking care of yourself through these times will help you to stay physically and mentally healthy. Only then can you truly help your husband. Take care of you FIRST!

2. A physical checkup may be in order. For both men and women, the physical changes which occur in mid-life have a definite effect on behavior.

3. Don't start off with questions when trying to engage your husband in a conversation. Instead, share with him what you are seeing, that you understand he must be struggling, and that you want to support him.

4. Play some upbeat music that encourages your husband to dance, sing and laugh. Choose anything that reminds him of being young again.

5. Seek counseling if necessary, and be sure that your husband isn't turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with his problems.

6. Even if you think your husband is crazy, muster the desire to offer reassurance and validation.

7. Focus on conveying that you are not demanding answers from your husband, but that you want to understand what he is experiencing. Join him in being mystified and even curious about his dilemma.

8. It will always be helpful to stay positive and compliment your husband when possible. This may bolster his self-confidence and let him know that he is loved despite what he is going through.

9. Don't ask the "why" questions (e.g., “Why do you need so much time alone these days?” …or “What has happened between the two of us?”). These questions demand explanations and accountings. Your husband probably doesn't know the answers anyway. Probing questions only add fear and angst to the existing issue.

10. Be open to learning more about yourself, your husband – and how Asperger’s affects relationships. This information will improve your relationship after the crisis has passed (yes, it will pass).

11. In those rare moments when your husband wants to “open up,” listen – not just for what he is saying – but for what he is NOT saying. Listen to what is underneath what he is saying (e.g., feelings, values, fears, etc.).

12. Pay close attention to your husband's mood and behavior. Make sure he is not overloading himself with work or other things. Make sure he is taking breaks so he doesn’t feel stressed-out. Stress exacerbates a midlife crisis.

13. Sometimes a midlife crisis makes men very self-conscious of their bodies. Depending on the physical health of the both of you, you and your husband should consider adopting an exercise or health regimen. This will allow you to participate in activities together while giving your husband a boost of confidence.

14. Your husband might be feeling self-conscious or worried about growing old without having accomplished important goals. If you make an effort to understand these feelings, you can both go through this together.

15. While there are many positive features associated with a midlife crisis, your husband is most likely experiencing the negative features more strongly. Mood swings are common and may range from mild to severe. Watch for signs of depression, rage, resentment or despondency in your husband, and try to talk about it if you feel that things are going too far.

16. Spend time with others who look at the lighter side of life. Look for every opportunity to laugh with them and embrace it.

17. Men in a midlife crisis feel the need to be young again and may develop new interests. Support your husband as best as you can in his new interests – and if possible, participate. Even if you don't have an interest, you should know that new activities will bring the two of you closer together.

18. When your husband initiates conversations with you, be sure to listen without passing judgment. He is probably experiencing doubt and confusion about what he is going through. Giving an opinion or judging how he is feeling or thinking should be kept to yourself.  Yes, your husband may say things that you feel are crazy, and a conversation with him may leave you dizzy in the head. Nonetheless, don't try to explain the error of his thinking no matter how irrational. Don't try to get him to see it from your perspective. He will have to figure it out on his own.

19. Your husband wants to feel validated in his efforts to recapture his youth, so focus on the positive parts of a midlife crisis (e.g., an increased fervor for life). If your husband wants to start going to the gym six times a week, look at it as a healthy endeavor rather than an attempt to stay away from family.

20. Lastly, know that as your Asperger's husband goes through this period of change in his life, you can count on him doing things that will make you pissed as hell. Lashing out at your husband may help you feel better for the moment, but it won't change his thinking or behavior and will only lead to more conflict in the relationship. Get rid of your anger and avoid engaging in conflict. No amount of “reasoning with,” yelling, cursing or crying is going to make any difference if your husband is truly going through a midlife crisis. This thing will simply have to run its course. So, “go with the flow” rather than trying to stop it.

 
 
COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Sounds like he needs anti depressants.
•    Anonymous said... Ok...might not be what you want to hear but this sounds very familiar to me as my ex husband said the same...then went in to blame me for everything wrong in his life from getting migraines to losing his job due to his aspergers...we tried mediation, it was a nightmare, he went to see a counsellor whom he refused to talk to....he needed time to think, etc etc. Turned out he had met an old friend thru facebook and obviously it was far easier to talk to her online than to me face to face! Advice...try and be completely unemotional when talking to him, remember the world is black and white for him, try communicating thru email if he has left the house as he will find this easier as more distanced but be very very careful what and how you write things, applys to talking too! Try talking whilst going for a walk. Be careful how u give him space, expect everything u have said that he has taken badly but not shared to be regurgiated now... long memories! And good luck...deep breath. You will survive what ever happens by the way....you will find u have far more strength than u ever felt possible. Feel free to pm me...
•    Anonymous said... Don't be afraid to get him the help he needs. It sounds like the time to be alone more is a coping strategy of his. To some extent, it's definitely OK. But to some extent, that's a quality of life issue if he is in solitude so much. In my opinion, start exploring the possibility of psychologists, occupational therapist, or even an autism life coach. Psychologist is probably the best bet in terms of the type of person he should be talking to. OT is not so far behind, and in some cases better, if he/she specializes in mental health (I know it because I studied it.). Autism life coach can be hit or miss. You want to check the coach's educational background to see if he/she is equipped for the task.
•    Anonymous said... Be patient. Give him space. Be understanding. Listen when he talks (no need to try and "fix" anything....because you are already helping just by listening!). Know that his confusion right now is nothing to do with you. He needs to figure stuff out. He will respect you for allowing him to do these things....affairs NOT INCLUDED!!!! I highly recommend having him talk to a psychologist ....scary title ...for someone with great listening skills and therapeutic advice!! The brain is such a complex organ and needs to be taken care of when in turmoil. Talking to anyone (but preferably a medical person) is the best medicine. Good luck to both of you.

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Help for Sleep-Deprived Adults with Asperger's and HFA

“I am a 29 year old male with asperger syndrome. I have had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep most of my life. It’s gotten to the point now where it is affecting my work and my marriage. Any help here is greatly appreciated. Thanks!”

Sleep difficulties are very common in people with Asperger's and High Functioning Autism. If sleep problems are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness. The lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on your energy, emotional balance, and health.

Here are some ideas that can help:

1. Avoid evening alcohol consumption. A few hours after drinking, alcohol levels in your blood start to drop, which signals your body to wake up. It takes an average person about an hour to metabolize one drink, so if you have two glasses of wine with dinner, finish your last sip at least 2 hours before bed.

2. Certain smells, such as lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang, activate the alpha wave activity in the back of your brain, which leads to relaxation and helps you sleep more soundly. Mix a few drops of essential oil and water in a spray bottle and give your pillowcase a spritz.

3. Check your meds. Beta-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure) may cause insomnia …so can SSRIs (a class of antidepressants that includes Prozac and Zoloft). Write down every drug and supplement you take, and have your doctor evaluate how they may be affecting your sleep.

4. Deep breathing helps reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins, and relaxes your body, priming you for sleep. Inhale for 5 seconds, pause for 3, then exhale to a count of 5. Start with 8 repetitions; gradually increase to 15.

5. Don’t sleep with your pet. Cats can be active in the late-night and early morning hours, and dogs may scratch, sniff, and snore you awake. More than half of people who sleep with their pets say the animals disturb their sleep. On the other hand, if your pet is a sound sleeper and snuggling with him is comforting and soothing, let him stay put.

6. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning—even on weekends. A regular sleep routine keeps your biological clock steady so you rest better. Also, exposure to a regular pattern of light and dark helps, so stay in sync by opening the blinds or going outside right after you wake up.

7. If you fall awake but can't fall back to sleep within fifteen minutes, get out of bed. If lying in bed pushes your stress buttons, get up and do something quiet and relaxing (in dim light), such as gentle yoga or massaging your feet until you feel sleepy again.

8. If you're a stomach sleeper, consider using either no pillow or a very flat one to help keep your neck and spine straight.

9. Light is a powerful signal to your brain to be awake. Even the glow from your laptop, iPad, smart phone, or any other electronics on your nightstand may pass through your closed eyelids and retinas into your hypothalamus—the part of your brain that controls sleep. This delays your brain's release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Thus, the darker your room is, the more soundly you'll sleep.

10. Load a familiar audiobook on your iPod at bedtime—one that you know well, so it doesn't engage you but distracts your attention until you drift off to sleep. Relaxing music works well, too.

11. No coffee, tea or cola after 3:00 PM. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for about 8 hours, so if you have a cappuccino after dinner, come bedtime, it'll either prevent your brain from entering deep sleep or stop you from falling asleep altogether.

12. Position your pillow correctly. The perfect prop for your head will keep your spine and neck in a straight line to avoid tension or cramps that can prevent you from falling asleep. If your neck is flexed back or raised, get a pillow that lets you sleep in a better-aligned position.

13. Set your bedroom thermostat between 65° and 70°F, but pay attention to how you actually feel under the covers. Slipping between cool sheets helps trigger a drop in your body temperature. That shift signals the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep.

14. Sleep is not an on-off switch. It's more like slowly easing your foot off the gas. So give your body time to transition from your active day to bedtime drowsiness by setting a timer for an hour before bed and dividing up the time as follows: (a) first 20 minutes: prep for tomorrow (e.g., pack your bag, set out your clothes); (b) next 20: take care of personal hygiene (e.g., brush your teeth); and (c) last 20: relax in bed, reading with a small, low-wattage book light or practicing deep breathing.

15. Sound machines designed to help you sleep produce a low-level soothing noise. These can help you tune out barking dogs, the TV downstairs, or any other disturbances so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.

16. Take a warm bath or hot shower before going to bed. Both temporarily raise your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy.

17. The ideal nighttime snack combines carbohydrates and either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan—studies show that both of these combos boost serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical that helps you feel calm. Enjoy your snack about an hour before bedtime so that the amino acids have time to reach your brain (e.g., a piece of whole grain toast with a slice of low-fat cheese or turkey, a banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, some whole grain cereal and fat-free milk, or some fruit and low-fat yogurt).

18. The number one sleep complaint I hear from adults with Asperger’s is ‘I can't turn off my mind’. To quiet that wakeful worrying, every night jot down your top concern. Then write down the steps you can take to solve the problem. Once your concerns are converted into some kind of action plan, you'll rest easier.

19. To help you understand how your habits affect your rest, track your sleep every day for at least 2 weeks. Write down not only what's obviously sleep related (e.g., what time you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up during the night, how you feel in the morning, etc.), but also factors like what you ate close to bedtime and what exercise you got. Comparing your daily activities with your nightly sleep patterns can show you where you need to make changes.

20. Try to quit smoking if you smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant, so it prevents you from falling asleep. Plus, many smokers experience withdrawal pangs at night. Smokers are 4 times more likely not to feel as well rested after a night's sleep than nonsmokers, studies show, and smoking exacerbates sleep apnea and other breathing disorders, which can also stop you from getting a good night's rest.

21. Working out—especially cardio—improves the length and quality of your sleep. 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about 4 hours, inhibiting sleep. When your body begins to cool down, however, it signals your brain to release sleep-inducing melatonin, so then you'll get drowsy. Don’t exercise right before bedtime though.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Brad's Success Story: Tips for Aspies Who Can't Find a Job

Hey guys. My name is Brad. As a young man with Asperger’s, I was down and hard on myself for not being able to find a job …and in those rare cases where I actually did find a job – I didn’t keep it for very long (for reasons that I won’t go into here).

I kept on thinking, what the hell is wrong with me? I graduated almost near the top of my class! I volunteer! I (think) my resume and cover letter is O.K.! Then one day, I decided to contact a job coach for guidance. That man turned my life around. Here’s what I learned and what helped me find a “good” job (and yes, I’m still working there today):

As I was being coached, I constantly reminded myself of my prior accomplishments, skills and positive traits. I kept them in the front of my mind. My "failure to land a job" is NOT ME! It’s just a temporary setback. Everyone faces a setback at one time or another. That's a fact of life.

I contacted my local and state employment office, as well as my college career center for resources and leads. (Hot tip: Most job openings are not listed in the newspaper help-wanted section.)

Next, I forced myself to get out and about. I discovered that the most direct way to learn about job openings is to contact employers themselves. I targeted an area downtown, dressed the part, and stopped in at every appropriate business establishment, including employment agencies, to fill out an application.

I finally found a part-time, temporary job, which wasn’t something I wanted to do for very long, but at least it was a start. I reminded myself that ANY job that helps pay the bills deserves respect. But I didn’t stop looking for other opportunities.

During my spare time, instead of sitting around moping that I didn’t have a permanent job and wasn’t working full-time, I did some volunteer work.  

(Hot tip: Helping people in need is very satisfying and rewarding in itself, but helping those who are in a situation that's worse than yours can help put your own situation in a better light.)

Also, I discovered that, as with dating, "weak" personal connections are the best way to find a new job because they can expand your network beyond options you were already aware of. I wasn’t afraid to ask the friend of a friend or another slightly removed acquaintance for recommendations during my job search.

I also made sure that – as often as possible – I surrounded myself with people who tended to be positive and upbeat, not negative and downcast. 

(Hot tip: Network with like-minded people who are in similar shoes – online or offline (in my case, other people with Asperger’s). You will immediately see that you are not alone, and this can help put things in perspective. It also puts your self-esteem back on track.)

During the job search process, I made an ongoing effort to “spread the word.” I told everyone I knew and meet that I was looking for a job. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of opportunities I discovered this way.  

(Hot tip: Remember that you are not alone. The hiring personnel are not singling you out. Thousands are in the same situation, which is why it is taking longer than ever before in securing a job of choice.)

Thanks to my job coach, I found out that the best companies to work for tend to rely heavily on employee referrals. I made a list of all of my friends, relatives and acquaintances. I contacted them one by one and asked them if they knew of any openings for which they could recommend me.  

(Hot tip: Don't be too humble or apologetic when you do this. Tell them what you're looking for, but let them know you're flexible and open to suggestions. This is not the time to be picky about jobs. A connection can get your foot in the door, and you can negotiate pay or switch positions once you've gained experience and established your reputation.)

Then I finally found my dream job! You want to know where? At home! That’s right, I created my own home-based business. I’ve always had an intense interest in woodworking (ever since 8th grade shop class). So I started my woodworking business with no capital, a few shop tools, and lots of nerve in a 10 foot by 20 foot space in my garage. The kicker is, I was NO "expert" woodworker at the time – far from it (I pretty much am now though). Really, the hardest part was understanding how to turn a hobby into a real business that made money (I sell my crafts on Ebay). 

(Hot tip: The best type of jobs that you can do are the ones you do out of your home that you develop yourself. If you create a job to operate from your home, then you control what happens. When you are the boss, you can't get fired or laid off. You may lose clients or suffer from some business lows, but you can't lose your job.)

So, you may not be lucky enough to find a job coach like me. That’s why I wanted to share my story with you guys. I hope it inspires you to keep your chin up and find a job that you can enjoy the rest of your life. Not all people with Asperger’s have a miserable life – far from it!

Good luck,

Brad

P.S. Thanks to www.AdultAspergersChat.com for letting me post this!

Life-Coaching Online for Adults with Asperger's and HFA

Counseling for Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Live Q & A for Members of "Life-Coaching Online" with Mark Hutten, M.A.