Chocolate Nut Muffins

Chocolate Nut Muffins

Today is snow. Heavy snow. I’m kind of over snow to be honest. It’s very pretty but, you know, COLD. I learned a new word today (thanks Twitter!): the Icelandic term: GLUGGAVEÐUR  or “window weather.” Weather that looks lovely from inside your house but is horrible to be outside in. I think that sums it up quite nicely. Our household is the kind of household that is stocked with good coffee and organic food at all times, but lacks things like a working boiler or any kind of insulation. So I am sitting and shivering here at the laptop wearing an insane amount of clothes, but with a full and warm belly.

I wasn’t planning to blog anything today but I promised Sas from the awesome Courage & Spice podcast (have a listen – it’s just lovely) a recipe for these gluten and dairy free muffins so here we are! If you’ve got the ingredients in stock you could be warming your own belly with these in under forty minutes – are you ready? GO!

Preheat the oven to 180c while you combine 200g cashew butter (you can use peanut butter if that’s what you have in), two eggs, 75g soft dark sugar and 50g chopped dark chocolate. Then stir in 200ml of nut milk (yep – dairy milk works fine here too – I just had some almond milk to use up.)

Combine 280g self-raising gluten-free flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and then lightly stir it into the gloopy cashew nut butter mixture. Don’t over stir or you’ll end up with rubbery muffins. Eew!

Put generous dollops of mixture into 12 muffin cases or silicon moulds and bake for 25 minutes. By the time you’ve washed up, cleaned up and made a pot of coffee they’ll be all steamily warm and delicious. You might even get to remove just one of your jumpers. Maybe…


How Not to Prepare for a Meeting…

How Not to Prepare for a Meeting…

On Monday morning I had a meeting. A meeting for some potential freelance work that I really wanted. An informal chat with somebody I knew enough about via social media to already know that she was lovely. Two short bus rides to get there. The promise of coffee at the other end. Easy right?

Generally it’s good to be clear what your mission is before having a meeting. But because I wasn’t entirely sure what the meeting was going to be about (no scripting – yikes!) I decided that all I could focus on was how I presented myself. I wanted to appear calm and confident; and I wanted to exude a natural inner glow. So this is how I prepped, autistic style*…

Sunday morning

  1. Decide, half way through washing up the breakfast pots, that I urgently need to cut my hair. Hack off a good three inches over the bathroom sink. Realise I’ve been a bit overenthusiastic with the layering and that I will have to straighten the hell out of it for a few weeks while hair calms down. Good start Flo, good start!
  2. Feel the need to neaten up eyebrows. Pluck. Pluck some more. Finish washing up. Pluck even more…
  3. Now that I’m up close and personal with the mirror (which I usually avoid) I note a few inconspicuous blackheads. Do the only rational thing – pick the hell out of them and so leave conspicuous craters in my face.

Sunday night

  1. Wonder what kind of bus ticket I need to ask for. I don’t know. Try to script pithiest question I can for bus driver considering I don’t know what I’m asking for. Fall asleep still worrying about this.

Monday morning

  1. Get family all sorted and off to school for the day.
  2. Sit on bed trying to figure out what order to get ready in and what bus ticket to ask for.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Try to cover up the craters I made in my face the day before – without much success.
  5. Spend ages straightening my hair as the layers have sprung up overnight so much that I look like I have stuck my fingers in a live socket.
  6. Make several attempts at drawing back eyebrows until they vaguely resemble actual eyebrows again.
  7. Note that it is raining very heavily outside, meaning that points 4-6 will have been a waste of time before I even arrive at meeting.
  8. Change outfit for the day. First one wasn’t warm enough.
  9. Clean bathroom thoroughly in case I don’t survive bus journey and strangers see grubby sink. You never know…
  10. Realise that I am running out of time if I am to get the bus before the one I actually need to get in order that I am not, under any circumstance, late.
  11. Change outfit again for the day. Second one looked weird.
  12. Make a note of earlier points in order that I will remember and be able to write this post later in week.
  13. Text my friend Rhi because I can’t figure out what to eat for breakfast and I still don’t know what bus ticket I need to ask for. These are tricky questions for her to answer as she a) does not know what food I have in my house and b) has never bought a bus ticket in the Bristol area before because she lives and drives in Wales.
  14. Dump contents of bag all over table in order to run through checklist: charged phone, headphones (last time I forgot these on the bus I nearly cried for the whole journey), essential oil roller (because bus smells make me nauseous), sunglasses (it is dark and rainy but I sometimes need them to dull visual distractions), house key, blue biro (because black biros are weird), wallet, money. Put it all back in. Pour it all back out again to check. Repack.
  15. Put on boots.
  16. Change outfit again. Third one didn’t work with boots.
  17. Breathe. Ground myself. Berate myself for not doing this earlier.
  18. Run for bus, checking bag constantly to make sure I still have phone, headphones and money. Worry about what ticket to ask for while I wait ten minutes for the bus.
  19. Forget scripted question and babble incoherently at bus driver who kindly figures out ticket for me and helps me with card payment because I can’t work out machine.
  20. Panic for entire journey and arrive with a full fifteen minutes to spare.
  21. Take deep breath, knock on door, smile and do my best impression of a calm and composed person.

Anyway. My meeting with the very lovely Lizzie went well and as a result I have, this week, been recipe developing for State of Liberty’s wonderful online wellbeing retreats – Huzzah!

I think it will be a while before I go to another meeting though…

*I do know that many people who are not autistic prepare for events in a similar way. That’s ok. You are in good company!

The Epic Fantasy Quester’s Guide to Extreme Health!

The Epic Fantasy Quester’s Guide to Extreme Health!

My favourite works of fiction, the pieces I return to again and again to escape from the stresses and the anxieties of mortgage payments, social media bombardment and noisy police sirens, are invariably the long and multi-volume tales of Epic Fantasy novels (usually lent or given to me by my father @calmgrove.) You know the general plotline – young protagonist gets plucked from obscurity to fulfil their destiny on a long quest of hardship across many and varied lands while meeting wise folk who support them in discovering their unique powers and challenging the entire balance of the (fictional) world they live in. (Apologies for that ridiculously long sentence there!)

I have realised recently that my love of these books have actually helped shape many of my health philosophies! This may seem odd – I am qualified in nutritional therapy after all – but, when you finish laughing (it’s ok, I don’t mind) please hear me out…

Our heroes (both female and male; and generally at least part human) do not acquire their powers without a significant amount of multi-terrain and multi-climate walking, climbing and riding; while carrying heavy packs, learning to wield swords or crossbows; bathing in icy lakes, sleeping on the ground, and spending many hours in direct sunlight without sunblock. Find me better ways to build muscle, stamina and immunity and I’ll eat my (wizards) hat! Air conditioned gyms have nothing on the training conditions on mountains, and in broiling deserts, swamps, forests and underground caves!

If you want to develop a strong, athletic physique with superhuman stamina worthy of taking any voyage of hardship across the varied landscapes of Tolkien‘s infamous Middle Earth, Croggon‘s utterly brilliant Pellinor or any other fantabulous worlds dreamed up by the likes of Le Guin, McKillip or Eddings then Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement, Erwan Le Corre of MovNat, Wim Hof of the Wim Hof Method and Mark Sisson of marksdailyapple have all written eloquently and extensively on the benefits of all things outdoorsy-and-becoming-superhuman. I am a huge fan of all these health pioneers, albeit largely from the comfort of my sofa. And if I had to go on a legendary quest I would totally seek each of these wise teachers out for my training!

But my area of expertise is that of nutrition. What do our heroes eat on their extreme expeditions when they aren’t on an HGF (human-growth-factor) stimulating fast and missing out on both first and second breakfasts? They stop at good inns for herb-infused rich stews of meat and vegetables or bad inns for stews of collagen-rich gristly meat and vegetables – Paleo enthusiasts eat your (organic and pasture raised) hearts out! Kindly allies, from kings to farmers treat our weary travellers to (sourdough) bread with fresh salted butter and fragrant raw honey served with creamy raw goats milk. Artisanal produced beer and wine flows aplenty All the phytonutrient, probiotic and enzyme rich simple rustic fare you could wish for.

Every time our protagonists reach ports or fishing villages they get to top up their omega 3s with fresh grilled and salted fish stuffed with leafy herbs and citrus fruit slices; and at most other towns they fill their travelling packs with protein-rich dried meat, handfuls of (non GMO) grain and beans (for making soup on hastily assembled campfires obvs) and black bread (probably rye sourdough.) En route through woods they supplement with foraged nuts and berries or bring down small game to appease their hunger and requirements for essential A, D and K2 vitamins.

Even the desserts served in desert tents are super healthy – I think you can take it as read that the (seasonal) fruit will not have been heavily sprayed with glycophosphate or the sweetmeats fried in hydrogenated vegetable fats and drowned in high fructose corn syrups… Everything sings of fresh, organic, pesticide-free and un-processed fare; and I have yet to read of a quester packing tubs of protein shakes, cartons of low fat margarines, shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuces, tetra-packs of soya milk or blister packs of budget multivitamins? That would be weird right?

And do our travellers stress about the lack of wifi connection or bemoan missing their latest legal-thriller series while they sing ballads and tell of thousand year old prophesies by a crackling fire? Do they wish for fire-retardant sprayed armchairs, plastic kettles, mass produced artwork and laminate floors when they stay in stone castles filled with rough-hewn oak, hand-blown glass and crafted precious metals; finely illustrated books of leather and parchment; tapestry lined walls, scented linen sheets and fur rugs. Do we pity them their few-and-far-between hot baths filled with herbs, salts and essential oils when we daily lather up with the sulphate ridden contents of plastic bottles behind our nylon shower curtains; or feel relief that we have access to acrylic jumpers and lycra leggings over the made-to-measure sumptuous silks, supple leathers and rich velvets that are laid out for the adventurer before a feast of exquisitely roasted meats and vegetables? I am inclined to think not.

And I know that however much we sympathise with the hardships of that monumental rite-of passage-traveller – the long periods of training, trudging, starvation, fighting, despair, frustration, loneliness and near-death experiences – there are many of us that suspect that this epic-fantasy boot-camp lifestyle might just be worthwhile if those trials shaped us into lean, invincible, sword and magic wielding warriors who are destined to have many-versed musical sagas sung about us for all eternity.

I think there is a health and lifestyle book to be written here. Hell, I’d buy it! But, in the meantime I reckon that many health questions can be simplified into “would (insert your favourite Epic Fantasy Hero here) eat, do or have it?” Ask yourself next time you are unsure about your next diet, fitness or lifestyle purchase or decision and see if you come up with a better option. Let me know…

If you would like to read my monthly health newsletter (which, as yet, is not based on fantasy fiction novels) then please sign up here:

My Brand New Newsletter and Some Spring Veggies!

My Brand New Newsletter and Some Spring Veggies!

Despite the “Beast from the East” plunging the UK back into sub-zero temperatures with its best attempts to fool us into thinking that Winter will be with us for a bit longer – there are signs that tell us otherwise! Can you feel that change? It’s more than the increased daylight hours and more than the daffodils raising their heads above ground. It’s that whisper in your ear to yawn and stretch; to rub the sleep from your eyes and to figure out what to do and where to go today. It’s your creativity starting to resurface after a sleepy hibernation; the desire to start new projects, flex those muscles and to reassert your place in the world.

And with that creative Spring energy in mind I have finally planned and created my first newsletter! It will be a monthly affair; if you sign up you should receive some combination of seasonal health and nutrition tips and a few of my musings and witterings on the first of each month. There will be occasional discounts for my coaching or detox course; easy recipes and answers to any questions that readers might like to send.

If you would like to sign up please  CLICK HERE!

But, in the meantime I thought that you might like some inspiration for how to prepare some of the Spring vegetables that are turning up in veggie boxes over the next few weeks. asparagus-2178164_640

This season’s early produce can sometimes feel a bit dull as you wonder how much more of the heavy winter roots and leaves you can handle. At this time of year home produce will have generally been carefully stored for a few months and veg-box schemes often have to pad out with imported produce. But all is not lost; a little inspiration goes a long way at this time of year!

You can make the most of spring greens stir fried with ginger, chilli and garlic and then dowsed with coconut aminos. Jerusalem artichokes are lovely sliced into coins and roasted with olive oil and plenty of sea salt until the skin caramelises. This is a great time to enjoy sprouted seeds and pulses if you are craving something a bit lighter or you can grate beetroot and carrot to serve with toasted walnuts and a lemony dressing.

Try mashing cauliflower with cream, salt, black pepper and freshly ground nutmeg as an alternative to mashed potato or roasting beetroot until it’s soft and sweet and then serving it with a garlicky yoghurt dressing. Don’t forget that you can make jacket potatoes from sweet potatoes; roast them until really soft and then serve with plenty of butter.

But then, as the daylight hours grow and thoughts turn to shedding a few layers, flavours kick off with all things fresh and exciting. The season’s new, spindly asparagus is lovely lightly steamed and dipped into raw salted butter or soft boiled eggs. Rhubarb makes so many amazing puddings or can even be finely sliced into raw salads. Wild garlic is great shredded and stirred in to a one-pan meat dish just before serving and purple spouting broccoli is delicious steamed and served with plenty of good butter.

If you make any of these do let me know. And if you sign up to my newsletter… see you on the first of the month!!

The Authentically Autistic Health Files: Florence Neville (Me!)

The Authentically Autistic Health Files: Florence Neville (Me!)

The Authentically Autistic Health Files are a celebration of health and wellbeing practitioners who, like myself, are both autistic and working with clients who are autistic. As you might expect, our unique life experiences, understanding and skills give us particular insights into many of the challenges that our autistic clients may have.

Please do contact me if you would like me to send you a questionnaire so that you can be featured on this blog. You are welcome to remain anonymous and I will always get you, as the featured practitioner to approve copy before I post.

As requested by the other practitioners who’ve filled this in already – in my own words, here I am:

Florence Neville: Health and Nutrition Coach

Basic Biography

Although I have had a lifelong interest in health and nutrition (I remember secretly musing on diet plans for my peers when I was only eight years old and my earliest career choice was to be a doctor or nurse!) I actually trained in and gained my degree in music; meaning that my twenties were spent performing, recording, teaching and managing the shop for a violin workshop.

I left the field of music in order to focus on bringing up my daughters in my early thirties and studied for my Diploma in Natural Nutrition when they began school. Unfortunately not long after qualifying I had a breakdown which crushed any confidence I had to feel able to offer advice. Instead I took a job at my local pharmacy – a job that, while it taught me a great deal, was highly unsuitable to my neurotype.

Despite, in retrospect, clearly fitting the criteria I had no idea that I might be autistic until a chance reading of this article by Sarah Hendrickx in April 2016. Luckily I was able to get an appointment with her soon after and was given a diagnosis of Aspergers within the month. A complete reassessment of my life and then learning to work to my autistic strengths gave me a boost in both understanding and confidence, resulting in me feeling able to leave my pharmacy job and re-start my nutrition practice in the Autumn of 2017.

Your Health Business or Specialism

Over the years I have thoroughly researched and experimented with various dietary models including vegetarian, low fat, low calorie, vegan, raw vegan, wheat/dairy/sugar free, paleo, primal, low carb, zero carb and traditional. They all have their pros and cons, but the crucial point is that not one of them is suitable for everyone at all times. What suits me may not suit you, and what suits me now may not suit me in ten years.

So, part of my job is to really get to grips with an individual’s nature and nurture make-up in order to be able to provide a set of guidelines that will enable them to heal most effectively given their genetics, symptoms, lifestyle, budget, and geography. Most of these guidelines will be dietary but helping them to understand how to use light, movement, sleep and rest patterns are also crucial. Seeing a client’s health and wellbeing transform is an incredible honour and I find it really exciting.

How Does Being Autistic Impact Your Health Practice?

I think that my neurotype gives me a specific and unique skillset to work with. I love to research and I am good at spotting patterns, or indeed spotting broken patterns in a client’s health in a way that conventional medicine is not always able to. For instance, if a client is experiencing a difficult menopause I am looking to balance her hormones but I am also working out why that imbalance occurred in the first place; it might be that her adrenal system is overtaxed or that she isn’t eating enough of the building blocks to support progesterone production; it might be that she is eating too many oestrogen mimicking foods or that her liver is overloaded; maybe it’s an emotional issue or perhaps the symptoms are actually due to something else altogether.

I like being able to break down a complex issue and offer it back to an individual in a way that is both easier to understand and gives them the practical tools necessary to work with their symptoms. My role is largely to educate and empower. I have noticed that many autistic people have a unique skill in this area. We don’t tend to accept what we are taught at face value but instead tend to take a different route when internalising a collection of information. “Why?” is of more interest than “What?” when we are figuring out “How?” and so we love to explain how we got to that answer. Having said that, it’s not so easy to explain when we suddenly just know the correct answer without any apparent route whatsoever!

What Considerations Do You Take into Account with Autistic Clients?

My autistic clients tend to have thoroughly researched their own health issues well before making the decision to book a consultation with me. They have often been repeatedly fobbed off by doctors who have not been able to spot patterns and so have tried to self-treat (or just ignored) symptoms on an individual basis. As autistic clients tend to have a more complicated health picture than non-autistic clients I tend to have more “knot unravelling” to do.

I have also noticed a tendency for autistic clients to apologise at the outset for being blunt, outspoken and needing to be given a lot of background information. In fact, this is how I much prefer to work – these qualities make my job easier!

While I don’t seek to treat autistic clients differently I am still learning quite how wide the range of executive function challenges are from one client to the next. This is why a dialogue is so important – it’s not appropriate to just issue information and a set of recommendations based on what will make the most difference to an individual’s health if they will be overwhelmed by the information and not do any of it. Meanwhile some clients prefer to jump in at the deep end from the outset.

Do You Have or Have You Had Specific Health Challenges of Your Own?

Over the years my own health challenges have included anxiety, depression (including five major breakdowns,) insomnia, chronic constipation, compulsive eating, acne into my late thirties, frequent and extreme bouts of fatigue, multiple bouts of tonsillitis (including emergency surgery for quinsy,) asthma, aching joints and frequent lung infections.

I find that, for me personally, all of these have responded well to a diet based on healthy fats, organic vegetables and meat; and well sourced supplements together with some lifestyle changes and certain naturopathic techniques. I am in better health now, in my mid-forties, than I have been at any other time of my life! I also see an amazing acupuncture and zero-balancing practitioner in Bristol and she has worked miracles when I need extra support.

What Are Your Own Health and Wellbeing Routines and Non-Negotiables?

I require a great deal of down-time. Clean air, sunlight, organic and minimally processed foods; eight hours sleep, walking and periods of silence are crucial for me to remain physically and emotionally healthy. Paying attention to the seasons in terms of food and lifestyle keep me connected and grounded. Working with varying energy levels over the course of my menstrual cycle is vital. And, while I don’t drink much, really good coffee makes me feel good!

Sensory Toolkit

The autistic community is generous with tips on navigating the outside world. I learned a lot from my Twitter friends! Since I learned to keep a “toolkit” in my bag at all times then being out and about causes far less stress. My kit includes both blue-blocking glasses (for the rare occasion that going into a fluorescently lit supermarket or department store is unavoidable), sunglasses, ear-plugs, headphones, rescue-remedy spray and a hanky doused with essential oils.

Meltdowns and Shutdowns

My meltdowns and shutdowns are rare these days but are generally triggered by being overwhelmed (social and/or sensory), by intake of junk food or by mould exposure. I need to be able to escape either to a quiet and dark safe place or into nature; I need calm reassurance (because I am generally frightened by my reaction) and I need grounding. It will often take me several hours or even days to recover, during which I will likely be mute and unable to pull my face into any kind of expression. I have been incredibly lucky that my husband has never once assumed my reactions to be tantrums and sulking and has always instinctively known how to support me.

What Are Your Plans?

I am really excited that there is now a growing understanding that nutrition, done right, can support autistic people to truly thrive and play to their own incredible strengths; and I love that I have the opportunity to help drive that forward in my practice.

My pie-in-the-sky dream is that one day I can be part of a linked practice that brings together autistic practitioners (nutrition, bodywork, herbalism, coaching etc.) with someone who can effectively deal with the day to day stuff (answering the phone, appointment setting and dealing with the finances) for those of us with executive functioning issues. Maybe one day…

Who Are Your Health Inspirations?

So, so many… I am always inspired by people who push the boundaries in health fields. I would recommend reading anything by Nora Gedgaudas or Dr. Christine Northrup. I love listening to the range of guests on the podcasts The Lifestylist, Bulletproof Radio and ReWild Yourself. Mark Sisson’s website is a fantastic resource.

Do You Have any General Advice or Closing Words?

Balancing rest and play is crucial. I hibernate in winter so that I am more able to get outside and be part of things in the summer. If I have been sociable on any one day then I will need at least one day to recover. A good night’s sleep is crucial if I am to be able to even speak to anyone the next day but that sleep is only possible if I have nourished myself well during the day.


The Authentically Autistic Health Files: The Silent Wave

The Authentically Autistic Health Files: The Silent Wave

The Authentically Autistic Health Files are a celebration of health and wellbeing practitioners who, like myself, are both autistic and working with clients who are autistic. As you might expect, our unique life experiences, understanding and skills give us particular insights into many of the challenges that our autistic clients may have.

Please do contact me if you would like me to send you a questionnaire so that you can be featured on this blog. You are welcome to remain anonymous and I will always get you, as the featured practitioner to approve copy before I post.

In her own words, here is The Silent Wave:

The Silent Wave (a.k.a. Laina Eartharcher.)

I specialize in Functional/Integrative Medicine. I earned my certification last year as an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP), one of 13 different sources of post-doctoral training.

I’ve also studied Functional Neurology from the Carrick Institute, completing 21 of the 24 required classes before discovering and switching to Functional Medicine. Since then, I have begun to gravitate toward – and carve out a niche of–people who can’t seem to find answers and relief anywhere else.

I get the “weird stuff”, the complex and multi-dimensional cases, and I enjoy solving them.

Basic Biography

I’m Laina E, 40, from South Texas, US. I changed university majors 8 times before discovering integrative medicine at age 25-26. Once, in very poor health at age 23, I discovered natural healing and integrative medicine, which prompted me to get into the field to help others.

My Asperger’s/autism discovery happened much, much later, at age 38.5, while perusing research articles in medical journals. My current setup is self-employment, co-ownership of an integrative medicine clinic with my partner. I work very part-time, and I’m very selective of the people I work with. I juggle work-life balance, and I currently struggle with motivation issues.

Unrelated facts: I love martial arts, cats, Texas, world philosophies/religions, nature, digital art, writing, road trips, and the desert.

Your Health Business or Specialism

My main health-related interests are: biochemistry, nutrition, multicultural health systems (Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Indian/Ayurveda, Egyptian, etc), microbiology, pathology, genetics, toxicology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hepatology/detoxification.

How Does Being Autistic Impact Your Health Practice?

There is an *absolute* impact (lol).  Being on the spectrum gives me the extra ability to delve deep into an issue and tenaciously latch on to it, without letting go until I’m satisfied. For example, I have spent a full 8 hours straight researching the biochemical metabolism of Lysine (lol).

I’m a perfectionist.  I balance the scientific with the artistic in my practice, in terms of creating graphical/visual patient education handouts and summary reports for patients.  So, Asperger’s/autism is a superpower for me.  It helps that human biochemistry and solving mysteries/puzzles are special interests for me.

But it is also a disability as well.  It is extremely difficult for me to meet with people; I cannot take walk-ins or appointments on short-short notice, nor can I see more than a handful of people in one day, nor can I start before 10am and nor can I got much past noon. And definitely not on Mondays (too anxious) or Fridays (too fatigued).  So, my Aspergian/autistic condition does limit me in that way. There’s also the social awkwardness and an incredible energy expenditure devoted to masking my natural autistic traits in order to “look ‘normal’” and gain the trust and acceptance of others.

What Considerations Do You Take into Account with Autistic Clients?

I haven’t had too many people on the spectrum yet. I give them a long leash, helping them find ways to work my recommendations into their daily routine. I make it clear that they can be themselves in my office, including stimming, lack of eye contact, expressing themselves in a way that comes natural to them, etc. We can meet in person or by phone (if they don’t want to leave their house). I’m also looking at setting up Skype and email programs, or perhaps secure 2-way online chat, but haven’t moved on that yet.

Do You Have or Have You Had Specific Health Challenges of Your Own?

Oh lord yes (lol).  I have 3 autoimmune disorders (including hearing impairment that is getting progressively worse; thyroid issues that sap my energy and motivation; and neurological degeneration that makes me clumsy and compromises brain function at times), EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or hypermobility spectrum), and I’m entering a rough pre-peri-menopausal stage. I also have histamine excess, a herniated disc in my neck, and post-traumatic stress issues, along with sporadic depression, dental problems, Non-24 sleep disorder, and documented heavy metal poisoning.

Support – I rely heavily on my partner. Very heavily. I try to eat a clean diet (although I could do much better!).  I try to get plenty of downtime. I work in the office 3-4 days a week, usually going home at lunch. I take Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas and nutritional/herbal supplements. I get semi-regular acupuncture and spinal decompression treatments. I text my friends and family. I blog, although not as much lately. I also keep a journal blog, which I’ve been spending more of my time on lately. I do plenty of leisure activities. I do need to get more physical activity and mediation, though 🙂  I also have two lovely kitties!!

What Are Your Own Health and Wellbeing Routines and Non-Negotiables?

I must be gluten-free 100% of the time or I crash. I must have a fruit and vegetable smoothie at night or I feel crappy. I must take care what music I listen to, or I can get depressed or hostile. I must avoid subjects that I’m hyper-empathic to. I must be on the couch, with the lights and TV on, doing things on my laptop, in order to fall asleep. I must get cuddle-time in with my kitties. I must journal on my journal blog. I must go outside (in the winter) for about 20 minutes every night to cool down my nightly hot flash.

In the summer, I must have sushi to keep me balanced. In the winter, I must have more beef and chicken to keep me balanced. I should start drinking more herbal tea; I felt my best when I was doing that.

Sensory Toolkit

Weighted blankets!! OMG these rock. Those are more of an inside thing, though. As for going outside, I rarely do. When driving, I must have my iPod hooked into the truck stereo and be able to sing along. I must have my iPhone to play with when out and about. My husband does all the talking for me if we have to interact with anyone (like at a restaurant, the grocery store, etc).

Meltdowns and Shutdowns

Too much stress, too much peopling, too low blood sugar, certain times of the month, criticism, bullying, assumptions or accusation especially if false and/or unfair, animal cruelty, dealing with complaining or otherwise obstinate patients, financial woes, etc.  Lots of triggers LOL. Excess noise or harsh lighting, etc.

What Are Your Plans?

Spirituality, meditation, different means of exercise/physical activity, etc – personal areas of health interest/research. As far as our practice, I’d love to incorporate more personal training, more massage therapy modalities (Rolfing, etc), more Ayurveda, yoga, etc.

Who Are Your Health Inspirations?

IFM and Dr Mark Hyman have been inspirational. and

Do You Have any General Advice or Closing Words?

I wish I would’ve gone a slightly different path in terms of schooling, but that’s neither here nor there at this point 🙂  Above all, I must learn to take care of MYSELF so that I can take the best care of others that I possibly can. Set the example; cultivate what people WANT – the energy, vitality, health, radiance, etc.

It’s easy to say (and hard to do), but don’t worry about the financial aspect. Seriously, just focusing on each patient and moving from one patient to the next, focusing on each in turn, will automatically generate the income. Also, I wish I would’ve known not to sell myself short! I gave WAY too many discounts and undervalued myself way too much in the beginning, thinking I was doing people a favor. Never apologize for the need/desire to be paid sufficiently for our services. Never feel guilty for expecting others to uphold their end of the Law of Fair Exchange. People do NOT respect someone who gives their time away – I may have thought I was doing them a favor, but actually I wasn’t. It backfired every time and I dang near burned out my first and second years in practice. Sometimes I’ve got to put my foot down.  If I give an inch, some will take a mile; boundaries are important.

It’s OK to say no and/or draw a boundary. I can’t control how others will respond to that. It took me a long time to learn that I will never please everyone because some people 1) have unreasonable, unrealistic, impossible expectations that NO ONE will ever meet, and/or 2) have decided to be angry and unsatisfied no matter where they go or who they deal with (even at the grocery store) because they’re simply unhappy people. There’s no cure for that, so I had to stop beating my head against a wall (figuratively) trying. 🙂

Overwhelm in the Classroom

Humour me for a minute. Can you remember back to being in primary school? Were you ever in the position of really not understanding something like a maths question? What did you do? Did you put your hand up and ask for help? That’s the correct thing to do right? That’s what you are supposed to do. Put your hand up, ask for help, listen to the teacher’s advice, complete the task, get on with the next activity. Easy!

Now me, my husband and daughters have all had very different experiences of being in infant school, despite attending pretty similar schools, but not one of us did the hand-putting-up-thing if we could possibly help it. We were all renowned for being good in school, and we all had above-average learning abilities. But put our hands up, speak out loud and risk being stared at? Hell no!

Instead we had our own techniques for dealing with being at our desks, staring blankly at something like a maths problem and not knowing how to solve it. We were discussing these over dinner last night. Here are the some of the various approaches we used:

  • Crying
  • Cheating
  • Doodling
  • Sleeping
  • Running away

Asking for help did not at any point feature on our preferred strategies. I’d be interested to know if it was one of yours. Would you like to know what my favoured approach was? Shall I tell you a story? It’s a forty year old story but I suspect it is still relevant today.

Despite reading fluently long before I started school and happily writing pages and pages of fiction, I just didn’t get how the rules of maths worked. I liked counting rhythmically or melodically and I’d often walk or skip round the playground counting my steps until the end-of-playtime bell rang. But multiplication? The analogue clock? Fractions? Um… Nope.

On this particular afternoon in 1978 I was in a noisy, smelly and chaotic year two class, doing basic multiplication with the aid of stacking bricks  – to work out 5 X 6 for instance, you’d make 5 stacks of 6 bricks and then add them all up. Stacking bricks for multiplication seems like a great learning method to me; great for both visual and kinaesthetic learners. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, unfortunately, there weren’t enough bricks for my sum. And I couldn’t figure out how to resolve this seemingly easy predicament with any success. And did I mention that the classroom was noisy, smelly and chaotic? Three times I queued up to have my book marked. Three times I was distractedly told “no, do it again.” From the repeated rubbing out of my mistakes I was making a hole in the page. I got increasingly agitated. And there didn’t seem to be any way out.

What to do? My teacher didn’t register my distress because I still hadn’t learnt that facial expressions were generally necessary to communicate emotion (it was a few years yet before I figured that out and had to painstakingly teach myself the relevant faces in the mirror.) I couldn’t ask anyone else because I didn’t really have any friends. But I hated not being able to complete the task; too many people were moving around and being noisy; the air was too close, my brain felt jammed, and the sheer frustration was becoming rapidly overwhelming.

Dear reader – this six year old made the decision that that she felt most suitable. She quietly put her book in her drawer, slipped out of the classroom, collected her corduroy shoulder bag and red, hooded coat; crept out of school and (trembling all over and envisioning police cars coming to catch her) quickly walked the half-mile journey home. My instinct in stressful situations is to run away. Something as simple as not being able to do a maths problem was stressful enough to merit my running away.

I sometimes wonder how common this instinct is for kids. Schools these days are pretty difficult to escape from now that security has become such an issue. And that’s fair enough but If I’d been in the same position now, where would I have run to? I know that some schools have fantastic strategies in place for kids who become easily overwhelmed and need to retreat until they can cope again but this certainly isn’t standard. At least not yet.