A tale of two trips to the mountains

Last December, my wife and I took a trip to the rural town of Montville on the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It was a cabin in the woods type of getaway that we had been looking forward to for several months. I was especially excited by the prospect of a few days of decompression as I had recently been diagnosed Autistic and had taken sick leave from work to battle the associated extreme Autistic burnout.

The summer months in Queensland might seem more suited to a beach-themed holiday, but we both love the mountains, and Montville in particular holds a special place for us: our first trip as a couple was to Montville one Christmas, and we even had our honeymoon there.

The first night away we woke to sonic-boom-level thunder and a pyrotechnic light show that put all previous human-made efforts to shame. The next morning, as I fumbled about in my usual thick fog, trying to fill the kettle to make a cuppa, my wife, who had woken before me, told me not to bother as there wasn’t any electricity.

As I struggled to comprehend what she was telling me, I recalled the storms and getting out of bed to watch the camera-style flashes illuminate the lashing rain.

The owner of the cabin we were staying in had visited (she had a house on the same patch of land) and spoken to my wife while I was still in slumber, to tell us we should consider leaving. Evidently one of the countless lightning strikes during the night had put pay to the entire mountain’s electricity supply, including to our cabin and its associated lights, refrigerator, cooking facilities, and the pump that provided our water.

I did not take the suggestion to cut our holiday short at all well – entering a state that I now realise as Autistic meltdown in all its glory. A meltdown that lasted the entire time we were packing, the breakfast we had almost an hour later at a café at Mooloolaba on the coast in an effort to salvage something from this particular ‘failed adventure’, and the entire 90-minute drive home.

It was, in short, far from my finest hour or two.

Fast forward eight months – to this week, in fact. To another three-day adventure many months in the planning, to fully embrace the concept of ‘slowness’ in our lives.

Instead of heading north, this time we went south, to Tamborine Mountain and the ‘Scenic Rim Region’ of Queensland. Chilly mountain weather, a cottage with a 180 degree view west to the Great Dividing Range, fireplace, wildlife, even a spa bath – if you don’t mind!

In was gorgeous, it was necessary and timely. Then the running water stopped running. The so-called water supply ceased to supply.

Dead pump, the owners told me upon my making enquiries; on our first night, then all through the next day, right up until the time we checked out two days later. I’d estimate we had water to our cottage for less than 30 percent of the time.

Unlike at Montville, however, I remained oddly buoyed, even chipper, in the face of this latest setback. Not even being reduced to an existence of bottles and buckets fazed me. I looked on the bright side. I stayed positive. I made the best of whatever the Gods of water (and water pumps) threw at me.

Perhaps this change in attitude is the result of seeing a psychologist and occupational therapist. Or the slowness that I’ve incorporated back into my life. It could be the unmasking that I’ve been practicing. Or perhaps the affirmations are actually rerouting some of the wiring in my brain. Most likely, it’s a combination of all these approaches (along with the fact that I’m currently not working and having to bump uglies daily with colleagues whose views don’t align with my own, or stick to unreasonable deadlines, or jump through untold numbers of misshapen hoops), coupled with the simple fact that I’ve had almost a year to come to terms with the fact that I am indeed Autistic.

Whatever the reasons, the way I reacted this time around to the disappointment of a lack of running water (what are the chances of that happening twice anyway?) astounds me, and leaves me feeling incredibly hopeful for what’s to come.

I genuinely feel as though I’ve turned a corner in my battle to overcome the burnout. I’m looking at life for the first time in a long time with renewed perspective. I even feel a little lighter and more confident.

I will, of course, never fully reach a point free from anxiety and all of the other associated behaviours that come with being Autistic. (Nor, I’m sure, will I always react to disappointment or a sudden diversion from what’s expected or planned as well as I did on this occasion – although it would be nice to think I’d be able to!)

But this is progress. And it feels a hell of a lot better than what my head and my heart have been dishing out lately so I’ll take it – and I’ll add it to the free two-day stay the owners of the cottage offered us to compensate for the inconvenience the dead pump caused.

And to show you that the past few days weren’t all about washing myself out of saucepans with face cloths (not entirely anyway!), here are a few pics from the trip for you to enjoy. 😊

The view through french doors of a person sitting on a deck overlooking a view across the mountains to the horizon
My wife and I enjoyed hours reading and looking at the view from the deck at the back of our cottage
The back of Glenn's wife standing at a lookout before the view across to the Great Dividing Range.
The end point of just one of the walks on Tamborine Mountain – and my wife again admiring the view
Eight rainbow lorikeets sitting on a wooden fence railing with bushland and the sun behind them.
Rainbow Lorikeets own the land our cottage was on as much as any people do
Close up of a rainbow lorikeet sitting on a table.
Some of the rainbow lorikeets are especially cheeky
A saucepan sits in a white spa bath, a towel, a face cloth, and a bottle of liquid soap on the edge.
I did manage a shower on the first night before we lost water – but this was how I did things the second night. Some perverse part of me has often thought about the next guests cooking out of that same saucepan
A pork hock covered with a cream and garlic sauce, mashed potato garnished with dill, and sauerkraut on a white oval-shaped plate.
We had lunch each day at the Polish restaurant not far from our cottage. First up, pork hock, or ‘Golonka’, on the bone, slow cooked with herbs, then baked with Polish beer and served with a creamy horseradish sauce, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut
Thick, polish-style hot chocolate and a slice of rum chocolate torte with ice cream on a wooden table.
This thick Polish-style hot chocolate, paired here with rum chocolate torte that someone (maybe me!) couldn’t resist taking a bite of before my wife took this photo, was so good we each had another one the next day.
Glenn crouching before the free-standing fireplace admiring the fire he has just made.
I do find great satisfaction in making a fire – this one provided warmth throughout the night!

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  1. Hi Glenn, thanks again for your posts.
    Your summation about the possible causes of acceptance and improvement (OT, Psychologist etc) sums up my experience too. Time has been important – I reckon the shock of the diagnosis has almost worn off, and the learning curve from professional guidance is starting to help me move to a straighter pathway.
    I purchased a weighted platypus, recommended by my OT, and it helps me to relax when my body is full of Autistic pain.
    I’m hoping to start experimenting with compression and weighted clothing. My psychologist describes these things as like wearing a big safe hug. 😊
    Have you tried these things?
    Cheers, Linda

    • A straighter, or more ‘streamlined’ (as I’m thinking of it) way of living is definitely the way to go for me too, Linda. I have bought a range of sensory products that I’ve found useful as well (and I plan on writing about that in an upcoming post). Compression and weighted clothing isn’t among them for me though. I don’t like wearing anything that fits me too tightly. I loathed wearing a tie to work when I was in roles that required me to do so. And I have generally worn quite baggy clothing throughout my life. It was only after I met my wife that I started wearing things that actually fit me! 😂

  2. This post gives me hope. Because I still fight the meltdowns and the shutdowns, even 2 years post diagnosis. Just yesterday having to make 3 phone calls to schedule medical appointments for my son and I left me in tears and unable to function for the rest of the day.

    • I’m glad it gives you some hope, Sara. I still find many things exhausting and overwhelming, but in some way I think accepting that I will reach capacity more quickly than most people actually helps. For me, now knowing I’m Autistic means living life so that if I have to make 3 phone calls, I follow that up with doing very little for the rest of the day, or trying to do one or two activities that nourish me before I go on and do anything else. It’s a real juggling act though and, of course, not always that simple. Sending you positive vibes! Glenn

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