Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Autistic Dude's Guide to Finding Love

Hi everyone! After meeting several young autistic men who really, really, really want a girlfriend and struggle with finding one, I decided to write a short guide to dating. Like I mention in the article, I am no expert on dating... in fact, I am probably asexual. (Someday I'll blog about that maybe...) But I've been around a lot of people and been through a lot in life, so I think I know a little bit about things. Please let me know what you think about these articles, and maybe I'll write more!

Also, I have no idea if these tips would also work for an autistic girl trying to find a boyfriend. Feel free to comment with your ideas on this!

Part 1: Making Yourself Happy

Part 2: Exploring the Possibilities

Part 3: Starting in the Friend Zone

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Do I Dazzle You?

This My Little Pony is called "Dazzling Mist." Also, aren't
My Little Ponies a lot creepier than they were when I was a kid?
Yesterday I went to my psychiatrist, who is actually a psychiatric nurse practitioner. That's basically the same as a regular nurse practitioner... they can prescribe medicine and do many of the things that a doctor (or psychiatrist, in this case) can do, but have to be supervised by an actual doctor. So my psychiatrist is a nurse practitioner but is probably the coolest psychiatrist I have ever been to. And I have gone through many. Most of the psychiatrists I've had have been on a check-in-check-out type of system... they are really only interested in the medical aspects of mental health. During a brief appointment they ask you if there are any changes in your mood, any sudden reactions to your medications, any questions you may have, etc... and then they release you into the wild. In Chicago I saw my psychiatrist about once a year for twenty minutes.

This dude actually spends at least an hour with me each time, having in depth conversations with me about how I'm doing. It's not quite like counseling... I've also been to many counselors, and often it is sort of a teacher and student relationship, with them being in the higher position. This is more like having a friend who really understands you well and can also prescribe you medicine!

I see him for ADHD medication because ADHD is his specialty, although he also understands autism. Let's call him Dr. D, so I don't have to keep typing "the nurse practitioner" or something. Anyways. So yesterday Dr. D was saying something along the lines of that he thought I was most comfortable working with kids because kids provide a safe and accepting relationship, but that I also provided that safe and accepting relationship for them. That makes sense... one of the things I like most about kids is similar to one of the things I like most about animals... they are their true selves all the time. They don't pretend to like you, or pretend to be something they're not, or plot against you. And if they get angry with you, it is usually short-lived. If you are kind to children and make them feel safe, they will like you and enjoy being with you. At least, young children. As they get older, kids, especially neurotypical kids, can learn to be more cunning. But with young children, what you see is what you get. I love that about them, and I guess I do provide a safe and accepting relationship back to them, because I am pretty straight forward also and I accept them for how they are.

Dr. D also said that if only I had more confidence, if I hung out with more adults, I would really "dazzle" them. I had a harder time understanding this. Dr. D seems to think I am really smart... he's even suggested I try to get my Master's degree. He was basically saying that if adults were able to see me the way kids see me, and I were more confident around adults, they would think I'm really smart also.

Then he said that I'd probably get along really well with people in their 20's, because I look much younger than my real age, plus I am socially and emotionally younger, but in many ways also wiser (because I'm not actually in my 20's) so if I hung around with people of that age group, I would just be, like, a really awesome 20-year-old.

That is sort of funny, because I do blend in more with people in their 20's than people my own age. Considering that many of my peers had babies when we were in high school, I am literally old enough to be a grandparent right now.

I read once that people with Aspergers (which was what my kind of autism used to be called) are socially and emotionally 2/3 their age. I think they were mostly talking about kids, and that would definitely apply to me as a child. I always played with younger kids and was just more at their level. At age 9, while kids in my grade were already starting to be interested in boys, clothes, and music videos, I was definitely still playing "house" and "Barbies" with the 6-year-olds on my street. At age 15, I was probably similar to a 10-year-old who had been cruelly dropped into the middle of a high school life. At age 18, while starting to live on my own, I was about as successful as what you might have expected from a 12-year-old. In fact, at age 18 I hung out with people who were in their 20's, many of whom were former gang members (yeah, that's a long story for another day) and they looked after me. They seemed to understand that I was not quite at the level of a regular 18-year-old, and they were much kinder and more protective of me than they were of some of the other kids my age that were around. That was one of the ways I got my nickname "Angel," because they thought of me as being younger and innocent, although they also used to call me "the baby," which I didn't like as much. (As in, "I bought beer for us, and Dr. Pepper for the baby!") And as I was working my way through college at ages 23 through about 28 (because I went part time) there was no noticeable difference between me and the actual college-aged kids.

I am not sure I would ever be able to "dazzle" adults, though. I am highly aware that I can be very annoying to the people who spend the most time with me. (One time I was lamenting about the problem of hanging out with a local group for people with autism, saying, "You see, Mom, people with autism can be annoying." My mom burst out laughing and said, "Oh, really!" Because she thinks I'm annoying most of the time.) Part of it is because I tend to blurt out whatever is at the top of my head. Usually this means talking forever about whatever I am currently excited or nervous about at the time, as well as random nonsense such as "Is Lily a good dog?" When I'm nervous and shy I tend to be the opposite, pretty much mute, to the point where when I was in high school many people in y classes seriously thought I couldn't talk. But once I warm up to people, then I tend to be bubbling over all the time. I don't think all people with autism are like this... in fact, I've seen it more among people who are considered more "low functioning" autistic. Maybe because more "high functioning" people tend to be focusing on staying cool and blending in, while "low functioning" people just let it rip. I don't even like the terms "high functioning" and "low functioning" at all, but I don't know how else to explain what I'm saying in less than 80 million words.

There are some people who cannot communicate orally, well enough to function in day to day life. But they learn how to type or use a letter-board, and suddenly they are able to share their thoughts, and it turns out they are very smart. Maybe if I was able to just communicate by typing, people would see past all of the nonsense and weirdness, and then I would "dazzle" them.

That would be sort of cool!

However, if I pulled out my laptop each time someone talked to me, and typed a paragraph, they might also find that weird. Especially if it was all of the sudden. If I suddenly told all the people who know me, "I'm going to be communicating through my laptop from now on," they'd be like, "What?" Plus there's no way I could give up speech. Usually people who communicate through typing do not have speech... whereas I sometimes have too much. It's just that my thoughts make much more sense when I have the opportunity to type instead of talk.


Monday, September 3, 2018

I'm Winning Right Now

I don't know why I thought of that title. It just popped into my head.

Last time I blogged, it was before my trip to Chicago. Now I've been back for over 2 weeks.

Here are some of the things I did in Chicago.
- Went to Santa's Village Azooment Park with my parents, brother, nephew, and brother's girlfriend.
- Went to the county fair there and saw the demolition derby.
- Went to a George Thorogood Concert, which I sat through with earplugs in my ears while playing my Fishdom game on my phone. I know some people probably think that was a waste of money, but first of all my mom bought tickets for my whole family so I didn't really have a choice, plus it was the first real concert I had ever gone to and all the noise and people were a little overwhelming. I explained to my family that I could enjoy the concert if I was allowed to just sit and listen with my earplugs in, playing with my phone, no pressure to dance or scream or any of the stuff that people apparently are expected to do at concerts. It was a pretty good experience. I would do it again.
- Went to House On the Rock. It was so awesome. House On the Rock is the weirdest place ever. I have heard of it all my life but my mom told me that it was boring... she assumed it was sort of like the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park. Not that the Frank Lloyd Wright house is boring. It is cool, if you like historical homes with interesting designs, which I do. But... House On the Rock was... different. I do not know how to explain it. It was an explosion of visual delights. It was the sort of place where I felt like I needed to peel my eyeballs open as wide as they could go so that I could see more things. It was basically built by this guy who must have been either manic, tripping, or both. First he built himself an interesting house with a lot of weird secret rooms and stuff. Then he just kept adding onto it. And in each room he put weirder and weirder things. They should call it the House of Weirdness. You should go to it. It has become a minor obsession for me. But I digress...
- Went to the beach at Lake Michigan. It was such a beautiful day, the water was calmer and warmer than I've ever seen it. I had an innertube and I just floated around all afternoon. My aunt and cousin came also. It was so awesome.
- Spent a lot of time with my little nephew, who is 5 and is amazing. And I do not use that word lightly.
-Made banana ice cream with my mom and nephew.
- Got to see my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and two of my cousins several times.

This time, the transition wasn't as horrible as usual. I did get really upset when it was time to leave my parents' house, but not as upset as usual. I think it really helps that my mom is now allowed to get a gate pass and come through security with me. I hate going through O'hare. I can navigate the Portland airport easily. But at O'Hare, the workers are often mean and snarly. Sometimes it seems like they're being mean on purpose because they hate people! There are also some nice ones. But the mean and angry ones just make it so stressful. I hardly run into mean and angry workers at the Portland airport.

I was still crying a little when my mom left me and Lily at the gate in Chicago. But the good news is, by the time I got off the airplane in Portland, I was not distraught. I did not cry when I left the airport with Auntie Em and Uncle J. I was in good spirits. I didn't cry that night when I called my mom. I didn't cry myself to sleep that night. And the next day I went to the county fair with my friend Kathy and had a good time. For whatever reason, the transition was much smoother than usual.

Here are some of the things I've done since I've been back...

-Spent the day at the river with Kathy and our two dogs.
- Went to some activities at the local mental health drop-in center, including a picnic, where I got to play BINGO and won twice.
- Went to an autism Meetup group.
- Went to Autism Camp and had a great time. And by the way, I was a camper, not a counselor. The camp I go to is for all ages of people with autism, and their friends and families.
-Also got to go see the ocean on my way to Autism Camp, because it is on the coast. I purposely took the longer route so I could drive along the coast. I slid down the dunes on my bottom and walked on the beach and put my feet in the water. Sadly, it was far too cold and wavy to go swimming if I wanted to live long enough to actually make it to Autism Camp.
- Went to a party/fundraiser at Odd Man Inn, where many of my best friends live! (Most of my best friends are goats, cows, sheep, pigs, geese, and llamas.)
- Worked on my plan for starting my own little school next school year. (I now have a board of directors, and have applied to become a nonprofit corporation in my state!)
-Got to see my other cousins Carla and Ben (which is actually still happening right now because they are here now.)

So, I've had an awesome summer, and I am still trying to milk the rest of summer for all that it is worth. In fact, it is sort of a mixed blessing that I don't have to work. If I had a teaching job right now,  for example, I would not be getting to spend the next 3 days with my cousins who are visiting. My master plan is to sub, do some other odd jobs, collect unemployment to fill in the blanks for days that I can't sub, and work on my project of starting my own school.

I can honestly say right now that I am mostly happy in life, although still sometimes paralyzed by depression. Is it even possible to be happy while also dealing with depression? I think it sort of is. My apartment still looks like a train drove through it, and I still have a terrible time peeling myself out of bed and convincing myself to do anything beyond sitting in my video rocker and watching SVU reruns. Sometimes the only way I can get myself out of bed is to tell myself, "Its okay. No pressure. All you have to do is go turn on the TV." And then once I have made it that far, it is sometimes a little easier, if not to actually do something exciting, then at least to do something small like take my dog for a walk in the park across the street, or make plans to do something the next day. Sometimes depression swallows me for the whole day, but it is more of a dull, low-grade, gray depression rather than a black whole. Other days I make it past depression, and the world is rainbows and sunshine! And I can honestly tell you that, overall, I am happy.
Selfie in front of the ocean in Florence, Oregon.

Swimming in the Washougal River. It was very cold. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Another Day In Paradise

Tomorrow Lily and I are getting on a plane to go visit my family in Chicago. If you read this blog at all or know me in real life, you probably know that I go there at least 4 times a year. I spend most of my extra money on plane tickets. And whenever I return, I return holding my broken heart in my hands. Every single time I go back to Chicago, it is devastating for me to leave. In fact, people have asked me many times, "Do you ever think of just moving back to Chicago?"

Here's the thing.

Throughout all of my life, beginning in early childhood, I dreamed of living in a place like this. I remember being as young as seven and just knowing I didn't belong in Chicago. Part of it was because my family used to spend part of each summer in the northern woods of Wisconsin, and later on we also went on one or two week camping trips all across the USA. I was happiest when I was around tall trees and large bodies of water. I didn't see mountains until I was in my teens, but when I did, my mind was even more blown.

The pace of Chicago always overwhelmed me as well. From what I've experienced (and maybe you've experienced differently) Chicago, especially the suburbs, is unforgiving of people who are somewhat different. I wished for a place to belong. I never did manage to find "my tribe." I did have friends, but they were almost always people who were friends with me because they wanted something from me... either they liked me because I took care of their children for free (If I had a dollar for every friend who said something like, "I would invite you out with us, but you're the only person I trust with my kids," or "If I hang out with you, I'll have to pay someone to watch my kids!" I'd be rich by now!) or because they liked the attention they got for being kind to someone with a disability, or because I literally would have done anything for anyone. (Not gross stuff. I mean things like lending people money even if I was broke myself, bailing people out of jail, sharing my food, sharing my places to live, etc.) I never quite felt at home anywhere. The last few years I lived in Chicago, I spent almost all of the time in the basement of my parents' house, immersed in the Blogosphere because that world was safe and secure for me.

I dreamed of the day that I would leave Chicago and go to the kind of place where I'd always wanted to live.

Then I landed in Washougal.

Today I was looking back on the past few weeks since my last trip back to Chicago. There was the day that I went and waded in the Washougal River with Kathy and her dog Ellie... where the river is so clear that you can see the rocks on the bottom. The day I went to see "Dominion" with my friends from Odd Man Inn, the animal sanctuary where I volunteer. The day I spent at the Big Float in Portland. I went by myself, which was admittedly a little sad because I am pretty sure I was the only one there alone, but I still had fun floating on my innertube all day long. The many afternoons I've spent with the animals at Odd Man Inn, singing to baby cows, hugging dogs, brushing sheep, holding geese, petting goats, and scratching pig bellies. The day I spent at Veg Out in Portland, also with some friends from Odd Man Inn. The mornings I've spent at Creative Journaling and art classes at the mental health drop in center in Vancouver. Just today I spent a large part of the afternoon just lounging at the river with my dog, talking to some people I met who also had dogs... and then in the evening, got a spontaneous text from Kathy and went to hang out with her and Ellie and the dogs they are babysitting.

I drove home from Kathy's this evening, wowed by the view of Mount Hood and the Columbia River in the sunset. I got to my apartment and had a conversation with my neighbor from the apartment downstairs. Later she came up and knocked on my door to see if I was going to need anything while I am out of town.

Do you see a pattern here? I'm starting to find my place... my tribe. My home.

I miss my parents so bad. Every day it is like I walk around with a wound in my heart. The wound has a scab over it so most of the time I can deal with life, but when I come back fresh from Chicago the scab is ripped open and my heart is bleeding, falling apart, pieces everywhere, me staggering around feeling like I'm dying. But if I stayed in Chicago forever it would be like I was already dead.

It is a hard choice to make. I've totally forgotten the purpose of this blog post. I think what I was trying to say is, I love Washougal, it is my home, and I am happy to be here, and I am even a little sad to be leaving to go back to Chicago. But at the same time I am dreading coming back, because I know I'm going to be in so much pain.

I should probably be packing right now, shouldn't I?

I hope when I come back in several weeks I remember all of the things I am looking forward to for the rest of the summer... more afternoons at the river, the BBQ at the mental health drop in center (although BBQs are not quite as exciting for people who don't eat meat), spending more time at Odd Man Inn, going to autism camp, going to more festivals, etc, etc, etc. And I hope when I get back here my wounded heart scabs over again quickly enough so that I can actually enjoy the rest of the summer here!

Me and Lily at the river today having fun and relaxing and living the dream! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

My Vlog, Episode 3

I made this video not to long ago but I don't think I ever posted it! The ending of this one is my favorite!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

To See Or Not To See?

Wow, I've been out of the Blogosphere for a while!  I am trying to make my big comeback and start blogging again. I've been wanting to for a while and just haven't gotten around to it, but when I found myself starting to write a really long Facebook post, I realized that it was turning into a blog entry... and so here I am. 

Anyways... Last night I got to be one of the first people to watch "Dominion", a new documentary about how animals that are raised for food are treated.There was not a dry eye in the theater! Some people were worried that I might get too upset if I saw it... and they were right, it was very upsetting... but it is sort of like, EVERYONE should watch it and we SHOULD be upset.

As you know, animals are my main "special interest." More than that, animals are my heart. But I am going to switch directions suddenly and without warning right now, to bring you the following information. In Sweden, a group of people that call themselves STHLM Panda routinely film pranks and social experiments. Recently they decided to do a more serious social experiment than usual. They wanted to find out how people would react to witnessing domestic violence happening... in, of all places, an elevator, where they could not just ignore it or walk away. The group predicted that about 50% of the witnesses would intervene. The man who was portraying the abuser was even prepared to get punched a few times by other men who would defend the woman.

Instead, out of 53 witnesses who rode the elevator at various times and saw the domestic abuse taking place, only one person made any attempt to intervene. One witness even asked the man to let her (the witness) get off the elevator before he abused his victim. Does that seem sort of surprising?

What would you do if you were in this situation? Would you try to think of some way to diffuse the man's anger or distract him? Would you try to physically defend the woman? Would you grab your phone and dial 911? Or would you ask to be let off the elevator so you would not have to witness the woman's pain and would not have to take the responsibility of doing something to help her?

Okay, back to animals. Now you are trapped on an elevator, but this time it is with a man who is punching a lamb in the face repeatedly while roughly shearing the lamb's wool in a way that leaves her bleeding. Or he is throwing live newborn chicks into a grinding machine, or kicking a piglet in the side while using an electric rod to electrocute him in the head, or he is killing a mother goat while her newborn kid bleats helplessly. What do you do? Do you say something? Do you beg him to stop? Do you try to get help? Or do you get off the elevator and walk away, trying not to think about it?

The reason I wanted to see "Dominion," despite knowing ahead of time that it would break my heart, was because if I purposely didn't see it, I would feel like I was choosing to ignore it. I did bawl through most of it. It was hard because I have friends who are animals, so when I saw the baby cows and goats being stolen from their mothers I was thinking about Popcorn and Spock the cows, and Moxie and her goat babies, and so on down the line... every animal reminded me of someone I know. But I am glad I saw it, because it is better to see something than purposely not see it. (Does that even make sense?)

"Dominion" isn't usually in movie theaters. You have to go to a private screening I got to see it because I am in with the in cool crowd I got invited by my friends who run Odd Man Inn. You may be able to find a private screening in your area by going to this page and searching for your city or state, or you can even request to host a private screening. You can also rent it online here.

The thing that upset me most about it was that the people in this movie seemed to be enjoying hurting and killing the animals. They were purposely being cruel to the animals. It is horrendous enough that the animals are being killed, but these people were laughing and calling the animals names in the process. It is overwhelming to think about how many animals go through these torturous deaths every day.

The documentary is so upsetting, that the website actually has a page on self-care that urges people to get help if they find themselves having trouble processing their feelings about what they saw.

If you see it, I'd be interested to hear what you think of it!