Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Goodbyes and Good News

 Don't worry, I am not saying goodbye to you... although I haven't been very good at keeping this blog updated, have I? I need to get back on a blogging schedule. But I've been pretty busy, both ending my school year job, and beginning my summer job. For a while I was doing both at the same time, which meant working about 14 hours a day! But since the school year has ended, things have calmed down a little bit.

The end of the school year was kind of sad for me. I had to say goodbye to Tizzy. That in itself didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Last Wednesday was Field Day, and Tizzy actually had a really good day. The behavior specialist was going to come spend time with Tizzy for Field Day, plus we'd been having an extra staff member with Tizzy and I for the past week because of his continous running out into the street, so there was going to be three staff members with Tizzy for Field Day. Because of this, the teacher and social worker asked me to help out with Sandy, who doesn't have a 1:1 but should. Anyways, the behavior specialist didn't show up (which I thought Tizzy would flip out about, but he actually took it very well) but Sandy was having a hard time at Field Day so I did end up helping with him. Tizzy was behaving wonderfully with just the substitute who was there as the second staff member for him... the sub was a calm, good-natured, grandfatherly man whom Tizzy insisted on calling "the Old Man," and Tizzy responded well to him in a way that he never seems able to do with females (which the social worker thinks is due to the fact that he sees women in his family being treated disrespectfully and even abusively by the men in his family, and so that is the way he acts with women, especially when he actually does love you!) Plus Tizzy is a very kinesthetic guy, and Field Day was all about trying different physical activities and participating in races and things, so it was a perfect afternoon for him.

Sandy, on the other hand, just kept wandering off. The teacher, who doesn't always have a lot of patience for Sandy, told me and another assistant to bring Sandy back inside for a time out. The only way we could get him in was a full therapeutic hold transport, which I didn't really think was the greatest idea, because we're only supposed to do that when someone is being a danger to themselves and others, and Sandy was just being mildly disobedient. There have been a few times when I've acted against my better judgement with Sandy because I was following directions from the teacher, and this was sort of one of these times... the other assistant and I had to more or less frog march Sandy into the school while he cried and yelled helpful things like, "Someone call the police!"

Instead of bringing him to Time Out I thought I would at least bring him to the social worker's office for a sensory break. As soon as we got in there and turned him loose, he stopped crying and stood facing the wall. I asked him if he wanted to play with a sensory bin or just take a rest. He said, "Sensory bin." so I gave him the bin of colorful rice, and he cheerfully played with it until it was time to go home. I took him straight out to the bus instead of going to the classroom first. I put him on the bus and only briefly got to say goodbye to Tizzy as he got onto his own bus.

The next day was a half day, and the last day of school. I was prepared for a difficult goodbye with Tizzy. I got a backpack from the social worker (Tizzy never brings one) and filled it with all of his work from the school year, plus some of the learning activities we had done together, like the sight word game I had made for him and the flashcards we'd made with glitter stickers. I put in the stuffed animals and other things he had won from his behavior modification program. I thought maybe these things would give him some comfort over the summer.

But Tizzy didn't come to school.

I kept looking and looking for him, thinking he might show up late, like he sometimes did. But he never came.

I guess in a way, it is a good thing, because we avoided a difficult goodbye and left it at sort of a "see ya later." But it was hard for me, because I'm not going to see Tizzy again, at least not in a school setting. We live in the same town so we might see each other at the mall or something,,, but when he returns in the fall for school, I won't be there.

And that brings me to the good news... I got a teaching job!

A real, actual, serious teaching job!

It is in a small school district just north of where I live. I'm going to be a Learning and Behavior Support Teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade.

I am still having trouble believing it... I keep expecting the rug to get pulled out from under me. It has happened before with a job I thought I had. Everyone keeps telling me to think positively... but a part of me still needs to protect myself from being hurt.

For all intents and purposes, though, I am now a real teacher!

And now I have to close out and get ready for bed, because I am also the leader of a very busy day camp for kids with special needs, and I have to get my rest so I can be ready for tomorrow!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Don't Tell This To Your Children

This blog post has been writing itself in my head for weeks now, spurred on by something Tizzy said to me.

Your brothers drink a little too much at the family gathering and get in a brawl on the front lawn. You are late paying the electricity bill and your lights get shut off. You have a noisy argument with your spouse. You are too exhausted to make dinner for your kids and they go to bed hungry. You tell them, "Don't tell anyone about this."

You have a good reason for saying it. You don't want everyone knowing your family's business. After all, if your daughter tells her little friend Heather about the time you left her waiting in the car for just a few minutes while you ran into the grocery store, and Heather tells her mommy, the next thing you know, all the other moms at the school's Ice Cream Social are giving you the hairy eyeball. It isn't right to air your dirty laundry. You want privacy.

But... Here's the thing. When kids are little we talk to them about fun secrets and bad secrets. Fun secrets are things like, "Don't tell Daddy about the special present we got him for his birthday," or "We;re taking the kids on a surprise trip to Disney World." Bad secrets are secrets that someone asks you to keep when they are doing something wrong, something unsafe.

Your little family secrets... they're sort of a gray area. But when you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

I've worked in schools for a long time. Yes, kids do tell us everything. We've heard it all. We generally don't judge... we take it all with a grain of salt, and with some amusement. We hear about how you were still in your pajamas when you dropped them off at school today, We hear about how you let them stay up until midnight on the Fourth of July. We understand.

Even if your kid tells us something about his uncles' fistfight on the lawn after Thanksgiving dinner...  we're pretty understanding. It is important that kids feel safe to talk to their teachers about something that might have scared or upset them. We can even let you know that something has worried your child more than you thought it would, so you can keep a close eye on them yourself. Sometimes, for whatever reason, kids will keep a secret from their parents. They may be afraid of getting in trouble, or of making you mad. If something is bothering your child, or someone is hurting or threatening them... if your child is in some sort of danger that you don't know about... then you want them to have responsible adults at school that they feel safe to talk to.

That said, if a child tells us something that points to his being in real danger, then we are legally, and morally, obligated to call child protective services. One example I experienced is when, years ago, I worked in a child care center. A three-year-old boy came to school one morning and told us, repeatedly, in details, that while he'd been lying in bed the night before his dad had punched him in the face and given him a bloody nose. We called social services right away. It turned out, sadly, that the story was true... the father had Bipolar Disorder and had gotten angry when the little boy had been crying at bed time, so he'd gone in and punched him. The child's shocked mother had kicked the father out of the house, so she was trying to take care of things, and child protective services was actually able to help her and the little boy leave an abusive situation.

Now, what if there is something going on at home that you really don't want other people knowing about? Lets say you have a teenager who has been having some serious problems... you found drugs in her room, or she got arrested for shoplifting. There has been a lot of yelling going on in your house... you and your spouse yelling at your daughter, and yelling at each other about how to handle her. You don't think this is the sort of thing you want your younger child, 7-year-old Timmy, to be sharing with all of his classmates. So you tell him, "Timmy, this is our family business. Do not share it with anyone." Timmy doesn't really understand what is going on, but all the yelling has been scaring him. Refer to Paragraph 5 of this blog entry: When you tell your kids to keep that sort of secret, you teach them that they... and you... have something to be ashamed of. They learn that it is their responsibility to protect adults by keeping their secrets. They learn that nobody outside of the family is to be trusted. And think about this... if someone does hurt them, and tells them to keep it a secret, they will have already learned about keeping their mouths shut.

 Instead, you could even call your child's teacher and actually let them know what is going on... you don't have to talk about all of the details, but let the teacher know that your older daughter has been in some trouble and there has been a lot of tension and anger in the house. Then we... the people who spend 7 hours a day with Timmy at school... can keep an eye on him. If  he seems a little withdrawn, or has trouble focusing, we'll know that he may need a little extra patience and TLC. If he doesn't turn in his homework because you just didn't get a chance to help him with it, we'll understand why. And if he does need to talk, we'll be there to listen and comfort him.

If there is something going on in your house that is putting your children in danger... for example you are dealing with a substance addiction that is leaving you unable to take care of your kids, or someone in your home has been hurting others in the home... then as a parent, it is your job to put a stop to it. Instead of telling your child, "Don't tell anyone about this," you need to do something to keep your child safe. I am probably preaching to the choir here, because I know my readers well and most of them wouldn't be in this particular situation, so this is mostly a vent. But still... it is not fair to ask children to keep a secret that will allow them to continue to be in danger.

Okay. Rant over. Goodnight.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WTF Is Going On With Tizzy?

Hi everyone! I suppose you were wondering what is going on with me these days? You are probably just sitting around thinking, "What is Angel up to lately?" The answer is, a whole lot, yet somehow not much.

Things on the Tizzy front are going, well, not so good. I've been having a really hard time keeping him safe at school lately. He has started running out of the school. Actually he started running out of the building a while ago. I would just try to walk behind him and act nonchalant, and usually if I did that then he'd also walk, and I could keep him in my sight until somehow he got tired of walking and went in. The other thing is, I would take him on walks around the school grounds with me there with him, thinking that if he could actually get permission when he wanted to go outside, he wouldn't have the need to dart out the door so much. I even tried to bring some of our learning outside, writing alphabet letters with chalk on the side of the building for him to squirt with water, or writing sight words on paper plates for him to use as Frisbees. And it worked for a while.

But lately he's been running out just because he knows it is unsafe and will get a reaction from me and other staff. The big conundrum is that, if you chase after him and try to physically catch him, it becomes a power struggle, and he is actually fast enough to win it. But if he starts running, and I keep walking, then he easily gets out of my sight and I have no idea where he is. He runs in and out of the building like a little mouse scurrying around a maze looking for cheese! On the other hand, if I do run after him, he just runs faster, and I cannot physically run for that long. I have never been a runner. And Tizzy has a lot more energy than I do!

Twice today he actually got out beyond the gate that surrounds our school, and was on the sidewalk. Both times when that happened, I did run and physically catch him, because I couldn't let him get further than that. There was nobody around to help me. I don't have a radio, and if I did I would probably drop it and break it fifty times a day because it is hard to run with a radio in your pocket! So all I could do was outrun him, snatch the sleeve of his jacket, and then just scoop him up and carry him in... with him punching me in the face the whole way. He hits hard, for a little kid. Obviously it doesn't hurt as much as if a grown adult hits you, but still.

He has a lot of rage, and aims it at me specifically. It is sometimes emotionally hard for me. I really don't mind him hitting me. But he also gets angry and shouts at me to go away, to stop "following" him, When he tells me to go away, the social worker and principal tell me to go take a break, which is supposed to help him deescalate, but often makes me feel a little like I've been sent to time out by a six-year-old!

The school district sent a behavior specialist to come spend time with him, and she helped make a behavior plan for him, but it seems to have gotten worse instead of better. The new plan lets him earn rewards for being safe, but not for doing work (because they try to pick the one most severe behavior to try to work with first) so now he will not do work. I try to make his work into games... for instance I spent a lot of time making paper "footballs" with his sight words written on them, and I found a little mini finger football game at Dollar Tree, so he could read the words and then flick them through the little goal post.... but he will play the game and still refuse to do the work part. He would flick the paper footballs but he wouldn't read the words, and when I kept asking him to read them, he threw them at me instead.

 Up until recently, I was really excited to see that I was no longer experiencing anxiety about going to work, because I actually looked forward to seeing my co-workers and even to the challenge of finding ways to teach Tizzy. But now it is more like a feeling of dread. I feel like I'm failing at my job, and failing Tizzy,

Its almost the end of the school year, though, so I just have to get through it. It will still break my heart to say goodbye to him when school ends though.

On a happier note... this past weekend I got to go to the sanctuary farm that is near where I live, and spend some time with the animals. I brushed the goats, raked out the barn, fed snacks to everyone, rubbed a pig's belly, and spent a lot of time with a goose. The goose is the sweetest goose you will ever meet. He mostly just followed me around everywhere I went, honking loudly until I would stop and pet him or hold him. He does try to scare away the other animals because he wants all the attention... when the dog would try to come near me to ask me to throw his ball, the goose would chase him away, and then come strutting back to me, honking and flapping his wings around, amused with himself. He really is a silly goose.

Here is a picture of me hanging out with one of the pigs, and with my goose buddy. Whenever I go to the farm, I am so happy, and when I come back I can't stop talking about it. I love the animals. And it is nice to spend time taking care of people who don't turn around and punch you in the stomach! (The goose does nibble my clothes sometimes if he thinks I'm not paying enough attention to him, but they are mostly a very gentle and loving crowd.)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Face Plant

Tizzy sometimes likes to point out to me that I have what he calls a "terrible life." He points this out whenever I come into some sort of mishap. He likes to list the things that have happened to me, such as the time when I was running across the playground to help a substitute bring in two AWOL kids (one of whom was Sandy) and I slipped in mud and was covered from head to toe. Or the time that Tizzy's best friend Bizzy threw a gym ball and hit me in the back of the head. Or the other time that Bizzy threw a basketball and hit me square in the face. (Neither time was on purpose... Bizzy just doesn't pay much attention to what he's doing. I've learned to stay away from him when he's playing with balls.)

I wonder what Tizzy will say when he finds out what happened to me this weekend?

It all started when I went to let the three dogs out into the back yard... my Lily, plus Roo, plus my little fuzzy buddy Roka whom I'm babysitting. I let them all out into the yard and I went with them, because I'm always paranoid about a coyote suddenly materializing in the yard to capture Lily or Roka. (Roo, who is a dingo, would probably be safe.) We went out the garage door, but the dogs collectively decided they wanted to go back in through the back porch door. Unfortunately, it was locked. So I started to run around the side of the house, so either some or all of the dogs would follow me back to the garage door, or I could go through the house and let them in through the back porch door.

But I am sort of like Bizzy, because I don't always pay much attention to what I am doing. So I didn't see the tomato hoop that was lying on the ground. I also didn't see the two concrete rectangle slabs that were inexplicably on the ground in front of me. So can you imagine what happened?

If you guessed, "Angel tripped on the tomato hoop, went flying into the air, skidded across the gravel and bashed her chin on the edge of the concrete slab," then you are correct!

It hurt, man. If you want to imagine how bad it hurt, go outside and bang your face against some concrete as hard as you can. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Back already? You chickened out! Don't lie to me!

For a minute I just lay there going, "Thhhhh.... aaaaaah! Thhhhhhhh... aaaaaaaah!" *

Then I realized my chin was bleeding. I tried opening and closing my mouth a few times and was glad to see that my skull seemed to still be in order, so I got up and hobbled the rest of the way to the garage door.

My aunt was busy opening the back porch door because she'd come along and noticed that all of the dogs were still standing there peering in through the window. I was like, "I fell down," and then they looked over and saw that I was bleeding, and then I just wanted to lie down on the couch and take a nap. I actually started crying, not sure why... I just suddenly felt really sad about having fallen on my face. Maybe my brain really did get knocked loose or something.

For the next several hours I felt really out of it... I just kept feeling like crying, and when I recovered from feeling so sad, I mostly just felt all fuzzy-headed and pukey, like I just wanted to lie down and take a nap. Which I eventually did, after I got back from where I was supposed to be going right after letting the dogs out, which was to Starbucks to meet my new potential roommates. But more about that later.

Anyways, to make a long story somewhat shorter, I've been left with a huge, pussy scab (now that I look at that phrase it doesn't look quite like how it sounds in my head. Pusy? Pussey?  Having pus? Either way, it is gross) a sore jaw, an earache (even though my ear didn't hit the ground at all), road burn on my palms, knees and chest, and an uncle who keeps trying to peer into my eyes to see if my pupils are dilated. I am going to miss work tomorrow and probably go to the doctor. I feel nervous about missing work but probably am in no shape to go. Judge for yourself... this is what I look like right now. This picture is so flattering. But at least I am smiling through it!

* Family Guy reference! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It's My Birthday And I'm Happy... But SOOOOOOO Tired

I've barely got the energy to write this, but I feel bad for not having written in this blog for a while! I've been even tireder than usual lately. I always wonder why I am so tired all the time, to the point of being exhausted by normal activities and completely wiped out by bigger-than-normal activities. I have thought of multiple theories why, including...

A. A medical reason. For instance I used to be anemic, but I take iron pills, and even when I wasn't taking them my most recent blood tests came back normal. The last time I had a physical exam I mentioned to the doctor that I was so tired all the time, but that I had felt like that for many years now. She just said, "Then maybe that is just normal for you."

B. Poor nutrition. Because I like sugar. I do try to eat vegetables and fruits and stuff, plus I take vitamins. Maybe I should be drinking more water or something.

C. The Spoon Theory.  I've mentioned this before. Basically it means people with things like autism, ADHD, and other conditions that are either mental, physical, etc, have an inconsistent level of energy each day... many days you can wake up with even less energy than you had before you fell asleep! It also is worth mentioning that people with various disorders use up more energy than other people, just doing ordinary every day activities. I want to live life to the fullest and so I am always trying to do BIG things, even though the little things alone are enough to leave me exhausted!

At any rate, depending on many things, work can either energize me or run me down. And for many months now, since I started, working with Tizzy has energized me. Trying to think of ways to teach him and help him has given me a reason for going to work each day, a reason to get up in the morning... whereas, when I was substituting, it was "just a job." I was seeing different kids and staff members every day, so it was just a day to day thing. Tizzy gave me more of a purpose. And I really like the people I work with. It's one of those classrooms where all the staff members are calm and have senses of humor and get along with each other and really care about the kids. So for months now I haven't even minded going to work.

But maybe I've been pushing myself too hard or something. I spend a lot of  "after work" time trying to think of things that will engage Tizzy, like kinesthetic learning activities (Blogger's spell check swears that "kinesthetic" isn't a word, for some reason) and games and what-have-you. I love figuring out things like that, and when I spend time planning things it is usually some sort of fun for me, but still, it takes a lot of time. And at work I spend a lot of time being physically active with Tizzy, whether it means chasing him through the parking lot to bring him back to the safety of school, peeling him down from the tables and walls, or trying to escort him down the hall to the social worker's office while he kicks and punches me. And the other part is that he is so angry a lot of the time, and he's always yelling at me to shut up or saying he hates me or screaming that some random thing (like him spilling his milk) is all my fault. I know it is not really me that he is angry at. The anger is inside him, and it is bigger than him, and he is a little boy and doesn't know how to deal with all that pain. But still, you absorb it, don't you. I love him and care about him, and I know what a sweet little boy he can be when he is happy. He is awesome when he is happy. There are days that I wish wouldn't end, because he is happy and we're having fun and things are good.

At any rate... I had an amazing weekend. Despite the fact that I was feeling sick on Thursday and Friday, on Saturday I went to a Meetup event at this place where there is random arts and craft supplies everywhere you look and for $11 you can use it all to make as many crafts as you want. I meant to go for an hour, but I ended up spending 3 hours working on a tactile board that I am going to bring to the special needs day camp I'll be working at over the summer. Then I got to go to PJ's house, where she gave me a haircut (I was getting kinda shaggy) and where I got to spend some time playing with one of my very favorite Border Collie friends. Then I went home and, I dunno, did random stuff like change the water in my fish tank and play with my dog. Today, when I woke up, I had a great blueberry pancake breakfast with my aunt and uncle, and then got to open my birthday presents... a Kindle Fire and a goat T-shirt from my aunt, a new backpack and some glitter pens from my mom... and went to my NAMI Walk-a-thon and then went out for pizza with my aunt and uncle. And now I am back at the house where I am dogsitting, and I am so tired that I wanted to go to bed when I first got home, even though it was only a little past five.

What was the point of this blog entry? I am so tired, I'm not even sure what I started out wanting to say here. Basically this... I love my job, but right now when I think of going there tomorrow, I want to hide under the bed and cry!  There's only four weeks left of school though... and then when it ends, I will really want to cry, because I will miss it so much.

I'm not very good at ending these blog entries neatly. So now, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Lily with her birthday presents (her birthday was the 11th but we celebrated both of our birthdays together today,) She was stressed out because she couldn't decide which bone to chew on first!

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Just Have To Say This

"Hmm, which bathroom should I use?"
Today in my Facebook feed there was a link to this post. If you don't have Facebook you might not be able to read it, so I'll just summarize it for you. A woman wrote an open letter to "America," about the fact that she is going to boycott Target because they've announced that their customers and employees are allowed to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable in. It is a rule that has pretty much always existed, but wasn't publicized before. It is really geared towards transgender people... so for instance, a transgender woman would be free to use the women's washroom, even if she was biologically born a male. In the letter, the woman stated that she didn't really care so much which washroom a transgender person might use, but that her real concern was that when her "beautiful, blond-haired niece" used the washroom, a man might follow her in, and there would be no way of stopping him. The post went viral, with lots of people commenting to support her view. They were mostly women who were worried about "creeps" using the bathroom with them.

There were many things that bothered me about this letter, to the point where if I commented it would have been too long, so I thought I'd write about it in my blog.

First of all, I think it was weird that she pointed out her "beautiful, blond-haired niece," as if someone who is beautiful and has blond hair needs more protection than the rest of us.

Second of all, and this is sort of embarrassing to me but I am going to say it anyways in hopes of helping people empathize with others who might go through this for various reasons. I am not transgender... I am a female and I identify as a female. But my looks could be described as sort of androgynous, especially in my younger years. I rarely wear makeup or do much with my hair, and although I do love to wear bright colors and sometimes dresses or skirts, I am just as likely to be seen in blue jeans and a T-shirt or hoodie. At least two times, back when I was in my late teens and early twenties, someone stopped me in a women's washroom to tell me, "This is the women's room." Both times were really embarrassing, to have to say, "I am a woman," and have them either turn red and apologize, or just look at you doubtfully. And you have to wonder, were they saying it because they really thought I was a boy, or were they saying it because they thought I looked unfeminine and wanted to mock me? Having been in that position, I understand how it is important for people to be able to use the bathroom they feel comfortable in, without being questioned about it.

Also, what public washrooms are all of these people using, that they feel like they're in grave danger of someone following them in? At TARGET? When I use the women's washroom at Target or another public place, here's what happens... I go into the stall, lock it behind me, go potty, come out, wash my hands, and leave the washroom. Nothing terribly interesting happens in there.

(On the other hand, one time when my aunt and I were in a Best Buy in Seattle and we asked to use the washroom, we were told that the washrooms were no longer open to customers, because they'd been having problems with people using drugs in there. So, I guess that happens... but I'm pretty sure that is improper use of a public washroom no matter what gender you are.)

If I thought that someone was following me into a washroom, or if someone appeared to be watching me too closely... maybe peeking through the cracks of the stall or something... I would leave and tell someone.

I also would not be eager to use a public washroom that doesn't seem safe. The washrooms at Target are usually right in front of the store, near the employee break room and/or the service desk. I feel pretty safe using it. But if I thought that a washroom seemed questionable... for instance, at an empty rest stop along the highway at three in the morning... I probably would not use it. I would never think, "Well, the sign on this washroom says WOMEN, so obviously no creepy people will be coming in here." That would be crazy. Anything could happen in there.

Basically, here is what I think. There is no way to neatly categorize people. There is not a dividing line. You cannot say, "All women are safe to be around, and all men are questionable."  You can't say, "This is one hundred percent right, and that is one hundred percent wrong." You can't say, "By putting THIS sign up, I will be protecting myself and others from bad things happening."

Everyone has responsibilities in life. Target and other stores have the responsibility to keep their public washrooms as safe as possible, by keeping them well-lit, keeping them in well-populated areas, even posting security guards in there if need be. Individuals have the responsibility to use the washrooms properly, by going in there to use the toilets or wash up, and not doing other things in there such as using drugs or assaulting others. Also, individuals have the responsibility to look out for themselves, by keeping their eyes open and not going into situations... such as the creepy washroom in the empty rest stop in the middle of the night... that they think might not be safe, or by reporting someone who might be doing questionable things in the washroom. And if you are truly afraid of using the Target washroom because a man might waltz in behind you, then it is your responsibility to find another washroom to use.

That is all I have to say about that. What do you think? 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It's My Anniversary

Me and Lily in the lily field last weekend, April 2016.
Exactly one year ago Friday, my dad and my small dog and  I woke up early in the morning... it was snowing, which was weird for late April, even in Chicago... and we set off for the Pacific Northwest. And exactly one year ago today, I arrived here.

It is actually sort of hard for me to write about it. While thinking about this blog entry, I went back and read some of my old blog entries from around the time that I was preparing to make the move. Most of my entries were about the severe anxiety I was experiencing. Like Melting, and 2 More Days, and It's Getting Closer, and I Have Emotional Support Animals. The painful part of reading these is the fact that the anxiety I was going through then has really not improved at all. I still go through that same exact anxiety every single time I go home to visit and then have to leave. I go through the same homesickness when I return. I still haven't unpacked my suitcase from my last visit home, or unpacked the box of things my mom sent to me shortly thereafter, because it makes me too sad to look at all of the things that I used in Chicago. I still haven't even brought some of my favorite things... my childhood blankie, the rest of my snow globes, my ice cream maker, etc... out here, because in my mind those things live in Chicago and to separate them from their home in from Chicago would be to separate the last remaining parts of me from my home.

Not that I haven't come a long way. Last week I graduated from DBT. As part of our graduation ceremony, everyone had to say something to each other. The things the other DBT people said to me, including both of my therapists, really touched my heart! They all talked about what a spirited and brave person I was, how I dared to dream big and tried so hard to go after my dreams, even when it was painful for me, how I cared so much about every living thing, how I was straight forward and funny, and how when a new person joined the group I was the first person to talk to them and make them feel welcome. (The person who had joined most recently was laughing as she said that I literally turned to greet her and start talking to her the moment she opened the door, and how she felt welcome, and how she was impressed because that wasn't something she would have done.) Connecting to others has always been one of my biggest challenges... but it turns out that, maybe because I do try so hard, others feel connected to me. Maybe not everyone. Maybe just certain people. But still. The things they said to me, I wish I could have somehow recorded their words, because they were some of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me.

So there's that.

Plus there is my job, working as a 1:1 assistant with Tizzy. It is an extremely challenging job, and it wears me out. But the other day, the principal told me that she "thanks Jesus every day" for my being there with Tizzy. For much of last year I experienced a lot of anxiety about going to work. But with this new job, I have never missed a day yet, and I even arrive early and stay late much of the time.

(Although sometimes I think my true best life would be working with animals. I got to goat-sit this weekend for my friend who has 11 goats, and I loved it so much. The goats are my friends. And they are much easier to take care of than Tizzy is. Even though they sometimes butt me with their horns. If Tizzy had horns, he'd probably butt me with them too.)

I still have my goal of moving out and living independently. It is no longer extremely urgent, because my aunt and uncle have decided not to downsize to a smaller house after all, partly because it would be so much work to get their current house ready to sell, and partly because they just couldn't find another place that they'd enjoy living in as much as they enjoy their own house. So I do have a place to stay, but I still want to get out on my own. 

I wonder if I will ever get over my homesickness. Maybe it is actually a good thing that I get homesick... it just means I love my family that much. One of the people in my DBT group was actually in tears when she talked about it, saying that it is actually so great that I cried on the airplane, because it means I care so much. Caring does hurt. But it isn't a bad thing.

I mean, it is terribly painful sometimes to go through But would I rather be a person who doesn't love and care? I think not.

Me and Lily in the lily fields on my first day of living in the Pacific Northwest, 
in April 2015.