Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Things Are Going Well

I guess it has been a while since I posted! This hasn't been because I haven't been wanting to blog, but more because my computer has been slow as molasses, to the point where writing a blog entry would take me three hours and give me a huge headache. I've cleaned it out a little so it is somewhat faster now!

So! I have been here for a whole month now! It is going well. Lily has adapted wonderfully to her new life here. I was so worried that she would be unhappy and homesick... but she loves Auntie Em and Uncle J and the dog Roo (although she still barks at my cousin BT and the cats) and she really enjoys our daily hikes. She really keeps up with the big dogs, and has gotten enough confidence in herself as a dog that she can climb up and jump from small stumps and cross the little foot bridges she used to be afraid of! I'm proud of her. I even let her go off leash on her hikes now, and she stays right on the trail in front of me like a perfect little dog. I don't worry about her wandering off and getting eaten by a cougar anymore. Also my aunt and uncle swear there aren't any cougars in this particular area. So that is good.

As for me, I am mostly happy, but somewhat homesick. I miss my parents and Trixie and my other family members from Chicago. I also miss my room and my daily routines there. I feel at home here at my aunt and uncle's house, but it is sort of a weird effect... like I changed the channel on the TV show of my life. Sometimes I look around and think, "Wow, I actually did it, I made it! I moved out here and I live in the Northwest now! This is great!" But then I get a picture in my mind of my house in Chicago, the familiar areas like my bedroom and the basement and the kitchen. Or I'll be out running an errand with Auntie Em, and I'll get a flashback of myself running almost the exact same errand with my mom... like grocery shopping or going to Kohl's. And I get this panicky sort of feeling, like I have lost something that was important to me.

I want to be here. This is a better environment for me in a lot of ways. I can be more relaxed, be myself, and not always have to worry about some stupid mistake getting me in trouble, like hanging a towel up crooked in the bathroom or something. That sort of thing is fine here, and I am not the only one who isn't completely organized and streamlined! And the people I have met here so far (mostly the people from the drop-in center and my aunt and uncle's dog walking group) are nice and accepting and do not give me a weird look at all.

But I also miss home! In some ways, this still feels like a vacation that just keeps going and going. It still feels unreal that I have left Chicago behind permanently.

Last week I started subbing out here. It is okay I guess. I don't really like subbing in general. I always feel a little unsure of myself... it is like a first day of work every day, but people expect you to somehow know exactly what to do because you're a sub... as if, in every classroom at every school you've subbed at, things must be exactly the same, so therefore you should already know how to run or assist in this particular classroom.

I feel like the perfect job for me would be something that I could do completely independently, maybe while working at home, so I wouldn't have to deal with the anxiety of dealing with people's opinions of me. But that probably would be hard to find!

I found a cool drop-in center for people with mental health conditions. They have activities during the day, like support group meetings and classes. You can also go there just to hang out, if you want. So far I have only gone to the Creative Journaling group. Sometimes I am working on the other days, but luckily I haven't had to work on the Creative Journaling days.

I also got to volunteer at a sanctuary farm! It is a place where they rescue abused farm animals and let them live safely and healthily for the rest of their lives. Every two weeks they have "work parties" so volunteers can come help. I got to muck the barn (which I had learned to do in Chicago in equine therapy) and spread new hay on the ground. After working for two hours, you get to spend time with the animals. I didn't think to have anyone take a picture of me with some animals... I will do that next time!

In the mean time, here are a few more hiking pictures of me and Lily!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I Actually Made It!

Hi everyone! Sorry you haven't heard from me for a while!
The last time I wrote, I was freaking out about going out to Portland. Well, here is the short version of what happened.

You may remember I had decided to think of it as a short-term visit instead of a permanent move, because it was too overwhelming to think about forever. Well, the problem was, although everyone in my family agreed to think of it as an extended visit, they (my parents mainly) still continued to talk about it as if I was going to be gone forever. For instance, asking me if I had started looking for an apartment in the area yet, etc. This contributed to my widespread panic.

But I still didn't want to change my mind! Even though I was terrified, one of the main things pushing me forward was the fact that my cousin BT was scheduled to get married on the 28th of April, and I had promised I'd be there. So whenever I'd think of just cancelling, I would reply to myself, "No, I can't cancel. BT is getting married! I want to be there!" I was also thinking of the month ahead, in which BT would be staying at my Auntie Em's house along with me, before he'd eventually move to Ecuador with his new husband. I told myself, "It will be fun! I won't be lonely, because BT will be there, and the time will go really fast!"

So on April 22 my dad and I packed up my tiny car and headed west. You have to understand that my dad wanted to miss as little work as possible, and he also wanted to spend some time with my aunt and uncle and me once we got there, so he planned for us to get all the way to Portland in 2.5 days. Nobody actually thought we could do it! But we did. We pulled this off by driving 80 miles per hour most of the way, driving from dawn until bedtime, and barely stopping at all. If we stopped at a McDonalds, I literally could not even wolf down all of my french fries before my dad would be ordering me back into the car!

A lot of this time, I was still continuing to freak out. To me it seemed like early morning and up until around 2:00 would be my best time of day, and then from 2 to about 8 I would start to feel upset and panicky again. I had tears constantly coming out of my eyes and I was fighting back sobs, as I texted with my mother and Auntie Em, and even emailed with my therapist, trying to explain that my heart was shattering! My aunt was telling me, via text, "Just come out for BT's wedding, and after the wedding is over you can go home if you want to!" So the wedding still was propelling me forward!

Then after 8 I would usually calm down and start to feel better, and by the time we got to the hotel for the night I would be thinking about dinner, a warm shower, a nice bed, and the possibility of getting to go swimming in the hotel pool before we left in the morning. (Which I never did get to do all the way there, because we always left immediately upon opening our eyes... but I digress!)

This was happening all day Wednesday, and all day Thursday, and most of the day Friday. As we drove into Portland (except I am actually staying in Washington, but I just habitually call it Portland for some reason) I was sobbing! We went to check into my dad's hotel room, and I was sitting on the couch and crying as I called my mom. I told her, "I just want to go home, I just want to go home, I don't think I can do this!" And she was telling me, more or less, "Just try it for a few weeks, and then decide if you still want to come home." But all I could think of was, "I want to go home RIGHT NOW!"

Then we went over to my aunt's house. I was still bawling as I pointed out the right house to my dad. I was still bawling when I got out of the car. And I was still bawling when my aunt's dog, Roo, bounded out of the house and ran up to me with a big smile on her face! But once Roo threw herself on her back in front of me, I started to smile a little. Then my aunt came out and hugged me and said that we were going to have a good visit, and that I could go home whenever I wanted.

But as soon as I walked into the house, I felt immediately better! I've been here many times, staying over the past 2 years for a total of three weeks and three days, and so the feeling was a lot like walking into home. I very literally felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me,

And I have not cried since! I've been fine!

We had the wedding, which was a lot of fun. My Bro and Sunny and Squeak were there, and I got to spend some time with them, Lily got to be there too! Here's a picture of me and Auntie Em and Lily at the wedding. I had a funny look on my face because when I turned around I didn't know someone was taking my picture!

Since after the wedding, it has been a little like a relaxing vacation for me. I've been doing a lot of reading (I got a local library card!) and writing and sleeping. We also go hiking for at least an hour and a half, and often two hours or more, every day, which has been great for both me and Lily. I am hoping Lily will lose some weight while we're here! 

We took a walk on the beach along the river this afternoon. Lily got to go off her leash, and it was a lot of fun!
Hiking on our first day here. We had our picture taken in a field of lilies! I told Lily they were named after her. 
         Tomorrow I have to go to my orientation to start substituting out here, so I guess next week will be a little less like a vacation. But it is still fun! This house is a much different environment, that is probably better for someone like me. There is not so much tension. For instance, the other day I was making macaroni and cheese, and the water boiled over, and all my aunt said was, "Its okay. Its really easy to clean up," and showed me how to use the special stove cleaning stuff. At home I would have gotten yelled at! 

          I still am homesick. I miss my mom and dad and Trixie a lot. If I think of never living there again, I feel the anxiety come back. So I am really still taking it day by day, and really learning to be in the moment, instead of worrying about the future or being homesick for the past. I know I will go back to Illinois for a while this summer, and I will never have to go forever without going home. It will just be going from A to B, and then B to C, and then C to D, and I can go back whenever I want. I try to think of it like a kid going off to college, where they are starting their own life, but not completely leaving their home and family in the dust. 

         The only not so good thing is that I imagined I'd get to see BT a lot since we'd be living in the same house, and I was excited for that... but mostly he just stays up in his room and I rarely see him, except for a total of about three minutes per day if he passes by me on the way to the kitchen or something. So I'm sort of sad for that. 

        But it is okay because I'm still having plenty of fun with my aunt and uncle, and I am in a way more comfortable with them anyway because they are really accepting of me, whereas with BT I am always wary of sounding stupid. Not that BT has ever acted like I was stupid. When he is around he is always friendly to me and actually talks with me like I'm a human being with a brain. If I was actually around him longer I'd probably get used to that... I guess I am just used to Bro telling me, "Shut up" or "Really, Angel?" or otherwise putting me down, when I'm around him, to the point where I generally try not to talk around him. BT is not like that. So its not that. What is the point of this paragraph? I forgot. Oh yeah... so I am having plenty of fun with Auntie M and Uncle J and I like talking with them and hiking with them and going to run errands with them... but I just also wish BT was around more. 

        Uh... how can I end this blog entry? I need a graceful exiting point. How about this...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Have Emotional Support Animals

Lists and charts help me process things more
clearly. So I made this plan  to help me, and
the others around me, focus on the GOOD things
that are happening or about to happen now,
and leave more stressful things for later on when
I can deal with them better. 
Sorry to bother you but my Auntie Em suggested I write in my blog as a way to calm down my anxiety, so I am trying it! You are probably sick of hearing about it. Right now it is more sadness than anxiety, or at least anxiety stemming from sadness, or sadness stemming from anxiety.

My dad and I leave for Oregon tomorrow morning. But my mom has to stay overnight in the city tonight for her job, so I had to say goodbye to her this morning.

Morning is always a better time for me because for some reason my symptoms are pretty calm then. If you ever want to tell me something upsetting, you should either tell me first thing in the morning, orin the middle of the night. I was calm and didn't cry when I said goodbye to my mom. At the time I wasn't even thinking about the fact that I always feel calmer in the morning... it is something I have noticed before, and I just put two and two together again now.

I had a productive morning. I went to Target to refill my prescriptions and pick up some odds and ends, including important staples such as Dr. Pepper. I picked up my coat from the dry cleaner (it was getting the zipper repaired.) I filled up my car with gas. I vacuumed out my car and wiped the dashboard and steering wheel and stuff down with Lysol wipes. I took my dogs outside in the back yard for a long time, so that they could get some fresh air. I relaxed and read a magazine while they did dog things.

But then at around 4, I started to feel the tightness in my chest. In some ways I can compare it to throwing up... you know when you feel like you're going to throw up, but you really don't want to so you keep trying to fight it by thinking of other things, etc... and then eventually you feel so icky, you realize you are going to have to let it go, so you run to the bathroom and barf. And then you feel much better... for a while, until the next waves of nausea attack you.

So I was pretty much halfway up the basement stairs, with a laundry basket in my arms, when I couldn't hold it in any more. I started to cry. You have to understand, when I am overloaded I don't cry with quiet, lady-like sobs. When I am just normal sad, I actually cry silently, and you might not even realize I was crying until you look at me and see tears coming out. But when I have a meltdown, I cry the way little kids cry, loud and long. Like, "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Waaaah Waaaaaaaaaah! Oh noooooooooo! Waaaaaaaaah!" I'm sure it looks disgusting to see someone my age wailing like that.

And off an on all afternoon, I was like that. Meltdown. Feel better. Keep on packing. Stop for a meltdown. Feel better. Meltdown. Better. And I am home alone, so luckily there is nobody here to see me in my hour of shame.

Here is where my dogs go from being "pets" to being "emotional support animals" and "psychiatric service dogs." They both rushed over and tried to calm me by putting their paws on me. Trixie jumped around in circles the way she does when she wants to play. Lily just came and leaned against me.

I want to someday write a post about the difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. Lily is a little bit of both. I have a letter from my therapist saying she is my emotional support animal, but she's also trained to help me deal with my anxiety and depression, so that makes her a psychiatric service dog. I mostly call her my emotional support dog because I don't want her to have to be perfectly behaved like most service dogs. For instance I want people to be able to pet her and I want her to get to be a dork like a regular dog. But when I get upset, she will always come over to me and make contact. She will lean against my side, or against my back, if I am sitting, or she will let me pick her up and hold her.

One funny thing about that, you know how sometimes you yell for no reason, like you might yell at the TV if something crazy happened on the show. When we were watching Breaking Bad and Gus slit that one guy's throat, I yelled, "Oh my God! Aaaaah!" Or when you are irritated at the computer because it keeps freezing, and you yell, "Come on, ya stupid thing!" You're not really upset upset. But Lily can't always tell the difference. So if I yell or seem angry because of a silly thing, she comes walking cautiously over to me, like, "Uh, are you okay?" And then I reassure her that I am fine, and she goes back to her usual dog business.

Trixie is not actually my dog at all, she is my parents' dog, but she does seem to act like an emotional support dog. I always wanted to let her be a therapy dog and visit hospitals and stuff, because she loves people so much and is so gentle. But I could never seem to make it happen. You have to take a lot of training classes and get some sort of Canine Good Citizen award, and I never had enough money or time to do all that.

Auntie Em was right, blogging is helping me to calm down! I am even calm enough to go read some other blogs! Maybe if I just keep on blogging until my dad comes home from work, I will be okay, and I can finish packing once he is home.

OK thanks for listening!

By the way, I still need 13 more people to take my survey! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

2 More Days

Playing Peek-a-boo with a baby helps them learn that things
still exist, even when you can't see them!
Hi everyone! I am just pausing in my packing process to say hi and check in. No melt downs so far! I had a great day yesterday going out for ice cream and later dinner with my parents.

The hardest thing right now is that, although I am not leaving until Wednesday morning, my mom has to stay in the city overnight for work tomorrow night, so I have to say goodbye to her tomorrow morning. I have to keep reminding myself that I will see her again, this summer at the latest!

There are two things that are helping me understand what I am going through right now. One is what my therapist, Julie, described to me the other day as "object permanence." Object permanence is something children learn when they are really young. The reason a baby cries when his mother leaves the room, or even when you hide his toy or something under a blanket, is because he doesn't realize that anything exists when he can't see it. In his mind, when his mother disappears around the corner, she literally disappears! Not that a baby consciously thinks, "Oh no, my mom is gone, and now I will have to fend for myself." But they just emotionally feel sad and anxious when their mother disappears. (Or another caregiver. Obviously babies love their dads too!) As the baby gets older and you play games like "Peekaboo" with him, he starts to realize that there is a whole world outside of his immediate line of vision. When his mother leaves the room, she still exists, but just in another room, and she will most likely be back soon.

I logically know that things do not disappear when I cannot see them. But I am kind of a sensory mess, and I process things largely through the sense of touch. You can tell this anytime you go into a clothing store with me. I have to touch every item, even when I have no interest in looking at it or buying it. I just need to feel the world around me. People tease me because I lie on the ground a lot, even outside, but this is just another way that I process the world. And when I am away, although I can picture home in my mind, even look at photos of my family members, when I am not able to touch the table, touch the floor, touch the soft red blanket on the chair in the living room, etc, some part of me feels like those things have stopped existing. And even though I can Skype, call, and text my family members who are behind in Chicago, if I am not in the room with them feeling their energy, it is not right.

Another thing that explains a lot is this article I saw on Facebook, 13 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Anxiety. The whole article is relevant to me, but one paragraph really struck me as describing this situation:
9. They can find change difficult (even if it’s expected)
Everyone has a comfort zone, anxiety or not. Pushing that comfort zone can be difficult for even the most well-adjusted person, so for people with anxiety it can be even more challenging. This is not to be confused with the sentiment that those with anxiety dislike change or pushing their comfort zones, because they will likely thrive once they’re actually in the process of doing so. They can just find it a lot more difficult to bring themselves to do so.
The one relief people with anxiety tend to get from their anxiety is when they’re allowed to be in their place of comfort with nothing major changing around them. When they’re faced with a big change and uprooting, it can take them a lot longer to settle back down and establish that zone again. Just remember to have a little more patience and understanding for those with anxiety. They’re trying, they really are.
This explains me a lot. For me, home is my comfort zone. Even if I go somewhere for a short while, like work or to the store, I am experiencing various levels of anxiety. When I get home from work, I often suddenly find myself extremely tired, or even falling asleep, even though I was wide awake all day. I think this is because during the day I am anxious, and when I get home I am exhausted from being "on guard" all day. Often when I am out of the house, I comfort myself by imagining one of my dogs walking with me, or my guardian angel cat Sammy-Joe sitting on my shoulder. This is why it is good for me to have an emotional support animal - Lily - because she is my mobile comfort zone.

I am excited to get to Oregon! But it is a huge change, and that is nerve wracking. It is helpful to know that there are reasons I'm feeling this way, and I'm not just weird!

OK. I have to go pack. I don't know when I will check in again... maybe from the road!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Its Getting Closer!

One of the mandalas I colored in my book!
It is getting closer and closer to my move date! Although right now I am still thinking of it as a temporary move with the possibility of becoming long term. Realizing that I will be back in June, at least for a visit, has really been helping me ward off a lot of my potential anxiety! 

I haven't blogged for a while because I've been busy tying up all of the loose ends. I took as many subbing jobs as I could in the last two weeks so that I will be able to have a few paychecks coming to me! I took my car in to the mechanic for a trip check and got a clean bill of health, took it for it's mandatory emissions test, and paid my vehicle registration so that I won't get pulled over on my way to Oregon! I cleaned out my car and packed my clothes in garbage bags so that they will fit in the trunk and back seat. I cut my small dog's toenails and made plans to take her to the clinic to get her caught up on her immunizations. I went to equine therapy for what will be the last time at least until summer. 

I also did something you might find odd. When I was younger... and I don't mean younger like a small child, but younger like 21... I used to love to color. I always had a large box of crayons and a coloring book, and when I was bored I would color. It was fun and relaxing. But my mom used to get irritable when she saw me coloring, because she thought it was childish and a waste of time, so I stopped.

Recently I went online and ordered some coloring books! Not just any ordinary coloring books... they are actually meant for adults or older kids, and have colorful and complicated designs instead of simple pictures. I also bought a 120 box of crayons! I love being able to smell the crayons, being able to arrange them by color in the little boxes, and of course the coloring part! Getting crayons and coloring books was a silly treat I gave myself. 
My 120 crayons sorted by color!

Here are some things I am looking forward to...
- Getting to see my Auntie Em and Uncle J, and also getting to spend time with my cousin BT and his new husband before they move to Ecuador, and getting to see a lot of my other cousins at the wedding who I never, ever see!
- Going to some of the fun things I've found out about, like hula hoop lessons, drum circles, the autism camp I told you about earlier, etc.
- Hiking and teaching tiny Lily to hike! 
- Getting to see my Bro and Sunny and Squeak!

Here are some of the things I am going to miss until I come back to Chicago...
- Going to places spontaneously with my mom such as the grocery store.
- Zombie running with my mom. 
- Trixie sleeping in my bed. 
-Watching TV with my parents. 
- The familiar way my house smells and looks and sounds.
- The ghost that lives in my house. 
- Being able to go visit my grandparents or my little cousins.
- Trixie Trixie Trixie! Leaving her is really the worst part. I feel like I am screwing up her whole world by leaving and taking Lily with me... she will feel like we abandoned her! That part is what makes me want to cry. I can always call or text my parents, but in Trixie's mind I will have just disappeared. Any ideas on how to help a dog through a life change like this?

The sound of the computer keys is really bothering my ears for some reason right now. I usually like it but my ears must be sensitive today. So I am going to stop typing for now! But I do want to say one more thing... don't forget to go take my blogaversary survey! I still need 13 more responses before I can publish the results. It is taking a lot longer to get responses this year, which I think has something to do with Facebook not giving everyone the feeds the way it used to... they want you to pay to "promote" your posts. 

Okay, over and out for now! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Have To Admit It's Getting Better

Maybe at summer camp I will meet my long lost twin!
Don't forget to take my READER SURVEY! I need at least 18 more responses before I publish the results! 

My last few posts have been a little frantic, but I have calmed down a little in the past few days. Being able to just focus on going to Oregon as a temporary and not necessarily permanent situation has helped a lot. I know I will feel better leaving here, if I can tell myself that I can come back, even for just a week or so this summer to regroup and reassess. 

I've been doing some research to try to find ways that I can get "out of my shell" once I'm in Oregon. I've found a few things that are actually especially for people with autism and other special needs, that might be a good start... I can go out and do things and learn my way around Portland, without the pressure of having to try to pass for normal. My Auntie Em says people will be much more accepting there and I won't have to feel so self-conscious, but I'd still like to start in my own comfort zone. Here are some of the things I've found...

There is a Recreation Club that goes on outings or does other activities once or twice a month. 

There is a place where you can sign up to go on outdoor adventures such as rafting, kayaking, etc, that are at a beginner level and where people with special needs are welcome. 

There are a few Meetup groups for people with autism or Aspergers that meet once or twice a month 

And... coolest of all... there is this weekend summer camp for people with autism spectrum disorders of all ages, including adults, and their family members and friends. It is four days long and you get to do all these camp activities and just get to be around others with autism and people who understand, You can rock and flap all you want and nobody will give you a second glance. There are adults and little kids and everyone in between. I so want to go there! This is in late August, and I definitely want to go... which sort of means I am already planning on being in Oregon in August, which proves that I do intend to stay in Portland, even if I do take a break back in Chicago some time this summer.

So yeah... so far, I am feeling confident about going out there, although it is still hard for me to say I am moving out there. I just say I am going out there. I know this is sort of playing a trick on myself, but you do what you gotta do!

In other news, I am delaying publishing the results of my reader survey, since I only have 6 responses so far. I think last year I left it up a lot longer and gave people a lot more reminders, and with this past weekend being Easter I don't think many people got the chance to see it. So I will leave this up until I get at least 24 responses, which is how many I had last year, and then I can compare! If you didn't take the survey yet, go here: It is quick, easy and anonymous! You can even skip the questions you don't feel like answering!

Okay, I am going to end this entry, because I am probably going to watch Breaking Bad with my parents for a while, followed by doing some more blog reading. I hope you have a good day!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Blogaversary!

I didn't know what picture to put here, so
I put a baby monkey to make you smile!
Hi everyone! You'll be happy to see I have a more cheerful post for you today! I just figured out that my Blogaversary is coming up in a few days. This Sunday, my blog will be exactly 2 years old! Although I have disappeared a few times from my blog, I've kept this blog up pretty regularly, and in the blogging world 2 years is a lot! Most new bloggers quit by about six months after they start. I guess if you make it two whole years, it means you're a successful blogger!

Last year, for my Blogaversary, I posted a survey asking my readers some basic questions. 24 readers responded, and I posted the results with graphs! I learned some interesting statistics, like that most of my readers were females between the ages 26 and 35 or between 60 and 69. 80% of them had their own blogs, and 80% of them have dogs but only 10% had cats.

This year, I thought I would recreate the same survey, and then I can compare the results and see if they have changed over the past year. I know that I have more readers... for instance, I have 100 fans on my Facebook page!

This survey is really easy. It is 10 questions (that is all Surveymonkey will let me post without paying) and it is anonymous.

Even though my Blogaversary is Sunday, I know that a lot of you will be celebrating Easter this weekend. So, I will keep the survey up until Tuesday at 5 pm, and I will post the results on Wednesday.

Will you take the survey? Here is the link!

Thanks, everyone! I can't wait to hear from you!