Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coping, and What Red Rover Taught Me

This is not me, but it sort of looks like me! This is how
I feel when I am anxious.
HI everyone! You may or may not have read my melting-down post last night. It is hard to tell if people come to this blog or if it is showing up in feeds, because although my Blogger stats claim that I have a hundred visitors a day, the Feedjit on my page makes it more like 1 or 2 visitors a day. If you really want to know what it is like for me to have an anxiety attack (although it is more like a long-lasting state of high anxiety that doesn't end) go check out that post. 

To make a long story short, I was basically freaking out about leaving my parents... the same way I did last September when I was supposed to move, and the same way I did about 10 years ago when I was supposed to move away for college but ended up bailing. 

I am sort of proud of myself for figuring out a way to cope. I realized that a lot of my anxiety was being provoked by my mom pushing me to make a clean sweep... she had said she wanted me to pack up my room and that after I left whatever I left behind would be sold or thrown away. I was already nervous about being homesick, and this made it feel so permanent and definite. So I began to have an anxiety attack. 

A few days earlier, in equine therapy, I got to work with a little pony named Red Rover. He is a little shy, and when I went into his stall he sort of got startled and walked away from me, and kept facing the wall, as if he was hoping if he didn't look at me I'd go away. I thought if I got down low on the ground, he'd be less afraid, so I crouched down by the wall. He got curious right away, and came over to sniff me. He spent a lot of time just standing there by me and Julie (my human therapist) and being with us without making any real contact. A few times I tried putting out my hand, and he'd sniff me but didn't want me to touch him. 

Julie told me to visualize myself brushing him and try to send him that message. I did, and I got the feeling that Red Rover was a little nervous but was going to give me a chance. He was still a little startled when I went up to him, but I went slowly and gave him space, and soon I was able to brush him. I brushed him gently and lovingly for a long time. Red Rover got very calm and leaned into me. I had asked him to give me a chance, while leaving him room to escape or refuse. He'd taken the chance even though he was nervous, and he'd ended up having a great experience being brushed and petted and loved. 

I thought maybe what I needed was to do things on my own pace, without being forced to make a commitment. I talked on Facebook with my Auntie Em and asked her what she thought about me only committing to stay and work as a substitute in Oregon until the end of the school year, without any pressure to start looking for a place to live. I could work, join an autism support group that they have there, try to make some friends, and maybe go visit my brother and Sunny and Squeak once or twice, all while knowing that I could go back to Chicago in June. I'm not even going to make any plans or after June... I am just going to take small steps and work on getting out there for just a little while. My Auntie Em thought this was a good idea. 

I also talked to my dad about it. To my surprise, he agreed that it was a good idea. He told me to just think of this as an extended trip, and remember I could come home if I wanted to. 

I haven't talked about it with my mom yet. She is such a Type A personality, she likes things to be ALL THE WAY or NOTHING. 

Anyways. As I was consulting the Internet today, I read about Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder. This is a real thing, although it is sort of rare... it is similar to childhood separation anxiety, where children freak out if they are separated from their parents. But it is when this same thing happens to adults on a frequent basis. They grow attached to someone, and they panic if they have to be away from the person. In worst cases, people cannot even go to work, because they are terrified to leave the side of the person or people they are attached to. For a lot of people, the person they attach to is their spouse or significant other. I don't have one of those, but I have, in the past, got extremely attached to friends and gone through similar anxiety issues when I had to be away from them. 

I went onto this Facebook group I belong to for women with autism, and asked if anyone had ever heard of adult separation anxiety disorder, and whether they had it. Within five minutes I had ten replies from women with autism who said that they thought they had this, maybe not as a diagnosis but definitely all of the symptoms! Many of the people said it started out as anxiety separating from their parents (as adults, not as young children) and that after they got married their separation anxiety transferred to their husbands and even their children. 

So at least now what I'm dealing with has a name... one more thing to add to my laundry list of issues. The bad news is, it doesn't have any specific treatment. It can be treated similarly to generalized anxiety disorder, and it can be treated similarly to treating childhood separation anxiety disorder, but really if you have it you will probably always be dealing with it. Which makes me feel more panicky. I don't want to have to feel like this on a regular basis for the rest of my life! 

Monday, March 30, 2015


I am supposed to be moving to Oregon in 3 weeks, and panic is starting to set in!

I don't know what is wrong with me, but the anxiety has a tight hold on me. A week ago I was so excited thinking about going to Oregon, about my business plan, about everything else. But ever since the plans started to be finalized (which was yesterday) I've been in a panic attack.

Maybe you could help me by just lending your ear even though I know you readers, like all the people in my family, have heard this all from me before.

I feel like I have the flu. My skin feels too tight and my chest feels like there is a boulder sitting on it. My blood feels too hot. I feel like my heart has a fever. My throat hurts. My stomach feels like I've been stabbed. I have, um, lets say, an upset stomach that is manifesting itself in my rear end.

I took two extra Wellbutrin, which calmed me down enough to write this, enough to eat some dinner and watch TV with my mom. But I could barely choke down one fajita, couldn't even finish my Dr. Pepper. I could barely pay attention to the show even though it is my favorite. Even looking at or petting my small dog, something that usually calms me, is too much stimulation and makes me want to scream! Right now my dog is sitting behind me, which is good because her weight and warmth helps calm me, but I don't have to actually look at or touch her. (That makes me so sad to say. I love her more than anything! But seeing her right now makes me want to cry.)

What do I want? I don't fucking know! I know that a week ago all I wanted was to get to Oregon and start my business. But right now in this moment, if someone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me what I'm feeling, I would say, "I just want to stay here, don't make me leave, these walls are keeping me safe and this is my whole world and please let me just stay."

The situation became worse when my mom came home from work today and mentioned immediately that I need to start cleaning out my room, because although I am not bringing everything I own to Oregon right now (since I'll be staying with my Auntie Em) when I get a place and come back for the rest of my stuff, she will throw away whatever is left behind.

Maybe I belong just staying here. Maybe I should be happy just to be a substitute teacher forever, and live with my parents until the day I die.

My dad just came home and immediately started talking about the move, and I got a huge wave of sickness over me and I feel so hot like I am going to throw up!

I have to pretend everything is fine because otherwise my parents will be so mad at me. I just want to cry. I want someone to hug me (for once in my life I'd actually be happy for that) and let me cry and scream and melt down.

I want to go because of all of the good things I'd experience, but I don't want to leave. I want to stay so I can be near my parents, but then they will be angry and I will never have the chance to move again.

I want to be dead. Being on Earth hurts way too much. But I don't really want to be dead, because that would be like leaving also. I just want to feel safe. I just want someone to help me.

I think it would be good if I could just go on an experimental basis. I could go and stay with Auntie Em and sub until summer time, and see how things go. But no, it has to be a permanent decision, it has to be do or die, according to my parents. I cannot make my dad drive all the way to Oregon with me, just so I can turn around and go home.

I need to melt down but I cannot. I am exploding inside but trying to keep it all in,

One of two things will happen.

A. This feeling will pass, I will wake up tomorrow and the anxiety will be gone, and I can move on


B. This feeling will get worse and worse, it will snowball, for three weeks, until my brain liquifies itself and I die.

I can't even distract myself by playing Solitaire or Singing Monsters on my phone. I have to type this fast because if I slow down I will feel sick.

The thing about it all is, even if I have family members who love me, in the end I am really all alone, because nobody else has to feel what I am going through, nobody can take some of it and help me with it,

I can't even stop to look for a picture for this post because I can't concentrate that long. I am writing this off the top of my head which is why I am able to do it, but now I cannot sit still anymore, so I'm going to walk.

I wish someone could help me feel better.

I wish I could say, "Just let me go there and work for a few weeks. Let me bring my car there and work and make some friends and live like I live there, with the opportunity to come home at least for a few weeks in the summer, and let me decide then." Do I have the right to ask for that? Will they agree to it? I think I could really do this, they could just let me have a trial basis. Like holding my breath, jumping in, and seeing if I swim, with the possibility of grabbing onto the ladder and climbing out if I find that I am drowning.

For an autistic person I am pretty good at metaphors.

Starting to calm down now. See, talking to you really helps! Or maybe it is the Wellbutrin. It feels good for a minute to feel calm. I wish I knew how to make it last.

With love,
from Angel