Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Does Depression Have It's Icy Grip On Me?

At the movies, taking a break from feeling bad.
Sometimes it is hard to tell if I am going through depression or not. First of all, I am on antidepressant medication, so I SHOULDN'T be depressed, should I? Except, I'm not sure it works that way... it is probably not like the flu shot. I don't know. I'm not a scientist. All I know is, lately it has been HARD to do anything... even things I like. Just getting out of bed. When I wake up, I still feel tired, and if I didn't have to pee and feed Lily and Yoshi and the fish, I'd probably stay in bed all day. (Yoshi is particularly good at motivating me to feed her, because overnight she starts to waste away into nothing and is on the brink of starvation by morning... even though there is still food in her bowl from dinner...)  As it is, I get up, pee, feed my babies, and then get back into the safety of my bed with my soft blanket and my quilt.

Sometimes I will have made plans for something to do, like if I have to run some errands, or if there is something fun I could do. But then I cannot get out of bed. I am stuck like glue.

Sometimes I will make deals with myself... "Okay, all you have to do is, get a Dr. Pepper and watch TV. That is all. You like Dr. Pepper. This is good." Then, if I can do that, I will add something on... "I will go take Lily for a walk in the park, and then when I can come back I can take a nap." I actually love being outside, and if I could I would go to the river, but after being outside for a while my apartment sucks me back in like a gravitational force. I tell myself, "Tomorrow I will take Lily to the river." But then I think, "It is fall now and there won't be people at the river, so there might be coyotes or cougars or murderers!" And we don't go.

Sometimes I go on or Facebook Events and find all of these things I want to do, and I write them down... but when the day comes, I am too nervous to go. Even with Lily. Sometimes Lily makes it harder to go places, because I feel like these days people are always going be watching us and scrutinizing us, trying to decide if Lily is a real service dog or a fake service dog. She's real, but she's not always perfectly well-behaved... if there is food around, she will watch the food like a hawk and try to get as close to it as possible. Although she will not jump up and snatch it or anything like that... but still. She also has sore hips sometimes and doesn't always want to walk, so it looks like my "service dog" is putting her breaks on and refusing to move in the middle of the store. I could leave her behind, but then I feel like I have left my arm behind or something!

So mostly I just stay home.

I don't even enjoy talking to my mom on the phone as much. I miss her during the day and I can't wait until evening, which is when I usually call her... but then she's asking me what I did today, did I go somewhere,  did I cook for myself, did I do some cleaning, did I look for jobs, did I do some networking, remember everything is a networking opportunity, when will I be subbing, etc, etc, etc. Then I just want to fall asleep.

I stayed over at Auntie Em's and Uncle J's for the past few days because we were supposed to be babysitting my dog friend, Buddy. Our friend Phyllis busted her arm and had to go for surgery, plus Buddy had been sick, and Phyllis didn't want to leave him at home alone while she was away for surgery. So Lily and I stayed over at Auntie Em and Uncle J's, and Buddy came to stay over also. But in the morning he was doing really badly, he could barely move without pain, so Auntie Em and Uncle J took him to the emergency vet in Portland. And within a few hours they were telling us that he had a brain tumor. That was what had been causing him to get sicker and sicker. At this point he was in pain, and had gone blind. Phyllis had to wake up from surgery and find out that Buddy was in this situation. They decided to have him put to sleep. So there was that. Buddy was such a sweet, nice border collie, and he was a good friend. I loved going over to Phyllis's house because he would play with me, and sit on my lap and snuggle me, and lick my face. That morning before he was taken to the vet, I had gone into the bedroom and laid next to him, petting him and trying to comfort him, and he was so miserable but was gazing into my eyes and making a soft whining sound.

So I spent most of yesterday crying for Buddy. I cannot believe he is gone.

And there it is... more depression.

Today was a nice day because we went to my other uncle's house (he's in a family care home because he has Parkinson's Disease) and I saw his little kitty Dudley, and then I went with Auntie Em and Uncle J to see a movie. It was the fancy kind of movie theater where the seats rock and recline, and where you order snacks and they bring it to you. I had mud pie and popcorn. Then we had pizza when we got home. So it was a nice day... but as soon as I am alone, the sadness in the bottom of my stomach comes sneaking back out. It is like a constant battle. I don't know how to explain it.

So anyways... what was my point in writing this? I forget!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Autistic Dude's Guide to Finding Love

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

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

Part 1: Making Yourself Happy

Part 2: Exploring the Possibilities

Part 3: Starting in the Friend Zone

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Do I Dazzle You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would be sort of cool!

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


Monday, September 3, 2018

I'm Winning Right Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swimming in the Washougal River. It was very cold.