Category Archives: Autism at Work

Autistic Confessions – In Hiding

I’ve been in hiding. Desperately trying to conserve the energy that I have left at the end of the work day. Being in an offices is extremely hard, despite having kind coworkers. At the end of the day my head is pounding and my energy is drained, leaving little left for more pleasant things.

Hidden away from the world, I turn down almost every invitation. Navigating the social aspects of my workplace leaves my social mussels overworked. I’ve push almost everyone away because I literally can not handle anyone or anything extra at the moment.

I’ve stopped checking my personal email. There are so many emails and so much information being shared at work. I get to the point where I just need all input to stop. My brain has become bogged down and slow, as I try to process my days when I get home.

My brain is like a sponge, it sucks up everything until it is drowning and oozing. Covered and dripping with too much information this most important organ can no longer function, so I shut it off, preventing meltdowns.

This is burnout, this is me in self preservation mode. I am holding on but some days I am barely here. I try very hard to always stay positive because I know sinking into a depressing would be the worst thing for me at this point.

In the meantime it’s many solitary walks in the woods, counting my breaths, less commitments, and as much creative down time as possible.

That is why I have gone into hiding, reclusive, in quiet stillness. I’ve got to take care of myself, there is nobody to do it for me.

 

Don’t Domesticate Me

I don’t want to be domesticated.

Chained to a home and a mortgage.

Having a job is a necessary evil,

although I am painfully aware

many WISH for the chance to work.

The endless cycle.

Work.

Work to pay for the house.

Work to pay for the things.

The house you cant enjoy

and the tings you don’t really need.

Spend all your time working.

Living just to work.

Careers don’t suit me.

I walk to my own beat.

Walking alone, quiet, with nature.

Walking for hours by the stream.

Someplace comfortable and calm

Maybe one day there will be time.

When I no longer have to work.

Autistic Confessions – I Hate Phone Calls

Phone calls have always given me anxiety but did not know why until I really looked at myself. For many years all I knew was being on the phone, unless with someone I am close with, caused me great stress. I hated talking on the phone, something most girls love, but why?

Since my Autism diagnosis many little truths about myself keep popping up. Little things that were always funny are starting to make complete sense. I see myself and my actions through a new light and spend a lot of time really digging into my motivations and the reasons behind my anxiety.

I get anxious on the phone because I have a verbal communication impairment. I have hyperlexia which means that my comprehension for reading, writing and typing far exceeds my verbal comprehension. People who are used to corresponding with me via email would never guess this. On the phone (and in face to face conversations) I am often confused.

I also have Sensory Processing Disorder. People are hard to hear over the phone and when you add ears that don’t filter out any background noise things can be impossible.

Phone calls confuse me because I miss  a lot of details because my brain can’t keep up. Because I am Autistic my face to face communication is impaired.

Also people tend to talk faster on the phone and don’t like when you pause to think about your words – because they think you hung up. However, I need time to think before I speak. The entire thing is very stressful.

That is why I hate phone calls.

 

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic

How Could the World Be More Autism Friendly

Those who know me, and the readers who’ve followed long enough, are well aware that I like to focus on the positive. My last post was not the happiest because life has been hard and it is wearing on me.

We’ve been having conversations in the comments on this site and on Twitter. Talking about all of the problems and hardships Autistic people face in the world. In general I feel like focusing on your problems all the time can be a very dangerous thing. Shifting our attention to solutions tends to be much more effective.

Today I would like to write about my dream world – a world that is more friendly to Autistic people. Maybe some day, long after I am gone, it will be a reality.

It is a beautiful place, where there are always quiet spaces to get away when you need a private moment.  Every light switch has control for the light level and temperature, because everyone’s brain needs different lighting. (I like red-ish light and can not handle bright white, blue, or green). Natural light is used whenever possible and working from home is always an option.

In the place of my dreams you are always aloud to carry a laptop for notes, people don’t mind sending instructions via email, or handing everything over in writing. People wouldn’t call last minute meetings and would stop insisting on phone calls when an email is a perfectly acceptable form of communication.

Work schedules would be more predictable and people would not ask you to stay late for extra tasks at the last minute. (I just need to know when something is over – so I can conserve the perfect amount of energy.) Shifts could start at the same time every day and end at the same time every day (when you have insomnia one night working till midnight can throw off your entire week when you normally wake up early.)

Job descriptions would be more accurate so it is easier for us to determine in advance if we are qualified for a task. Employees would have input when job descriptions change and would be able to turn down new tasks that don’t suit their natural abilities.

Multitasking is a word that would disappear in my new world. Focusing on one thing at a time and doing it perfectly is far more efficient than doing several things at a time half-assed and in a rush. People would stop rushing you, and asking “can you multitask” in interviews – since most people don’t truly multitask very well even without Autism (even when they THINK they do).

Windows in large buildings could actually be opened so fresh air could be allowed in. Offices would have space for people who get cold easy and people who get hot easy so everyone could be comfortable.

Regular breaks would be encouraged and standing desks and exercise ball chairs would be more widely available so people don’t have to sit stagnate all day. Employers would stop valuing their employees based on how many hours a week they work and would focus more on dedication the quality of work turned in.

Office politics would disappear and work ethic would have more value than who’s ass you kiss. “Optional” work functions would really be optional (meaning your boss would never make comments like – “You weren’t at the last 3 office happy hours.” If something is necessary for a job it would be explicit not implied. If the happy hours are mandatory they should just say so.

Most importantly in this perfect new world everyone understands and accepts Autistic people. We don’t have to depend on unhealthy coping mechanisms like “passing”. Nobody expects us to act like everyone else.

It is a dream I have, a magical world. Some day I hope the world becomes more Autism friendly.

Autism Level 1: “Requiring support” – What Support?

Doctors and medical professionals are trying to nail down and better categorize Autism. The latest grouping places the entire spectrum into three buckets, depending on the level of support required for the person to function normally in society.

I fall in to the Autism Level 1: “Requiring support” category.

Level 1: “Requiring support”

Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful responses to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to-and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.

Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

Making Sense of the Three Levels of Autism – verywell

So they give me this label and throw me back out into the world, ironically without support. Now what? I am supposed to have this key that allows me to ask for things. My doctor tells me I have protected rights.

At first I am excited, finally I might be able to be more comfortable in my surroundings. I can ask for things and there is a reason besides me being difficult or high maintenance. Finally validated, yes those burning lights DO cause your migraines and avoiding them would be good for you.

What next? Asking for supports turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be.

This category does not do my life experiences justice. On many levels I can surpass my NT peers but on a social level I often fail. When I put on my masks I can play these amazing characters who are social and confident – but being this person, who they want me to be, kills me. I can do her I can “be normal” but summoning the strength leaves me empty and ill.

Holding up this mask is a necessary evil from time to time, she gets me through my work days and the hard times. She is a character, someone I wish I could be – someone I am forced to be when backed into a corner.

Because of my mask I have peers in both groups, but the NT’s have never felt like peers. Watching, and observing them, trying to memorize their pasterns and mannerisms. Hoping to decode their intentions and feelings. Even reading their faces is difficult for me.

People don’t want to give me support because “I CAN be normal.” I am capable of acting like there is “nothing wrong with me”. (Quotes representing their words NOT mine.)

I can hide my pain, panic, and discomfort, manage to hold myself together just long enough to flee from the public eye. I always do – but I still have sensory issues and meltdowns like many of my ASD peers.

I need regularity and a predictable schedule, I need natural light and calm conditions or my overactive amygdala goes crazy and I get anxiety related illnesses. In my mind I am strong enough to do anything but my body and nerves won’t let me push myself as hard as I used to.

As I get older my senses and sensitivities seem to be getting stronger, and my coping mechanisms and confidence grow. My Autism becomes more and more invisible, despite the disruptive symptoms, growing more intense.

I need help and supports more than ever but asking for them never goes well. Most people don’t believe I’m Autistic, and those who do say “but it’s  not that bad, you are normal.”

Employers don’t understand, they say things like “You only have to deal with florescent lighting three out of the five days a week you work – if you were here more maybe we could give you a window.” “You can’t wear earplugs today, we need you to answer the phones because nobody else is available.” For a job that was originally going to be FULLY REMOTE.

It always comes out like I am being unreasonable, picky, or difficult. At least that is how the opposition to my requests tend to spin things.

My accommodations are simple, let me type vs hand write, don’t give me spoken directions, let me sit in a quiet space (or wear earplugs) with natural light. Don’t ask me to stay late at the last minute if you can avoid it – if you know I may need to stay late tell me in advance. Most importantly please don’t make me go outside when it is cold. I have EXTREME cold sensitivity.

These are the accommodations that I’ve requested from my job – these are the supports that I would like to have because I feel like they are reasonable accommodations, and should be protected under the ADA.

The only support I get is a laptop – because it belongs to me and is essential to do my job (everyone at my work gets this so it’s not really a support). I can take notes on it, keep track of my schedule with it.

It is AMAZING that I get to work remote a couple of days a week. I am happy to have these things but the other items are important to me too and I haven’t been able to get any of them – not even the last one which always leads to meltdown.

Maybe I don’t complain enough. Nobody sees me on my worst days, when I am really struggling because I am PHYSICALLY ill from the stress of the environment and can not leave my house.

I “require supports” but it doesn’t mean I can get them. After all I’m (not always by choice) Anonymously Autistic.

Some days I feel like I am falling apart – if I stay in this world too long it may end me. Nobody can take care of me, I have to keep working.

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AnonymouslyAutistic

Oh the Ways We Love to Stim

People often ask about stimming. It is something that “normal people” have trouble understanding.

Most people stim. Have you ever clicked a pen while thinking, swished your tongue around in the roof of your mouth, strummed your fingers tapped your toes. Some stims are less noticeable and are considered “socially acceptable” and “normal”.

I stim more than “normal people” but less than some Autistics. Growing up undiagnosed forced me to learn to hide what was not socially acceptable. Thinks like rocking and making funny sounds, though soothing and helpful, will get you funny looks. These things I love are not typically welcome in the workplace.

Alone I am left to stim freely, I like to jump, rock, and bounce about, sometimes doing things that would make people question my sanity – but it feels good, oh so good. Releasing so much tension, taking a break, shake it off, reset.

In public I do thinks like rub my hands, fingertips and wrists. I play with my phone or a necklace or bracelet. I tap my toes under the table and stretch in my seat. Sitting still is hard work and eventually I have to release the pressure.

Fidget toys, scented oils, snacks, playing with my laptop mouse, or swirling the spoon in my tea so I can listen to the sounds of the cup. Even if people don’t notice I am stimming constantly, regulating, focusing, trying to keep from being overwhelmed.

Sometimes I stim when I am uncomfortable. Stimming helps me relax. Sometimes I stim when I need a break. Stimming helps me focus. Sometimes I stim if I am anxious. Stimming can help me think.

Stimming can take me to another place or help me deal with what is happening in front of me. When things get bad I can always stim.

 

I’m at War With Myself – Parts of My Autism People Can’t See

Sometimes I feel as if I am constantly in a battle with myself. Fighting against irrational thoughts in my mind, and unpleasant sensations in my body.

Constant nagging in my mind – “You might have left the door unlocked.” When I know very well the door should be locked. “You forgot to water the dog.” Despite leaving them with a full bowl.

Social anxiety tells me I’m not good enough and I have to remind myself that I only feel that way when hanging around the wrong people or large groups.

It’s like my adrenal gland is extra jumpy. I feel the surge of chemicals flowing through my body, making my heart and mind race. It used to cause panic attacks, but now it happens so often that I’ve learned to recognize the feeling and breathe through it. The sensation is unpleasant and can also lead to sensory overload or meltdown if I don’t relax – so I ALWAYS relax.

My brain tells me the lights are too bright, so I squint all day until I have a headache and my head is throbbing. I can’t tune out the buzzing light bulbs and humming electronic noises coming from the walls – so I often wear headphones with soothing music.

I get dizzy when I stretch my arms high over my head – probably not related to Autism but really annoying because I am short. Just throwing it out there because my readers always surprise me with what we have in common.

The air outside is almost always either too hot or too cold because I cannot regulate body temperature well. I am only comfortable between about 75-90 degrees anything over or under that is really pushing it.

People’s voices stick better in my head then their faces. I often have a VERY hard time recognizing people especially out of context. It’s called face blindness and it can be a pain, especially in a corporate environment.

When I do socialize I prefer to stick to people I know, because I can’t read the faces of strangers unless someone laughing, crying, or making some other extremely obvious face. I study people I know so I can learn their faces better but still this takes a LOT of work on my part.

Sometimes I come off as rude. My body language and tone don’t always come out the way I want them to. Misunderstandings are a way of life for me. I’m used to this now and often don’t even bother trying to correct people because they don’t understand tone not matching feelings, etc.

I take things literally – but normally can figure things out if there are context clues.

Following spoken directions is difficult – but if you give me time to write down what you are saying so I can read it later (over and over) I can get things done. It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s that I understand in a different way.

My sort term memory is about half as good as most people. They say people can hold about 7 numbers in their working / short term memory – a phone number.  I’ve never been able to hold more than 3 numbers in my head at one time. If you say something to me when I am trying to hold those 3 numbers in my head the numbers will probably vanish.

Side note my long term memory is forever.

All of these invisible things. I am constantly battling myself, trying to fit into a world where people can’t imagine what you’re going thorough. When you try to tell them they look at you like you are crazy or dishonest – and honesty is important to me.

It hurts when you ask for help and nobody is willing to stick out their hand, so I keep these things to myself.

#ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism

Autism’s Not So Bad – Why I Focus on The Positive

On this blog I share my difficulties so that others who have similar troubles will know they are not alone.

In life I try to focus more on the positives. It is better for me to focus on the things I can do versus worry over the areas I’m lacking.

I could beat myself up over my flaws until my self-esteem is in the toilet and I slip into a deep darkness. Trust me I’ve been there before and getting down like that is not helpful. Sure, I have limitations and disabilities but we all have troubles and obstacles to overcome.

When I was younger adults pointed out my flaws. Teachers and school highlighted all the ways I was a failure. I felt completely inadequate and was physically ill from anxiety.

My skills and artistic abilities were always discouraged. Nobody pushed me to peruse my talents. People assumed I would grow up and never make anything of myself.

It has taken years to recover from this trauma. The past few years have been the best years of my life – especially since discovering my Autism. The amount of self compassion needed to accept this truth helped me shift my thinking.

My Autism has given me quite a few gifts that I would like to highlight. These are the things I think about during my day. Reflecting on the positives keeps me going, making sure I don’t fall into a pit of self-pity. I have to keep moving.

I am extremely detail oriented (almost to a fault sometimes) but when doing the right types of tasks I am better than most at catching certain things.

My personality – these traits I believe come from my Autism. I am very loyal, honest, and self motivated. Above all things I value the truth.

I am a very dedicated employee and am great at following a list of tasks. I don’t socialize when I should be working and generally try to do work I love. I work hard and follow the rules.

Peer pressure does not get me. I am able to see when others are being illogical. I am a VERY logical person. I can also be calm when others panic (depending on the situation).

I have a bond with animals and nature. A walk in nature cures anything in my soul.

I’m not afraid to go against popular opinions – and will often comment when I disagree with them.

My perspective is different. Autism affects the way I intemperate the world so I have a unique perspective. This can be very helpful in a group when looking for new solutions.

I see music videos when I close my eyes and recall songs in my head like a jukebox. The movies come alive in full color. This is just magical. I also memorize songs and know all the words to just about every song I enjoy.

I can write in a way that comes from my Autistic experience. I’ve read so many books. As a child I read fiction, Stephen King, Dracula, and many more adult books. I remember the beautiful patterns in the words. I’ve read all the classics and now I read non-fiction. These things have rubbed off on me.

Patterns are everywhere and I see them. I see pasterns in everything – people, objects, concepts. Sometimes I get lost in them but I’ve learned to use these things as a guide for my life. It makes things more predictable – which most Aspies can appreciate.

Synesthesia – I enjoy mine but am not ready to put the experience into words. Sometimes it is distracting and even distressing. It made driving very difficult. Until about a year ago I didn’t even know there was a word for my experience. Still – I actually love this part of myself and would NEVER give it up.

So despite the days where I am sharing a painful experience, these are the things in my mind on a day to day basis. I remind myself every day of the ways I am blessed so that I am not overcome by darkness.

Basic Accommodations – I’m Not Disabled By My Autism, I’m Disabled By Unaccommodating People

In an earlier post titled Autism is Not My Disability I said

“Autism is not the disability, although symptoms of my sensory processing difficulties can leave me crippled and unable to function. The disability is society’s misunderstanding of Autistic people.”

Although I still agree with my previous statement, I’ve been rethinking this title laity and feel a strong urge to elaborate.

First I want to clarify that there are parts of Autism that are disabling.

We can have mental disabilities, epilepsy, IBS, Anxiety attacks, chronic insomnia, extreme sensory sensitivities, and more. In my mind these things are not Autism – because they differ so widely in all of us. I consider these commodities are unfortunate side effects that Autistic people encounter (too often).

These things ARE true disabilities and are often invisible – so when I say Autism is not a disability, I mean Autism as a way of thinking in itself is not a disability. This does not mean many Autistic people are not disabled.

I wish it weren’t true, but many of us are.

Personally, I am not sure if chronic illness will eventually leave me unemployed and unemployable. It is a constant fear as I scramble to get my health under control. Doctors are apathetic and if you’ve learned to act “normal” people doubt your diagnosis every time you mention it.

There are certain things I need help with, some simple accommodations that make my life easier. In work and in my personal life I tend to ask for the following (although people accuse me of being difficult) :

Sit somewhere quiet. At work I may wear headphones with music or ear plugs. Working from home is also a great option. My ears are so sensitive they pick up everything. I can’t focus on one conversation or catch all the words in a loud busy room. I like calm restaurants or off peak times.

Sit somewhere with the gentle lighting. Natural light without glares and certain soft artificial light is something I need. Modern office light is the worst. The wrong lighting or lots of glares makes me feel sick and hurts my eyes and brain. If I can’t escape I may put shades on or wear a hat indoors.

Ask for or make a plan. I like to know what’s happening and am honest about not enjoying surprises. I also need to know when things will end. Sometimes I may stay choose to late, if not, having an end time helps me to relax.

Say no to people. I am not a social person and can’t take a lot of going out. Socializing drains me like nothing else. Now that I work full time I have a hard time going out more than a few times a month. I say no to people more than they are used to but my health is important to me.

Try to get everything in writing. I have a hard time following verbal directions. Autism does impair some of my face to face communication skills. I also have impaired sort term memory and executive functioning.

When I ask for someone to put something in writing for me, it is one of the most important accommodation that I ask for. My reading level is FAR above what I can take in though speech. This helps ensure I don’t skip any important details.

Special treatment. It’s not fair for you to get special treatment.

If I am lucky people oblige me, however I get a lot of push back sometimes.

I feel like these accommodations are reasonable. When I have these things I am able to function at an optimal level. Without them I end up struggling to keep up with the basics. If you give me just a little I can go far.

I think differently and go about things in a different way. On my own this has never been a problem. My problems only appear when other people insist upon me doing things their way, insisting that I do things like everybody else.

They can’t see my disability and think I am asking for an easy way out.

They can’t understand how badly I need to do things my way and don’t see how much I struggle without accommodations. They are hard to get especially in the work place.

All I want is to do my best.

My Autism is not my disability – unaccommodating people are.

 

 

 

Misunderstandings

So many misunderstandings.

People read too much into meaningless things.

If I don’t look at you when you speak

you assume I’m not listening.

When my body language

doesn’t do what you’d expect

or when I laugh in the wrong moment.

If I say something using the wrong tone

you may think I’m rude.

If I cannot speak

I must be hiding something.

Over and over,

we confuse each other.

When I take something you say literally,

or my brain skips hearing words as you say them.

Sometimes I need time to process.

If I don’t get it

we’ll both stay confused.

Sometimes I can’t explain myself.

Please trust me.

Sometimes I process things on a delay.

Maybe we can talk about it another day – maybe not.

I’m not ignoring you or trying to

leave you hanging.

If I look confused, I probably am.

Give me time to figure things out on my own.

Don’t treat me like a child.

It’s only

a misunderstanding.

A poem about Autism and misunderstandings. Being Autistic sometimes feels like nobody understands you. Other times you know instantly that some misunderstanding has occurred.