Category Archives: Self Care

Autistic Confessions – Easily Startled (Too Much Anxiety)

I’ve got a trigger-hair panic reaction. Its like my startle response is tuned way up higher than the average person. I try very hard to control it but I am still easily startled.

When someone drops something, pops a balloon, closes a door, or makes any other sudden sound it makes my heart race. Adrenaline pumps through my body and by breath speeds up. I practice slow breathing concentrating on my feet and breath willing the panic to stop – but why does this happen so often?

Its not just sounds that set off my fear response. I feel like things around me are constantly triggering it. For example catching something unexpected in my fiend of vision is equally disturbing.

Other things that make me panic are surprises, not knowing what is going on, and conversations with strangers. Any time I have to speak using words in a meeting, even if it is a one on one meeting, my armpits and hands sweat as my heart races.

Although I am always fighting this invisible battle, it’s like panic is my default response to things. Nobody sees me stress but inside is a tornado of emotions. Desperately I seek control of the whirling monster  inside of me.

The anxiety is always trying to overcome me and it is constant. I have been living in a state of anxiety for most of my life – it should be no wonder my health is not great. The toll it is taking on me is becoming more and more obvious.

There are certain things that ease me, writing, exercising, creating, learning, meditation, and long walks. I am working hard to calm the beast because I worry my anxiety may be the source of most of my issues.

This is a fight I have to win.

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.

 

Autistic Confessions – Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts – I’ve had them since I was a child, although the older I get (due to continuing great effort on my part) the more manageable these things have become.

When I was a child, I remember being disturbed by some of the things that would randomly pop into my head. Very quickly my inner monologue would begin to obsess over what ever horror I had just seen or thought.

“Why I am I thinking about that? Is this going to happen? Do I want this to happen? What’s wrong with me? This is not normal.” 

As a child I was convinced I would grow up locked away. One day my mind would crack and all the crazy would fall out, people would know, and they would put me away. It sounds ridiculous but this fear was very real to me for many years. It never fully vanished until my Autism diagnosis.

I’ve learned to manage things. I’ve learned to recognize the patterns in my mind (most of the time). When I see myself slipping into that same old spiral it’s time to move my mind to something else – a distraction.

Turn on the radio and sing out loud. Blast your stereo and dance until the nagging fades away. Write a poem, make a sketch, go for a run, or a walk. Get out of your head – turn it off, make it stop. If you go there the trap will have you deep in the dark.

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.

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.

Autistic Confessions – I Just Want to Be Alone – The Stigma of Solitude

I love being alone. In fact, like most introverts, I need to be alone in order to recharge my batteries.

The difference between me and most introverts is that they still “need” or “crave” social activities and being around other people. I simply don’t and never have.

Always alone, when I was young and through my teen years (and even part of my adult-hood) people made me feel like my tendency towards solitude was pathological. I remember my parents and grandparents trying to force me to go out with friends / leave the house.

They forced e so hard, insisting that I make friends or be lonely, but I had almost no friends.

I’ve always had a pattern of only having one friend at a time and hanging out in groups has never been fun for me. Having more than one or two friends is still very difficult for me.

Your whole life people tell you you will be lonely if you don’t have friends but I feel most alone when I am around the wrong people or even worse too many people. I never feel alone when I am on my own working on something I am passionate about.

To be perfectly honest sometimes I feel more affection towards my projects than for most people. I am very task driven and calculated. People often take my seriousness for coldness. The few who know me well know me as funny and warm.

One on one interactions are great if they are with the right person.  I can even do groups of up to three people if I keep the interactions short. More people needs to equal a shorter interaction for me.

Also, I am not opposed to meaningful conversations. The minute people start talking about pop culture and other mindless garbage my mind wanders. I am off in my own head until something brings me back to reality.

Neurotypicals or “normal people” take for granted things that are a LOT of work for me. Simple things, like figuring out when it’s your turn to talk. Despite focusing almost ALL my brain power on timing in conversations STILL I manage to mess this up every time.

Even when I am having a great time being social, my brain wears down fast when I have to focus on conversations. It is real work for me. The more conversations and the more people at a gathering the faster I drain out.

I’ve heard the clever term social hangover. For me this is a very accurate description.

By the time I am done with a 2 hour hangout with 4 people I am feeling dead and drained. It takes me a full day to recover from most social interactions. Add more people or more hours and I need even more time to recharge.

I can only handle one or two of these a month or I start to have an increased frequency of indigestion and meltdowns.

When my job started having one or two social things a month I stopped hanging out with the few friends I had. The truth is now all my social energy is spent on coworkers who I don’t relate to – because I am trying my hardest to “play the game.”

I turn down as many office happy hours as I can, but still feel like I don’t attend as many as they want me to.

Social politics in the work place are hard on us Aspies but we can’t escape them. If we want to succeed in an office we have to learn the patterns and unspoken rules (I hate unspoken rules – I like CLEAR rules).

If we can’t figure out the mysteries of the office we have to make our own way somehow or risk being stuck in a career that doesn’t fulfill. We are often under paid and under appreciated in the work place because we don’t kiss ass and “play the games” that our neurotypical peers do.

Without these skills we are at a disadvantage. There is pressure to fit in.

My hyper-social coworkers who like to go out several nights a week think being out and social is normal but for me a night at home is more acceptable. I am “antisocial” a “recluse” “book worm” and “introvert”. So many titles.

Why does wanting to stay in even need a title? Why does society shun the loner? There is nothing wrong with me wanting to spend most of my time alone. If I am truly happy what is the problem?

Its time we break the stigma on solitude.

 

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism

Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Me, so bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Wild child, who can’t sit still, full of joy bouncing off the walls. Yes you are strange, but please don’t fear your uniqueness. Be you, don’t grow bitter.Stay strange and amazing.

You have so much potential. Yes, your mother is right you are smart. Stop believing when people tell you otherwise.

It’s okay that you don’t need people. That makes you independent NOT defective. You are not cold and robotic you are calm and logical. Yes you do things differently but some day this will be your strength.

The people who picked on you never made it far in life. It was them not you who had the problem. Bullies are insecure and often suffer on the inside, lashing out to make themselves feel bigger. Don’t be like them. Stay kind.

Silly girl, who talks to the animals and trees. Never stop. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. You are perfect just the way you are.

 

With deepest love,

-Me

The Secret to Fighting Anxiety (Now!)

Life is hard and I have pretty intense chronic anxiety. Still I don’t let that stop me from doing what needs to be done.

It’s funny to me when people praise me, call me strong, brave, and all these other names. I’m literally just doing what I have to do. I have to push myself or my life would be in a bad place. Always pushing even when my anxiety is nagging ugly words in the back of my mind.

So what is the secret? How do I stop the anxiety from talking over?

I stop and I breathe. I close my eyes and breathe while focusing on the darkness. I may put ear plugs in or have head phones on while I do this. I block everything out and am alone with myself.

Safe in the darkness I ask myself – are you safe? What is happening right now? Is your worry something that hasn’t even happened yet? Then stop it. What’s happening now? 

I push forward but keep asking – What’s happening now? How about now? Now? Now? Now? Right now.

Sometimes I may repeat the word now over and over again in my head. It is a reminder to stay calm and that now everything is alright.

 

Passing – Blending in For Survival – The Masks We Wear

I grew up undiagnosed so I learned to sit still and when to be quiet. I keep all speech and movements carefully planned like I am in a play. It’s an act I put on – hiding my Autism as a survival mechanism that I developed due to not knowing why I was different. It wasn’t that I was ashamed – although as I grew older bullies forced be to hide for my own safety.

At home with my parents and family all of my differences seemed normal and I was so “smart” that nothing could possible be said about anything else.

I’ve said before that Autism runs in families, even if some families never notice it. My family is pretty quirky, despite my Autism being obvious, at home blending in was easy.

When I was very little I had a very had time regulating and maintaining and indoor voice, my balance was not great, and as a toddler I preferred spinning objects over people.

In old videos of me adults are unable to get me to look away from my things when they call my name. I can hear – because in one clip a phone rings and the bell startles me to look about but I tune out all the humans begging for my attention.

As I grew older I had to go to school and my differences became more obvious to those outside of the home. In preschool I often asked for teachers to hug me – because I was anxious and craved the release of the squeezing pressure. Teachers thought it was strange that I ask people who were not family for hugs.

Everyone was nice to me up until about the first grade. It was then that I met my first bully – a strict old fashioned southern school teacher. I remember that she wanted me to sit still and tried to make me speak in front of the class. She didn’t give hugs and she wanted me, the disruption, out of her classroom.

I remember sitting on the floor in the hallway as my mother spoke to the adults inside the office. The conversation is not in my mind but I remember my mother being very angry when we left. Afterwords I remember her telling people “that child is not stupid”.

It was agreed that I would spend part of my day in a special education classroom.

Being labeled a special-ed kid brought about a whole new type of bully – other children. People who had always ignored me in the past now made efforts to scream names at me in the hallways. The children were mean and the adults had an attitude as if being picked on was just a part of life.

In my mind all of my troubles were linked to being in the special education class-room so I worked hard to get out of there. Unfortunately by the time I escaped the SPED room the damage was done. Names like “Retard” and “Short Buss” followed me until I moved to a new city years later.

All because I was shy and had a hard time sitting still. One teacher who didn’t want to deal with me caused so much trouble and pain.

I thought things would be better in my new school. Finally I was invisible again. Unfortunately I still ended up having several altercations with bullies over misunderstandings. Despite proving my intellect, my social skills were still very limited and they often got me into trouble.

We moved one more time before high school, this time after being in a play. I remember thinking – acting is so easy it’s what I do every day when I am around other people. I made a conscious effort to pick and create a character of myself for my new school – one who does not get bullied.

I studied and watched movies and real people. I taught myself to “wear a mask” in school and eventually at work. The character. She comes out whenever I need her but takes up a lot of my mental energy.

Passing is a survival mechanism. As an adult you are asked to do more and more things that require a “social mask”. If you don’t learn do adapt one life on your own can be difficult – unless you find people who are understanding of your differences.

Wearing the mask too often can lead to Autistic Burnout.

Unfortunately we live in a society that can be unkind to what it doesn’t understand. Social skills are valued and necessary but many Aspies, myself included, have a hard time with even the basics (such as timing in conversation).

We have misunderstandings and miscommunications. People think we are rude because they do not understand that these things are not natural to us. Even worse they are often upset when we get things wrong.

It is difficult for us to hold a job or make advancements in the workplace because we do not value social acceptance or do well with office politics. I personally understand them in a very mechanical way but try to keep my head down and let my work speak for itself.

As an adult blending in means happy hours and group outings to the new trendy spot in town – things that I can’t even pretend to enjoy. I am learning that blending in is no longer enjoyable, turning down all invitations to hang out with co-workers and sometimes friends.

Work socials are the worst for me. Any group larger than three people is not enjoyable, although I can push it to a group of four without losing my mind. Too many conversations at one time or in a loud space can lead to sensory overload and will send me home feeling like a zombie desperate for a hot bath and feeling empty.

The pressure to be “professional” is intense even in a relaxed setting. How do you do professional and relaxed at the same time? I don’t have that character in my Rolodex. This does not compute.

I’ve dreamed of a day when I will drop all of the masks completely however I realize most people, especially those in sales, have some sort of character they play. I don’t want to play a role, I want to be myself.

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AnonymouslyAutistic

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts

- William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616

Autistic Confessions – I Don’t Want To Rock & Roll All Night

I have a hard time making connections with people through face to face interactions. Something inside me doesn’t allow me to bond to people partially – I have close friends (very few), colleagues (people who think they know me), and strangers.

There are no shades of grey with me. Things are black and white most of the time.

I am friendly with everyone but unless you earn your way into my inner circle I will keep you at a distance. Most people have lost interest in any type of relationship by the time I’ve come to my decision about weather someone is trustworthy or not.

Being unable to read body language and faces puts me at a disadvantage in social situations and makes it harder for me to get a feel for people. I’m painfully aware of this disability and it has made me overly cautious, because people have taken advantage of my  naivety in the past.

Face to face interactions with people can be very draining for me, even when in the company of good friends. Too many people in one room can be disorienting. I can’t function in an overly busy environment. It’s hard to filter out all the voices.

I don’t care for alcohol and parties with bumping bass music and throbbing lights leave me wanting to run like a rodent in the night.

These are the things my peers bond over and enjoy – these are the things I want to avoid.

I don’t want to rock and roll all night or party every day.