Tag Archives: invisible disability

School Was the Hardest thing About Growing Up Autistic

Someone asked about how I was in school.

I was in special education when I was young (early elementary school) and had tutor a few years later. I was a b-c (sometimes d student) with poor social skills. However, I still feel I was “smart” just not smart AT school.

Things that bore me go in one ear and out the other while things that catch my attention and interest me I can learn every detail about. That’s just how I learn.

School wanted me to learn boring things that seemed completely irrelevant and I had a lot of trouble with that.  My other problem at school is that we were expected to sit still for long periods of time without fidgeting. At home I had fidget toys all around me (pinwheels, kaleidoscopes, silly putty, and more). At school no toys were allowed

Teachers saw me as a problem, something they did not want to deal with. They wanted to send me away or pass me along. I even had one teacher tell me I “should have failed her class but she passed me just so she would not have to see me again next year.”

I started school young, excited, and ready to learn. I’ve always had a passion for learning but school almost beat that out of me. By the time I left school I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

School didn’t want me and college was never a real option for me.  I was dismissed over and over again by people who should have motivated me.

Every day I am grateful that I am self motivated. When I want something I push myself for it. I know not everyone has this skill – I wish I could share it with anyone who needs it.

Growing up in my own little bubble, the world in my head is magical and bold. My whole life it has felt as if people are constantly trying to pull me out of that bubble – but the bubble is where I want to be. I am the bubble and the bubble is me.

School wanted me to be a cube but all my edges were rounded. Why could I not just be myself?

 

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AutismAwarenes #AutismAcceptance

Autistic Confessions – I Just Can’t Do People Today

Sometimes I have days where seeing another human being seems like the most draining and intimidating task in the entire world. These are the days when I just want to stay home and speak to nobody.

There are days when I need to recover from all the excitement and bustle of professional life, sitting in silence barely saying a word outside of typing on my keyboard. Days like this I spend at home – my dog and husband are the only creatures I want to see. Sometimes, as I conserve energy, even these interactions are at a minimal.

Every now and then there are times when I don’t feel like talking. I avoid conversations and crowded places. Please don’t take it personally when I conserve energy.

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.

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

My Mind Plays Tricks On Me

Our minds are always playing tricks on us.

My mind plays tricks on me.

I get stuck cleaning the house.

Sometimes I can’t stop as I must reach every single corner.

I spend so much time cleaning

that I normally only have one or two clean rooms at a time.

My brain second (3rd and 4th) guesses everything I do.

Did I water the dog?

Did I lock the door?

Did I grab my phone (as I’m holding it my hand).

I constantly find myself turning off the inner monologue.

Sometimes I do forget things

because I refuse

to listen to the nagging.

It’s a trap waiting to suck me in and I can’t let it.

Always forcing myself to think about other things.

Sing along to the song on the radio.

Put on an audio book.

Do something.

Stop.

My brain is funny.

It can also play pleasant tricks on me.

I have joy when I am fortunate enough to have my lucky number.

Even if I know there is nothing special about numbers.

Technically they don’t even exist.

My brain craves perfection,

out of reach and

impossible.

My mind is extremely logical.

I call bull shit on myself all the time.

When I am careful and pay attention the patterns are obvious.

Some thoughts are irrational and silly.

With my little rituals,

I am safe.

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

My Meltdown – A Poem – Guest Blog

This poem comes from a long term reader, fellow blogger, and dear friend. I am honored to share with you a work by the one and only Allison M. Kramer of the Through 1 Filter  blog.

Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment. People need to understand meltdowns. These conversations are important.

 

My meltdown is

Echoed in my screaming
Adrenaline is racing like napalm through my veins
Moro reflex punching my gut over and over
Reliving the sensory overload on a loop

I’m drowning without being in water
and I have to go to bed for 2 days

Sometimes it brings red and blue flashing lights on a squad car 
Handcuffs chewing into my wrists
Lots of shouting and grabbing
Strapped to a backboard while my skin turns purple and black

Locked up, drugged up
Being punished for something I cannot control
It isn’t a conscience choice I’ve made
To disrupt my life or yours

It so happened that
A dog was barking-
A child was screaming-
Someone set off a firecracker-
And I couldn’t process the information fast enough
To remain in control of my executive functioning

The threat of sensory overload
hangs pregnant, like a cumulonimbus cloud

I need a safe place and safe people- now and until I die
To successfully process what life heaps upon me

Will you help me to make this a reality? I cannot do it alone, behind a computer detached from any notion of community. I don’t want my life story to end in a jail cell, nursing home or alley. 

 

Allison M. Kramer
Author:Through 1 Filter

 

 

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

I Want to Encourage Everyone to Write

Writing is therapy and can be a key to better self understanding. We all have stories to tell and lessons learned. When we share we give others the opportunity to learn.

Write – even if you never share your world with anyone.

Pour your soul out onto the pages (digital or hand written). Let your thoughts come to life. Often I am surprised at what comes out when I am behind a keyboard. There is a flow when I am comfortable and relaxed.

In face to face interactions I am not nearly as eloquent. Sometimes I am just struggling to keep pace with a conversation – my brain tends to save information to process later. This is inefficient when speaking to people. By the time I am ready to contribute often the topic has already been changed.

My social differences are often misunderstood by my peers. I don’t need to look at people when they are talking to me – and listen best if I don’t try to. People often think I am rude, daydreaming, or not paying attention. They don’t understand that my brain works differently.

I started this blog out of frustration. When everywhere I go everyone misunderstands or underestimates me. If I tell people I am Autistic they say things like “you seem to have grown out of it” or “you don’t seem autistic”.

The picture they have of Autism is one that was sold in movies and on the internet.

It is a boy who cannot speak, an adult who may never live on their own, or someone who bangs their head against walls (I do this but not hard enough to hurt much).

An attractive woman who appears to have it all together is NOT what they imagine when you say “Autism” and they can’t easily adjust the pictures in their minds.

Neurotypicals tend to have more of a “hive mind” than Aspies do. They tend to follow popular opinions and are often hesitant to stray from what is considered “common knowledge”.

I can only see one fix for this problem – change what is “common knowledge”.

Aspies are wired to be individuals we don’t care about what others think – unless we are taught to care what others think (then we can become overly eager to please). We tend to be very analytical – sometime to the point of over analyzing.

Many of us thrive in solitude and are often accused of being “antisocial” and other negative terms.

People have a hard time accepting what they don’t understand. That is why it is so important that we all share our stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Do something with yours – even if it is all you’ve got. Maybe you will change the world.

 

#SheCantBeAutistic #ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism

Autistic Women – Why Are We Invisible?

Chameleon woman – I’ve been doing it since puberty. Logically the next evolution for a “Parrot Child” is a chameleon – right?

When many of us were younger it was thought that Autism was only found in boys. A gender stereotype that is still hurting us today. Some of us are missed completely or misdiagnosed with other conditions. Some go to the grave without knowing they are Autistic.

A few of us are lucky and eventually figure it out. When we discover the truth it is as if a light bulb has gone off. Growing up we felt alien but did not know why. Most days I thought everyone around me was crazy – having no idea how different our perspectives were.

They teach you to be a lady, have manners and be polite. Flailing about and acting crazy is very unbecoming of a young girl. We learn to hold things in. We read books and create art. We collect pretty things in our rooms, locking away our feelings.

Social pressure is huge on young women. Society expects you to be a certain way.

Over the years I’ve learned to fake it but learning to play “normal” has taken years of practice, constant trials and errors. It is still a character that tires me out and requires a lot of work.

Girls are pressured from a very young age and perhaps “boys will be boys” could be one reason Autism is more obvious in males than in females.

I was a tom-boy and my Autism was obvious until I hit puberty and became more aware of the ways I differed from my peers. At that point I made a conscious decision to study my peers and fit in. It was a bit like a science experiment.

The more I worked on this project the less I felt like myself. For the first time in my life nobody was bullying me. I was happy to feel safe and kept up the act through high school.

After years of being fake it was hard to even know who I was any more. I felt ugly and dirty. It’s hard to explain but just thinking about how fake I was (years ago) makes my face pucker. I don’t like that person and I pity her.

I’ve recovered from that but diagnosis was a major part of my recovery. It explained so much and everything. There were always little things that I’d never listed but if I did they would all say – Autism.

All the pieces of me that I hid from the world, the strange things – Autism.

Chameleon woman.  Invisible Autism. Anonymously Autistic. Nobody sees me struggling.

 

#SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic