A Special Kind of Social Anxiety.

I spent what felt like the whole week paranoid and full of anxiety because everything suddenly felt weird. (Luckily, I did actually have a good week with lots of relaxing things in between this.) Like I was missing something. The reason I was paranoid and anxious is because that’s what it was like when I was a kid or my last full-time job where I didn’t know what I did or what was coming, but I had clearly fucked something up.

It feels like people are gossiping and being standoffish. But I don’t know why. I don’t know what changed and the only way I can find out is by asking one of them. If I do that, past experience has shown they will deny anything is wrong and then go gossip about how I asked if something was wrong.

I don’t know how people exist like this in their normal, every day relationships. Why not just tell people what’s up?

I also tend to forget that when I’m new to a group, everyone else is already loyal to the group and they use gossip like currency. The group will send a scout to find out info about me and then they watch every little move. This is one reason I think I hate going places alone. At least if I have another person, it’s easier to blend into the group or at least have some cover.

Basically, this week comes down to NTs thinking everyone is like them and experiences society the way they do. Yet, we are told autistic people do that and are bad for it.

It’s like when I see, for example, white people who are super nice and giving to other white people, but if a black person is in the same position, they are harsh. If you’re only kind and compassionate to people just like you, how kind and compassionate are you really?

If you can only empathize with people who are just like you, how empathetic are you, really?

Seriously, most of the social difficulties with ASD are from NTs thinking everyone socializes the way they do, yet because we don’t, they judge us and think we are rude. They don’t try to understand even when I flat out tell them I have trouble socializing and I don’t understand underlying social cues. It’s all about them and they way they perceive everything.

In my experience anyway.

I also have a friend right now who is mad at me because I “don’t answer the phone.” I thoroughly explained to her I’m in a dead cell area and I hate phone calls anyway because they are hard for me.

do answer her calls though. I also call her back. I just can’t put in as much effort into that as she does. Which I explained.

It’s frustrating more than anything. Like, why do I get blamed when she refuses to learn to text? Why should I be forced to do something that is physically and mentally draining when she could learn to do something she doesn’t have a medical condition making more difficult for her? Especially when I do push myself to do it and she doesn’t move an inch?

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CPTSD

Apparently, people seem to think Autism is the new “it” diagnosis. It may be. I don’t know.

What I do know is that CPTSD seems a lot more likely to fit that bill, especially since everyone wants to say I have that instead of autism.

I get it. I “look” normal. They don’t want me to have autism. Autism is scary AF to the masses. It’s Rain Man and The Boy Who Could Fly and screaming kids you can’t get through to. It’s Jenny McCarthy yelling about vaccines.

Who can blame them? It’s scary to me sometimes.

Here’s the thing. I have trauma. Loads of it. Enough to make any sane person question whether or not my autism is CPTSD.

I’m more than happy to deal with it and in fact, my counselor and I are working on just that. I’m not the type of person to just sit back when I know something can be done. (At least not when I have the energy, but burn out is for another day.) I know I have trauma so trust me when I say, I will deal with that too.

The thing that bothers me is when people assume I’m just trying to be quirky or hip.

LOL no.

I don’t want autism. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and autism was absolutely my last resort. I was more comfortable being diagnosed as borderline or bipolar than even asking about autism.

It took me over a year (after several years having the idea hang out at the edge of my brain) to mention it to the person I trust most in the entire world. The person who has witnessed all my other hypochondriac episodes to figure out what was wrong with me and didn’t bat an eye. Who would non-judgmentally walk me through it all. Even then, the only reason I did it was because I knew I was not going back after that session. It was then or I would never broach the topic with anyone.

It took another 8 months before I received my diagnosis. 8 months of occupational therapy in the mean time, reading books, reading blogs, and subreddits, all hoping I didn’t actually have it. But knowing I did. Roughly 8 hours of testing and talking to the psychologist who specializes in adult autism. That I drove 4 hours to see.

This isn’t something I took lightly or thought I would be cute if I had it. People don’t think autistic people are adorable. While I don’t mind other people being self-diagnosed, I couldn’t. I could not claim to be part of a community I might not be a part of.

I don’t tell anyone I am autistic. 7 non-medical professionals know I’ve been diagnosed. 2 are family. 2 are my best friends for the last 12 years. 2 are people I’ve met in the last year who I told for various reasons.

This isn’t a cute label to me. I’m not ashamed of it. I just know enough about people that they can’t be trusted with something like this and right now I don’t have the energy to fight it off.

When I first entered therapy it was early 2000 or late 1999. The first couple of months I didn’t want to tell anyone. There was so much stigma at that time, especially with my hateful family. Therapy made me feel good though. It gave me hope and direction. Soon, I realized if someone made fun of me for wanting to learn how to be happy and have healthy relationships, that was their problem. That’s a shitty thing to make fun of someone for.

I haven’t reached that point in my life yet. Mostly because I keep picturing my brothers and my ex finding out. “See. I told you she was retarded.” “See. It was all her. I’m totally fine and normal and I never did anything to her.” “See. Autistic people have no empathy and are mean. It’s all her.”

Now, I don’t care, really. They already blame me for everything wrong in their lives and whether or not I am autistic won’t change that. I also don’t care what they think of me.

However, my ego cares that other people will believe them and judge me. Which, again, people already do.

One day I will be strong enough not proudly say I’m autistic, just like I do with everything else. Just like I high-five people when they tell me they’re in therapy and talk about it like it’s going to church. I’m just not bullet proof enough to give them the ammunition, yet.

So all that to say, I didn’t do this for attention. I didn’t do it because it’s “in.” If you knew me, you’d know I don’t do anything because it’s “in.” I was diagnosed because I have autism. I was diagnosed in order to understand myself and the world around me a little better.

I was diagnosed to get appropriate treatment.

If you want to believe people just want to be autistic, that’s cool. I don’t mind. Just, please, before you tell someone your theory of what is wrong with them, ask about how they got to that conclusion. Ask what tests they did. It isn’t any of your business, but it’s definitely less annoying than you telling me you know me better than I know myself or the doctors know me. It’s better than you dismissing all the hard work and struggle I’ve done to get to this point.

The doctors may be wrong. I’ve been misdiagnosed before. That doesn’t give you the right to dismiss anyone’s diagnoses.

How To Get Forgiveness Before You Need It

The first few things are just what I feel helped me along the way when it came to socializing without being unforgivably weird.

  • When In Doubt, Listen To Gwen. Don’t Speak. In new situations I cannot speak unless spoken to. When I finally feel comfortable enough to do so, the first few times are always awkward and I say weird things. But just slightly weird. Most of the time people assume I’m stuck up, which isn’t great, but it’s better than weird. When I finally do speak to them, they feel like I approve of them and they are relieved. I don’t set it up like that, it’s just how their socializing works. In other words, less is more. Try to get them to talk about themselves and you won’t have to worry about saying too much or the wrong thing. People love when you want to hear about them. They will forgive some slightly weird things if you are genuinely interested in them.
  • Eye Contact Tricks. I learned at a young age that when you don’t look someone in they eye, they think you’re lying. I didn’t want to be accuse of lying (or I wanted to be able to get away with it when I needed to, I was 6 and can’t quite remember. Since I’ve never liked lying, I’m going with the first one.) I practiced. Now, when someone is talking I look at them at least in the face. When I talk, that’s usually when I look away. In a good conversation flow, this seems to be comfortable for everyone. If you look away when they are talking, they think you’re bored or distracted. Glancing down while nodding is better than over their shoulder though.  By looking away when you talk, and checking back in now and then with a glance at their face, it breaks the tension of too much eye contact. This also goes with showing you are genuinely interested in someone. Looking away before or as you are speaking looks like you’re thinking about what you’re saying.
  • Get A Socializing Mentor. I’ve read many girls start being noticeably autistic when they are teens and socializing becomes more prominent in their lives and subtle in execution. In my late teens I had a boyfriend and a therapist. And I was depressed so I never hung around people. This also meant I wasn’t diagnosed, but I learned from said boyfriend staring at people is weird and it creeps other people out. Even if they aren’t the ones I’m staring at. The therapist helped me deal with social situations and script important conversations before hand. He also helped me go over ones I messed up and learn how to handle those situations better in the future. He helped me understand feelings and that always helps in relationships. People forgive those who show they are active in trying to improve themselves. Don’t necessarily tell people you are in therapy, just use therapy as a way to figure out how you screwed up and then ask forgiveness while expressing your new understanding. Technically, this is getting forgiveness after you mess up, but it may help you learn what not to do in the future. Therefore, helping you build a solid foundation in a relationship before you do something offensive.
  • Body Language Can Work For You. Another thing the boyfriend eventually helped me with? Lying. As in, he would lie all the time and in order to catch him, I read books on body language and how to tell when someone is lying. Sure, I should have just left him, but win some lose some. Body language helps you figure out how someone is feeling so you can adjust your actions in order to avoid awkward situations. You can tell if someone is getting bored or someone you don’t like is hitting on you so you can stop it before it gets weird. People also like those who are similar. By mirroring their body image, you help them like you. You can also learn to use it to communicate things without accidentally saying something weird. Even if you can’t figure out how to read it in other people, you can still learn how to make yours at least neutral.
  • Seeing Life From Other People’s Perspective. Reading in general. Especially, as embarrassing as it is, romance novels. Not for the dirty parts. I mean, that’s why I read them, but that’s not what helped. I remember thinking so many times that if they just didn’t assume the other person knew things or if they just said how they were feeling instead of wanting the other person to guess, there would be no book because there would have been no problems. All that time wouldn’t have been wasted. It was also easy to realize people don’t all react the same to the same situation and I could experience life through so many different kinds of lenses. Reading fiction helped me with empathy more than anything else. People love empathetic people. If you are kind and forgiving, people are more likely to be kind a forgiving when you need it.
  • Emily Post Has Your Back. More reading: Etiquette books. I don’t know why more autistic people don’t read them. They are literally the handbook to surviving social interactions. They are literal rules on how to behave around other people. Granted, talking to those people still takes masking and isn’t easy, but people forgive a lot when you have impeccable manners. Not that I know because I have impeccable manners. I know because my uncle has amazing manners and people love him immediately. Also, I love people with impeccable manners. They make everyone feel comfortable.
  • Don’t Smell Bad. There are also books and youtube channels on hygiene and dressing well. I know hygiene is more than just knowing what to do and some days showering is too damn hard. However, when you know you are going to be around people, you need to know how to not smell. People love to forgive clean, put together people.
  • Care that you hurt their feelings more than you care about your ego. Learn how to apologize and listen empathetically when someone brings a problem to you. Listen to what they are saying without taking it as a judgment on your value as a person. We all mess up. Repeat back what they said, in your own words, with an affirmative word if you can. “What you said at dinner was rude.”  “You didn’t like what I said at dinner. It’s understandable you would be upset by that.” If you don’t understand, ask them to clarify or try to guess. They will correct you if you’re wrong, but either way it will show them you are trying to understand. Let them get it all out. You can keep responding this way if you need to. You should also throw in praise words. Things that you know to be true. I really like saying things like, “it isn’t easy bringing things like that to someone’s attention. (which you know is true because it probably isn’t easy for you to do it to other people). Once they feel heard, you can apologize for your part in the incident. Usually, then I like to say thanks that they said something so we could clear the air. Even if I don’t agree with why they are upset, this still works. I said the sky was red and when they said it was blue and it hurt their feelings. I don’t have to understand why that hurt their feelings. I just have to understand it did. I can try to learn why it hurt their feelings, but if I care about them, I should not want to hurt their feelings even if I don’t understand why they are hurt. I can explain that the sky really was red because of some odd phenomenon and I didn’t say it to hurt them. I don’t have to apologize for stating a fact about the color of the sky. They just want me to acknowledge it hurt them and that I didn’t want to do that. That I think their feelings are valid and matter to me. Everyone wants that.

 

 

Don’t Call Me An Aspie Part II

Because he wasn’t even the first to figure it out.

Remember how I also said it was infantilizing? A couple weeks ago, I read a post title on Reddit from a mom whose son almost killed himself. It’s tragic and I feel for her. My problem comes with her headline. It was, “I almost lost my aspie today.” My immediate thought was, does she have a dog named aspie? Then, when I saw she was discussing her son’s suicide attempt, I was infuriated. Obviously, I’d never say anything to her when she’s already scared and vulnerable.

However, to talk about a person with autism like that. Like, he’s her pet or special toy. Like he’s an aspie before he’s her son. I also find it reads more possessive than saying her son.

I know, it’s a terrible thing to nitpick, but I also feel like it’s a terrible way to talk about someone.

Melt Downs.

I started yesterday feeling pretty good to be back on my routines. I was still a bit run down, but I was optimistic.

Then I went to hang out with my (adult) niece. She told me some extremely frustrating news, for me. I lost it. I raised my voice and started crying. I told my niece it wasn’t all because of what she said, that it was the long weekend and I hadn’t eaten much all day.

Not to mention getting over the cold and money is causing me some stress, but I didn’t lay that on her. Of course witnessing this Kavanaugh garbage. It’s been rough.

I felt like an ass, even while it was happening. I felt like a toddler. Who can’t control their emotions? When I was younger I never had meltdowns like this. I would get angry or irritable. Once I started crying because a pot pie didn’t cook through. I cry when I’m hungry, apparently.

The most that would happen is at the middle of the night I would go lie on the bathroom floor and cry to myself. At least if there wasn’t an angry fight.

We got back to her house. She went to make dinner and I went to, essentially color. It’s funny now, but it definitely didn’t help me not feel like a toddler lol. To be fair to me, if it had been at my house I would have made dinner. I was just trying to give her space and help myself calm down.

I apologized and we discussed it some more, but it breaks my heart that she feels the need to be careful of my feelings. I don’t want to put that on her or anyone else.

I don’t want to be excited to be with someone and then they see that. I don’t want to put anyone else through that.

I would rather be alone.

 

 

Routines: An Update

I was sick off and on all through October and November. Then I had a foot injury. I’m still not quite back into my routine and it’s made me rather anxious. The good news is, even with all the interruptions, I have added cleaning for 15 minutes to the routine and moved reading to the end for some much needed reward/rest. It’s an awesome routine.  My house has never been so consistently clean. I started with 5 minutes and worked my way up to 15.

The cleaning is part of my executive function improvement plan. I fumbled at doing the dishes every day because of the illnesses and I made a cleaning routine, but have had trouble focusing on it. It’s getting there, though and I know I’ve come a long way already.

I just wish I could get back into the full swing of it. Especially the walking the dogs. It helps all of us calm the eff down.

THE BAADER-MEINHOF PHENOMENON

You may know it as that thing that happens once you decide to buy a certain car and then you see it every where.

Now that I’ve been officially diagnosed, it’s like autism is everywhere. Seriously. I went to put an ad in the local paper and two women working there were discussing getting one’s daughter evaluated. The only other times I have frequently heard about Autism in the past were anti-vaxxers, Rain Man, and Atypical. I didn’t even know The Boy Who Could Fly was about an autistic kid. Being autistic and a child when I saw it, I thought it was about a boy. Who could fly. If they wanted people to know it was about an autistic kid they really should have named it The Boy Who Was Autistic and His Neighbor Who Was Definitely High On The Good Shit.

Anyway, this phenomenon is annoying AF, but it also scratches an itch like nothing else.

Except when it scratches so deeply it breaks skin.

My first experience. I was binge watching the hilarious Iliza whatever her name is. Wait, I think my first experience was finding out Hannah Gadsby has ASD after I watched her special, but that is a good scratch. Cuz she’s wonderful and you should stop reading this to go watch her Ted Talk of a comedy special right now.

Back to Iliza, whatever her name is. I was binging the fuck out of her specials. Then I got to what must be the first one she did. It pretty much starts off with an autistic animals joke. I didn’t really mind. It was kind of funny, but I turned it off. Mostly because the joke was also kind of lazy. I’m sure I’ll watch it at some point.

Then the last two days I’ve heard “autistic” thrown around like retarded or gay was back in the 90s.

I didn’t really mind. It was kind of funny.

Then I came across a few books on Amazon. Books are apparently my “collection” of choice so of course I look for books about autism and tonight, specifically, relationships and autism. Technically, I was looking for them and they didn’t just pop up, but

Now, before I go further, I’d like to preface this with I’ve been in abusive relationships in the past. I’ve had plenty of people blame me for everything wrong in the relationship and had they known I had ASD, that would have been the whipping boy for sure. You may think they would have been right, but it’s not ASD’s fault he’s yelling at me like I deleted his porn stash after he asked me what I wanted for dinner and I said McDonald’s, yet 3 days prior he wanted and had Taco Bell.

Anyway, all that to say, I’m exhausted when it comes to the idea of relationships. The same fights over and over. Carrying the emotional weight. The blame. No thanks.

However, I’m human. I want to have sex and kiss and maybe touch a penis if I like the guy attached to it enough. I also want to love someone and have that love returned. Gross. I may be a closet romantic, but I don’t have to like it.

My biggest fear is having my ASD blamed for all the problems in a relationship and the other person using it as an excuse to put all the emotional heavy lifting on to me. I work very hard at relationships and I have the therapy bills to prove it. I just didn’t know before now ASD and especially sensory dysfunction was a thing for me to deal with. I just don’t need that kind of pressure. I don’t have enough energy. I have important shit to do.

What does this have to do with the aforementioned phenomenon? Enter 3 books on Amazon about how awful it is to be with people who have ASD. The internet is great because people who otherwise wouldn’t find like people can now find them and not be alone. And the internet is awful because people who otherwise wouldn’t find like minded people can now find them and not be alone.

It’s great for people in minority groups who are otherwise cast into the shadows by the majority. It’s awful when the part of the majority who want to cast others into the shadows find each other.