Day: May 2, 2008

  • more stuff on 'aspie'


    Egads, how much of this stuff did I write?!?  I found another one from the old blog, roughly from 18 months ago.
    I'm getting a few google hits from people looking for more stuff on 'aspie'.  I know there are a few of us out there and we aren't terribly inclined to group up and get chatty --oh, I'm so funny.  Or when we do start talking we ~don't stop~.
    Right now there is all this big to-do about the standard making fun of aspie behavior in sitcoms and stuff, and I'm like, geez, everything else is taboo, what's left to define as politically incorrect, because just about everything else out there can fall into the autism category.  I really don't care, except to say that I hate 'normal' television, I'm drawn to the funny stuff myself, and I hope aspies don't start taking themselves so seriously that this becomes some big public outrage.  Given that most of us are in our own little worlds and only come out for lengthy arguments, there is no telling which way this ball will bounce.  We're a societal anomaly waiting to happen all over you NTs out there.  And when we do, we'll have no clue because the majority of us will be avoiding interaction like the plague.  Ok, I'm generalizing, that's really tongue in cheek, mocking those of you who generalize about Asperger's.
    I actually really don't care about activism.  If you are or suspect you are an aspie and do care and would like much more info, start with I'm An , Autistic Advocacy , and for kicks Top Ten Things About Being Autistic .  I don't hold truck with sites that aspire to be network supports for families of aspies because I get ticked that they consider people like me disabled.  In my experience, any group looking to lock the term "disability" to a condition is looking for government money.
    Since a couple of friends are interested in my world view, and since a few more are looking for an aspie blog writing about more than depression for a few months and disappearing, I'm here to say hello, I'm fine with myself, and yes it is possible to be an aspie and be as successful and upbeat as anyone, although some of you 'normals' probably immediately generalized that to me being a smiley chatty Barbie doll, and I'm definitely not that.  I think the trendy fad right now is to focus on the depression of being different and how difficult that makes everything, but don't read that crap!!!  That only feeds into the conclusion that this is a disability!!!  Yeah, of course it's hard to hold a good job or relationship sometimes when you don't socialize easily, or obsess about details, or get nasty headaches from those cheap fluorescent lights till you have lockjaw and want to bang your head on the nearest handy electronic equipment made by some numbskull who never had to use it, but so what?
    Somehow there is this implication that 'normals' are better at this whole work force and relationship thing than aspies are, and I have never found that one to be true.  I have covered for so many other people not showing up for work over the years that I'm convinced 'normals' are the ones who have the problem.  I have handled more stress and challenges and crap at work than a lot of people simply because I am an aspie-- I am easily taken advantage of.  And I've been married for 13 years to a 'normal' guy I've known for 16 years, and he actually seems to like my quirks and feels very protective of me.  One of the hallmark arguments for Asperger's being a disability is the whole work and relationship angle, and every time that argument successfully channels an aspie into self pity and over focus onto one's depression, they chalk another mark up for the families and friends who are trying to 'fix' us by first telling us we're broken.  Most of us had no clue we were 'broken' to begin with until other less tolerant people pointed it out.  Growing up with even the kindest of verbal abuses is a real challenge for anyone, and I'm surprised more 'normals' don't seem to appreciate that concept.  My own mother was pretty adamant about fixing my weirdness, to the point of literally poisoning me with special orders from a health food store through a chiropractor.  Aspies aren't generally prone to exaggeration, so yes, I meant that.  But you know what?  I'm ok!  Imagine that.
    Here's the dealio.  I've got 197 college hours, I raised two kids that never drank, smoked, got pregnant, or wrecked a car the entire time they were in public school, one of those kids grew up with severe ADHD and graduated at the top of her class with tons of honors and a scholarship award and is in college now, and the other is working up into management in a national retail chain, AND I have had several jobs I've really liked and was good at.  I quit either because I was getting a better job or because my standards happen to be higher than those of some of my bosses.  For instance, I've never come to work drunk, used my status to rip off merchandise, treated people like third worlders, told racist jokes, and man does this list go on.
    We laugh a lot in my family.  It's amazing how much being able to laugh at ourselves helps us deal with the world.  We like people who are weird and different.  We think it's a cool challenge to figure out how to adapt to situations.  We don't blame each other when we're unhappy, and we are there for each other even when we're cranky and stupid.  That's the secret, people.  The person in front of you is more important than any idea about how life works that you have.  If an aspie you know has depression, I understand that one, probably more than you think, and there are many ways to get help for that, but by no means is that a marker for determining that a person is disabled across the board.  Depression can be disabling, yes.  Autism does NOT cause depression.  Depression happens with every conceivable situation and context.  People with lupus get depression, too.  I'm an aspie with lupus.  I'm not disabled.  I've had really bad years where it seemed I should be, but the best thing a doctor ever did for me was not give me a handicapped sticker for my car.  And the best thing that ever happened to me as an aspie was not believing what other people decide about me, no matter how down I felt.  And the best thing that ever happened to me for depression was a good B complex vitamin and magnesium taken regularly, bar none.
    I think my biggest challenge behavior-wise has more to do with sensory overload than anything.  I was not aware for years that is what I go through, but I have the typical shut down reactions, including getting cranky.  It's funny, though, I've noticed 'normals' tend to get cranky when they overload, too.  hmmm....   Aspies get a bad rap for crankiness-- gee, I've met so many people who have out-crankied me.  But still, I learned years ago that I don't like myself when I'm cranky, and I remove myself from the room if I can't control it.  Having more mental access to a wider verbal acuity than most people any time the adrenaline flies means that I have the capability to cut people in half in a most elegantly blunt way, and I used to not stop to check sensor readings on other people's faces.  My kids swear I've scarred them for life, and I believe this is mostly because I simply couldn't just shut up once I said something.  I wanted confirmation that they heard me, and boy if that isn't a vicious circle, aspie looking for clues and not recognizing them.  There comes a time when  a person either realizes that what they are doing isn't working and they take some time to figure that out, or they simply ignore the red flags and stay stupid.  If someone else wants to be stupid and keep going on like an idiot, fine.  Not me.  We each have our own paths to take, and this is my stuff.  Anyone else's stuff is none of my business.
    The coolest thing about being aspie is that I can go into my head and see awesomely cool things that I used to think everyone could see.  I discovered a long time ago that I can 'see' multidimensionally in my head, and I am easily frustrated with 2D graphics in books depicting 3D concepts in the most absurd ways.  A black hole is NOT a long stretched out basketball net, gimme a break.  It's a heavy point in space that puckers up everything around it.  It pulls and distorts into a tight bunch, it doesn't sink down far away somewhere unreal.  If there is such a thing as wormholes, they aren't long tubes so much as instantaneous jump points that are connected like a snap.  I can also think in four dimensions, and I know I've dreamed in five.  I also notice patterns where other people don't see any.  I've watched water and wind and weather for years.  I wish I could watch erosion and continental drift like that.  I was thrilled when chaos became a science.  And I've made several predictions about the speed of light that have come true, the most recent being a joke that phone calls going through fiber optic cables would one day ring the phone on the other end before the first phone was even dialed.  Lo and behold, an article came out about a year ago where it seems that information packets traveling through fiber optic cables are indeed arriving before they are technically sent, although this is an illusion.  The energy bursts are kind of like a mirage in the desert, but even that lends to presupposition about time travel.  --All this without formal science training.  I do this on my own time.  My degree is in the soft sciences.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished I had gone into physics instead.
    My most noticeable personal trait is that I space out a lot and stare off unless someone is keeping me actively engaged in a conversation.  Well, to some people my most noticeable trait could be what looks like hyperactivity, since I am also almost constantly stimming in public.  I never even realized that was what I was doing for years.  People tend to lump me into the weird and different category fairly quickly, so I've learned over time to control my nerves around people and not say much, but that's like asking a diabetic to mentally control their blood sugar, or asking a dog not to wag its tail the whole time it's happy.  To become aware of oneself to the point of gaining that much control over neurologically based quirks is a monumental task, and forcing someone to change their quirks through shame or physical abuse just so they'll pass for more 'normal' only shows me how shallow people are.  Especially when so many 'normals' out there can't control their own silly stuff that to me looks like their own style of stimming to assuage their own style of quirky nerves.  See, I could never in my life gab endlessly on a phone about nothing...  I've also met obsessive shoppers, gamers, car enthusiasts, gym members, pet owners-- what's the difference?  We all have our own way of relaxing.  In the end, I earned a degree in human behavior because I wanted so badly to figure it all out.  What it seems to boil down to is an intolerance level that most people don't realize they have.  I don't see this as an individual problem on the part of the aspie, but more of a social problem with a particular group, such as family or school, defining a problem because they aren't creative enough to adapt to someone different from themselves.
    The biggest drawback I experience as an aspie is hypersensitivity.  My nerves are always 'on', and since my brain is one big nerve center, you can imagine the raw data input coming in.  I may seem to not be on top of things in any environment because I shut down and block so much out, but what 'normals' don't see is that I'm getting 100% of everything-- light, sounds, smells, movement, colors, patterns, touch-- sometimes just walking through a mall is like being on a ride in a theme park because of all the sensations coming in at once-- and I necessarily have to start shutting part of it down and blocking it out to be able to focus on what I am doing.  Another drawback is people assuming I don't 'get' body language and facial and social cues.  Well, 'normals' don't get mine, either.  I'm not lacking any of that, I'm just on a different dialect.  I recognize other aspies immediately by their body language whereas most 'normals' can't distinguish the difference until it's time to communicate and I'm being weird and difficult.  I also am able to recognize from a distance if anyone has pain anywhere and what type and how bad it is, because I've had lupus most of my life and understand the body language for pain.
    Funny thing, aspies actually seem to be so good at body language that many of them are able to handle animals quite well.  Perhaps we are on the same dialect or something.  Perhaps the aspie body language dialect is less species oriented and more universal to all species.  I could go on with my list of drawbacks, like feeling like I have to dumb down around other people just to have a conversation, but somehow that doesn't apply at all to kids of any age.  I am able to talk to kids just fine, and I've been told a number of times I'd be good working with kids as a certified counselor, but for some reason I find other adults tedious.  Maybe their brains congeal or something.  I love finding adults who can still enjoy a good conversation outside of the ruts they live in and the worries they obsess over.  They seem to lose a certain innate joy and wonder at the world around them.
    The real drawbacks are migraines.  I don't think I need to explain that one.  But imagine going through Bell's Palsy on sensory overload with a lupus background.  I spent two years in migraine hell, even going to work and stuff, and you talk about shutting down for sensory overload.  I had no friends and I did not care.  I felt like walking death, and I still had to work with the public.  I have grown such an appreciation for anyone who services the public in any way, shape, or form.  I don't care who you are or what your problem is, if you throw a personal rage problem at anyone about customer service and ruin their day not even knowing or caring what they might be suffering just to be there, I will imagine you walking barefoot on tacks, hot coals, and broken glass the rest of your life and never feel sorry for you.  I've seen people lose spouses and babies and have to go on to work, I've seen terminally ill people continue to work, there is just no excuse for the bad behavior that customers think they have the right to express in this day and time.
    Yes, this is me being an aspie.  I'm not a broken disabled person, I can actually smile when I remember to, and I'm able to live in two worlds at once, mine and yours.  I may not be empathetic, but I'm the first one to drop everything and be there through it, losing sleep and rustling up food and doing the cleaning up.  Maybe I like the word 'pink' a little too much while I reject the color as monstrosity of taste, and maybe I won't eat the brownies you made because I'm a freak about nuts in my food and you touching everything with your hands without washing them, and maybe I like sitting by myself and running my fingertips over textured fabrics and hems and buttons, and maybe I even forget what day it is and completely mess up the rest of the week because of it, but I can honestly say I feel good about myself being like this.  It is wonderful being able to float through without even being on drugs, and it's awesomely cool to be able to enjoy moonlight on snow and feel thankful that I was lucky enough to see it.  I see autism as a gift that other people might envy if they only realized how much of the world they are really missing.  And I don't mean the world of activity that people create, I mean the world that has been here for 4 billion years with all of its ancient secrets and cosmic knowledge.
    When you wear a diamond, think about the darkness it came from, never shining for so long, never special in any way, just another rock without meaning or purpose.  When you walk into a bank and notice a beautiful pink stone wall, think about the word feldspar and appreciate how rare it is and how lucky you are to have seen it.  When you see trees, think about how trees have been around longer than any animals, and even longer than most vegetables and grains.  Smell a tree and feel its smell in your soul.  When you touch a dog, think about being a dog, in the moment, forgiving and hoping and trusting because that is all a dog really knows around people unless they are mean to it.  When you touch a child, think about being a child, in the moment, forgiving and hoping and trusting because that is all a child really knows around people unless they are mean to it.
    Never assume an autistic person doesn't care, even when if they are curled up in a ball shutting the world out.  If you oscillated between overload and joyous wonder, you might find that still beats talking on the phone for hours about the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over.....

  • stimming at work

    Wow, I can't believe I still have this...  I originally posted this on another blog that is gone now, probably nearly 18 months ago.  I was googling for more aspie info and kept running into aspies complaining about being picked on at work because they needed to stim.  This is what popped out of me at the time. 
    I guess it's all the rage now to talk about stims.  I just wanted a little comparative info, see where I stand in a roomful of aspies, and I run into some pretty wild stuff from frustration with bosses over stimming in the work place to sharing stim sex, and I'm wondering if we could use a middle road here.
    Stimming, for the unenlightened, is repetitive neurological stimulation.  Basically, it's a repetitive sensory data input that distracts the brain from overload and helps a person relax.  It can be motion related, like rocking or pen clicking, or tactile related, like running fingertips back and forth on an object or one's self, or other sensory input related like staring at a candle flame or moving water or listening to a piece of music over and over.  I think the key to defining the stimming here is that it calms the mind.  It has been compared to zen and meditation, and the joke is that aspies reach nirvana all the time.
    I wasn't aware for a long time that I stim.  I knew what it was because I babysat a low functioning autisitc girl for a couple of years some time back, but I didn't realize I was stimming, too.  It's funny that over the years my blouses all lose their buttons in exactly the same place, because I unconsciously play with the button that is closest to one or two inches above my belly button.  That's a funny pattern not to notice.  Or the hems slowly unraveling out of my blouses because I hook my fingernails on the hems of my blouses and pick.  Those are little stims.  I don't really space out that much while I do them, they are mostly just to help me focus while I'm in high energy mode dealing with customers or being in public.  I have no idea if other people notice.  No one has ever said anything.
    I love my cell phone.  I love to hold it.  I love to feel the bumps and curves and buttons.  I unconsciously pull on the antenna and sometimes unscrew it out completely.  My phone is super to have in my hands when I'm nervous.  Mine is a flip phone, too, so I can play with feeling the pressure in the hinge that keeps it closed.
    I bet I have a million different ways to stim.  The worst one is scratching.  Sometimes I have to scratch, and my poor face suffered in a couple of spots over the years.  I've had to very consciously stop scratching my face.  A doctor told me I was breaking down my skin and would soon have cellulitis, a local infection that can eventually turn into staph from the constant picking and scratching because it can never heal like that, and the integrity of the skin is compromised, and bacteria can get in.  I'm doing pretty good with it, you can't tell anymore, but every day I have to consciously stop myself.
    Sometimes I move parts of my face till they are exhausted.  I didn't realize for years that I'm a blinker when I drive.  I blink in a variety of rhythms until I almost can't blink at all anymore.  I think it has a lot to do with sunlight and headlights.  Sunglasses help a bit, I don't do it so much with them on.  I've also nearly destroyed my lips chewing on them.  If my hands are busy, like when I drive, other parts of me go into action.  If I have to sit still at a desk and talk to someone, my feet start exploring.  I love running my feet up and down cords under a desk.  One time during a really trying customer complaint I realized my feet were actually climbing the wall underneath the desk, both of them flat to the wall surface and my legs at straight 90 angles to the rest of my body.  I have no idea if the customer noticed my body was so active in my chair.
    Can you imagine me in school as a child?  Or sitting in church next to a mom who was embarrassed over everything I did?  I learned how to be really still in public as I grew up, but I also became that much more antisocial.  I think there is a direct connection between my inability to freely stim and getting along with people.  Stimming keeps my nerves 'down', and I'm very good at interaction when I can fidget or wiggle or whatnot.  Not stimming turns into tension and a bad attitude that I have a hard time controlling, and worst case scenario, throbbing migraines.
    I think this is why there is contention out there over stimming at work and bosses being intolerant.  Aspies can seem pretty weird, being hooked on needing to do particular movements that don't seem terribly professional and possibly make them seem a little hyper.  Most people think of being relaxed as being still.  I'm my most relaxed when I am completely unconscious of my hand continually moving in a stim.  I have annoyed the crap out of people with the way I play with pens and office equipment or tap my feet, so I've had to really watch that.  And I've caught myself doing some pretty weird things, like lightly kicking drawer handles over and over while I do scheduling over the phone, or pulling on my nose a lot during a cold.
    I especially stim when I get really absorbed, like when I read.  Sometimes my stimming gets so disruptive I have to stop reading.  I still haven't figured that one out, because I really like reading.  I think my brain just has to spread out the stimulation it's getting from my eyes and thoughts.  The more intense the material, the weirder my stims get.  I've even caught myself running my feet up the walls to play with the light switch while I lay on the couch and read.  I won't have a clue I'm doing it until I accidentally flip a switch or nearly roll off the couch.  The worst thing I can do is have a glass of water or tea anywhere around me while I read.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to jump up and save everything.
    My fave kind of stimming is youtube.  That is the coolest thing.  I can spaz out on a good youtube vid over and over and a solid hour goes by without me even noticing.  It's like a drug or something.  I eventually reach a point where I'm almost having an out of body experience because I'm so disconnected, and slowly 'come back' realizing I'm not even seeing the vid anymore and the music has become ethereal.  Doesn't take a whole lot to do that, really.  Youtube certainly makes it easier.
    I mean it about the drug thing.  My brain literally pumps out endorphins when I stim.  I could space out within seconds on sunlight hitting ocean water and be so utterly content that I would never want food or friendship again.  Nirvana!  I've discovered I can stim in my head like that, visualize light on water and calm my nerves a bit.  I've done a number of thought experiments like that, and I've been told by medical staff I have marvelous control with the relaxation techniques I use.  I might still feel like a nervous wreck about to explode somewhere in my head, but it doesn't show up on instruments anywhere when I focus.  I can't be anywhere around caffeine for that to work.  I'm hypersensitive to chemically induced change in my body, so it's just best not to be friends with anything stimulating.
    Woops, not writing a book on stimming here.  Just thought it would be nice to put out something searchable from a less frustrating or experimental point of view.  If you are aspie looking for 'normal' aspie behaviors to compare yourself to, hello.  If you aren't aspie and think this is weird, get in line.
    On a Mr. Spock aspie scale of one to ten, rate your nirvana level, one being the calmest and ten being sheer overload.  (I made this, you are seeing it here first.)
    1.  I can stand still and contemplate the universe for hours, as long as I can twiddle my fingers.
    2.  I can hear you talking and I don't care, I'm still going to stare off and let you do all the worrying.
    3.  Your talking is starting to get a little annoying because I was right in the middle of discovering the secret link between the stark, harsh reality of the universe and the human soul.
    4.  So what if I didn't take out the trash or get the mail and another day slipped by, what is that compared to the sweet union of universe and soul?  Rich people pay big bucks in fancy spas for experiences like mine.  Get a grip.
    5.  Ok, I'm getting the stupid trash out, hope you're happy, because this freaking out over something so mundane seriously screwed a beautiful experience I was having.
    6.  I'll stop flapping my hands when you realize you are minimizing my existence on this planet to a generalized term of unendearment, and I never would have talked to you that way over something as trivial as taking the trash out.
    7.  Yes, I understand that my existence is defined by my actions and that doing something constructive is healthy, but you're just going to sit there and watch tv anyway, so excuse me while I go stim somewhere else.
    8.  No, I won't cuddle now.  Don't touch me.  You think the trash is more important than I am.
    9.  Ah, food...  I like food.  Anyone who brings me food is my friend.  I will sit by you for food.
    10.  Don't talk to me about the tv show, I'm contemplating the stark, harsh reality of the universe of hot nachos and how my soul intertwines therewith through a rush of sweet joy and sensation.
    Ok, you can see my scale doesn't hold to the linear model we are more familiar with.  I see experience more as a circle.  Or a sine wave.  Overload can come at any time, in any place on that scale, and just as quickly dissipate for me.  I'm sure others have bigger overloads, or maybe they last longer.  I find it easier to deal with overload by letting people know I can be 'bought'.  I'll accept small gifts and favors (usually food) as tokens of forgiveness.  After all, it runs both ways.  We're all stupid to each other.
    The biggest challenge is learning to let it go.  So someone doesn't like my stims, I make a joke out of it.  I'm weird, I know that.  Who cares?  Bosses become idiots under a lot of pressure, just be who you are anyway.  I think the goal is, if you are working with the public, is not to scare the straights, to make them more comfortable in the business atmosphere.  If you have to sacrifice part of your aspie soul doing that and you don't feel comfortable about it, by all means look for another job.  I've had a lot of jobs.  I've never been fired.  I've always been told I'm the best, no matter what I do, and eventually I usually become the most annoying, too.  They are glad to see me go, even if replacing me is a real drag because there will never be another who worked as hard as I did and got all the paperwork right and cared about the merchandise.  So what?  Life is short, go have new experiences, learn new things.  It's nerve racking to work under a boss who picks on you, I agree.  It's a drag to have to go through the job hunt all over again, I agree.  It doesn't look great on an application to see such a long list of former jobs, I agree.  But you know what?  I have had so many experiences, met so many people, and have been told so many times I'm really good-- how can I even think that 15 years in one place would be better?  It has to be about more than the money.  I know we all need money, but you don't get more by sitting there frustrated at your boss because you need to stim and it's annoying people.
    Aspies are known for being wonderfully inventive and intuitive.  While you sit there frustrated, use some quality time in your head to problem solve.  Investigate your soul, what you really want, how do you get it.  Formulate a plan, think about how much you will enjoy secretly taking new steps while your current job keeps feeding you.  After all, it's just a job.  If it truly is hell, plan your escape in such a way that you glow with radiance and leave gracefully and on good terms to the best of your ability.  Shed crocodile tears if you have to.  Play the crowd.  Use your skills and wit to your advantage.  Just don't keep blaming other people around you for making you miserable because you can't stim when you need to.  They can feel the hostility coming off that one, and it's always destructive.
    I just say, "Sorry, I fidget, let me know if it bothers you and I'll stop."  Or, "I guess my nerves are up, I can't quit moving."  I have a whole bunch of things I say.  I know I annoy people, may as well face it head on.  I might have an edge here, though.  I was unaware of being aspie for many years and had to learn to survive being weird, so I'm not coming fresh out of a diagnosis at a younger age thinking the world needs to move over for me.  The world out there doesn't care if you are aspie.  They care if you are worth your dime and their time, and they care how you represent them to the public or to their own bosses higher up.  You are selling yourself, trading your time for food and shelter.  Stay focused on that.  Is it worth the paycheck to learn to adapt?  You can adapt far more easily than you think you can.  Being aspie isn't a sentence over your head.  It's just a descriptive term for the way your mind works, mostly.  So you are aware of it and that you are different, so what?  Everyone is hiding something.  It's a big game, figure it out and play it.
    And if you aren't validated as a human being on the job, that doesn't mean you can't validate other people.  You may not feel social, but you can say things that make people feel like you noticed or care, even if you don't.  They are more likely to forgive your weird stims and stuff if you are more forgiving of them to begin with.  You have the power to step out of the vicious circle of human behavior and change the outcome, even if you are having the worst possible day and don't feel powerful at all.  It's ok, to have bad days, just don't get carried away with them to where people cringe to see you walk through the door.
    Sorry so long.  It's dangerous for me to hit the computer before breakfast.  Good thing I'm not some kind of cult leader or BOSS. hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Apologies for the missing vids, another upgrade during the server migration swept through like a scan sweeping through the Enterprise. I'll fix those later, kinda busy...

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