Just Because?

Because I’m smart, I’m supposed to do something great?

I didn’t stop to ask.

I was told that because I am smart, I am going to do something great.

But what is great? To my mom, it was becoming a scientist (or along those lines) and discovering new and great things that would change the world. It was also growing up and marrying a man and having children.

Me: I like science, I’m good at it, but I don’t want to do it for life. I don’t want to be well-known and scrutinized by the world at large…. what the fuck…. I DON’T WANT THAT AT ALL.

Also Me: NEVER WANTED CHILDREN. Not even on my radar growing up and when I hit my teen years, my mom turned into Maria Theresa of Austria, obsessed with me starting my period… Which didn’t happen because I have dysfunctional ovaries. Literally. I tried to force myself to get pregnant with medical help and the end result was me cutting up myself in super destruction meltdown, post miscarriage.

ALSO, also Me: While I’m bisexual and have been, knowingly, from a young age, I never really wanted to marry anyone. I am 98% more attracted to women than I am men. I have a preference. Get over it.

I’m only 37 and I am just done. I spent my entire life trying to be what others wanted me to be, plus just trying to do what I wanted. I never got what I wanted… and I hate myself for it.

What it Looks Like: Anxiety

LOL… Trying to start this post is giving me anxiety.

OH WHERE TO START???

If there are people, there is anxiety. I was just a bridesmaid for my brother’s wedding this past weekend. I caught myself bouncing/rocking while standing during the ceremony… I really hope it wasn’t on video.

I had so much fun though! The reception was LOUD, as they are, and looking back, I realized that I hung out near the photo booth outside with about 1/3 of the wedding guests. My spouse loves to dance and he was cutting rugs with some of my more extroverted family members… All fine by me. I am far more comfortable not being on the dance floor. My husband requested our song, so I was caught unawares and you can imagine my awkwardness when I was pulled to the floor while trying to sneak back outside after using the restroom! Not many people were on the floor and I kept my eyes closed most of the dance with my head on his shoulder. It got weird when he tried to smooch me…. in front of people… and I get that.

HOWEVER….

The next morning, I found out my behavior was picked apart. And it is shit like this that makes me so anxious.

I laid in bed, in the dark, all day yesterday. I have to be on at all times, no rest, ever vigilant to protect myself. With my autism and his bipolar II, it gets really hard sometimes and this year has been ridiculous because we have been stuck in a tiny house; lives upside-down thanks to COVID.

Usually, my spouse (Luke, we’ll call him ‘babe’ from now on) is the one who is off on his own during gatherings. He brings his notebook and will often wander away to a quiet place and sort of disappear for a little bit at a time. I get that…. I GET IT. I’ve been so used to masking that I have to remind myself that I can walk away for a bit if I need to. I need to start doing this instead of masking, and that will take time to get used to.

What It Looks Like: Social Difficulties

We turn our attention to the purple segment.

I talked a little about social naivety in an earlier post. I hate being redundant, so I won’t talk about the same case here.

What I can say for certain, is that my discomfort around other people goes beyond the quirky and funny memes most “introverts” can relate to these days. Communicating by texts can still be just as disruptive and jarring as a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. I’ve done a fine job of classically conditioning myself to dread a text based on who sent it, due to the fact that certain people have certain alert tones. I resisted using FB messenger for years because I feel like that was just one of too many ways that someone could get ahold of me. I feel that same levels of social discomfort when playing World of Warcraft (WoW) and there are too many players in the same zone, just trying to play and quest like me. I inevitably get frustrated and turn off the game. My guild has become very active with new members; I don’t know any of them and they are super active in guild chat. It’s distracting and annoying. Every achievement you make, someone has a congratulatory add-on that automatically sends a message out on the guild chat… to which you are supposed to reply like a normal person with a “ty”. I hate those add-ons. They feel so invasive and insincere. I have a fragile social bubble and I need to start working with that fact.

I think that is one of the many reasons I have always loved the Sims gaming franchise; no live players. Plus, it is literally my own little world, down to every detail. As an Aspie woman, who is openly queer, the real world was definitely not made for me. Oddly, my computer system is forcing me to come face to face with loss only a gamer can understand… the loss of saved games. It is the absolute worst. After Apple released the new Catalina system software, it caused a lot of problems with running the Sims 4. Something happens to a specific file within the game files on the hard drive. It is a glitch that really has no solution, other than to delete the corrupted file; loosing all saved game information. Every house, every family…. I spend days and months creating these worlds. All populated by families I design. I’ve had to cut down on that due to the fact all work will inevitably be lost at random. I love to make several large families and have them populate the different neighborhoods; then they move into the other “worlds” within the game and so on.

Obviously, this is a huge part of my extreme self-care as an Aspie even before I knew what that meant for me.

Translated into my real life, I curate my friends and social activities whenever possible. For me, this is largely avoiding certain activities and learning how to initiate gathering that I would enjoy. Herein lies a huge problem… I hate hosting anything more than two guests. I hate planning events. HATE IT. Too many expectations. My family is big on tradition and getting together for whatever reason we can. This pandemic has largely been a relief for me and my social issues.

Looking back on past social situations, I realize that I have never approached anyone I don’t know. That classic, walk up to someone and say “hey”… That has never and will never happen. I find such an absurd idea. But how do I meet people? Of course I’ve introduced myself to people before, but it has been because the social interaction was absolutely unavoidable, like the first day of school when you meet the new students in your class. As stressful as those days and situations are; I have perfected the masking that is necessary for those times. Being at a bar (clichΓ©, I know) and just walking up to someone is just the most absurd idea to me. These are the times you’ll see my poor eye contact come into play, and I usually end up looking at a person’s mouth or nose when they are talking to me. And I register nothing, immediately forgetting their name…. That they literally just told me.

The Results Are In

I’m the Aspie that I knew I was. Although it is not referred to as Asperger’s syndrome anymore, I’ll be sticking with the Aspie label. I’m torn on using the term “high-functioning” but for lack of a better term, that is the best way that I can describe Autism I, which is my diagnosis.

Honestly my first thoughts on it were, who can I help? Not gonna lie, Greta Thunberg is my personal Aspie inspiration.

What it Looks Like: Noise Sensitivity, etc.

While I am waiting to see a specialist, I have been putting together a personal ASD profile of sorts.

I feel like I have to prepare before seeing any medical professional for whatever reason. I’m consistently asked by doctors if I am or ever was in med school…. Nope. I enjoy reading the DSM as well as having a regular subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine. I don’t try and use doctor speak because that is just silly. I prefer to be well read and I find that it helps me ask the right questions. I’ll talk about that some more in a future post in this new series, What it Looks Like, where I have used a common visual chart to get a basic understanding of my spot on the Spectrum. I love using visuals to communicate… big shock there. So let us get to it!

Although I can handle loud noises as long as I am able to prepare for them, I rated my sensitivity to noise as severe. As a child, I put my fingers in my ears A LOT. I would do it at birthday parties, restaurants and so on. As an adult, I’ve had to do it at work and it is what it is. Going deeper though, I have with misophonia. So it’s not just about loud noises. Although on their own, loud noises account for three segments out of five in the pie chart above in the pink, sensitivities category.

The misophonia is where this really gets out of control for me. Mouth noises… They make me unreasonably angry. With or without food involved, I can’t stress this trigger enough. Loud popping of joints is equally as infuriating. It is a snap reaction and it causes a lot of stress at home. I love my partner, but he is a joint cracker and a water gulper. I even hate the word gulp. *GAG*. I’m usually torn between the reflexive reactions of wanting to throat punch or verbally snap at the offenders. As a true Briton by blood, I tut audibly enough to get the point across, topped with some dark side-eye. Strangers in restaurants do not get a pass. It takes a lot of restraint for me not to scold them. Hello, social boundaries!

Oddly, there are noises that are comforting. Airplane cabin noise is my number one choice and I sleep to it every night on a sleep noise app. I listened to it once while on a plane and it was on perfect pitch with the actual noise in the cabin, minus the people. It’s how I slept on the plane, what little I am able. I have a collection of ASMR videos on YouTube that I absolutely adore. My favorites are soap cutting videos, including kinetic sand. I enjoy both the sound and the visual stimulation, finding it very relaxing. I find Max Richter’s work to be extremely emotionally triggering rather than relaxing, and have ended up in a mess of sobs before.

Probably the oddest, but really the coolest thing I am affected by is the change in barometric pressure and the weather. The changes wake me up from deep sleep, and also tend to trigger a full-body autonomous sensory meridian response. The Ohio valley feels very little tectonic plate activity, but there are several times that I have awaken 10-20 seconds before those strong enough to feel here. It is a very intense calm, no natural noises, then the rumble. As a child, I would wake up before tornado sirens, in that same moment of calm before the literal storm. If I am awake, I feel it the same, just less off-guard. My mom calls me a walking barometer.

The “etc” in the post title refers to physical sensitivities that I experience. I ruined many articles of clothing as a child, after viciously attacking the tags. Texture is a big deal. Wide collars are a must (I hate T-shirts). Fabric has to be light weight and breathable, as I tend to layer. I can laugh about it now, but there was a long time during my grade school years that I violently tucked my shirts into my bottoms. I had to wear shorts under my catholic uniform skirt because I was constantly reaching under it to pull my shirt down as firmly as possible. I did this with shirts and shorts. I was very petite as a child and teenager and much to the chagrin of my mom and especially my grandmother, I dove head-first into the baggy clothes of the grungy 90’s. But back to the severity of the shirt tucking, it oddly made me feel grounded. So no surprise that I LOVE my very modern, weighted blanket! At 37, I still dress for comfort and to stay as cool as possible. When I was 6, I wore nothing but cotton sundresses, same style, one in every color. However, had it been my choice, I would have just run around in my underwear. Which I did at home and still do at home today.

I am very sensitive to things happening internally, I know that sounds nuts. From ovulation to gas, I feel it all on another level. That’s not to say that it is all experienced in the form of pain, however, it is the acuteness in general to which I feel physically that is a different experience than most people have. My gynecologist, a fellow women, was surprised that I could feel ovulation, although I have several female friends that feel it as well. Hunger pains will quickly turn in vomit-inducing nausea. Heat and exposure to the sun gives me hives, blotchy red skin and extreme nausea. I giggle at myself as I write these things, but it is all so real for me. Aside from social difficulties, I simply am not able to enjoy many things during the warm months. Sadly, this includes all of my favorite public events, even though they also draw very large crowds. Dressing up for the Renaissance Festival in September and October is a dangerous game for me. I usually miss out on Pride and protests, unless the protests are during the cooler months.

I think that sums up the majority of my sensitivities, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.

It’s Time

This post is the post that has been waiting in the wings since I started this blog. It was a masking that almost killed me. Societal pressure is hard on the strongest people; now imagine being lost in a social fog as an Aspie. Unless you are and Aspie or love one, this just won’t be possible, so just listen.

It sucks to feel like you aren’t normal. It really sucks when your body and mind have other plans. And what is worse, is a relentless social bubble that just won’t shut the fuck up about what they think you should be doing with your life. Long story short, I grew up knowing that my ovaries were shit. This bothered my mom the most, because grandkids, right? *eye roll* So as a teen, I was pulled back and forth to doctors, to try an ensure grandkids in the future. Yeah, sit with that…. That is how it made me feel. At one of these appointments, I was sexually assaulted by the doctor; the nurse was complicit.

HAVING CHILDREN WAS NEVER ON MY RADAR. EVER. I grew up with family insisting, of course, that I was just destined to get married and have kids. You know what? Fuck all of that. I SAID WHAT I SAID.

When I married my second partner, I was in my late 20s. I was deep in the social politics of the military spouse’s world. If you know anything about that, it is hell. I have a handful of friends from that time, even though I met so many people. They were all about popping out those babies between deployments… literally, that is all they did and talked about. I was the most outside of anything I had ever been a part of in life.

I put on the worst and most deadly mask I’d ever pick up. I had no one. I was thousands of miles from home and on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I had military insurance and found out that I could go through hell for free; fertility treatments. Absolute fucking nightmare. Just horrid. We did EVERYTHING up to IVF. It worked but my body was like…. “yeah, nope”. Going through the miscarriage was hard for me, but not in the way any normal person would expect.

I was mad and upset about one thing only… I was not in control of my own body; yet again. Being told over and over that reproduction is what we do naturally is part of the problem. We don’t have to reproduce. I am not responsible for what others think I should be or might be. I am not an extension of my parents and neither is anyone else. I am my own person. I am not sad that I lost a potential child (son). But it still burns me to this day that no matter what I did, I had zero control.

For once, I just didn’t want to feel like an alien.

I misplaced a lot of frustration and I was really bad at verbally communicating (No way, right?!) anything about the entire situation. I was not open about the context of my frustration and I was just another “kid hater”. However, in learning about ASD and after a lifetime of misdiagnosis, there is much that can be explained, now that I know what it all was to begin with; a mask. It is a weapon that a few people in my life still use against me. I had a lot of growing to do and I did it. Was my anger and frustration misplaced, absolutely.

Was I a coward that hid behind a mask and tried to force something on myself that I didn’t ever want, only to feel like I was normal and like I fit into society? Absolutely.

Am I ashamed for wanting to be childfree? Absolutely NOT.

Do I have kids in my life that I adore and love beyond measure? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.

Boundaries, Social Naivety and Masking

Outside of sensory issues, setting and observing social boundaries, social naivety and masking are the most predominant Aspie traits in my life. They connect and support each other; much to my chagrin.

The only part of my private school education that I can be grateful for, are the friends I made. Some were sheltered by parents and religious convictions; but only very slightly. In this situation, I was able to get by with my social naivety while having a more secular-centric life. When I would be around other kids my age, outside of the private school bubble, I felt targeted; like they knew I was from another world and they would constantly test my social knowledge. I remember the worst time; it was an entire week long. I went to stay with a friend that had moved five hours north and her parents were hosting myself and 4 other girls. My friend had been my neighbor since the age of 6; the other girls were friends from her school. They didn’t know me and we traveled north together. We were in middle school, so this was just bound to be a social disaster. And it was. The girls that came up with me soon melded with the new friends and they took little time figuring out I was different. The boys would constantly quiz me on (dirty) slang that I didn’t know and the girls played along. My friend was silent in all of this. Talk about feeling like an alien that didn’t belong on earth….

So I did what many Aspie people do, especially women, I dove into masking; completely subconsciously. Even as I am 37 now, I still catch myself connecting to fictional characters that comfort me; those that I feel akin to, and those that have the support and surroundings that I crave and completely find lacking in my real life.

This Aspie journey of discovery and answers is being done completely on my own. I can’t afford to see a specialist, even if I could get a referral. I can figure this out on my own, I just wish I didn’t have to do it this way. I need behavioral therapy, I have no problem admitting this.

I have lived inside this head for 37 years. I’m just really exhausted. I’m tired of trying to help people understand what I need and why I need it.

I’m Out.

I am very much invested in what is happening, AGAIN, here in the US.

I have so much to say. My mind is twice as overloaded and overwhelmed as usual. My brain is full of so many things I want to say to so many people and I am exhausted.

My heart breaks. BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Rules are rules.

(Unless they are arbitrary and have no good reason to exist, of course!)

But on the other hand, if I see you park in the wrong spot or not have the common courtesy to pick up your dog’s shit, I will say something to you. I will call the cops on cars that are parked in handicapped spots without proper markings. When I lived in an apartment, I made sure people respected the property and understood the fact that OTHER PEOPLE LIVED THERE TOO. My neighbor below was disgusting. She let her giant dog shit and piss all over her patio, which was directly below mine. PILES OF SHIT that she never bothered to pick up. I called the department of health and safety because management refused to do anything about it. Any pet owners that didn’t follow the rules were brought to the office’s attention and I’m not sorry at all. I picked up after my dogs. I kept them on a leash at all times. Everyone else should have to do the same.

This is a huge theme in my life. I have an unbearable and urgent need to let people know when they are doing something wrong. Because let’s be honest, most people do everything wrong. From playing video games to cleaning the bathroom, things are done a certain way and if they aren’t you lose the game and your bathroom is perpetually dirty. I have an extremely short and thin threshold for inefficiency. Outwardly, I mask all of this, of course. At least to the best of my abilities.

It is really hard though with family. The adults in my family were always open about how they didn’t want me to make the same mistakes they did. I never did. I never even came close. I’m the only person in my family with not just one, but two college degrees. No unwed, teenage pregnancies. Or, too many babies for that matter….

So when those kinds of family members take constant advantage of my grandparents and my mother who will give endlessly to help anyone; I get real pissed and it is not pretty. I have a hard time not driving over to their houses and letting them hear it. Most of my family are also right-wing conservatives, so there’s that too. Most of the time, I do honestly feel like people should know when they are being a bag of dicks and it always feels like an overwhelming responsibility of mine to put them in their place.

I have so much that I NEED to say to so many people and most of it is not nice. Equally, I feel the need to constantly make sure that everyone knows that I am my own person. I’m not an extension of anyone else, even my parents. My decisions are my own and I don’t have to share what my plans are for any given part of my life; just because I don’t talk about something, doesn’t mean I haven’t thought it through. Don’t tell me what is and isn’t me. I know who I am and I don’t owe anyone and explanations.

SURPRISE…. I’m and INTJ that also scored evenly for types 1 and 4 on the enneagram test.

My ASD superpower is being an individualist reformer who’s always right; intuitively or otherwise. I get myself into some hot water, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever drown in it.

I joke that my urn with have “You should have listened to me” inscribed on it…. But I’m not really joking and everyone will rue the day.

That did not go well…

Going back to work in the chaos that is the world right now was NOT a good idea. Turns out, the company is allowing partners to take extended leave during the pandemic, though after 3 May, it is without pay.

I have been staying home and hadn’t had to wear a mask yet. Didn’t even think much about it, but I knew it would be annoying and they are required at work now, even though the store is DT only. It was my first day back to work, not only since the pandemic really got going, but since really and truly beginning to watch myself through an ASD lens. I noticed more about myself than I was prepared for. I had forgotten what little re-training that I had gained back at work…. and the masks. I cannot do it. Among heights and spiders, I have a fear of suffocating/drowning. I’ve had many full-blown panic attacks from a stuffy nose.

I wish that I could fully explain sensory issues. It’s not just discomfort and a simple dislike of something.

Ignoring and masking the way everything makes me feel for 37 years has been exhausting.