Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Empathy, Aspergers & Furniture Safety...

So. Wow.

And people wonder why I get all "nazi" about safety. Mostly car seat safety, but for once I'm glad I don't have a dresser, and I think I'm about to get nazi about furniture safety. 
I don't EVER want ANY parent to feel the pain and guilt that this mama does. Could you imagine this happening to your child? Could you imagine having a car accident and your child blowing out of there because you didn't put the chest buckle in the right spot (the most common error I see)? Could you imagine? I know I would feel sick to my stomach and many of these same things if I knew I didn't say anything about your improperly buckled car seat, or, in this case, the fact you havent considered securing your furniture. wow.

I'm just... so devastated for her. My heart hurts. Who says Aspies dont have empathy!!?? I sit here holding my baby girl and imagining if anything like this ever happened to her... I would be beside myself. This mom's description of her physical feelings are about spot on for what I would expect to feel. I can almost feel my cement-heavy legs, the crippling pain. Empathy for me is feeling something so much I have no skills to deal with how I feel about what happened to this family.

Probably why I can't watch Dumbo or Bambi....


Monday, July 29, 2013

There Is Only One Right Way

This isn't because I'm mean, or because I want to win/be right.. But there is really only one right way. Even if its socially unacceptable to say so.

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Is A Routine A Routine?

When I was a kid, I am pretty sure that I lived by a set routine. I got up at 6:30 (even though the bus didn't get there until 8 AM), and I showered. I ate breakfast, and then I would curl my hair. I would usually have plenty of time to wait for the bus. I'd go to school, and come home and hang out in my room. (This was when I was older, I don't remember before this one what I would do). I would do homework, listen to the radio, read books, whatever. When I started being involved in band activities/plays/sports and whatnot, this varied a little with practice/rehearsals or whatever. These things fit nicely into my routine, until it was simply routine to stay after school, even if I didn't have something going on. Ooops, I missed the bus. Oh well, my sister has ______. The last few years of school, between volleyball, cheerleading and my sister's basketball, and track, I was involved in something every day after school anyway. 

This was the routine I remember having for years.

I am still pretty stuck in my morning routine. If I vary from it too much, I end up forgetting to do something, like put on deodorant. I can tell you that as of lasts summer, if I varied in my morning routine in any way, deodorant was forgotten. Yes. That's embarrassing.

However, for the rest of my day these days doesn't really have a solid, written in stone rountine. There are things however that I plan to do, or think of doing the morning or even the night before. These things feel like "routine" to me, but I don't know if they are a scheduled routine, know what I mean? I was once told in therapy that it would help me and my son if I had almost a written schedule for when we would do certain things. Then he would know that we had a set time of doing something together or whatever. I have thought about that almost every day since, but I have yet to actually make or follow any sort of schedule. Now, with the new baby and technically less time for focused time with my son, I am thinking that it would be a really good idea to actually implement this.

But when is a routine a routine? What makes a schedule a schedule? Is it because we write it down and follow it to the letter? For some reason, to me, that seems very rigid. What if things change? Sometimes I do make choices to do things at the "last moment" - which seems strange for someone with Aspergers who doesn't like change. But sometimes I do decide we are going to the store or something at the last minute. I know it seems like the last minute to my son, but most of the time I consider doing it for at least an hour beforehand... so maybe that isn't so much last minute? 

I wonder if I would feel better with a written schedule. Now, where to write it. I had "borrowed" a whiteboard from my parents house (hey, they've been gone 4 years and it hasn't been missed) but my son LOVES drawing on it, so I don't have the heart to take it away from him just to use for a schedule. LOL. I could print something out and hang it I suppose. But would it make me feel any better? Would it be too rigid for me? Would it make my son feel better and more in control? Since I think he is a lot like me, and possibly could have the same "little professor" reorder that I have, maybe it would help him feel more content and less frustrated if he knew what was going to happen and when? I could set days for doing things, like check and groceries on Fridays, that kind of thing? I mean, in a way, we already have certain things we do routinely. Would writing it down make it more valid? I don't know. 

When is a schedule a schedule and a routine a routine?

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Twirling Naked.." Review

Yesterday I did something that I haven't done in years. I sat and read an entire book in less than a day. I used to do this all the time. I would brush through a Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High book in no time at all. I had gotten a copy of "Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed" a long time ago (or so it seems), and I hadn't had a chance to read it yet. I'm glad that I devoured it, so now that's off my list of things I have to read. :P

Anyway, I found the book to be very relatable! The author, Jeannie Davide-Rivera, grew up with undiagnosed Aspergers, same as me. She is a few years older than me, but that makes little difference, because a lot of our experiences were the same. Each person is different, each location in the country and the world is different, and each experience is different, but I've found with Aspergers, so many of our experiences are exactly the same. We feel the same, we have the same comments made to us, the same treatment of us from other people.... I am constantly amazed about it. I am going to quote direct lines from the book that were relatable to me. Though I do have quite a few sections, I know there are more than I will mention. Sometimes I just got wrapped up in the story and didn't have the ability to stop myself and mark out one part that stood out to me. So here goes.

"I consumed books. I memorized them, and don't you dare read the storybook to me and think you will skip over anything. If I had already heard the book, you were in trouble. 

My father used to read to me, but many times tried to skip over things thinking I wouldn't know any better. After all, I couldn't read - or, could I?

I would promptly point out what he missed along with the page the text appeared on. Long before I entered kindergarten I didn't need him to read to me any longer. I taught myself to read. 

I honestly could not figure out why we were "learning" to read in school. I already knew how to read; therefore, all the kids around me knew also. We were just wasting time.
Hyperlexia is an ability to read way above what is expected for the child's age, and is accompanied by a below average ability to comprehend spoken language."

Exactly. EXACTLY. My mom and dad said I did this as well, and I think it was when I was around 3 years old. They would try to read my bedtime stories and make them go quicker by skipping words, and unfortunately it would make it take longer because I would be well aware of what was going on. Suspiciously enough, my son has done this as well.
In addition, school was a waste of time. Although I was aware that other kids in my class didn't know how to read, and that they did need to learn it, I felt like it was a waste of MY time because I already knew. My kindergarten teacher claims she had me read books to the class and/or correct papers for her, two things which I probably LOVED to do. I have vague memory of it, and I loved the heck out of doing those things.

 "I remember trying to make skyscrapers like the ones I watched whiz by from the backseat of my father's 1979 baby blue Cadillac. As soon as Dad got on the up-ramp to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway I watched for them, then I hopped to my knees and watched out the rear window until they were completely out of sight."

YES. I may not have lived in New York, and seen the skyscrapers that New York has to offer, but we did have family in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St Paul). Every time we went to the Twin Cities area, I waited and waited for the downtown areas to appear, and I would watch them obsessively until they were out of sight. We never went into downtown Minneapolis (that I can remember) until we went to a Timberwolves game in high school (we sang the National Anthem), but I was fascinated by the skyscrapers. I still do not know why, but I find it very interesting that Jeannie had almost the exact experience years and miles away from me.

"When I am writing, as I am today, and the phone rings, or the kids interrupt, it takes a few minutes to even process what they are asking me. Most of the time I am angered by the interruption, and I am an adult."

Sigh. Guilty! I often get mad when interrupted. I can multitask pretty well, however if I am doing something that requires a lot of concentration (like balancing the checkbook), and I am interrupted, I do get angry or annoyed. It is, as the author says, an "unexpected intrusion". I don't think it takes me hours to get back to what I am doing, but it does take me off track enough to make it take me longer to finish what I am doing.

"I've always only had one friend at a time; one person to confide in, and share my life with. This is as true today as it was when I was four years old. One friend was all I ever needed, and I discarded the rest.

Friends are time-consuming, dramatic, and exhausting. They take energy, and work. I have never been able to maintain casual relationships, acquaintances, or contacts. They fade quickly into the background like insignificant chit-chat.

My choice of friend is total; all or nothing. I am an all-the-way, all-the-time friend, or nothing at all. My friend will be totally immersed in my life, or completely cut-off."

Friendships for me are a nightmare for me most of the time. I am the kind of person who gives and gives and gives, but I get extremely hurt when the giving doesn't come back my way. If I go out of my way for you, then you should go out of my way for me. I feel like friendships should be fairly equal. One shouldn't have to be giving more than the other. I tend to not take seriously friends who don't put in their fair share of effort to see me, especially if I have put in a lot of effort to see them. Especially because I live quite a distance from almost all my friends, if I put effort into them, they'd better at least try to put that effort back in my direction in some way or other. 

I am all or nothing in friendships. If I choose to put effort into someone (and, like the author, its usually only ONE person at a time), then I am ALL IN. If I don't get the ALL IN from that person in return, then typically I "give up", and move on. I am always confused why they didn't care about me in the intensity that I cared about them.

"I loved my books; all my friends lived in there!"

Agreed. Definitely. They didn't ignore me and reject me.

"Every interaction was re-played out in my head before it happened - if I could foresee an event. 

For instance if I were to contemplate asking a friend to come over to our house to play, I would have the conversation over and over again in my head before approaching the girl."

I STILL replay conversations, or have conversations with people in my head, in the shower, out loud like I'm talking to them, but I'm talking to myself. I think this helps me get frustrations over certain things off my chest.

"Anything I want to do, I want to do perfectly. People often tell me that practice makes perfect, but that is not true. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you routinely practice something the wrong way, you will always do it that way. The only way to achieve perfection is to practice perfectly. I afforded myself no room for error - ever."

I am still this way too. I was this way about a lot of things. Just do it right the first time, and you won't have to worry about trying not to do it wrong. There is a right and wrong way to do EVERYTHING, and everyone MUST do it the right way. Doesn't everyone WANT to do it the right way? Why do people specifically and directly choose to do things the wrong way? Don't "practice" something in error, just do it right all along.

I don't really remember making a lot of mistakes when I was in band and choir. I am very musically inclined, so I tend to hear exactly what I need to sing, and I tend to know what I need to play to do it perfectly. I struggled if I had to practice something. I remember if i were to play a solo, I had to know what it sounded like before I could play it. I then could play it very well because I knew what it was supposed to sound like. I am probably not the kind of person who could easily improvise. When I was in college the ability of other students to improvise, especially in jazz band, fascinated me to an extent that I still cannot describe. Perhaps if I had learned scales and keys when I was younger and first learning music I may have been able to picture the right notes in my mind and play improvisation. But starting in college was not a good time to try to learn that kind of thing! 

"In the seventh grade I wound up in the Principal's office often. This time it was because I was being accused of cheating on my math tests. I didn't like being accused of cheating, or lying - ever. Giving me "F's" on tests I had done well on was an injustice I was unable to bear.
My mother often had to come up to school because of my "cheating" and the yelling, screaming, and crying that followed. My behavior was "uncalled for an inappropriate" is what they said. 

"Do you want her to take the test again?" my mother asked. That made me even angrier, why should I have to do the work twice just because they refused to believe that I knew how to do the work. 

"Yes, but she must show all her work."

I never understood why the math teacher did problems the way he did. Why did he have to go through all those meaningless complicated steps just to get the answer, when he could have just asked me? I knew the answer, but I never knew how I'd come up with it. In fact, if I was made to "show my work", or forced to do the math problem in the way they taught it, I could not do it. I arrived at the incorrect answer every time. 

Apparently being smarter than the teacher and getting the answers my own way was unacceptable. I failed math class for the first time in my life. This taught me two things: being smart didn't matter, and grades mattered even less because they did not reflect what you knew or what you did not. They only reflected your ability to follow other people's ways of doing things, even if those ways make no sense. THAT was something I have never been able to do."

This reminds me more of my brother than myself. He never showed his work, and hated that he had to. I was very "obedient", and would show my work simply because I had the time and I liked the process. I liked seeing the numbers working in front of me. Sometimes I arrived at the answer a completely different way, but I would write it out because I was bored, or just liked the writing. I would sometimes even rewrite it so it was neater. My handwriting was never good, but I could sometimes rewrite it to make it look more clear.

"Something as seemingly simple as social niceties to me was unacceptable behavior. Lying just to make someone feel good was not acceptable to me; in fact, I didn't even understand the concept. Why would someone do that? If I ask you a question, it is because I am truly expecting you to answer me - honestly. 

It didn't take very long for my friends to figure out that if they really wanted to know how they looked in a certain pair of paints to ask me. But if they wanted to feel good about themselves, or to hear that their hair looked fine when it was really sticking up in the air and looked like a little surfer man should have been riding the waves, then, I was not the one to ask.

I didn't receive the manual. You know, the manual where these social rules were written - but it appeared that everyone else around me had. I often argued the reasoning for such stupidity. Why are you asking me a question that you don't really want the answer to? If you don't want an honest answer, then don't ask!"

I am still this way to a point. I would rather be honest than protect someones feelings. Truth and right have NOTHING to do with feelings. If you want to know something about something, I am going to tell you the truth or the right thing, even if it might hurt your feelings. Sometimes I'll tell you even when you don't ask. The right thing and the truth are much more important than how you feel about it. For example: I don't care how you FEEL about car seat safety, there is a right and a wrong way to deal with car seats and buckle up children, and I don't give a hoot how you feel about me correcting your technique. 

"My friends could not change my mind once it was made up, but what made up my mind? I was impressed upon by books, television shows, family, and friends much like everyone else with one important difference - I never felt any pressure to fit in. The things that I decided to do needed to be my decision, and mine alone. I was never going to do something simply because you wanted me to.
In order to stand behind a decision I make, I must make it myself and have the confidence in that decision to act. This confidence is what defined my adolescence - my need for no one, my ability to think for myself."

Yup. Absolutely.

I have no problem doing certain things the way someone else wants me to do it, IF and ONLY AFTER I have been given time and ability to look it up on my own. I google a lot of information on a lot of things, and I know to pick reliable websites, and accurate information as much as possible. One of my obsessions is pregnancy, labor/delivery, and parenting. I have a set way of thinking how things should be done, how things are safest and in the best interests of parents and baby. I tend to distrust anyone else's actions, thoughts, opinions or "facts" on the topics involved unless I have done the research myself and gathered information on it myself. I love my doctor, but I feel more reassured if I make the choices, and she can give me direction on where to find the information, or what the information is. As long as she leaves the final decision up to me, I am usually able to trust her. When it comes to certain topics, please just inform me, don't just do what you think is right. If there is a procedure that I am not understanding, just explain it to me better, and I will gather the information I feel I need, and typically I'll come around. Unfortunately doctors often don't have the time to spend to explain everything. But just give me some direction and I'll find out on my own too!

"Even when it came to my closest friends, I had trouble incorporating both of them. My two friends drew closer to each other, and I drifted further away. It was not intentional, they didn't exclude me - to an extent I excluded myself. When I didn't understand the dynamics, couldn't relate to the situation, or flat-out disagreed with their actions I withdrew, removed myself, and disappeared."

It took me years and decades to understand this one. I often felt as if I were "pushed out" of friendships. I often felt like I was purposely being targeted to be excluded. I often felt like friends purposely excluded me from conversations, secrets, and doing things. I had a friend in college tell me that I purposely excluded myself, but I didn't feel that way at all. I felt as if they were purposely excluding me. Everything was about what they wanted to do, what they wanted to watch, what they wanted to talk about. Nothing ever came from me, I liked them a lot, but it was always about what they were doing to the exclusion of any of my activities. Never once did they come to any of my band functions, but I always went to their plays. (Again with being all or nothing and not getting anything in return!)

I had even had a visit from my sister who told me they excluded me, and it appeared even to her that it was on purpose. I just kinda didn't relate to whatever conversation or TV show they were into... so I had no choice I suppose than to back off. I had nothing to contribute, so I was unnecessary.

"I've had many special interests, preoccupations, passions, obsessions through the years beginning as young as three years old. My three year old self was completely preoccupied with baseball; my fifteen year old self - boys, or more precisely a boy.

That is not an unusual preoccupation for a fifteen year old girl, but what we need to look at is the intensity and focus. When focused on an interest to the exclusion of everything else, and everyone else in your life, is this not considered obsession? For the autistic person our obsessions and passions are soothing, calming, a place to hide, decompress, regenerate - a place of quiet peace. But what happens when your special interest, your obsession, is a person?

Love can be joyous and healthy but obsession can be seen as unwanted attention, smothering affection, and in the extreme... stalking. To make matters worse, the mind-blind teenager will usually never know if she steps over this line. How much is too much exactly?"

I thing I have written on this precise area before from her blog post. I had a long running obsession with a certain teacher of mine. It was soothing, calming, a place to hide, decompress, regenerate and a place of quiet peace. Being with him, around him, talking about him, thinking about him, thinking about conversations I had with him or might have, it was all consuming and obsessive. Since it went on for the entire length of what is high school around here (7-12th grade), it took me almost as many years to "get over" being obsessed with him. It took me that many years for my heart not to race when I saw him or for me not to obsess about seeing him. That seems extreme, especially since I was long since married by then. Luckily I have a very loving and understanding husband who was not affected at all by this craziness, and never once made me feel crazy or stupid about it. This probably helped me to get over it, instead of feeling shamed or embarrassed about it.

I once had a faculty member (counselor) tell me that he wanted it to just go away, that my falling grades were a result of the obsession, and that I had to see some lady because I was too obsessed. I always thought that I was being forced to see some "crazy lady" who was having me do some color chart thing which seemed like some kind of crazy witchcraft or something so I stopped going and ignored it. I wonder today if I wouldn't have gotten diagnosed from meeting with that lady? I guess I will never know. Either way, being told these things when I felt the behavior was not only encouraged, but returned, only made me hold tighter. My "recovery" was likely due to my husband, and his never treating me like an insane person.

"The first time I took Zoloft I saw little blue monkeys."

I didn't take Zoloft, and I didn't see little blue monkeys. But when I did take some antidepressant, I kinda wigged out in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep for 2 hours. No more meds for me unless its extreme.

"What is proprioception? 

Proprioception refers to one's own perceptions. It an unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation controlled by nerves within the body.

Our proprioceptive system allows us to locate our bodies in space, to be aware of where our arms and legs are in relation to one another, as well as where they begin and where they end. Proprioception helps us perceive the outside world, telling us whether our bodies are moving or sitting still."

Though I don't consider myself especially clumsy or anything, I do know i have really bad spatial orientation when I am driving. This seems to be what I connected to this proprioception topic. When I am driving in a vehicle, I am fully aware that my car is not as wide as yellow line to white line. I logically and intellectually know that. However, I do not perceive that. My eyes and my head look out the windshield and it appears to me that I am as wide as the lane. This can make driving sometimes rather tricky, especially if passing large vehicles, or in the winter (between the snowbanks) or on narrowed roads.

"I found no purpose in looking around at things we may someday want to buy, when I had no money to buy it now."

My husband likes to window shop. He likes to window shop manufactured homes. He likes to window shop cars. He likes to window shop cars A LOT. To the point where I know he is going to turn into the Chrysler dealership when we are in town.
I hate it. I really don't like it. Unless I am actually going to buy something, it's no use to go looking for it. It just makes me depressed. Huh!

"I fear depression - intensely. It is by far the most painful ailment I have ever faced. It is the thing that slammed into me, ran me over repeatedly, and then kicked me in the head when I was down. I struggled for change, for understanding, to figure out what was "wrong" with me - no one knew. Or at least, they didnt' guess correctly."

I have had depression on and off too. I cannot stand the condition. I feel weird. I feel unable to see past it. After I had my daughter literally 3 weeks ago, I was so afraid of having postpartum depression that I could have almost given myself PPD. I had to talk it over with several people, I had to know I had a bunch of people looking out for me, and I had to know that when I start feeling weird I MUST get some rest, and I MUST ask for help with my older child so that I can get that rest. Depression is something I also fear, and I fear the drugs that "help" so many people, and I can't afford to drive to the counseling that could help me. I prefer and can handle counseling, but the drive isn't practical for us right now.

"I've been told that I have an obsession with knowledge, that when I want to learn something I need to know everything about it. This is true, but I could not comprehend why or how this could be considered abnormal. If something was worth doing then I had to do it all the way, or not at all."

Yeah. I don't have much to add to that one, but I have to know as much as possible about something, obsessed with learning it. That's not strange is it? Doesn't everybody want to know everything about things? I mean, how can you let someone do something to you (like medically or something) when you haven't researched it? How can you choose a car unless you have researched the car? On and on.....

"I love my computer - all my friends live in there, the people who I can talk to, the ones like me, the ones who understand me."

I feel sometimes I am addicted to the computer. I am, really. I love being on it, I love doing things, reading things, researching things. And, like the author says, all my friends live in there. Without the Internet, I would not know anyone like me, and I wouldn't have anyone to say "hey, is this the same for you?".

"My co-workers often wore uniforms, and were stationed at the same posts day after day. On a daily basis, I recognized them, said hello, knew their names - but if I saw them outside work, I did not recognize them. If their uniform was off, or they were not where they should be (at their post), then I did not recognize them."

I am like this too. I often do not recognize or see people that I know when I am out, say, in the grocery store. Often too I will see people that I recognize, but I cannot figure out who they are because they are not expected or they are not where they "should" be. People have even talked to me and I have gone entire conversations without knowing who they were, all the while I'm trying to knock my brain into some kind of ability to remember who they are. It is confusing, and I would rather not make eye contact with anyone when I am in the store than to have them start talking to me and have no idea who they are.

"The beauty of finally receiving a proper diagnosis is that I have been able to connect to the world, to people like me, to other "Aspies". I have been able to share my experiences without eyebrows raised and people looking at me like I am from Mars. I now treasure these people who not only listen to my rambling, but help me to understand more about myself and to know for the first time in my life that I truly am not alone."

Thank goodness I have people like Aspie Writer, the writer of this book, so that I can just shoot her a note and say "Hey, in this circumstance, what happened to you? How did you deal with it? Have you experienced it?" That has been awesome.

All in all, I enjoyed the book a lot, mostly because I saw myself in it. I don't get the opportunity to read a lot of material that I can see myself in. I don't often get the opportunity to read much really, but to read something that could nearly be my life story is comforting. I am not the only one who went through this kind of stuff! I am not the only one who had X experience and Y experience! It is comforting. I wish that the book had more details, was more chronological, and went more into her current life as mom and wife. But, there's always a second book! I recommend this book for anyone who has or knows someone who has Aspergers, or even someone who thinks they might have Aspergers. It really is great! I love writing that is "to me". 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Referred: aspiewriter

I've been busy with our new little baby, and son, and just recovering and getting back in the swing of things lately. Sorry for not posting!

Today I'm referring to another post again. Just a write up on differences I and other aspies like me experience.