Why I Believe That I’m an Aspergirl Part 3

Welcome back to my series!  Here I am analyzing the different sections in the Females with Asperger’s Syndrome Non-Official Symptom Checklist and using the list to help explain why I believe that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Today I’m writing about Comorbid Attributes which basically means, “other crap that tends to go along with having Asperger’s” and I begin the section about Social Interaction.  I’ve been enjoying the comments and feedback I’ve received about this series so far.  Thanks for reading.

Section D: Comorbid Attributes

The good news is that not everything on this list applies to me.  At least not anymore.  I believe that diet and exercise and lifestyle changes have contributed so much to healing me of many issues I’ve had in my lifetime.  I don’t think that these things are related to autism, necessarily, but instead co-exist with autism because really any DISorder in the body and mind can be connected to toxicity (not that I necessarily think that Asperger’s is a disorder).  Also, let’s face it, the majority of the people in our population probably have at least one of the issues on this list, at least to some degree.  However, I believe that having autism can make dealing with these issues much harder.

I genuinely don’t see myself as suffering from OCD much anymore.  I have already described in this series my need, in the past, to complete cd collections, etc.  These days, I’m just simply not battling it.

However, I’m definitely dealing with some sensory issues.  I have a major phobia… of cloth being in my moth.  The thought of cloth being in my mouth is terribly upsetting to me.  All cloths are horrifying but there are some cloths that are worse than others.  For instance, terry cloth and flannel would be the worst kind of cloth to have in my mouth.  At times, if I am having to fold clothing, I will need to wait until it dries because even the feel of towels or wash cloths or flannel pjs on my finger tips makes my mouth hurt.  I am also sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, lights, etc.  But the texture/feeling thing is by far my biggest challenge.

Generalized anxiety is definitely something that plagues me.  I am especially sensitive to caffeine and lack of sleep.  If I’ve not slept well and then I’ve also had some coffee, my anxiety will be terrible.  In fact, I can close my eyes and start seeing the falling.  That’s right, the falling.  I struggle with fear that my children or myself will plummet to death.  I cannot deal with seeing my children standing near a ledge, even a perfectly reasonable ledge, such as a secure fence.  I hold my breath as I drive or ride over a bridge or an overpass because I start to see the sides crumble and my car losing control at the exact same time.  Bleachers freak. me. out and make me dizzy.

I have a bit of hypochondria going on.  But much of that is rooted in justifiable cause… such as having my mom diagnosed with terminal illness after a trip to the ER and then having the same thing happen to my son a few years later.  I was very ill after my youngest child was born.  No one believed me.  Especially my husband.  “You can fall asleep if you just will yourself to”.  I overheard him talking to his mother on the phone about how pathetic I was and how I wasn’t doing anything and how I was going crazy.  I just knew he was going to leave me.  And then, of course, he tried to a few years later… you know, once the “baby” was three, our kid no longer had cancer, and he’d not have been deemed to be quite as evil for doing so.  So I suppose the sense of “what awful thing is going to happen next?” that I walk around with isn’t so crazy when you really think about it.  I have chosen to own my joy despite the fact that I’m pretty sure something terrible will still be waiting right around the corner no matter what.  So, I guess I’ve learned to deal in a healthy manner with this particular fear.

I don’t look at my back.  I just don’t.  Don’t ask.

In my 20’s, after I was dumped the day before my wedding, I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  I no longer agree with that diagnosis.  I think that I’m living in an unstable environment which promotes mood swings .  I think that I experience my emotions more strongly than a lot of people.  And I also believe that I am an empath and I soak up the energy of the people around me which makes me grumpy or sad or freaked out or anxious at times when I cannot quite explain why or how I arrived at those emotions.

Definitely lacking in coordination.  Definitely used to have an eating disorder.  Definitely still worry about what all of us are eating. Definitely used to have severe bowel issues but now, at least, I know how to fix the issues when they start to rear their ugly head again.

As a mom, I’m not sure I question my place in the world as much as I used to.  I mean, because clearly my place is where ever the kids are.  But I still am uncertain about what is expected of me.  As a woman.  As a volunteer.  As a parent.  As a wife especially.  I mean, I feel it’s very unclear about what it is that I need to do and/or not do in order to prevent my husband from trying to divorce me again.  Will I have made him enough sandwiches?  If I forget the sandwiches, will he divorce me after once?  Or do I have a grace period of forgetting them three times?  If he catches me using the computer, will he write it down on a list of the things that I’ve been doing wrong for the past 11 years?  I can’t figure it out.

I am on a constant search for right and wrong.  I find what a lot of Christians consider to be wrong to be confusing.  I find what a lot of Christians consider to be right to be confusing.  I am almost always confused about something though.

I do not flap (unless I’m very stressed and upset and then I flap and rock) but I do scratch my head a lot. I have recently taken up the annoying habit of cutting my split ends with a pair of professional hair cutting scissors.  I also hold my hands in fists though I didn’t realize it until I read this list.  And I totally do weird things with my throat.  To the point where I think I’ve permanently damaged my voice.

Section E: Social Interaction

Ah geesh, right off the bat this section of the Checklist brings up a super hard topic for me… “friendships” that have abruptly ended without my knowing why.  Now I’m not talking about acquaintances unfriending me on FB. I’m talking about people who I thought to be my very best friends in the world refusing to talk to me and see me anymore.  I won’t go into details but let’s just say that it’s happened more than twice.  There was one “friend” who dumped me but she was “kind” enough to let me know why.  She unloaded a long list of reasons why I had offended her in the past and when I’ve looked back on those interactions, I’ve been very lost.  Confused.  I was accused of flat out telling her that her photography was too expensive (I told her that I was cheap and I had not been willing to pay so much for my own wedding photos).  I had insulted her by calling her vain for wearing makeup for people, in her opinion, were the opposite of vain if they wore makeup (I had said that the need to wear makeup is a manifestation of vanity for one of the definitions of vanity is taking excessive pride in physical appearance… I stand by this argument.  I also said that just because I don’t wear makeup doesn’t  mean that I don’t have issues with vanity as I struggle with it in different ways).  This particular “friend” didn’t cut me out of her life entirely but after all of those accusations and the way she kept attacking me publicly on FB for expressing my opinions, I started to consider the source and I no longer cared if she spoke to me or not.  Now, if we see each other, I am civil but I’m not opening my heart to her again.  And that is healthy.  I’ve come a long way.  It’s her loss really.  I’m a great friend.

My tendency to over-share is embarrassing.  We’ll leave it at that.

There were certain classes, especially in college when my Asperger’s issues seemed to flair up the most (probably due to insane amounts of stress), where I’d literally be taken in the hall by my professors and asked why I was behaving so… inappropriately.  I would end up crying hysterically and apologizing.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I was just a mess.

I feel like, in more recent years, I’ve learned to not monopolize conversations the way that I most likely once did.  I find myself very nervous when I’m talking to most people and I tend to try and remind myself periodically to interject with an appropriately placed remark or question in order to bring the conversation back around to the other person.  It’s not that I’m not interested in other people and what they have to say.  It’s that I honestly can become carried away and when you get me started on a topic I really like or need to talk about, I’ll just keep doing it.  I’ll keep going and going.  So I’ve learned to deal with that better, I think.  My friends may read this and say, “Nope, she’s still bad about monopolizing conversation.”  Hope not.

Many times I’ve shared in order to reach out.  I find this to be one of the “gifts” that comes along with having Asperger’s.  Most times people appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable and reach out to them, to say, “Hey, I’ve been there and I’m willing to talk about it with you if you are interested”.  I know that I’ve appreciated it when my friends have privately sent me notes like that, especially when my husband asked me for a divorce.

Stay tuned for Part 4 in this series where I’ll finish talking about the exhausting topic of Social Interaction and Aloneness.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

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I May Have Finally Found a System that Works

I have been in desperate need of a system for productivity for quite some time now.  There are a million things that I need to do, want to do, have to do and the more I tried to focus on those things, the more stressed I’ve become.  I’ve tried checklists, planning what all I needed to get done along with our school plans every Sunday, maps of goals, prayer, ignoring the things.  They never went away.  They were always there.  Not getting done.  The trouble with being creative, an artist, is that the need to create, make, do, invent is always there.  As soon as you finish one project, you have to start another.  But if you are like me, it’s hard to focus on all of your goals, especially when 80% of your time, energy, and mind power are already committed to homeschooling, running a house, feeding your family whole foods, and dealing with parenting a child with “special” needs (i.e. driving him around all week to his bajillion appointments).

So, finally, after YEARS of trying to function like this, I believe I have finally found a solution.

What I have created is a rotating weekly schedule.

The things that I have been wanting to work on are as follows:

Exercise:  I love to play Just Dance, hula hoop, run, toning and to do yoga.

My blog

Contributing to an outside fun writing project (right now that project is all things “The Office-isms

Rosetta Stone Spanish

And extra creative:  Recently it was working on my play.  Now it’s outlining my memoir, practicing some stand up, and sewing.

The way this works is that each week I will assign myself something to focus on.  Each week I will have an exercise to focus on.

Last week it was “The Office-isms” and toning.

This week it was my own blog with yoga and running.

Next week, it’s Spanish.  I will keep doing yoga as I’m working on a 21 day yoga challenge (which, at this rate, will take me about 40 days and that is okay).

Thanks to this new system, I have worked out three days this week.   I have completed two articles for “The Office-isms” blog.  And right now I’m working on my third article for my own blog this week… plus I updated the layout and some pages.

I have no idea how long this system will work but for now, I’m pleased as can be with the relaxed feeling it’s allowing me.  I’m productive AND I’m not stressed about being productive.  Awesomesauce.

Why I Believe That I’m an Aspergirl Part 2

First of all, I just want to say thank you for the amazing support I received about my first post in this series, Why I Believe That I’m an Aspergirl Part 1.  I gained a few new followers and people were sharing my writing, which is the ultimate compliment for a blogger.  I am always so humbled when people feel the need to share what I’ve said.  It’s humbling.  So thank you.

In this series, I’m dissecting the bullet points comprising a  checklist of characteristics attributed to a female with asperger’s syndrome as written by a female with asperger’s.  I’m writing about how these particular characteristics help me to better understand myself and have allowed me to conclude that I am likely autistic.

Now, on to the next section in the Females with Aspergers Non-Official Checklist.

Section C: Escape and Friendship

Oh boy.  I cannot think of the last time that I wasn’t involved with something that would be considered by many (if not most) to be a form of escaping.  I’ll just write about the most recent times that I’ve escaped into something.  When my mom died, I escaped into watching “Roseanne”, “The Office”, and creating a non-profit organization.  That is also when I started escaping more online (something I had started doing when I was 14 and felt extremely alone in my obsessions and interests, especially at school).  I started escaping into blogging and running a myspace page and online forums and well… it was just not healthy.  I believe my use of those types of things are at a much healthier level now (for a while there, my husband claimed that whenever I was on the computer I’d not hear a word he was saying to me and I wouldn’t even know he was trying to talk).  But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer escaping.  I still escape stress in my life by watching television.  I find myself feeling an overwhelming need to watch an episode of one of my favorite comedies whenever I feel stressed out.  Television is like a medication for me.   And I’m not saying that is a bad thing.  Medication is not good for me (I’ve tried it all) and so if I can manage my anxiety fairly well without using it, all the better.

I will also escape through other methods, including ones mentioned in the checklist.  Often I will become very lost in my thoughts, especially if I’m working on mundane tasks.  I’ll find myself, while watching an unfamiliar movie, suddenly half way through it with no idea what’s going on.  Same goes for books.  I read books aloud to my kids on an almost daily basis and yet I have NO idea what I was reading to them because I was usually focused on something else while my mouth did the reading.  This is why I prefer to just watch the same television shows over and over again… my brain doesn’t have to do as much work.  Even if I’m watching a new episode of one of my favorite shows, at least I already know all of the characters and the basic story line so my brain doesn’t have to work too hard to keep up.  It’s comforting, like putting on an old pair of shoes that you’ve already broken in.

Escaping through the rhythm of words is something to which I can also relate.  I have often found myself, when unable to sleep at night, thinking about words.  How they sound.  How they look.  What they feel like.  I have a vivid memory of laying in bed one night and thinking about the name Matthew.  Not because I was in love with a Matthew or knew a Matthew so much… I just was really fascinated by the way that name sounded.  I bet I spent a full hour thinking about the name Matthew.  There have been other times like that.

As a child, I don’t recall having many imaginary friends.  At least not ones that I made up.  I was, however, known to behave as if Laverne and Shirley were real-live people who would one day be a part of my life.  I recall, before I was even school age, hiding behind my bed waiting for them to come and get me.  There was no way they were moving to Hollywood without their biggest fan.

While I don’t remember feeling like my friends were “pawns” or “students”, I do remember feeling more comfortable in the leadership role in friendships.  I didn’t have many of them but the ones that were most successful were ones where I was able to take charge.  I think, to a certain extent, that still applies in my friendships today.  My most successful friendships are ones where the other person is super laid back and doesn’t get his or her feathers ruffled easily by the things that I might say that others would deem as rude or aggressive.

Without a doubt, I remember when I realized that in order to be socially successful I would have to start imitating my peers.  Since I mostly hated my peers, I made a choice at about the age of 12 to imitate celebrities instead.  I imitated singers, bands, actors, authors.  Anyone but my peers.  I hated it when people imitated their peers.  As a mom, when I started hanging out with people I actually liked, I started to become more influenced by my peers.  I’ve tried to adopt the diets of my fellow crunchy moms, the tv viewing restrictions of other homeschool moms, the leniency of other unschoolers.  None of that worked so I’m finally not doing that anymore.  I just do my own thing.  Whew.  Weight lifted.

Obsessively collecting things?  Um, yeah.  Totally.  In junior high, I had to own every single thing I saw that was a black and white cow or had a black and white cow pattern.  I started collecting Pez dispensers until finally at some point I gave myself permission to stop.  I collected music.  I had this thought process that if I didn’t own every single recording by an artist, I wasn’t truly a fan.  So I’d break my neck trying to get everything all of my “favorite” artists had ever done so that I could be labeled a true fan.  I remember deciding to not let myself get into the Cure because I didn’t like the overwhelming number of albums in their collection.  So, it took me years to let myself own a couple of their albums just because I liked those and only those albums.  Cannot tell you how many cds are in my collection that I hate.  But I had to have them to complete my “collection”.  I don’t do this anymore… at least not about music.  But when I’m in a health food store and I’m looking at supplements, I start to feel that old mindset creep in and I can’t breathe.

Escaping by playing the same music over and over?  Yes.  Just ask my quad mates from college.

Escaping through relationships?  Totally.  Romances, friendships… doesn’t matter.  I will imagine all kinds of things about the relationships I find myself in.  Way too early.  Way too soon.  I’m finally getting better about that.  I think.  But man it sure did hurt me many many times over the years.

Escaping into other rooms at parties… Well, as you can imagine, I’ve not been invited to a lot of parties in my time.  Not since high school at least.  I swear, I went to like two parties in college.  I hosted one of them.  And I pissed off a good friend for not letting her drive drunk and stealing her keys at another one.  I was so cool. But recently my family was on “vacation” and visiting my husband’s very social extended family.  They were having a shindig on their huge screened-in back porch.  I started to panic.  I stayed away and escaped into my headphones and an episode of “Arrested Development” on the iPad.  I was okay.  Then I saw my husband and I asked him to bring me a plate of food.  He refused as that would “enable” me so I had to either go onto that porch where the people were or starve the rest of the evening.  I finally mustered up the courage to go… but made a beeline for the alcohol first thing.  I survived but honestly, I don’t feel glad that I made myself go out there.  It would have been nice to have just had that plate of food brought to me.  I’m not always like that.  If it’s a group of people I trust and know, I’m quite social.  But give me a group of strangers and I am a wreck.

Organizing and cleaning are very relaxing to me.  I get a huge thrill out of finishing something up in the pantry or in the refrigerator.  I love being able to rinse out a container for the recycling.  It’s a strange thing to get so excited about.  Organizing and cleaning out drawers and closets and shelves is actually on my mind a lot.  My house is significantly less cluttered than the houses of most homeschoolers living in a small house with three kids I’d imagine.  I do an amazing job of keeping things hauled out of here.  Since “everything has a purpose”, I’m actually the opposite of a hoarder.  I have to resist the urge to go into the rooms of my children and get rid of their things.  And believe me, they don’t have an overabundance of things.  They all have a healthy, normal, regular amount of things.  I just think we all need fewer things than what we have.  I could live out of a backpack, easily, as long as it was big enough for my vitamins and my blender.

Now that I’ve spent the last hour escaping into my writing, I’m going to try and get some more sleep.  After I watch an episode of my favorite show.  Okay, maybe I’m just going to watch some tv.  Either way, be sure and stay tuned for the next installment in the series where I’ll talk about my poop and having been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder shortly after being dumped the day before my wedding.  Dodged a bullet, that poor guy.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Why I Believe That I’m an Aspergirl Part 1

It’s no secret that in recent years I’ve concluded that there is a significant possibility that I’m not just “quirky” or “weird” but that I’m actually autistic.  I’ll go a few weeks where I doubt this conclusion and then, as I like to say, “My asperger’s will flair up” and suddenly I’m reading about it again because going through checklists of traits found in females with asperger’s is comforting to me (ha, you don’t say).

Anyway, this checklist is my favorite one mostly because it’s written by a female with asperger’s and it makes sense.  And I can check off nearly 100% of the items.  I thought it might be therapeutic to go through the list in writing, an act that is both terrifying and comforting to me.

Section A: Deep Thinkers

I over-analyze every.single.thing.  It’s why I cannot enjoy science fiction and fantasy, as a rule, because it doesn’t make sense to me and I over-think the stories.  “But how can that be possible?” I ask.  I’m the one you don’t want to take to the movies with you because I will be asking a thousand questions before the opening credits are over.  I can’t tell you how many times my husband has said to me, “You’re overthinking it.”  I always want to know why.  And if you can’t tell me why then my brain will shut down until I can find a decent answer to my why question.

I am, by all means for a homeschool mom of three, a prolific writer though I’m no longer drawn to poetry.  In high school I wrote a lot of poetry.  I especially remember working out intense feelings I had about a close female friend through poetry.  For years I went through an anti-poetry period where, not only did I not write it, but I hated to read it too.  I think that has to do with being forced to analyze it in school.  It was a nice commonality between me and my husband:  he, too, hated poetry.  But in the past couple of years, as I have begun to introduce poetry to my children, I’m finding myself enjoying it again.  And they don’t seem to hate it either.  I don’t make them pick it apart… I just let them listen to it.

Indeed I am forever getting lost in my own thoughts.  When I’m in a deep thought kinda mood, it’s pointless for me to try and read or watch tv or carry on a conversation.  I can’t move my thoughts from one place to another.  I just have to wait until my brain is ready to move on its own.

Section B: Innocent

By all means, I’m an extremely naive person.  And because of this, I also have serious trust issues.  I struggle to know if I can trust a person right off because in the past I’ve trusted so many people immediately (oh, he’s nice to me, he must want to marry me and be the father of my children, how lovely- or- wow, we have so much in common, she is my BFF even though I just met her last week) that these days I find that there is a thick shell around my heart.  What’s interesting is that I still disclose a lot of details about myself to people pretty early on in a relationship, but what has changed is that I no longer let myself believe that the person can be trusted right away.  Instead I simply have forced myself to stop caring if the person can be trusted with my self-disclosure.  They usually cannot I find.

People I trust are ones I have known for about 20 years.  And a few of those people I know cannot be trusted still.  There are about three people, other than my children, who I trust who are still a part of my life.  My two best guy friends from college and one of my best girl friends from high school.  Several of my old friends long ago proved that they cannot be trusted and that’s okay. I just factor that into my emotions when dealing with them.  My expectations are lower.

My husband will tell you that I am honest to a fault.  I am like George Washington.  I cannot tell a lie.  I remember when I was 3 telling my mom and cousin a long elaborate story about my dance class.  In class we used dramatic play every year to act out a St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  It was lovely.  We all “dressed in green” and “sat in front of our mirrors and put on makeup”.  It is my favorite memory from dance class.  It was the highlight of the year.  But when I told my mom and cousin the story, I told it as if it were true.  As if we really did those things instead of pretending to.  Well, shortly after I told the story, I went to my room and cried.  Then I came back and begged their forgiveness for I’d lied to them and that was a horrifying experience.  My attempts at lying have gone something like that every time since then.

Recently, when my marriage was in a bad place, my father-in-law told me that you shouldn’t always tell the “whole truth” when your spouse asks you a hard question.  That is bizarre and uncomfortable to me.  I cannot imagine why someone would ask you a question unless they expect you to answer truthfully.  So now I’m very confused whenever I speak to my husband.  I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond so that I don’t make him threaten divorce again.  It’s very stressful.

I have truly NEVER been able to comprehend why someone would want to be mean, or to get even, or to feel anything but kindness and love toward another person.  Even when someone has wronged me, I end up assuming it was because there is something wrong with me.  Over the years, this has been a recurring theme in my life:  someone does something crappy to me, I feel guilty for feeling angry, I end up apologizing to them.

I am always confused.

I am always overwhelmed.

I have always felt misplaced and like I was from another planet.  At least until I discovered The B-52s when I was 12.  Then I was certain that I was from the same planet that they were from.

I always feel isolated though there are a few friends in my life who help me feel less alone so I seek out time with them as often as I can.  They know who they are.

I remember in the first grade there was this girl who decided to make my life a living hell (I have since learned that two of my best friends were also tortured by her over the years as well).  She asked our teacher if she and I could have our desks moved to the wall behind the teacher’s desk.  Because our teacher was an idiot and this girl’s mom was also a teacher (therefore she was a pet at the school), we were given permission.  There she proceeded to cut my arms with her fingernails.  I remember just being thankful that she was paying me attention.  Once my mom saw the cuts on my arm, she had us moved back.  In the meantime, I’d become good friends with the arm cutter’s best friend.  Arm cutter gets jealous.  During Christmas break I receive a phone call from the both of them, confronting me about the fact that I’d called the best friend the N word, a word that I not only had never used before but never heard either.  My new friend and I didn’t speak again until fifth grade.  I internalized that and carried it with me.  I guess in some ways I still do.  While I knew that I’d not called anyone any names EVER I still felt like I. Was. Wrong.

Stay Tuned for “Why I Believe That I’m an Aspergirl Part 2” where I’ll write about my experiences with Escaping and Friendship.

Read part 2 here.