Bullying, Chasing Pavements, and Asperger Syndrome

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
– John Lennon, “Imagine”

Over the weekend, I saw a headline about Lynda Frederick, a 42-year old woman bullied during her time in high school who wrote a poem to her classmates about being bullied on the Facebook page for her high school class reunion. This morning, I investigated further and read this story in the Huffington Post, as well as a few other articles online about her and her poem. Her former classmates were so moved, some coming forth with apologies and raising money for her to travel and attend the reunion.

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Conspiracy Theories, Autism, Fear, and Life on the Crazy Train

Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train

— Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about conspiracy theories. Or, more accurately, I’m fed up with conspiracy theories.

My fiancé and I have been discussing these theories against the backdrop of world events for the last several years. On our dining room table there is a stack of books a couple of feet tall that I’ve been meaning to read about conspiracy theories and related subjects such as the premillennial dispensationalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation and the fundamentalist Christian worldview. To be quite honest, I’m mildly fascinated with conspiracy theorists and I’m trying to understand how they think: if I’d had the time to read these books lately, conspiracy theories would have become another special interest by now.

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Aspie Obliviousness: A Good Thing?

Head in the Clouds by Wings of Dust
Head in the Clouds by Wings of Dust

How many times have you been told that you don’t pay attention enough, aren’t aware enough of your surroundings, or even worse, that you have your “head in the clouds” all the time? I heard this quite often, especially as a teenager and coming from my absolutely favorite aunt (NOT!). If you remember my post from a while back that talked about EMSs (early maladaptive schemas) and negative core beliefs, you’ll remember that sometimes we form these beliefs based on negative feedback from significant figures in our childhood – parents, relatives (well-meaning or not) and the like. So as a result of her negative comments, I developed a sort of hypervigilance which basically required me to pay attention to everything in my environment. Literally.

You can imagine that for someone on the autism spectrum, this would be downright tiring. And it was. I was constantly scanning my environment for details, dangers, etc., especially when I would move from one environment to the next. It would take me a while to get comfortable when I arrived into a new room, got out of the car and went into the house, and so forth (you don’t want to even know how taxing it is to try to notice EVERYTHING – including passing scenery – when you’re in a moving vehicle as a passenger). When I was in my early twenties, I dispensed of this habit: unfortunately, some events in my mid-twenties reactivated a healthy (again, NOT!) dose of post-traumatic stress disorder that I had mostly gotten rid of with help from my fiancé – the same PTSD I’ve mentioned that I am battling right now. And with the PTSD came the hypervigilance and the environment scanning. The only good thing that has resulted from this is my tendency to store visual details, which I can access later for my writing.

I recognized near the end of last week that this practice was downright exhausting and no longer worth my time, so I decided to stop completely. I decided that I was only going to pay attention to what was important, or what caught my notice. And couple of days later, this new approach paid off. Continue reading

Workplace Bullying and the Autistic Employee, Part I: The Basics of Bullying

In my ongoing research, I recently found an article from the Workplace Bullying Institute about self-defeating stigmas held by adults bullied in the workplace. While reading the article, I began to think about my own experiences with workplace bullying and recognized some of my own shame about it.

Then, I thought about autistic adults and workplace bullying as a whole. According to a 2010 survey by the WBI, 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand. With estimates of autistic children being bullied as high as 90%, it’s not hard to imagine that many autistic adults have been bullied as both children and adults. And if what the WBI call a “silent epidemic” is distressing to neurotypical employees, you can imagine what kind of pain and distress it might cause for an autistic employee.

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Diagnosis: Yep, It’s Asperger’s

You’ve been around my entire life, but I’ve never seen you
until now. Everybody else saw you and christened you
crazy, nerdy, or retarded through their own lenses… But I christen you
different, with a middle name of
focus.

(from my poem, “An Open Letter to Asperger Syndrome”)

Most of you who have been following me for the last few months probably know that I was a self-diagnosed, self-identified Aspie. Earlier this year, my counselor and I had discussed the very real possibility that I had an autism spectrum disorder. I proposed Asperger Syndrome for several reasons: 1) because I was verbal before age 3 and never lost verbal ability (most with classic autism either lose verbal ability or don’t have it before age 3 or so), and 2) other symptoms, such as obsessive and narrow interests and difficulty with social cues and interaction, also fit me. My counselor agreed, and thus began my journey to an official diagnosis.

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I’m at the Intersection of AS and PTSD…

Last I checked,
I wasn’t born with apologies – though some would demand
that I wear them for the apocalypses in my DNA.
(From my poem, “Dear Earthling”)

After a bit of a hiatus, I am coming back to you with a post about something that has profoundly affected me for a long time, although I didn’t realize it until earlier this year. To put it another way, I live at the intersection of AS and PTSD.

Now, what do I mean when I say this? For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I’ve spoken of my childhood and teenage years, which included physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect – most of which happened between ages twelve and eighteen.

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To Med or Not to Med

 I know how you
move into me. You come
in tides, squeezing through every pore
like nightfall that doesn’t know how to stay put. You don’t know
how you rip apart my senses, bleeding glorias as you
pass though me in double osmosis.
(From my poem, “Touch”)

If you’re reading this post and are on the autism spectrum, you’re already aware (in some cases painfully) of how sensitive our nervous systems are. This sensitivity affects many aspects of our lives, from difficulty tolerating sensory stimuli to impaired ability in handling stress, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  I’m going to deal with the sensitive (no pun intended) subject of using medication (such as SSRIs, other classes of antidepressants, and other kinds of medication that affect mood and brain chemicals) in this post.

From what I’ve observed thus far, this topic has been debated from multiple viewpoints, even outside the autism community. Just Google the subject of antidepressants and autism and I’m sure you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of results. Certainly many of us have heard about overuse of these medications and horror stories about side effects, ineffectiveness of medications, or symptoms worsening – or we may have gone through these experiences ourselves. And of course, there is always the question of who benefits by the medication: there are stories of medical professionals pushing such medications to the parents of children on the autism spectrum in order to make their behavior more “tolerable”. And of course for us adults, there’s also the question of something being for our “own good”.

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Stress, Anxiety, and the Aspie Woman, Part II: Coping Strategies

The raw, the unwrapped, the ripped open wires
inside me call for brand new Hiroshimas.

From DNA, and the world climbing onto my back
I have gone tone deaf to everyone.

(From my poem, “Meltdown”)

In last week’s post, I talked about why we with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders have more difficulty dealing with stress and anxiety. To recap, some of the reasons include low frustration tolerance, unpredictability, monotropism (the tendency to see and focus upon only one part of the picture instead of the whole), and problems reading non-verbal cues. These difficulties can turn an already uncertain and stressful world into a downright frightening one for us. But we are not defeated – there are ways that we can help ourselves cope. I’d like to share a few of those with you in today’s post.

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