Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank you, Steve Jobs

As an Aspie, I think one of the hardest lessons we have to learn is that if we try to do something that is contrary to what our brains can handle, we fail.  I thought about being a teacher, but though I wasn't horrible, I failed at it.  I was a darn good librarian, but for various reasons listed in previous posts, I am not doing that anymore either.  So I sit at 35 and am starting all over again.

And I think of Steve Jobs.  Who never graduated from college.  Who was publicly and humiliatingly fired from Apple.  And I think of Steve Jobs, who learned from failure and moved on. Steve Jobs, who was also true to the beat of his internal drummer.  Steve, who rather than dwell on the past and let it stop him, moved on and became, well, the comparisons are many.  The Edison, the Henry Ford, the Einstein of his generation.

What he did, quite simply, is transform the world.  A college drop out who did not float up the ladder of success on a cloud but rather was kicked off a few times but ALWAYS got back on and kept moving.  Steve Jobs and the other creative geniuses at Apple revolutionized the way we think, the way we do, the way we communicate.  Our daily lives run the way they do because of what Steve Jobs created.  And the rest of the world--the Androids and the PCs of this world, they all just emulate what Apple did and is doing better and first.  

And Pixar, Pixar changed the world of movies forever.  

Really, can any greater legacy be left behind?

I won't change the world, but I do hope to change my little part of it.  And I will stay true to what my heart tells me is right. I will also strive, and it is hard, to not let the past drag me down or discourage me.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for the MacBook I use to type this, and the iPad I used in the hospital waiting room, and the iPod I use as I train for half marathons.  More importantly, thanks for teaching the world that the greatest failures lead so very often to the greatest successes.  Your life is an encouragement to us all.

You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Meltdowns, or when the Aspie takes over the brain

Hello everyone--

This is the story of my last major Aspie Meltdown.  If this sounds familiar to you, whether you are on the Autism Spectrum or not, please comment below, anonymously if you need to.  It's easier when you share. 

Last week I went to go pick up my brother at the Sacramento Airport. First, there was the slight difficulty of finding him, but it is a small airport so I figured it shouldn't be too hard. My first time around, a car was parked at the curb and the security guy was standing at its window, they had a space in front, so I signaled and started to pull into the curb. As I did this, the car pulled forward, and there was almost an accident. Then the security guy had the gall to knock on my window and tell me to be careful. I should have just ignored it but I said excuse me, I did nothing wrong, tell the car that almost hit me to be careful, shouldn't you be concerned ABOUT me for almost getting hit? He raised his voice at me and threatened to write me a ticket. I rolled up my window on him (I didn't see my brother and knew I had to keep driving), and when he knocked on the window I ignored him. When I came past again (I had to circle three more times trying to find my brother which seriously added to my stress) he found me again and told me the same thing again. I said look, this is what happened, you can see I am being slow and careful, leave me alone. By this time I was frustrated because I couldn't find my brother and already pre-meltdown. with the breath catching and the tears forming and the brain not working. I finally said look, I am trying to find my brother, I know his flight arrived, I have Asperger's and I am on the verge, please just stop. 

To his credit he did turn nice at this point and told me I could park at the curb for a few minutes if I had to, then told me where my brother should be, I was in slightly the wrong place. Soon after that I found my brother and he said where have you been, I've been waiting for an hour! I said, well I circled 4 times and I didn't see you. At that point, my brain pretty much exploded. I was crying, shaking, and I had a hard time breathing, and I could not THINK.  My brain literally froze, I couldn't form a single coherent thought. My brother was what's the big deal I'm in the car everything is OK now, and I was said I am an Aspie, I am having an Aspie moment, just deal, and be nice to me as I get past this, PLEASE. My brother is so confident and so disinclined to react emotionally to anything (he HAS strong emotions, he doesn't react emotionally)  that those of us who have moments of weakness and stress baffle him completely. I did finally calm down (and my brother did volunteer to drive which was kind of him but once I was out of the airport I was fine), but it took me several minutes to get back to normal. 

I felt so STUPID because I have traveled internationally (I flew into Hong Kong alone at the age of 23 and met up with people I had met only once and didn't speak the same language, though they were wonderful to me and I love them dearly, where I then went to teach in China for a  year), gone through customs and dealt with situations much more stressful than this with no problems at all.  I worked full time, went to graduate school full time, trained for a marathon, and prepared for major surgery all at the same time in the Spring of 2004 without a single meltdown of any kind. Sometimes, though, the wrong button is pushed and I just can't hold it together. I hate it, I hate being an Aspie, I hate that no matter how confident and smart and capable and as much of a problem solver as I am I am, I have moments where my my brain simply melts, the Aspie kicks in, and all the balls get dropped, I don't know what to do, and I cease to be able to function or do anything but panic.

What it is like--one part of your brain is logical and rational and saying this is no big deal, you can handle this, nothing is really wrong, everything is fine now, get over it. And the rest of my brain is in meltdown mode and I have no control over it at all. It's SO frustrating.

And though I am proud of the person I am, these are the moments I HATE being an Aspie.  I HATE not having the control.  And I struggle because when it is over, the biggest thing I feel is...


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

True Friendship: it is possible for an Aspie

There are times when I am utterly amazed that I actually have friends.  I know this sounds odd, but as an Aspie, you tend to inadvertently make so many mistakes, so many social faux pas, that you automatically assume you will eventually insult and turn away anyone who was ever a friend to you.  That was my life, really, for all of high school and college.  

Then, in my mid twenties, I met my best girl friend ever (and yes, I know how teenager that sounds).  She's been my friend for 10 years now and I cherish her friendship, as well as rely on it.  She's been there for me through all the hills and valleys of life, and I hope I've been there for her.  It could be because she and I tend to be just a bit 'off'  in so many of the same ways that we are friends, but hey, it works!  She also introduced me to craft beer, a gift for which I can never repay her.  

I also want to mention and give credit  to three of my friends and former coworkers who have known me since I started working for Salinas Public Library.  They have truly been supportive and caring and just wonderful through all the hell I went through.  One of them, after I spent at least an hour venting and complaining about how tough my situation was and apologized afterwards for being so rude, simply said that is what friends are for.  We listen.  My other friend, understanding I am an Aspie, makes it a point to tell me things ahead of time if she thinks that they might come out in a time or place to cause me anxiety. The third not only does his best to cheer me up and make me laugh, but when I finally was officially unemployed, he packed up my entire cubicle and brought it my apartment for me so I wouldn't have to deal with going back into a building that caused me so much stress. I am staggered by the kindness they have all shown me.

And here, I mention only four people.  There are several others who have proven their deep and abiding friendship to me over and over.  There are times I still wake up and think, how do I deserve this?  I still sometimes wonder if maybe it will all be taken away.  

But my friends?  True and faithful, they understand me, and have stuck with me through the thick and thin of the last few years.  I sometimes feel like the luckiest person alive.  Friendship is a gift from God and I have been lavishly blessed.

So to all of them I say, thanks.  For being my friend.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Erudite Aspie in transition

I know it has been a few weeks since I have written anything, and I beg your indulgence for another few weeks.  I am deep in moving mode, and the practical aspects of it are easily done (make a list, do the list, voila!), I'm struggling with the emotional aspects of the move.

I'm leaving so much behind that I love--church, friends, weather, and having my own apartment.  I am going to some good stuff--I will be living with and caring for the Erudite Mom as she struggles with cancer and that is no hardship and indeed a pleasure (plus I'll get a great deal on rent).  I also will be living quite a bit closer to one of my closest friends.  The weather is awful, but the neighborhood will be safe for running at night and is in fact a great place to run in general.  These are the things I try to focus on--but overall the bad of the move outweighs the good.  Life doesn't give out exactly what you want, though, and sometimes all the paths narrow down to one.  I have to believe that God has a purpose and a plan for this.  I can't say what it is, but I live my life by faith, so why not live my future by faith too?  And if I get choked up here and there, well, it's part of the process.

9 days out from moving day.  Then I'll have a couple of weeks of packing, organizing, caring for mom post surgery, and running my fourth half marathon with a friend (woohoo!).  I promise to be back after that point with another amazing, hard hitting, investigative blog entry.

In the meantime I leave you this link--the results you get from a search on Etsy for 'autism'.  What interests me most are the weighted blankets.  I need to research what the purpose is of those...and that will be for a post after I am done transitioning.

God bless you all,


Monday, August 22, 2011

Socialization, preschool, and my Aspie brain

Happy Monday morning, everyone!

I was inspired to write this post based on my observations of the four year old son of my best friend.  Her son, let's call him David, is one of those kids who is truly amazing.  He's smart, sneaky, adventurous, generally well behaved, kind, and most of all, really, REALLY social.  I had the pleasure of camping for several days last week with David and his mom, my best friend whom we shall call Lynn, and I observed things about David and to some extent Lynn that truly baffled my poor Aspie brain.

The clearest example is when we went to a particular beach, and David felt no problem at all walking up to a girl his age, asking to play, sitting down, and playing.  Lynn had no problem talking to the girl's parents, and they sat there on the beach, total strangers, talking for over an hour (time I spent swimming in the lake, not wanting to deal with all of that pesky, difficult, social contact with strangers, despite how wonderfully nice they were).  I later asked Lynn about this--can you really just randomly talk to people? Play with strangers?  Doesn't this seem odd to you?  Does David do it?

Oh yes, Lynn said, I love talking to people.  And so does David.  He's very social, and loves being with people. And I love meeting new friends that way.  It's fun!

I simply goggled.  Even though I have to believe what I saw with my own eyes, my Aspie brain simply could not compute.  To me, the idea of randomly talking to strangers is, well, scary.  I sometimes do find myself getting into conversations with strangers in odd places, especially when waiting in line, and each time it happens I am left confused.  Many years ago, I even had someone in the next stall in the bathroom at a grocery store ask me for advice about whether she should keep her long distance boyfriend, or dump him. I sort of listened, but couldn't understand why she was talking to a total stranger about personal things (in  the bathroom no less, this was an overall strange situation).  I like to think I am warm and friendly, and I will answer questions if asked to some extent (do you like this beer?  Yes, it is great, and so is this one), but to sit down and have an hour long conversation with strangers?  Way, way out of my realm.  But not out of their realm, which made me realize that for all that I love them. and they love me, we are really different from each other.

The next thing that hit me is when we went to the Parent's night for the preschool David was about to start attending.  I  heard about sharing, about circles, about learning friendship, about playing, etc.  I saw the kids all immediately go out to the playground and start playing together (with supervision, of course!).  I saw David gabbing away with his best friend, and talking to the kids he'd never met.  I read the overview of the preschool and saw that talking to each other and socialization was a huge part of their curriculum.

And I saw that David LOVED it, that he was looking forward to it, and that he thrived in this environment.  I saw that he didn't need preschool for educational purposes, as his parents do an amazing job with that at home, but that he needed preschool because he needed, and wanted, the socialization.

Until this point, I had always sort of looked down on preschool, thinking that if it was feasible in terms of having a stay at home parent, it was better to teach the kid those things at home.  What I had failed to realize is that I was imposing my innate, ingrained fear of socialization onto everyone.  Why?  Because until I was diagnosed with having Autism Spectrum Disorder last year, I didn't really understand or believed that people actually liked to socialize and make friends with strangers and be with people all the time.  In fact, I still don't get it, and it still baffles me, but I have learned to accept that I have the unusual brain, and not everyone is like me.

At the same time, I am everlastingly grateful I was not in preschool, and in fact didn't go to public school at all until 3d grade.  I wish now, and read the Erudite Mom's post on the subject for more details, that I had been home schooled further.

The moral of the story is--preschool can be a very good thing for kids like David.  And it is a very, very bad thing for kids like me.  If I ever have kids, I will be sure to remember this lesson.

God bless you all,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Erudite Aspie will return shortly...

Hello everyone...

I've been on a nice relaxing vacation, camping and spending time with family and friends, for the last little while. Accordingly, this time I have an excuse for not posting anything recently instead of forgetfulness which is usually the case.

Next up when I get back to real life...a discussion about pre school, socialization as a kid, why I am proud of my Godson, and why I drove my mom crazy When I was a kid. If you have any comments, experiences, or opinions on this matter please post them below and I will work them in!

Dios te bendiga,


Friday, August 5, 2011

Getting diagnosed with ASD as an adult, part 2

I was inspired to write this post because more than one person has read this blog and has asked me questions about whether they, or someone they know, could possible have Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I always tell them, and I will state it here, that I have no official education or training this in whatsoever at all and I am NOT an expert and can't give a diagnosis.  That said, being on the Spectrum myself and knowing the research and the process I had to go through to get diagnosed does give me some insight.  What I normally do is ask a few questions, and depending on how they answer, I can usually say "I'd bet you do, but don't take my word for it, do research and try to find someone qualified in adult ASD to get you a diagnosis, and make sure you ask these questions and beware if they try to label you with this."  Accordingly, for all my friends seeking to find answers, here is a bit of information that might help.

First, if you are an adult and weren't diagnosed as a child, you will find it VERY difficult.  As a child you have resources in schools, in public health, etc--if you are anywhere on the autism spectrum, they will catch you.  But if you are an adult, especially if you are a smart adult who functions very well in life, you easily slip through the cracks.

This article pinpoints the problems with getting diagnosed as an adult pretty well:

 "Adults with ASDs are more likely to be recognized and supported if they also have severe intellectual disability; those with higher levels of functioning tend to be overlooked in the community."
Well, exactly.

You also find interesting bits of information like this.  The curious part is that men have a higher occurrence of ASD then women.  This strikes me as interesting, and in another post I will research it more thoroughly and confirm or disprove this article.

The best advice I have seen for an adult who thinks they might be on the Spectrum is here, and frankly, I'd rather find a more authoritative source, but I haven't found it yet.

Most importantly, it is good to have knowledge and information on your side, to look at blogs and other sites that have discussions with people on the Spectrum (Rethinking Autism is a good place to start), and to really have your ducks in a row before you approach a professional.  I was diagnosed incorrectly with Bipolar disorder several times before they got it right.  The clue?  If they have to work really hard to make you 'fit' with the DSM standards for having Bipolar disorder, you probably aren't Bipolar.  First I was Bipolar II, then I was Cyclothymic, then I had Bipoloar Spectrum disorder, and on and on it went.  I finally sat down with my Psychiatrist and told him as odd as it is for me to tell you my diagnosis is wrong as you are the professional and I am not, I have done my research and I am very self aware, and I am NOT Bipolar.  I have Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I then used the DSM other materials to lay out all the reasons I wasn't bipolar, and all the reasons I did have ASD.

He looked at me for a minute without speaking, then said, you are absolutely right.  You have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It was a proud moment.

Good luck to all who are still seeking to find the truth!

God Bless,


Friday, July 22, 2011

Autism Spectrum Disorder--the root causes.

Hello everyone--

There is a question that lingers in the mind of everyone touched by those on the Autistic Spectrum--what causes it?  I had a fellow classmate do a pathology poster about ASD in my summer school class and she spoke of finding genetic links.  I hadn't heard that, but it got me curious.  So the former librarian kicked into full research mode, and here I present what I found.

First, I dug out some interesting nuggets from the National Institute of Health. This page lays out a lot of useful and interesting information about ASD, but the key paragraph for the purpose of digging out the root cause is here:

Current research points to brain abnormalities as the cause of AS.  Using advanced brain imaging techniques, scientists have revealed structural and functional differences in specific regions of the brains of normal versus AS children.  These defects are most likely caused by the abnormal migration of embryonic cells during fetal development that affects brain structure and “wiring” and then goes on to affect the neural circuits that control thought and behavior.  
For example, one study found a reduction of brain activity in the frontal lobe of AS children when they were asked to respond to tasks that required them to use their judgment.  Another study found differences in activity when children were asked to respond to facial expressions.  A different study investigating brain function in adults with AS revealed abnormal levels of specific proteins that correlate with obsessive and repetitive behaviors.  

The page goes on to explain that although the genetic link is obvious, as Autism tends to run in families, no specific gene has been identified as a cause. Instead, researchers believe it is probably a group of genes.  With this in hand, I continued my digging and found this highly tecnical abstract which seems to imply that they are starting to get a grasp on which genes may be involved.  This is expanded in this Nature article that is also highly technical (well over my head, I have to admit).  It is also clear when reading the links that the reason why ASD is so hard to identify, understand, and diagnose, is that it really does express itself differently in everyone who has it.  This makes logical sense.  If a group of genes is responsible, each person on the Spectrum is going to have different genes in that group tweak different ways.  The, lets say combinations, of things that can go wrong are going to be different for everyone.

What does this tell us?  First, there is a genetic link, the answer to why people have Autism is in our genes, and doesn't that makes sense?  In a technical,  biological sense, our genes are responsible for coding us, making us who we are, and if we are born with a disease or disability or a talent or genius or anything else, it is going to come down to the genes.  Which doesn't mean we will always be able to understand how it works.  How fascinating science is, that slowly, we start to get a glimpse.

One other thing to ponder--from what I read here, and what I understand, Autism in all of its many variants is not something you can cure.  It is what it is, hardwired into your brain.  Not a disease.  Just a rewiring of the brain which means we do things in different ways.  Accordingly, we don't need a cure.  What we need is knowledge, training, practice, and understanding.

God bless you all,


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dealing with grief

Good evening my friends--

A week ago today, I broke up with my boyfriend, the love of the life, the man who I have been totally committed too for the past 3 years.  And I am NOT happy about it.  In fact, my heart is shattered into little bitty pieces, and I am simply overwhelmed with sadness.  The only other time I have felt this level of grief is when my beloved Grammy died, the Erudite Mom's mom, 7 years ago.  The sinking feeling in the stomach, the constant flow of tears, the lethargy, the listlessness, the inability to think about anything other than the vast maw of misery.  It took me a couple of years to even start to recover from Grammy's death.  

Grief is a universal emotion, we all will experience it at some time in our lives, and it has absolutely nothing to do with being a Spectrumite or a Neurotypical or male or female or Schizophrenic or Depressed.  Grief simply is.  It is part of the human race, part of being what we are, and is unavoidable.  

This time, however, my period of grief coincided with the last three weeks of a very interesting and very challenging Anatomy/Physiology summer school course, three weeks in which I have taken or will take 2 midterms, two lab practicals, a project, and a final exam.  Clearly, Erudite though I may be, I need all of my mental capacity to take tests AND I need to be able to study and learn and process and remember vast amounts of information.

Baaaaaaddd timing.  Life, however, doesn't usually give you good timing.  And in an attempt to get my mind focused and flexible and capable, I started to ask myself about the process of grieving, how I cope, and if I have different coping skills being on the Autism Spectrum.  (I also wondered about the physiological processes that cause you to cry when you grieve as crying (or lacrimation!) is about flushing out the eyes which is part of our bodies innate defense system, but I digress).

I have learned that I  have to give myself at least a day, sometimes longer, to do absolutely nothing but wallow in bed and cry.  Exercise is good for relieving stress and grief, but I've learned that when it is really bad, for the first day or so I just can't do anything.  I've learned to allow myself this time.  I'm no good to anyone or to myself at all, absolutely incapable of rational or practical thought, and in the two times of extreme grief I expressed above I get to the point where I can actually barely walk.

After that, well, I go through the motions of life.  I never want to.  I want to just stay in bed.  But knowing that I can't, I force myself to get up with the alarm, study and work, exercise and cook and eat.  And check google+ and catch up on current events on PJTV.  To pet the cats, and feed the lizard.  And yes, you go through these actions numbly.  But it is better to go through the motions numbly than to not do them at all.  Exercise especially does have positive benefit, if only to help burn the calories you often over consume when really upset.  So do cats.  Nothing loves you more unconditionally than a cat.

The mental process is much more difficult.  We Aspies obsess.  That old saw 'just don't think about it' probably doesn't work for most people, and it most especially doesn't work for me.  And the mechanisms of  trying not to think about it, trying to block off the emotion, trying to have a positive attitude because that will make the pain lessen and go away faster, just don't work!  Not that those are bad things, but my obsessive personality, my self-awareness, and my highly linear if emotional mind means that if life sucks, it SUCKS, and I can't imagine that it doesn't.  Nor can I pretend to be happy when I am not.  Nor can I clear the thoughts from my mind.

So I am sitting here thinking hey, I have an A in my class so far.  I've had good talks with friends and family.  I've had some good luck I praise God for in other areas of my life.  And I don't want to diminish the positive in my life.  But none, NONE of that distracts me very long from the grief, and the hurt, and the anger.  Because reality is reality no matter how you try and handle it.--though, admittedly, writing this post has been somewhat cathartic.  

If I had to guess, I would guess that my way of handling grief is common, and not limited to those who have Asperger's.  The neurotypicals who read this post, please comment below.  I'd love to hear your take on it.

And please either pray hard or think positive thoughts, whatever may be your wont, that the Erudite boyfriend and I can work things out.  Hope should spring eternal, no matter what.

God bless you all,

Erudite Aspie

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mommy Sisterhood

One thing I've notice since discovering my daughter's unique talents is how much you immediately have in common with others raising kids on the Spectrum. You've been there, you're still there, will be there 'til you croak, and you know how it can be to parent what is often a difficult child. Today on G+ I was perusing profiles of people in my circles, and while reading through Melissa Clouthier's, saw that she has an autistic child. For me, anyway, instant mommy bonding. Melissa and I happen to have many interests in common, but this is something that's more fundamental than the politics or the science or the art--because being a mom is the essence of who we are, and its importance trumps all the other roles we play. You can screw around with many things in your life, but not your kids. You fail at that you fail them, and Moms, do you hear me? We really really don't want to do that. Really.

I've noticed that being the mom of an Aspie really helps me with talking to the parents of my students on the Spectrum. I can say I know how difficult it is, my daughter has Asperger's, you have my support. Mommy bonding kicks in immediately, and it's with a sense of relief that they know that this teacher really understands what they're going through. I love my Autistic/Asperger's students because they're so familiar. I use the same skills on them that I learned by accident raising EA, and fortunately it works.

Anyway, check out Melissa. She's funny and smart and interesting, my favorite kind of person.

Friday, July 8, 2011

An excellent conversation on a summer afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I had a very interesting, and in the end heartwarming, conversation with some of my classmates.

To put this into perspective, we had just finished a midterm, so were on that 'yay the midterm is done and I can rest a few hours before I have to start studying for the next test" high.  And believe me, during a summer school  anatomy and physiology class, the moments you can take a breather are few, far between, and very short.  I was outside resting in the 30 minute break before my lab session started, and they came up to my bench and started talking, in that way that all exam survivors do (and darn it, I got a question wrong on the exam.  Grrr...I HATE that).

This conversation started out differently because one of the woman was upset and annoyed with a classmate for basically hogging the teachers time and being overall rather obnoxious.  She then mentioned, I think this person has Asperger's though or Autism or something like that.  

I said, you know, I'M on the spectrum.  

And thus started a truly fascinating conversation.  They wanted to know what it was, how I knew, what I did about it.  I explained what has already been explained so much in this blog--how I am so much better now than I was when I was younger, the techniques I have learned to adapt, and the things I still just can't do and how I get around them.  Particularly, I explained how I absolutely lack the ability to read body language and tell if someone is bored or interested, telling a white lie to get me to go away, sincere or polite, etc.  I explained how the best way I have learned to handle it is to  have someone I trust cue me in whenever I needed to change my behavior, and tell me the truth about people's actual motivations.  I also discussed how by the grace of God the Erudite Mom managed to do all the right things for training and helping people on the Spectrum without even knowing it.  

Granted, I could be off base as I am an Aspie and have my limitations, but it felt like a very positive conversation.  One where I shared my story, helped them to understand another classmate, and interested them.  I do know that I forgot time and thus was a couple of minutes late for lab, which is horrible, but I'll forgive myself this time. As I was running to lab,  one of the women yelled after me "it was great talking to you--and I really mean it!".  Hearing that sort of warmed the cockles of my heart (though those famed cockles don't exist, I have now studied the basic anatomy of the heart and know!).

So for all those who are Aspies, sometimes it is a good thing to share.  And to those fellow classmates of mine at Monterey Peninsula College, thanks.  You really made my day.

Social Networks

One thing that is well-known about Aspies and others on the Autism Spectrum is the difficulty they have with general social interactions. Talking on the phone, face to face, it can be hard, but what's easy is the computer. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, Skype, all are a boon to the Aspie (and her non-Aspie Erudite Mom!) because they can control the message in a timeframe that doesn't freak them out. It's a world-opening gift to kids like Gage, and to our own EA.

Something new burst on to the social media scene this week, Google+, which all the Aspies here have dived head first into. Will it rival Facebook (which we also use extensively) or Twitter (which EM uses)? Who knows, but if it's about communicating without angst, we're willing to give it a try. It's in Beta, buggy and slow, but it shows promise. We'll update as we become more comfortable it the saddle, and in the meantime, let us know how you like to communicate. And be sure to watch the vid about Gage over on PJTV.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SPL Part 4--Finally, the Happy Ending

To continue from Part 3...

On May 2, I got an email from the very kind president of the local chapter of our union (sadly, lack of support from the actual union had been a huge hindrance to us the whole while--thanks for nothing, SEIU) contacted me with the information that the City was offering me the chance to resign and get the incentive of two years of health benefits or cash equivalent they were offering to other people, as well as promising that I could resign for medical reasons and get unemployment as well.  I had a deadline of May 11th  to respond. I did, with the caveat that I had to have the offer in writing.  This offer made me feel optimistic for the first time in years.

Of course, the City, having conceded to the fact that I was continuing to fight and making their life complicated especially on the legal front due to the DFEH investigation, just HAD to procrastinate and put off getting anything to me in writing until May 31st.  They offered the deal I described above with the caveat that I had to drop the DFEH case and give up any future right to sue for the same issue.  And of course, in an act of such petty spitefulness I could only laugh after everything else, I only had one day to decide.  After reviewing it with my DFEH rep and a lawyer who could confirm it had no tricks, I took the deal.

June 1, 2011, I signed the paperwork, submitted my letter of resignation, and was finally free.  It is impossible to describe how amazing it felt to be done with it all, finally and officially done.  I literally felt the weight of mountains fall off of my shoulders.  When I applied for unemployment insurance and it was granted, more weight fell off.  Granted, there are still some financial difficulties, but nothing I can't handle.  I am free from an oppressive work environment.  I am free from self-serving, dicatorial, petty, spiteful, and cruel management.  I am free from the worry of waiting and wondering.  I am FREE.

What am I doing now? Right now I am blissfully happy taking summer school.  After I pass this anatomy and physiology class, I can apply for the program to become a Nuclear Medical Technician.  I am thrilled to be embarking on this new career path.

It is an Erudite Family saying that this is the season of the Reinvention of Erudite Aspie.  I have cast off the shackles of the bitter past, and am looking forward to a glorious and rewarding new future.  It will take a lot of hard work, but I can do that.  It will have obstacles I am sure, but I can get around those.  As my Grammy and Mom taught me...there is nothing you can't do if you really want to.  In the middle of the worst time in the Salinas Public Library I knew that if I continued to work hard, act with dignity and honesty, and not stop fighting, I would eventually come out on top.  It was a much longer and harder road than I had thought, but I am at the end of it now.  And I am free to become whoever I want to be next.

Because after all, the only limitations we have on us are the ones we put on ourselves.

And I will not be limited ever again.

God bless you all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

SPL Part 3: The final crash before the happy ending

To continue from post two---

It was late spring, early summer 2010 when my mom heard about the high end of the Autism Spectrum, PDD-NOS and higher functioning autism and other connected diagnoses, she immediately thought of me, particularly me as a child and a teenager, and sent me a text message.  Previous posts have covered my process of self discovery, so I won't repeat myself here.  I WILL say that what I saw in this diagnosis (though it was hard to get an accurate one, they kept on wanting to say I was Bipolar, which I knew wasn't true) was the chance to not only improve my life in general by having a better understanding of how my brain works, but more importantly as a way to get some accommodations to help me in my work situation  I saw it as a chance to get a break, to get some understanding from management, and a way to get some relief.  My therapist and psychiatrist made it very clear that I did have Asperger's but that I mostly had it under control due to my own self-awareness, determination, and basic maturity.  However, the job environment in general and the attacks on me specifically pushed all of my Aspie buttons, as it were.  I would not need accommodations for my life in general, but for my own sanity I did need them for this job.

So, following the instructions from Human Resources, in August of 2010 my therapist sent off a letter explaining the situation and I waited. And waited.  And they decided they need clarification (though they didn't. they were just stonewalling), and I waited more.  Then in September I was called into the office by Maria Roddy, accused of wearing a skirt that was too short (it wasn't), improperly touched by Maria Roddy on the knee, and basically bullied and harassed.  And docked four hours of pay. In response to this, I filed a complaint against Maria Roddy for harassment.  Of course, the city hired outside investigator did not decide in my favor.  In December I was told I would for the second time not get my merit increase because of insubordination, the incident with the porn kid, and that I was generally a horrible person--nothing I had actually accomplished over the last year was mentioned.  This was of course on a Thursday night, the last hour of my work day, and the last day of my work week.  This sent me into a such a tailspin that I finally had to go to my GP doctor and get asked to put on stress leave.  When she saw that my blood pressure was 150/92 and that I broke down completely in her office, she gave it to me.

It was December 17th, and I was on medical leave for the next week.  The following week was Christmas and New Years, and I along with most staff already had that time off.  My hope was that in two weeks, I could get myself together enough to function and figure out what to do next.

On December 26th, 2010, I got an official letter from the city saying they were bringing charges of insubordination against me seriously enough that I would be punished by two days of no pay--all because of what had happened over three months ago in September and for which I had already been punished with 4 hours of no pay.  The letter was sent by the city manager Artie Fields on the urging of Elizabeth Martinez, and he had the gall to include the line "After listening to Elizabeth Martinez, I agree and find against you".  Really?  Without talking to me?

This sent me into perhaps the worse state I'd been in since this whole thing had started.  It was so egregiously unfair I could not handle it. I am ever grateful my mother, sister, and boyfriend were all there when I opened the letter.  Still, at that point I went back to my doctor and got her to give me two more weeks of stress leave. I still had very high blood pressure, my asthma had been acting up very badly, and I was at the absolute end of my rope. So she did, saying I could come back to work on January 16th, with very simple and doable accommodations that echoed the ones my Therapist had asked for back in August of 2010.  I got a call on January 8th, the city said they could not accommodate me, and I could not go back to work.  They didn't tell me why, but as they actually could have accommodated me and were doing this as part of their continual effort to get me to resign, they chose to not even bother trying to explain.

For the sake of brevity I will say that I tried filing for worker's comp and long term disability and was denied for technical reasons.  I tried to meet with the city and get back to work, I was stonewalled by the city's HR department (and my doctor didn't help much) on all fronts.  I figured very early that the City was stonewalling me to try to get me to give up and resign and get nothing.  Small of them, and it didn't work.  I NEVER give up.   The months between January and the end of May passed with great anxiety and uncertainty, and I didn't work at all.  That was the one blessing.  At least I wasn't back in the pit of misery.

I did, however, go to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file for discrimination on the basis of a disability and after a long phone interview (always hard for me!), they found my situation had enough merit to start a formal investigation.  This was the only thing I felt positive about the whole time, though I know DFEH investigations take a long time, because finally someone who could do something about it believed me.  I knew that A) I was pushing the right buttons and B) the city of Salinas was corrupt all the way up and I would get no help at all from anyone when the acting interim HR director of the City of Salinas, Kathryn Sakahara, sent an email to me by accident (it was meant for someone else in HR) that called me 'unbelievable' and a 'piece of work'.  So much for HR being unbiased, right?  Although that email hurt, it was a weapon I could used because it showed clear bias.

My last paycheck (after my vacation time was all used up) came in February and I lived on my savings as all of this was going on through May.  I went back and forth with the city, often having to wait weeks for their reply, and by May I was seriously sweating my financial situation.  My family helped where they could, but they didn't have much either.  I'd been denied worker's comp and long term disability and I right on the verge of going to my apartment complex to try and break my lease (they charge you about 3K to break a lease and it would have been a legal hassle I was not looking forward to) because I was simply and completely out of money.  Thanks to being debt free my expenses each month were minimal except for rent.  How to pay rent?  

So, when May 2011 started I was a basket case.  At this point I had come up with a plan for my future and decided what I wanted to do with my life and where to go back to school.  But how to pay the rent in the meantime?

I shall leave part three here but up next--The Happy Ending!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Salinas Public Library story Part 2: Harassment, bullying, and intimidation

Hello everyone.

This post will be very hard to write.  Please read it, and learn.  If my experience can help even one person, it will be worth the suffering I describe.

Have you ever told yourself that you were just being paranoid?  That they weren't really out to get you, that they really did have good intentions at the core, that you just had some bad luck, that you were being overemotional, and that things would improve?  Have have you ever looked a situation and thought, it can't possibly be as bad as I think it is, that it had to improve?  And did you ever have to finally, eventually, reluctantly realize that you weren't being paranoid at all, that it really WAS that bad, and that you were really, truly screwed?

THAT has been my experience since Elizabeth Martinez became the library director and Maria Roddy took over as my supervisor in the Salinas Public Library.

It started out small.  I heard from a fellow librarian that she had been taken out to lunch by the managers and she had been asked to say negative things about me, and that they had warned her against me and asked her to spy on them.  It became worse that same month, September 2008, when the city called in an outside investigator to investigate the claims that I was the instigator of negativity and insubordination in the work place.  The first time the library had me in shaking tears is when I knew was the target of that investigation.  And my stomach fell out when I got my hands on a document where a manager stated lies about me and reported them to the Director as though they were truth.

It was bad when I had an altercation with a patron who threatened me physically and yet her story was believed, and my truth was disregarded, though Maria Roddy had witnessed it all.  It got worse when they started giving me more and more hours on a desk (very exhausting), clearly showing preference to other librarians. And when I was denied my merit increase because of that single unfair patron complaint and I had no recourse at all, my world caved in.  The harassment continued when I was yelled at for taking a bathroom break, for sitting down for a minute to rest between patrons because according to Maria I should have been walking around.  The bullying continued when others got away with short skirts and I was called to the carpet and written up more than once for wearing skirts that indeed were long enough. Or when other librarians were given time to accomplish their projects and I was given none at all. Or when I caught a 9 year old boy looking at explicit porn in the kid's side of the library and the fact that I touched his neck got me written up and the fact that he was looking at porn bothered them not at all.

It was bad when any question I asked led to retaliation of some sort of another.  It was bad when I was so afraid to ask any question, no matter how benign, so I had to have a fellow librarian do it for me.  I never knew when an official complaint was going to come or I was going to be called into the office for a little meeting, and I spent most of the last three years at work knotted up with anxiety and fear of doing anything at all, really.  I truly had a target on my back.

And believe me, for the sake of brevity I am leaving many, many examples out.

The single most devastating part of this experience is what it did to my self esteem and psyche.  I am a hard worker by nature, who believes that one should be proactive and creative in finding solutions to problems, and I was being constantly punished for all of those things.  After all, how dare I question or have an idea that might contradict the mighty will of E. Martinez and  M. Roddy?  I had to deny the most basic part of myself just to try and survive.  I am also a natural problem solver, but this is a problem I could not solve.  If I worked fast or slow, it was wrong.  If I spent too much time or too little time with a patron, it was wrong.  If I asked a question it was wrong, if I didn't ask I should have.  I could not win.  I had multiple complaints and official warnings filed against me, and they all were lies, but they were believed by everyone up to the City Manager, so I had no recourse.  I tried filing complaints against the managers, and got nowhere at all.  I tried doing nothing and playing along, and it just got worse.

So, by the summer of 2010, I was trapped in this hellish situation with no idea how to get out of it.  I'd applied for many jobs of course, but no luck.  I was locked in misery and had a very hard time keeping it out of my private life as well.  My stomach was continuously cramped, I put on abut 30 pounds between early 2009 and fall of 2010 due to stress, I cried all the time, and I often had to take days off because I was so sick from stress.  For a while I truly feared that my chaotic and upset mental and emotional state would drive away the erudite boyfriend because it was all about me, and I couldn't think of anything or anyone else.  Thank God the EB put an end to that silliness immediately and was my rock and a great source of strength through it all.

I felt helpless, useless, and incompetent because I couldn't change what was happening, and couldn't make it stop.  I felt like a failure in my chosen profession.  And I was filled with dread as I watched their lies and unfair actions shred my professional reputation.  In short I was mess.  I was desperate enough to seek counseling, but it couldn't solve the problem and didn't really help.  I was what they call 'depressed' and 'anxious' in the mental health sense but it wasn't because I was a depressed person or an anxious person, I had no chemical imbalance in the brain as do true sufferers of those syndromes.  But I was drowning under the weight of what has happening to me, and I exhibited the symptoms because of that.

And it took me the longest time, longer than it should have, to realize that I wasn't being paranoid, and Elizabeth Martinez and Maria Roddy really did have evil intentions towards me.  It took me a long time to listen to their actions and not their words.  It was hard for me because I was an Aspie, and we have a hard time understanding motivations and emotions in others that we don't have in ourselves.  I don't treat people like that, so how could I understand them, even when I was the target?

Fortunately, it was in the late spring of 2010 that the Erudite Mom, who teaches Autistic kids, attended a workshop that taught about the various type of autism, including Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger's.  And THAT changed everything.

Look for Part Three this weekend:  How I was diagnosed as an Aspie and what I did about it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My story with the Salinas Public Library, Part I

Hello everyone--

This post has been a long time in coming because it has taken me a lot of time to figure out just what to say and how to say it.  I started this blog when I first was on medical leave for work, and in the intervening six months everything has changed.  I started this blog to write about my experiences being an adult woman on the high end of the Autism Spectrum, but my self discovery about being an Aspie is tied in with my experience of being a librarian for the City of Salinas and THAT is the story I need to tell.

I have worked in libraries since August of 2001, got my MLIS in 2005, and started working for the Salinas Public Library in 2006.  The first couple of years of my employment in Salinas everything was great.  I had a wonderful supervisor, and worked with wonderful people.  The patrons were nice, the policies were fair and balanced, and life was good.  At this time I had no idea I was an Aspie.  I knew that I often was hyper verbal and had to work darn hard to have good social skills, but this was so much a part of my life I took it for granted, and it had never been a problem before.

In 2008, everything changed.  First, a new Library Director was hired--Elizabeth Martinez.  A google search shows her to be a glowing paragon of the library world, but I had had the chance to talk with librarians who had worked under her in the past and learned that she was horrible to work for.  I learned from the she was autocratic, never listened to anyone else, was rude, and more importantly treated staff with an absolute lack of respect or recognition of professional expertise.  At about the same time, things changed around in upper management and I got a new supervisor--Maria Roddy.  Maria who had never been a librarian, who was absolutely incompetent at the job, and who has absolutely threatened by anyone smarter or better than she was--a fact that being an Aspie, sadly I did not fully understand until it was much, much too late.

Elizabeth and Maria together started immediately implementing policies that were detrimental to both the library and the staff, and truly the patrons most of all.  I will spare you the litany of what they did wrong and why it was wrong, but I can say that many, many people on staff were concerned.  Cue, myself.  At that time I was the union steward for the library.  I had been asked to do this because I am well spoken and had no fear to ask the hard questions and stand up for staff--I was always respectful and fair, but I did ask.  Consequently, as these policies were implemented and as the problems in them became glaringly apparent, I was asked by several staff members to to ask management about them and seek some sort of clarity and communication between staff and management,  all in my role of steward.  I also was forced to ask several questions on my own when a policy change influenced me directly.  At that point, I was truly just trying to be a voice for good, and a help.  I was all about finding solutions and doing the right thing, not accusing management of being incompetent.

Big, BIG mistake.  When you have a direct supervisor who reflexively fears anyone better than she is and a library director who refuses to listen to any challenge to her ideas or thoughts, and more importantly when both hold a grudge and are perfectly willing to retaliate in any way necessary...

Disaster.  Utter and total disaster.  And God help me, I didn't see the danger until it was way too late.

I shall say goodnight for now.  In a few days I shall post Part Two, in which the Erudite Aspie gets bullied and harassed.

And fear not--this story gets worse, but it DOES have a happy ending.

God bless,


Friday, May 6, 2011

A Mom's Take on Homeschooling her Asperger's Son

I read this interview today and found it a very good summation of why you would homeschool your Aspie. A couple of money quotes:

Luke was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s Syndrome in first grade. How “mild” looked for him at the time was that, on the surface, he could function pretty well in most settings. But because of his lack of social skills in the classroom and on the playground, he was in trouble most of the time. Despite school changes and myriad medical, dietary, therapeutic and behavioral interventions, his social learning just couldn’t keep up, and each year he fell further and furtherbehind. Academically, he was flying, but socially and behaviorally, he was floundering.
Yes, that sounds very familiar. And:

My general attitude about learning is that kids don’t need the “ideal” environment all the time…some hardship (within reason) makes for a more meaningful learning experience. We learn most from the challenges in our life, and smoothing every bump in the road for our kids only delays that learning.

For Luke, however, the social challenges in school were burying him. Most kids his age could place a scolding from the teacher or a playground argument in context and learn from them. He couldn’t. He simply felt bullied, victimized, and alone.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The erudite family, AKA I miss you Grammy!

Because my blog readers are all intelligent, rather erudite people themselves, I am sure you all know what erudite means.  Simply put, it means well read, in the 'reads a lot of books about a lot of things so is very educated and knows at least a little bit about most anything' meaning of the work'.  Presumptuous and arrogant calling myself erudite may sound, well...I call myself the Erudite Aspie because I just am.  I was raised in a family that believed in reading and education, particularly on my maternal side.  My Grammy never saw a book that didn't interest her, and her favorite thing to do was go to museums.  She brought up my mother this way, and my mother brought me up this way, and so on and so on.  It's a family trait--erudite mom and erudite sister live up to their names, and I have an erudite aunt and an erudite brother.  Above and beyond reading and museums. our family has a tendency to take classes, or listen to classes on iTunes University, for no other reason than the sheer fun of it.  We enjoy reading, we are insatiable in our quest for knowledge, and we always seek answers to questions.  Our idea of fun is playing trivial pursuit (sometimes we just read the questions and don't bother with the board).  We are in love with fun and unused words like happify.  We rock at Jeopardy.  And any one of us could lead a decent discussion about Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

My earliest memories of this are from erudite mom and the supremely erudite Grammy--who passed away almost 7 years ago, and who I miss every day.  She gifted us all with a natural desire to see and explore and learn that stretched from the LaBrea Tarpits to Chaco Canyon, and the world is a lesser place without her.

My Grandaddy, who also left a gaping hole in the world when he left it, was erudite in the quiet, less obvious way.  You'd never see him go to a museum or take a class, but beware.  He had an encyclopedic knowledge of agriculture, pests, history, geography, and aviation.  Plus, he served as tech support for the entire family.  Grammy and Grandaddy together were an unstoppable team when it came to jeopardy or trivial pursuit.  Against them, the rest of us had to throw in the towel.

As a child, a very Aspie child who was unaware she was Aspie, I was often accused of having my nose in a book all the time, and not participating in family events or socializing, and all the other negative things that can be said about a dedicated bookworm.  The concern, of course, was that I wasn't learning social skills.  That was true--but it was also true that as an Aspie I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of learning them anyway.  So I was lucky in that my favorite past time, reading and the learning that accompanied reading, also served as the best way to avoid situations that were overwhelming to my poor Aspie self.

And you know, I turned out pretty OK after all.  And erudite besides!


PS--happify--an unused old English word that means 'to make happy'.  How great is that?  See why I love this stuff?  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Homeschooling and the Autism Spectrum

Growing up, the hardest part of the Erudite Aspie's life was school. Not academically, she always did fine there, but as she's mentioned, the social aspect of it was torture for her--and, as her Mum, for me as well.

For the first three years of her education, I homeschooled her. I loved it, and she thrived, but she and her sister decided that they wanted to go to public school. I let them, but knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn't. It's not that the school was bad, it wasn't. They had terrific teachers who were dedicated and caring and all that you want a teacher to be, but Erudite Aspie's fellow students, not so much. No matter how much she wanted to fit in, she didn't, couldn't.

Homeschooling wasn't as easy then as it is now with the internet, but it was doable, and it sure would have saved her a lot of heartache. I realize that you can't totally erase heartache from your kids' lives, but don't do it on purpose, right?

With all this in mind I was very interested in this recent post on Ree Drummond's outstanding site The Pioneer Woman. PW isn't solely about homeschooling or about Autism, but she is homeschooling her four children and has several guest posters who are also teaching their kids at home, always worth reading. Last month one of her guests asked a question for a correspondent, Mary: Should we take our high-functioning autistic son out of public school and homeschool him? The debate was spirited and hugely supportive, and today she posts Mary's decision: yes, we should.

I think so, too, Mary, and God bless you for doing so. I truly believe that your son, like my daughter, will thrive at home, and can learn the social skills he'll need for adulthood in a more supportive environment than a public school (or any school, for that matter). For kids on the Spectrum, being forced into social situations is not the way to learn those necessary skills, in fact, if anything it's more likely to turn them away from social situations entirely. Autistic kids need to learn those skills by rote because they don't get them instinctively, and forcing them to deal without that training is not only ineffective, but counterproductive--and hurtful.

As a public school teacher--high school science--I heartily support home schooling, whether your kid is on the Spectrum or not. I hope my future grandchildren are homeschooled, and if their parents can't do it, I'd be happy to take a few hours out of my retirement days for some quality time with my kids' kids. No better contribution to their futures, sez I.

Hindsight is always 20-20, and while I do wish I had known then what I know now, I'm grateful that my daughter turned out pretty well despite our ignorance. Do I wish I could have saved her all that frustration? Sure, but as we often say to each other, Now we know. Everyone has painful times growing up, most of us come through adolescence unscathed nevertheless. But for those of you who are still in the position to make that schooling choice, especially if your child is on the Spectrum, I recommend you give it due consideration. I doubt you'll regret it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mental health and the job--the good and bad of unemployment

Hello everyone--

Tonight, I am going to speak a bit about my personal experience at work.  For those that don't know, I have been out of work for 3 months now. I went out on stress leave-stres which had been building for two and half years--and have not yet been allowed to come back.  I won't discuss here what has been happening at my workplace that got me to this point, nor will I discuss the shenanigans that have happened in the last three months I haven't been working.  First, because it is just too depressing to think about more than I have to, and second, because this post would be the size of a novella if I were to explain it all.

What I want to focus on is the core of my stress--bad management.  Specifically, a bad manager that I have had many, many conflicts with and who has created a very hostile work environment not just for me but for pretty much everyone.  To rewind and give context for this, I have a friend on facebook who posted this link about mental health and being unemployed versus being in a bad work environment.  Contrary to popular belief and opinion, the result of the research is that being in a bad work environment is actually more damaging to mental health than being unemployed.

A few years ago, I would have said that was hogwash.  I would have emphasized that any job is better than no job at all, because at least you get a paycheck, it gives you more a sense of accomplishment, you gain or maintain job skills, just to name a few of the benefits.  And in fact these are all true in most cases.  Unemployment is draining both on the wallet and the psyche. In fact, for those that are unemployed or underemployed, I'd recommend this excellent video for further thoughts on being unemployed and how to make the best of it.

But I was struck by this paragraph of the report on mental health in poor working conditions vis a vis being unemployed:

Managers are especially important to employee well-being, says Robert Hogan, Ph.D., an expert on personality in the workplace and a former chair of the department of psychology at the University of Tulsa. "Bad bosses will make anybody unhappy," Hogan says. "Stress comes from bad managers."

I read this and thought yes, exactly.  I am living proof that this is true. There were many causes that led to me going out on stress leave, but most of them fell under the category of sometimes life is just hard and the job is just difficult, and I could have handled.  What I couldn't handle is the relentless effort of my direct supervisor and the head of my department to discriminate against me, retaliate against me, lie about me, and in all the little ways they could make my life at work as miserable as possible.  That is what took stress over the edge from something manageable to something I could not handle.  Sure, I am not getting a paycheck and I am worried how I am going to pay bills.  Sure, the uncertainty of my future is in doubt and that uncertainty causes stress.  Sure, I find myself striving to find enough productive things to do to fill my day so I don't get apathetic or lose my edge.

But it all would be so, SO much worse if I were at work.

Does this have anything to do with being an Aspie?  Maybe.  I don't think so, though, as I am sure many others who are perfectly neurotypical have many of the same experiences.

Leave any thoughts in the comments below.  As always, I'd love to hear from you!

Have a good day,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I hate talking on the phone, and I have good reasons why!

Today I read an article on Brian King's excellent website about living in the Autism Spectrum called "I HATE talking on the phone".  This struck a chord, because as all of you know who have read my earlier posts, I do indeed hate talking on the phone.

Brian then enumerates the reasons why people on the Autism Spectrum tend to hate the phone.  When the phone rings, we are shocked, and we are immediately cast into a position where we are going to have to talk, and we don't know how long or for what reason, and we have no time to prepare.  Aspies can't just jump into conversation (except perhaps the casual hello, how are you, please and thank you forms of conversation you do every day as a matter of rote), we have to prepare.  The phone gives you no time to prepare.

I highly suggest reading his post yourself, but I'd like to talk about one other thing I find to be the most compelling reason for me personally--on the phone, you have to keep talking. You can't have silence on the phone, you are impelled to keep the conversation going and that is deathly difficult for Spectrumites.  I can't tell you the number of times I am on the phone and the silence has stretched and I just have no idea what to do about it.  Or the number of times I am on the phone and I have used up my ability to hold conversation (and this holds true for my friends and family and boyfriend, it isn't the person on the other side that is the problem but the mode of conversation itself) and I REALLY want to end the call but can't figure out how to do so politely.  

Electronic communication, in contrast, allows you to communicate on your own time.  It allows you to prepare what you want to say.  There are no awkward silences in email.  No figuring out how to end a conversation without being rude.   Plus, tools such as email and facebook allow communication with many people at once, which is FAR more productive and a time saver.  Try organizing a family reunion for 100 people solely by phone about inefficient.  

And to some people I know (none of whom read this blog though!) don't judge those of us that hate the phone.  If you never own a computer or have an email, relying solely on phone (and no texting!), I might think you are crazy and not using time well but I believe you have the right to communicate how you want.  Give me the same courtesy.  And never, never think electronic communication isn't 'personal' enough.  Try it, THEN try and tell me that.

One last note...while this are good reasons that Aspies hate the phone, but I am related to several neurotypicals that feel the exact same way for the exact same reasons.  Are you like that?  Let me know in the comments.

Cheers, EA

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why we have regrets, and why we shouldn't

Today, an old friend of mine from my college days tagged a picture of a bunch of people we knew back then on Facebook.  It was taken at the house where we used to live, a year after I left, and about half of the people were familiar to me.  Seeing this picture, remembering my year of living with so many of those people in my crazy senior year at UC Berkeley filled me with a lot of sweet nostalgia...

But also a ton of regret.

Regret of the times I was careless of other people's feelings.  Times I let my emotions get totally out of control.  Times I thought that if I didn't want to go to a mandatory meeting, I didn't have to, and didn't bother to hide my feelings on the matter.  Times I complained bitterly about installing water saving shower heads because it made it much harder for me to wash my very long and thick hair (though for the record, those water saving shower heads do suck!).  Times I figured I could play whatever music I wanted however loudly I wanted and never mind my roommate and my neighbors.  Times I didn't do the dishes because I wasn't in the mood and used the excuse they needed to soak, then complained when others did the same.  Times I put pressure on people to like me and want to hang out with me when you know...for the most part, they didn't.

Times, in other words, when I was being my very worst Aspie self.

It pains me to know how badly I behaved, how callously I treated people, and all without really intending to.  I am sure I wasn't always bad--I like to think I have a basic streak of decency and compassion, and one of the people who I lived with did ask me to be her maid of honor so it couldn't have been all bad--but I remember the times I was my worst self and I regret.  I regret deeply.  And I am ashamed of my actions.

The thing is, I was an Aspie, I have always been an Aspie, and I didn't know it.  Just had no clue in 1997-1998 that I had a brain that was wired differently.  I can see now my horrible social rudeness and ineptitude, but at the time, I just didn't.  I didn't know, had no way of knowing, and without knowledge had no way of doing it differently.

If I had known then I was an Aspie, I could have shared it with people, and they would have helped me. I lived with a group of truly wonderful people and I know beyond doubt that if my Asperger's had been a known fact at that time, they would have understood me more, helped me handle it, and been more patient.  And I, if I had known, would have been able to work even harder to overcome the social shortcomings.

But that didn't happen.  And now, sitting at my desk in 2011 almost 13 years after graduating from Berkeley, I just have to forgive myself.  Let it go.  Accept it as part of the cost of being an Aspie without knowing it, focus on the wonderful friends and boyfriend I have now, and stop mourning over what could have been 13 years ago.

Because it is OK to have regrets, but it isn't OK to let them control your life.  And the God I believe in doesn't teach being ashamed, but teaches us we should ALL press on to that goal He has promised day at a time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Hello everyone--

Sorry for the light blogging recently--I've been keeping myself busy and ignoring my adoring blog fans (all nine of you!).  I wish I could blame this on being an Aspie but really...straight laziness.  Sorry!

Today is February 14th and though many mock Valentine's Day as an awful commercial holiday and the ultimate guilt trip for couples who feel obliged to buy each other presents (and I must admit, I HATED it when I was single!), I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day anyway.  Do something fun for yourselves, have a glass of champagne, share a kiss with the person you love or just enjoy the excuse to eat chocolate.  In my newly mature and happily dating opinion, it is a perfect excuse to celebrate and relax!  And really, the history is very interesting.

Cheers from the not-yet-under-the-influence-of-champagne EA!

Monday, January 31, 2011

I am me.

My sister has always been a bit, well, different. She never understood certain things the rest of us did. As Mom has said repeatedly over the years, she marches to the beat of her own drummer. Not a different drummer, but her own. She was, at times, just as confusing to us as we were to her. When she was diagnosed with Aspberger's we all went AHH! Everything makes sense now! And it did.

But where does the woman end and the Aspie begin?

For most of us, that primordial question of Who Am I, is asked sometime during puberty. We understand that we are not our parents nor do we want to be. So who are we exactly? For many of us, this constant search of self is a life long journey and if we're really lucky, we'll find someone to share it with us. It would be unfair to say EA never had this existential moment in her adolescence as she did. Only her question would have been shaped differently. Instead of asking who am I, she'd more likely to ask, why don't people make sense? And for her, making sense out of the nonsensical has been a lifelong journey.

It has been painful, laborious, frustrating and filled with anger and rage and doubts and sorrow. Sound familiar? As has been mentioned frequently already in this blog, she has had to learn everything most of us take for granted by rote. The world doesn't make much more sense to her as it did when she was thirteen but she understands it better and she has learned to fit into it better. Just like, for many of us, we may not really understand ourselves or know who we are perfectly, but we've gotten some idea as to who we would like to be. Well, some of us.

For EA things are much different. Now that she knows why she marches to the beat of her own drummer she can focus on learning more about fitting in her Aspberger's with the regular world. This will continue to be something she will be concerned about and worried about making sure she doesn't mess up. Only now, she has a new question, one that has plagued the rest of us since we first started puberty, Who Am I?

She knows who she is for she too has taken the journey of self-discovery and she has come to accept herself for herself. And, like most of us, she's learned to change the things she doesn't like and to accept the things we're too lazy to change. But more than that is the question of who is the woman and who is the aspie? Am I doing something because I am EA or am I doing this because I'm an aspie? Do I get frustrated because I'm waiting in line or is it because aspies don't do lines very well? Or is it both? How can I tell when I'm being Me or when I'm being an Aspie? Is there a difference?

There are certain characteristics that the two of us share. We get them from our mother. People will frequently remark that we walk the same or we look the same, some even remark that do X the same way. I have a very bad habit of playing with the ends of my hair. As a consequence I always have split and dead ends that drive me crazy. I come by this naturally, Mom does it as well. My sister does not and, not so consequently, she has perfect ends. I don't need to think, do I fiddle with my hair because those on the autism spectrum have a tendency to stem, or is it because this is a character trait I inherited from my mother? My sister does.

For EA it comes down to wondering what part of her Being stems from who she is as a person and who she is as an aspie. Does she hate, hate, hate, hate waiting because she's EA or is it because she's got something wonky with her brain? Or is it both? Mom hates waiting, I hate waiting for things. Mom hates talking on the phone and so do I. Chances are EA comes by these two characteristics naturally. EA hates waiting because she is, at her core, impatient. If the purpose is to get from point A to point B then she wants to do it as quickly as possible and she hates being slowed down. She doesn't want to wait. If something's due Monday she'll have it finished by Saturday. It's the aspie part of her brain that gets frustrated when no one else seems to get as impatient as she is.

For example, if she is going to turn into a shopping center off to the left she can either make a turn at the light or go through it then make an eventual left hand turn when the traffic's clear. If there is a green light she always takes it. Sometimes her way is quicker. We've timed this and she has, on occasion, beaten me to the front door. But not always. She goes for what appears to be faster than being patient and waiting for the light to change in the left hand turn lane. She doesn't take into account that it's much safer to wait and turn at the light than it is to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a left.

My sister has also made mention that she hates talking on the phone. Granted, chatting on the phone is annoying. Sometimes it's more expedient to have a phone conversation than it is to send emails back and forth. But she really hates it. I can simply accept that there are few people in this world I can talk to for hours on end without wishing I could just hang up on them. Very few. I am, not, however conflicted with the question of what part of me hates it. For EA, she knows that, as an aspie, she doesn't handle phone conversations well and, as an aspie, she can learn tricks to having phone conversations in which she needs to cue in to what the other person is saying.

But what about other aspects of her life? EA hates silence. She has to have noise, be it music or conversation. She likes to have music playing even when we're in the car talking. But why? Is it because, as a person, she hates having lulls in conversation, or finds the emptiness of a room without sound annoying? Or is it because she's an aspie and she cannot function without this sort of stimuli in the background? These are aspects of her personality that she now gets to figure out. If she, as a person, doesn't like silence then she needs to deal when others need a few minutes of quiet time. If it's the aspie in her that requires a constant source of background noise then she needs to learn how to cope during those times when silence is absolutely required and it's driving her batty.

But no matter the personality quirk that will undergo this new phase of self-discovery, there will most likely be tears and rage and frustration and confusion and anger and sorrow and confusion and drama. As a family, all we can do is help her the best we can, offer guidance and support and love her-the rest is up to her.

Sound familiar?

Next up: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Aspergers and the Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang theory.  I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this blog has seen at least one episode.  Heck, I don't own a TV and I've watched the first two seasons on DVD and am working my way through season 3 as we speak.  I LOVE this show, as do most of the people who have seen it.

When I first saw the show, during the first season, I found myself oddly sympathizing with the group of geeks, the four male protagonists who are smarter than the rest of us put together but just don't GET the normal things of life.  Sure, it is exaggerated to make a point, but the subtle undercurrents struck a chord with me.  Always managing to say the wrong them?  Been there.  Not understanding sarcasm?  All too familiar.  Being unsure about that whole dating thing works?  Boy howdy,  yes.  The scene that struck the strongest chord in me is probably the one where they all show up to a party they are invited to at precisely the time they were told, and no one is there yet, nor is the hostess (Penny, their eminently normal neighbor) even dressed.  They are baffled because, well, isn't this the time you told us the party started?  It's a very funny moment that shows clearly that this group of men simply do not get social mores, but I have to say on this one I completely was on their side.  Seriously, if you aren't supposed to show up on time to a party, how late are you supposed to be?  If you want people to show up later, why not just start the party later?  I have never, NEVER understood the fashionably late thing.  It remains one of my minor pet peeves.

Then you have Sheldon.  Socially inept to the point that he insults most people he meets, absolutely incapable of recognizing sarcasm or subtle hints, very rigid in his schedule and absolutely catatonic at the thought of breaking out of it.  

Sheldon is an Aspie.  And he manages to make you love you because of it.  Sheldon is way smarter than I am, and I hope I have a few more social skills in my arsenal, but there isn't much difference between us.  Well, I might be cuter too.

To watch a perfect example of this, I suggest you watch this short clip (embedding is disabled, sorry!).

Watch the Big Bang Theory if you don't already.  You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waiting, waiting, waiting

Hello everyone!

Sorry for the lag in blogging...darn that whole life thing.  But I am back, and today I am going to choose to discuss something that I don't think anyone really likes over much--waiting.

Waiting.  In this world, we wait everywhere.  At the dentist, at the grocery store, behind a red light.  We wait for paychecks, and letters.  We wait for good news--is the baby born yet?  We anxiously await to hear if we got into college or got the job.  And we wait for the scary and sad--is it a tumor?  Was the surgery successful?  

The wonderful modern era we live in has provided us with an infinite number of ways to distract and entertain ourselves during waiting.  I, for example, have a smart phone and use it to check email, Facebook, play Angry Birds or solitaire or Tetris, and check the news while I wait.  In the days before smart phones, I always, and I do mean always, had a book with me so I could read while waiting.

The thing is, as an Aspie, I am constitutionally incapable of waiting without something to occupy my mind.  I simply can't do it.  In fact, trying to do it drives me just a bit crazy (short trip, pack light, I know).  I just get, well, bored.  So I find something to do to occupy my brain.  

I am pretty sure that this is one thing my Aspie brain has in common with the Neurotypical brain.  Do you agree?  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vastly Improved, AKA, are you sure you are an Aspie?

It is quite interesting when I talk to people that have known me only for the last two or three years and try to tell them I am an Aspie, because they don't see it, and they don't get it.  I explain to them what it means to be Aspie and the basics of Asperger's Disorder and being on the Autism Spectrum and they look at me with genuine bafflement..."Wow, I am glad you know, but are you sure?  I don't see this with you at all".

My answer--first, I hide it really, really well.  And second, you should have seen me when I was a teenager and into my early 20s.

Imagine your teen years, and going through puberty.  Now imagine going through the same thing while having Asperger's or being on the Autism Spectrum.  I cringe at what a tough time I had, and how hard I made it on others, and how many people I hurt or offended or turned off because I just. Didn't.  Get it.  And I was way too stubborn to even contemplate the idea that I could, in fact, be wrong.  I suggest you all read the Erudite Mom's post on emotions for further details on this from the one who was right there with me the whole time.

It was not until my mid twenties that I finally had the epiphany that even though I thought so many of the social niceties were stupid, and even though I hated small talk and didn't do well at all in groups of large people, and even though I just didn't get any of this at all--well, I was going to have to buckle down and learn some social skills and basic diplomacy for relationship building.  It took learning it by habit, training, and rote, and NONE of it was instinctive.

It still isn't instinctive.  The only reason I seem to have 'good social skills' now is because I have learned what to say and how to say it and what to look for.  And this is not an easy or a natural process for me.  I have to be on my toes and paying attention and focusing on everything I do and say every second of a social interaction.  I can't let my guard down at all, or I will inevitably do the wrong thing and make a fool of myself.  My brain still doesn't understand why I have to do it, but I have accepted that I DO, and so I practice and fake it, and I'm lucky in my friends that still love me and are forgiving of my slip ups.  They also are good at cuing me if I am heading down the wrong road so I can stop myself from making an egregious mistake--more on that in another post.  The end result of this is that I leave social interactions absolutely exhausted, even when I've had a good time.

So yes, I am an Aspie.  If you can't tell, then that means I did it correctly.  If you can tell, well, please forgive me, and let's try and get past it and be friends, OK?  I promise, I really do like you.  And I'm worth getting to know.