A Not So Quick Fix

I had to stop myself from trying to adopt another guinea pig yesterday. Why? Getting another pig seemed like a quick fix for the problem: Fluffy is bored. Why is he so bored? He’s used to being with three dogs and four cats who regularly interact with him, especially Moo. Yeah, I was just going to get a filler for something he will have back as soon as we can get a house (not Moo, she will stay with my mom, but my two dogs and two cats who they really do like to interact with).

Getting another pet to make one happy would have been impulsive. This is a behavior I struggle with, especially when I am having bad breaks with my depression. Its the idea that a thing can fix the problem, when in reality, they make it bigger.

So I have to make a plan. Fluffy is acting out because he’s bored. He’s being impulsive, just like momma. Poor Charlie gets the brunt of it, but separating them isn’t an option because they always try to get back to each other (bonded pair).

Here’s how you deal with impulsive behavior:

  1. Identify the problem. Fluffy is bored. I’m struggling with depression again. Good, that’s a start.
  2. How much of a problem is it really? Well, Charlie got bit on the nose and I’m not eating or sleeping well.
  3. Look at possible solutions. For all of us, we need to get out of the house. It seems straight forward, but its not. I don’t have a green space to take them to just do pig things (sit in the sun, eat some grass, waddle). I don’t have anywhere to go. So I have to make these things. We will plan a trip to the pet store (I had a pig named Holidae who absolutely loved going to the store and just seeing people, so its a thing).
  4. Actually follow through with the solutions. Easier said than done. I’m sitting on the couch writing this while the boys just do what they do in their cage. Its on the list, I just have to find the energy for it.

Impulsive behavior can suck. It sucks up money. It sucks up all sorts of things that you didn’t realize were a thing, especially space in your brain. It can lead to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It can be hard to identify by yourself because it seems to work to make you feel better, but those feelings don’t last.


Lies We Tell Ourselves

My brain lies to me. Some of it is from being autistic and have sensory processing issues (I have tactile hallucinations when stressed), but a good bit of it from abuse. The lies are my brain’s way of validating the abuse, basically telling me the abuse is the truth.

I got up and started making black eyed peas to go with dinner. My brain told me I wasn’t hungry because I had already started cooking. I know the peas aren’t going to be ready for a few hours, so my brain told me I wasn’t hungry, to just get some tea. I know better than to believe my brain, so I made a sandwich.

There are many ways your brain can lie to you. Cognitive Dissonance is one way. You can see this a lot, especially when it comes to political beliefs when challenged by moral and/or religious beliefs of the person. Basically, its where two things that are set beliefs for someone contradict each other, causing mental disturbance, which can be seen as being argumentative or even physically aggressive. The Pro-Life movement is a good one. Babies born is great, but most don’t care about what happens after and see it as not their problem (this is not true of all Pro-Life people, however, it seems to be the idea of the movement as a whole).

Another way is Impostor Syndrome. This is where your brain tells you that you can’t do something, even if you have done it a million times. It told me I wasn’t good with kids. It tells several of my friends that they are bad parents. It tells too many people that they are a failure when they are successful. Its dangerous.

Abuse also makes your brain lie to you. It puts a little piece of your abuser in your head, telling you that you are wrong, you are bad, you are unworthy. That is what the problem today is. My weight has always been an issue to my dad, to the point of causing a disorder. I have to keep myself from obsessively stepping on the scale. His condescending critiques went as far are ruining what was one of my favorite TV shows in high school, CSI. The episode was about the death of a model who had severe body dysmorphia. She made sure everything that went in had an equal amount come out. It was so severe that if her outs didn’t match her ins, she would take it from her flesh. My dad said that was what would happen to me if I kept picking at my face (always had acne, he would tease about it but refuse to let anything be done about it). Its been about 16 years since that episode aired. I was 17. I still have acne at 33. I haven’t put holes in myself because of it.

Abuse can cause both Impostor Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance. People telling us we can’t do something or that what we believe or even know is wrong. Its hard to realize you are dealing with these things because it feels like you are doing it to yourself. Your brain lies to you because these things keep chemicals that perpetuate those feelings flowing through it. Its a hard cycle to break.

If you ever feel these things, get help. Talk to someone, do research to find out what could work for you. Its not worth letting your brain lie to you. It doesn’t always have your best interest in mind.

A Liar and a Fake

My sister thinks I don’t have autism, and my brother thinks I’m just attention seeking.

Yup, that is what my big take-away was from seeing them last week.

My sister offered to buy plane tickets for me to come in for Jim’s funeral, and I accepted because if I said “no”, I immediately would have been a selfish bitch with no sense of family. So I accepted, and now she can hold that over my head for as long as possible (side note: I know exactly how much was spent, and may send her the money so its no longer on my conscience once I can afford to). So long story short, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

It somehow came to talking about long-term plans and goals. I mentioned I still want to go to grad school, and that I’m still very interested in studying behavior and development, basically Autism Studies. I commented after saying this that I find it kind of funny being autistic and studying autism. Keep in mind my sister has stopped herself from saying that something made her “feel autistic” in front of me many times. She is well aware that I have autism. But for some reason, she doesn’t see it as “real” autism. Yeah, my sister doesn’t see me as valid as I am, so she intentionally forgets big pieces to make her view of me fit.

My brother couldn’t care less. I mentioned something about getting a puppy in a year or so, because I need Vaughn and Janyce to be able to train it. I am completely aware I am disabled, but he thinks its just for a big “LOOK AT ME!!!!” act, with no real impairment to be had. He literally asked me why. I don’t think I should have to explain why I need my 10 ½ year old and almost 12 year old dogs to train a puppy. I’ve had them since they were 10 and 6 weeks, respectively. It took them years to figure out how to help me the way they do. They are getting old. They kind of have a shelf life. He thinks I just do all of this to get people to pay attention to me. Yup, puppies are just for attention.

A big thing to keep in mind for those who are autistic: we want to pass. Being “normal” is seriously a goal. The fact many of us can pass for quirky most of the time, not disabled or mentally ill (seriously, that is another thing that needs to stop, just because many of us have co-morbid mental health issues doesn’t mean autism is a mental illness), is awesome. We are a productive part of society. Behavior is learned, so what someone does isn’t always an indicator of autism, though how they do it can be.

I have had people tell me I can’t be autistic because I’m great with kids. I have an almost obsessive interest in behavior and development, so kids are a great place to observe this. I’m patient because I learned not to let things I can’t change and that aren’t because of my actions get to me. Its all about learned behavior.

Austin had a woman comment that he wasn’t “really autistic” because he could write eloquently and get his point across. She even used the fact that he could talk (mother of a non-verbal autistic son) as why he wasn’t autistic. I can’t show it to you directly because to save his sanity, he deletes those types of comments. Its interesting because he’s the first person I remember knowing where “autistic” was part of my personal definition for him, more specifically “Asperger’s”. I used his characteristics to base why I was “weird” but not “autistic” for many years (remember, my diagnosis was not talked about and was basically secret to me until I was 30. I do have memories of that time and those events, but they didn’t make sense out of context). Autism isn’t just one thing, so no two people with autism, even if they are identical twins, have the same autism.

Autism is all about behaviors and why certain behaviors form, and even to a degree, how those behaviors are performed. Those of us that pass have learned which behaviors are OK for use in society without someone looking at us as if we have multiple heads and green polka dots covering our bodies. Sometimes the veil slips and we do something that is obviously not an acceptable behavior. Those moments can be hard to recover from.

The definition of autism is that it is a pervasive disorder of development, mostly impacting social behaviors (speech, body language and understanding of situations, which is just a limited scope) and sensory processing (which can be as broad as it sounds). I used to tell myself I couldn’t be autistic because I can talk to anyone, refusing to acknowledge that I can’t really read between the lines in a lot of situations (sorry to all my guy friends who ever really wanted to be more than just friends, I really didn’t get it, I am a fucking space cadet!); basically, I suck at social speech. I couldn’t be autistic because I didn’t see myself stim (common term for self-stimulate) or hurt myself, but I was doing those behaviors all the time.

I will always have fixed patterns for how things are done. Left sock, left shoe, right sock, right shoe. Medications before supplements, unless I take them all at once (I can easily swallow over 20 pills at once, which is a blessing and a curse). I will always have a tendency to become obsessive. I will always feel weird in social situations (seriously, if you have a chance to see me at a bar, it can be uncomfortable).

Just remember, if you see me wearing mismatched socks, ask me if I’m OK, but don’t bring up the socks. Hopefully, I’m just behind on laundry.

The Things I Keep Doing to Myself

I do things that normal people don’t do. Neurotypical people (and most divergent people as well) don’t do these things.

Big one is I regularly cause myself to have Acute Hyponatremia. For those who are unfamiliar with this word, its also called Water Poisoning. Yeah, I do this to myself at least twice a year. Basically, I end up drinking so much fluid (usually tea because I just drink a lot of tea) that my sodium levels drop. Symptoms are like that of a cold or the flu (chills, aches, fatigue), extreme cases can be fatal since it can cause brain swelling. Normal people don’t compulsively drink something, but that’s kind of the name of the game with me.

I have dealt with chronic dehydration of unknown origin my entire life. Not enough to warrant a serious medical investigation, just enough that my mom was told her six month old needed more fluids because even though she was a VERY healthy eater (bottles, purees, anything I could get my grubby little mitts on), she was dehydrated. My mom’s solution was unsweetened tea (ice included) in a baby bottle, and then a melamine cup since that was the only thing I didn’t literally eat.

That’s another thing, I used to have a serious problem with Pica. I would eat anything. Screws were a thing that would go down easily, so that was a stressful trip to the ER one night for my mom when I was one. My dad got in trouble for that one because he left the screws on the floor. He didn’t find out until the hospital called him after pumping my stomach. I still have the urge to put things in my mouth, now I just have this thing called impulse control, which didn’t really kick in until I was already in high school.

Problem is if I get stressed, I am likely to not want to eat or drink anything, which will cause me to get seriously dehydrated in about four hours. I mean dry lips and throat and it just goes down hill from there. My brain then usually kicks into flood mode, aka I drink too much. There is a struggle for a happy medium that I really don’t get.

How do I keep myself from killing myself via my own bodily processes? I really don’t know some times. Right now I’m on a “don’t want to eat, but oooo, tea!” kind of kick. I had to stop chugging because my stomach was full and my brain went “your gonna die.” I haven’t drank enough to make myself sick, I just felt like drinking some tea. I really like tea, like anything tea related gets me excited. I keep a pitcher in the fridge full of it.

I thought about all of this when I decided to take my Brita Sport Bottle out of its packaging. I’ve had it for a while now. The sheer number of water bottles I’ve had is astounding. The Brita water bottles are something that was amazing to start. I had a first generation one back in high school because I drank so much water and tap water is gross (we have two filter pitchers to combat this problem, I don’t use tap water for any kind of cooking). They came and went a few different times, but now are back. I’ve had several. They don’t last forever, and it was a pain in the ass when they would be discontinued since I couldn’t get filters, and when they were reintroduced, the new filters didn’t work in the old bottles. These things have been a lifesaver, though.

I will always struggle with a compulsion to do something too much. Overeating, drinking too much water, those are the big ones for me. Its something I will always have to work on, but that is just how life goes. Stay a work in progress.

And He’s Finally Gone

I got the call at 10:20am (Eastern time, so don’t say I got the time wrong, I’m currently in Florida). My dad letting me know his dad had just passed. I have said it before and will say it again, this man was NOT my grandfather. My grandfather died in 2002, right before I turned 17. He was my mom’s dad. My grandpa died the year before, my mom’s grandfather. Jim didn’t want to be my grandfather, so I don’t feel like I can refer to him as such.

This was a death I was waiting for. The one I found out about yesterday, I’m not sure I was ready for. David Wylie. Someone I met when I was 18. Voice teacher and friend from Louisiana Tech University. He had a very private battle with leukemia that ended on Saturday night. I feel so much more pain for his passing than Jim’s.

Mr. Wylie (because it always felt weird to call him David) was always supportive and had so much love for every student who he came across. I seriously think he didn’t have the ability to save something mean to anyone, at least not in a way that didn’t come across as a compliment and a fond memory later down the road.

That is a stark contrast to Jim, who would use the R-word and N-word just to watch me and my mom squirm. I can honestly say I never felt like Jim truly loved me. He was too scared of dying to fight when I showed up, and pain meds make the mind funny.

My dad was saying he would keep me updated on the service. I felt guilty telling him I wouldn’t be able to make it. I don’t want to be there and financially, I can’t; I have no money. I can’t even figure out how I’m going to get my reflux meds that will run out on Friday.

I honestly don’t know what I’m feeling right now. There is grief, but I don’t know for whom or what. There is anger, which I know where it belongs. A profound sadness that has been creeping on because that is what depression does. My brain is currently broken, and it is scaring the living shit out of Sean.

I feel useless right now. Its very different being here and not planning my trip back. I don’t even know where home is anymore because there is nothing for me to go back to. I feel like I left my life in Arkansas, but my babies are in Texas, and Sean is here. I’m just in limbo.

A Letter to My Children

No, its not what you think. This isn’t some weird way of announcing that I’m pregnant. Though I wish I could make an announcement like that, I’m not reckless enough to get myself in that situation without having a job because I know that I’m high risk, and that’s not worth the risk. Its just some things that are weighing on my mind.

The average life expectancy of someone with autism is 36. Some of that is due to people have pretty severe co-morbid diagnoses along with autism that lead to a shorter life span. Majority of that is people with autism taking their own lives. Yeah, I’m 33. It’s weird to think that if I make it three more years (well two and a half really, my birthday is in July), I will surpass how long I was expected to live.

Chances are excellent my kids will have autism. Well, my daughters. Looking back at family history, it seems that my type of autism only impacts females. I don’t know about Sean’s because he gets to be Patient Zero in that experiment. I have two good friends who are autistic parents but not autism parents, so statistically, I’m probably it. I’m perfectly fine with that.

First thing, the most important person you need to love you is yourself. I spent so much time hating myself because I was different. Having a sister who was showered with love, affection and gifts by people who would turn their noses up at me as if I had rolled in shit made me feel worthless. Your Grammie fought hard to not let me feel like that, but it took a lot for me to learn to love myself. I promise to never let anyone make you feel the way I did. You will always know you are loved and that you have so much love to give and it will be the biggest and best thing you can ever do. I just want to you to love you.

Second, your body is your own. It won’t buy you love and affection. Don’t ever think that having a physical relationship will make someone love you. You have the right to say no. Women with autism are more likely to be sexually assaulted and abused. I’m part of that statistic. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. But also, don’t be scared of sex. Don’t be scared to talk to me or your dad or even your Grammie about sex (she’ll probably just tell you to talk to your mother about that). If you enjoy it, great! But if you don’t, that’s fine, too. Don’t do it because someone tries to make you feel like you owe it to them. You owe no one any rights to your body. You don’t have to share it if you don’t want to.

Third, no one has all the answers. No one can be right all the time. Your dad may have the favorite game of trying to stump me, but I don’t know it all. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t know yourself or that your truth is false. Always try to figure out what you want and need, and keep growing. We won’t stop loving you because of getting something wrong, so get messy and make mistakes, you’re learning and its a beautiful thing.

Four, I know its hard. When I was diagnosed, your Grammie was told to be prepared to institutionalize me so I wouldn’t become a burden on your aunt and uncle. Your grandpa wasn’t there; he refused to acknowledge I was autistic. He did, however, push to have me institutionalized when my depression was trying to kill me. I won’t sugar coat any of it. Growing up with your grandpa was horrible and he was abusive. He refused to protect me from his family; he refused to protect your Grammie, too. There was too much wrong with me and nothing could fix it. I won’t ever let that happen to you, but it still won’t be easy.

Fifth, use your words. Swear. Yell “FUCK!” at the top of your lungs when you need to, but speak eloquently when that is needed. Be able to say what is on your mind and say it loudly. No one can have your voice or your thoughts. It is your job to make them heard. Use colorful words that give you speech such a flavor that you salivate as they pass your lips and go out into the world. Be bold and devour books because that is where those juicy words live.

Sixth, fall in love. I don’t care if it’s with a person, an idea, something you are passionate about. Be in love with something! Use that passion and fire and build a world with it. Only allow in those who make you feel like the best version of yourself, but be sure to teach others how to do the same for themselves. Be aware of vampires that want to suck out your joy, your energy, your life. There will always be someone who is jealous of what you have without realizing someone else is jealous of them. Don’t be jealous of others. Their happiness doesn’t mean that you don’t get to be happy. It doesn’t work that way. Love and happiness and joy are things that increase exponentially as they are shared. Share as much as you can and you will never be lacking.

Always remember I love you, from before I knew you. That I cried writing this, hoping one day you will laugh when you read it because you already know all of it. Remember that I was prepared for you to be who you are and will always be amazed by who you become.

Love, your mom.

Making the Leap

It’s been almost two weeks since I made my mad dash to Florida. It took 21 hours, and Charlie had a panic attack about Lake Charles. He weighs less than two pounds, and he still had a panic attack. I guess better him than me. Traffic was a nightmare for someone not able to sit still when we hit Lake Charles. Construction along I10 had it down to one lane on a bridge that I can tolerate when things are going to speed, and it didn’t help I was getting mentally done running on less than three hours of hit or miss sleep.

Fluffy was unphased by the whole ordeal. He chilled in the castle thing (because they are guinea pigs and that is how they do), ate some cucumber and occasionally talked to me. Fluffy likes adventure and meeting surprises (usually because surprises for a guinea pig mean something they can eat or a new friend). Charlie is nothing like Fluffy. He is smaller than Fluffy by almost half a pound, about one and a half inches in length and close to an inch in width. He’s also not fluffy like Fluffy is, with a slick coat. They aren’t littermates, having been acquired about a month apart. They are similar in color (white with fawn).

Charlie was the more aggressive and standoffish one when I first got them. He didn’t like to be touched and was slow to even acknowledge me. They were almost a year old when I got them from a friend. Her boys had gotten them, excitedly optimistic about guinea pigs being fun pets. It turned out they are a dog family because they don’t let you forget about them, and my friend felt these guys were being neglected. I also found out she secretly hoped I was wanting guinea pigs. Lauren is amazing as a mom and an entrepreneur. Its no fault of hers, especially since she decided to re-home them when she realized they weren’t getting what they needed there. I honestly believe there is a pet for everyone, just not every pet fits with everyone.

Things have changed. These guys are two years old now, with my two years with them hitting at the end up spring. They are full-fledged middle-aged rodents. I would say Charlie has started to change since we got to Texas. It was hot, and he didn’t like that. Fluffy, like every other thing, didn’t really care. I had started training them to give kisses when I was going to give them a treat, which he seemed to think was beneath him. Now he’s popping up when he sees me and waiting for me to give him a kiss, just as a kiss with no treats. Fluffy was the needy one who needed to be reassured and loved on more. Now its Charlie. He was even the first to greet the first new person who came in (today, actually).

Charlie is still shy, which may be what came off as standoffish when he first got to me. He has already looked for Moo, my mom’s cat who got they were attached to. Its a weird adjustment to make going from being with seven other animals to being the only ones. I’m realizing how much Moo actually interacted and played with them.

Sean is adjusting, too. He thought they would be loud at all times and make a mess. They are vocal when they want or need something (plastic wrappers get them excited). He’s having to learn the difference between popcorning (the “wheak wheak”), bubbling (a purring sound), and chuttering (literal gnashing of teeth, rapid clicking, not a happy sound). He’s been amazed by how much they eat (yesterday was two large apples, two carrots, a handful of apple horse nuggets that they love, and over half a ball of hay). Fluffy loves the sounds of whatever Sean is working on; Charlie hates it (audio watermarking at frequencies that are near to being unheard by humans).

That all being said, I think we are OK. We survived the drive. I survived my interview (assistant teacher for the 2s class of a developmental pre-k program, right where I want to be if I get it). We are surviving Sean’s finals week (because this is a monthly thing). We are surviving because you have to survive to get to a point of thriving. We will get there as a family. We will get the other four fur-babies here with us. Sean will make it to graduation. We will have everything figured out. After we get to that point, we will be thriving.

My New Man

Over the Christmas holiday, I got to meet my new nephew, Ethan. Alex is now three and a half. Its been an amazing journey being their Iggy (a name Alex started calling me two years ago). Ethan was just shy of being three months old.

For all of Alex’s life, I worked preschool. Not at the school he attended, but I was close enough that when I left work, it was a quick drive to babysit him on a weekly basis. Two years of weekly one on one time with the one who is still one of the most important men in my life. Ethan joined those ranks.

I had three days total with my boys while I was there. Sean changed his first diaper. Ethan looked at me like he saw me every day of his life. He was so interested in me, everything I did. Uncle Sean seemed pretty neat, too.

He’s going to be four months in two weeks. I found myself jealous that he wasn’t mine. Sean seemed to feel the same. He seemed a little jealous that Iggy was preferred over Uncle by a baby who couldn’t even find his own mouth yet (wasn’t worried about it. Coordinated movements were starting, just not enough for good hand chewing).

Its been over a decade since I realized I want kids. Sean didn’t make that choice until he met me, though Alex and Ethan have made him realize he’s ready for them and really looks forward to them. We’ve talked about the chances of our kids having autism. Given I was an easy baby (per my mom, clingy and cuddly, great eater, always watching. I didn’t sleep as much, but some of us just aren’t good sleepers), I know mine probably won’t be. Sean was six months old when he came to his parents, so I don’t know what he was like as a newborn.

I love being an Iggy. I can’t wait until I get to be a mom. I’m prepared for more than most because of my experiences, both being autistic and working with all the kids I was so lucky to know.

That being said, I got Christmas pictures from some of my kids. I miss them because we were such a big part of each others lives for most of their lives. I’m thankful for their parents allowing me to be such. I cried when I found out one of my boys asks about me on a weekly basis. I still love these kids so much.

That Happened Fast

I put in a job application late Friday night. I got a call 11:30am on Monday. I have an interview on Monday. Its a special needs preschool program. I applied for a Teaching Assistant position even though I had decided I didn’t want to work child care. I was getting frustrated not getting calls from interviews from other positions I put in applications for.

I’m going to be leaving Texas and not coming back, at least not to stay like I have been. For the time being, the free-range fur children will be staying with my mom. I have to get some medical paperwork in place and get all of them vetted. Most apartments don’t allow pit bulls, but since I qualify for Emotional Support Animals and they function as in home service animals, the dogs are covered there. The cats? Well, a pet deposit should be enough to get them.

Janyce is more aware of what’s actually going on than Vaughn. The cats are aware to about the same level as Janyce. We have to make it work because there isn’t another choice.

I’m not saying I’m guaranteed to get this job. But I do know I have to be in Orlando to be able to get a job. Being with Sean will make things easier mentally.

It Must Mean Something

I just realized how it goes every year that I have written. I have a folder on my desktop that I save all my posts. I write them, then copy and paste them onto the magical internet. I save them by date. After the first of the year, I move all the of the previous year’s posts into a file for that specific year. I collect them after the fact. That must mean something, I just don’t know what.