Monday, November 30, 2015

Othello's Desdemona Dilemma

Sometimes I feel like my entire life can be summed up as one great unrelenting attempt at finding one person who understands and loves me unconditionally. Sure, there are people who love me, and I'm sure there are people who understand me. But I have yet to meet someone who can do both.

When it comes right down to it, everything I do/have done has been rooted in this deep seeded need. From friendships, to my education, to my career in the helping profession, to having having children, to my writing, they all boil down to the same desire.

This has been my whole life whether I have realized it or not. Now that I am getting older, I can't help but start to lose hope. Not the kind of hope people think they've lost when really they just need a lift or little encouragement. No. This is the kind that creeps in and I have to do everything to distract my thoughts from being completely buried in defeat. Where nothing around me seems to matter when it comes right down to it. None of it really makes me happy. None of it makes sense. The fear of never finding this person overcomes me.

I begin to look at people like neanderthals. Their idea of happiness is so ancient, how could they carry on pretending to be happy. Don't they realize that all this is temporary? It doesn't matter what school your kid gets into or how good your credit score is. None of this matters when you are dead. Nobody gets it. The point of existing with a purpose.

I'm afraid nobody will ever understand me.

I try to carry on like everything is okay. I turn the car radio up so my kids don't hear me sniffle and I pray whoever is in the passenger seat doesn't look over to see the ice glass tears welled up in my eyes.

I'm so lonely but the truth is most people only exacerbate that feeling. Making me think the kind of person I need is nonexistent. I tell myself not to bother betting on finding another half. Nobody wants to deal with stuff like that. Someone that demands you to hurry up and wait simultaneously. They want easy.

The people who love me know me well. But even they have exceptions when it comes to being understanding. Some come in like saviors but only when its convenient. After a while they leave.
Others are bound by blood, love with more tolerance and underlying resentment. Where their passive aggressive words of encouragement graze my skin just strong enough to make me bleed. Yet never deep enough to leave the kind of visible scars that would give outsiders a small inkling to whats really going on.

I'm so good at faking it. So far from perfect and I bend. You cant expect someone to constantly carry all that weight with grace. I don't want anyone to feel sorry. I just want to find somebody to take my hand and tell me things will be okay and mean it, because everything that lies quietly inside me waiting for release, they can see it.

One day my daughter asked why I stared out the window like a poet.

I wonder how even the weight of my gaze can be so prophetic.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Free Writing Workshop for Individuals on the Spectrum

It has been my understanding through personal experience that part of being on the spectrum means there are limited outlets for self expression. I would like to attempt to change that for 10 willing participants. I will start out by saying that writing, for most of my life has saved me. I would like others in similar situations to be able to experiment and see if writing could be of any help to them, in the way it has been for me. Whether it be a tool used to make sense of the world for themselves, or to communicate their understandings of the world to those around them, I believe writing can be incredibly beneficial.

For those who don't know, I am a published poet and writer, with a BA in Language and Literature as well as an MA in Psychotherapy. I am also on the spectrum.

I have decided to start an online workshop for others on the spectrum. I would like to keep it limited to those with formal diagnosis to start, and possibly open it up to others down the line.

Goal-The goal of the workshop will be to begin the process of getting words onto the page as a method of self expression. No experience writing is necessary. ( although it is suggested you have an idea of what genre you would like to work on and a sample piece for submission with registration.)

 Who- The workshop is open to any individuals ages 16 and over with a formal diagnosis of Aspergers/being on the spectrum.

What- The skills that will be covered in the workshop will be
            Free Writing

How long- The workshop will take place over the course of 6 weeks to start mid December.
There will be one 30 minute individual meeting for each participant that will be set up based upon both our schedules and availability.
There will be one 60  minute group meeting PER WEEK I will set up on google hangouts. (you don't need to be on camera if you are camera shy, we can just use your voice)

How much- Free. All I ask of the participants selected is that they do the best work they can and make effort to keep the meetings as it is important for the growth experience to have consistency.

Quick recap

-Space will be limited to 10 individuals
-To submit  interest in participation, please send the answers to all the questions and the following information to no later than Friday, December 4th

*Best method of contact(telephone if you are comfortable)
*What your experience is with writing
*What genre you would like to work on , ie, poetry, fiction, blog
*What do you hope to gain from this workshop (a few sentences)
*A short one page sample of your writing.

Once you are selected you will receive instructions on what to do next.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spectrum Soccer Mom

Spectrum Soccer Mom

I don't always want to talk about difficulties. I don't believe its beneficial to constantly focus on negatives. But I also believe that we live in a society that attributes powerlessness and weakness to vulnerability, and I would like to dismiss that myth.

One of the biggest challenges I face as an adult on the spectrum lies within the realm of my parenting duties. Not so much the act of parenting itself so to speak, but more so living up to my children's expectations in regards to what society says a parent is supposed to look like.

I have tried, with what I believe to be an enormous amount of effort to instill certain beliefs in my children, one of which is that everybody is different, including parents.

I think they understand to a degree, but I do believe there remains a frame outside their general understanding they have yet to reach.

The reason I say this is because in as much as I believe they truly love me as I am, I also believe
sometimes my differences frighten them. I'm not talking about the kind of fear that comes with aliens or monsters. I'm talking about the kind of fear that comes in feeling alone and uncertain. I don't think they know how to say it, but I can see it in their eyes sometimes. It is a feeling that I am all too familiar with. The times when they should be able to believe, beyond the shadow of doubt, that they can lean on me, are not always as simple as they should be.

Parents, as a general rule it seems in storybooks, television and mainstream society are deemed fearless. Unafraid with an infinite amount of bravery. And even during the times when they don't have these traits, they still pretend to.

But what if a parent was afraid? What if in addition, they were completely incapable of hiding their fear? What happens then? Well, let me tell you.

My 14 year old is an athlete. She is exceptionally talented, witty, intelligent, and wise beyond her years. She is my compass in most social situations when I feel uncertain. I am eternally grateful to have been blessed with such an amazing kid. She has been playing with the same soccer team for about 6 years now. It is a top level that participates in many out of state events that require travel and frequent overnight hotel stays. It is probably one of her favorite things about the team. She has a fancy for all things,well, fancy. I'll add in here that this type of fancy also happens to be my least favorite part of the whole experience.

I have severe anxiety when it comes to changes in routine, leaving home, not sleeping in my bed, hotels, and bugs. I have up until this point forced myself to submit to these trips. Taking down myself and everyone around me in the process between the pressure and the punishment for not being able to handle it. I have tried to make adjustments, Carpooling, sharing rooms, sending her up with teammates, canceling last minute, and even just trekked it alone with her, putting myself in a very compromised state physically and emotionally.

The reality is this. The amount of anxiety in traveling for me is overwhelming. If I cannot go and come home the same day I cannot go. It is as simple as that. I have accepted that this is a part of who I am. Not that I have succumb to the fears and refuse to overcome them, this is different. This is the way my brain is wired, and rather than attempt to change something biologically certain in my DNA, I have decided to work towards a more attainable goal of working around it.

This weekend we are set to play in Jersey. Initially I booked a room and and invited a friend to come along for moral support. Then I checked the reviews which had multiple reports of um, bugs. Reservations canceled. I researched other hotels but found nothing. I made the decision that we will go and come home both days. She gets to play and I feel safe. Its all about compromise right?

Well sitting across from my daughter at the dinner table as I broke the news proved to say otherwise. If I said she was pissed, it would be an understatement.

Part of me was angry. How could she not be more considerate of my feelings? Hadn't I raised her better than that?

Of course I had, but this was one of those things I spoke of earlier, the things that lie outside of her understanding.

She gets that I am afraid of certain things. She understands. But beyond that lies the extent of my fears and anxiety, the emotional and physical repercussions over having to withstand these anxieties under extreme pressure in the situations that I am expected to perform. She doesn't know what goes on inside my head. Her comprehension is only as big as her own life experience. And besides, kids shouldn't have to understand certain things right?. Its our job as parents to shelter and protect them.
But everything about our life as a family says different.

My children have been exposed to some harsh realities kids twice their age are unaware of yet. I am conflicted over the way it has affected/will affect them. I like to think they are attune to the world and better prepared for the cold than most. But also, maybe they are missing blissful ignorance that comes with childhood. I don't really know. Sitting across from her when I broke the news which I felt was completely rational, it was evident we were not in agreement. She was angry, but underneath that anger I could see disappointment. Disappointment in my ability to measure up.

“Why couldn't I just deal with it”, was what she seemed to say.

Even further beyond her disappointment I could see that she resented me for making her feel like she was alone. My fears , my differences, and my overall inability to be like the other parents alienates her. I tried to remind her of the times we went away and I was a panicked mess. It just didn't seem to resonate on a level of understanding I needed it to.

I have lost over a weeks sleep feeling anxious, scared, sad and guilty. I don't want my children to ever have to carry my weight, but at the same time I want them to be understanding human beings aware that in every person that exists, there are differences. And they should, in the best way they know how, honor and respect these differences. I don't think people should ever compromise their health or well being, be it physical or mental for the sake of fitting in, looking normal or to keep someone happy, especially a part of ones family. I would never want my children to do that, and I cannot teach them to honor themselves and be honest about their feelings if I myself, am not.

Part of me is happy she still sometimes thinks like a selfish kid, and that I haven't forced her to grow up too fast. As she does get older though, my hope is that my vulnerability and honesty will enable her to understand better and be more likely to deal with the world easier because of her direct exposure to all things uncertain. Parents are afraid too. We are human just like them. The only difference lies in our direct experience with the world and what we have learned firsthand to be true.

So what happens when a kid finds out their parent is afraid? The kid learns what it means to be honest and doing so, sees that it doesn't make them any less of a person. The power lies inside that truth.

I don't think anyone has this parenting thing down perfect. I do consider myself lucky to have been blessed with great kids. They may not get it all the time, but they get it. And that's more than I can say for most grown adults today. I like to think I had a hand in that. Until next time ,stay weird.

Wanna know more? check out these links to my other pages. =)

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Monday, November 9, 2015

The time confused aliens and aspergers.

I know I look weird to outsiders. I get it. I've accepted it. Thing is, my goal is to be able to help others accept and understand it what its like to be me too.

I went on a date the other day. A guy I met on a dating website. A guy born and raised in another country. I was hesitant but I thought maybe, by some strange chance, we would have that whole being misunderstood thing in common.

Not so much.

It was scary. blind dates or internet dates usually are. You never know what your gonna get. Like once I met this guy who was super cute in pics, but I realized upon meeting face to face the wonders of the cropping feature in editing apps . (picture sloth from the Goonies from chin to eyebrows. ) He wasn't very happy when I told him I wasn't interested. Most aren't. And as soon as you make them aware, suddenly all your most hedonistic character traits come to surface.

So between the frequency of these occurrences and then the kind of dollar store trash bag types I meet and fall in love with in a week (look good on the outside then fail to carry out their purpose by the time you realize they are full of shit and its too late). I hardly have luck. If I was left to my own devices, I would quit socializing all together and sit in my room and read write and come out on pizza night. But this causes a problem.

I notice the pattern of isolation often puts me in a bad position with my writing.
Meaning if I'm not out in the world I lack material.

So because my livelihood and sanity depend on my writing, I make meager attempts at socializing.

Back to what I was saying. This guy and I decide to meet at a local Starbucks . Seemed kosher.
Anyway my first impression was that I had misrepresented myself. He walked in looked around and walked out. I didn't know what to do or say so I stared over at the barista hoping he would send me some kind of telepathic signal on what to do next .


So I did the only thing I thought I should. I sat and waited. He came back and explained in his heavy accent and broken English that he was confused, and at that point, so was I.


I have no problem with people learning English. I think it's admirable, as English is by far the most difficult language to master. What I'm saying is that I have enough of an issue communicating with English speakers and adding another barrier to say the least, concerned me .And since our communication was only in text up until that point, I wasn't expecting this.

Besides some very defined cultural differences, I wondered how a person from another country would be able to understand me .
For example,I don't stim in public. But in the comfort of my own home my neuro cape comes off.
I don't wear pants. Or underwear most times. I frequently have conversations with myself filled with high pitched laughter or nervous repeat affirmations. Sometimes I repeat other people's phrases in the middle of conversation. A lot of times I'm in my own world and prefer to stay there regardless of who is around me.

The fact that I had to find three different ways to explain why I didn't want to hold this strange mans hand, let alone kiss him after a half hour of knowing him , really made me think.

Would he ever understand me? How much of myself would i have to censor and for how long?

Even more frightening I thought to myself if  this is what neuro typical people think when they meet me and is this why they leave? Does Aspergers make me look like an alien?

I don't know. I may never know.

I do know people come and go more often than not in my life . It's not easy to get used to. I don't think I want to. But it's part of my reality. 

I contemplated just never speaking to the guy again but that turns out to be rude. I texted and thanked him for a nice time and kindly explained that I didn't think it would work.
I never heard from him again. Thankfully .

To be clear it wasn't just the language barrier that concerned me. I have become adept at feeling people's energies over the years (since all other aspects pose difficulties) and there was
a kind of forced expectation. The way he insisted on holding my hand when I kept my palm face open to deny the gesture, and how he leaned in to hug and kiss anyway  when I verbally declined.

There was hygiene. All I smelled was armpits . A surefire hit to set my sensory issues into satellite mode.

He was a simple man who drank plain coffee, went to work,had salad and brown rice for dinner and wasn't a fan of sweets .He had been taught women have a place.

I don't have a place. My place is where I am and where I want to be. Nobody will tell me different. Well, they could try but slim chance I'm even listening.

I'm too complicated for all that nonsense. (In a good way.)

And also, he wasn't all that cute .

More than anything I want to be understood. I want to feel like somebody gets me and I'm not so alone. (p.s. my phone just autocorrected “alone” to “lame” to add insult to injury).

Once I brought a date to a poetry show I was appearing in . That night I read a piece I had written after I received my diagnosis . He was very supportive saying how well I did that night. I remember distinctly how he asked if all of the things I said in the poems were true. I knew right away which poem he was asking about. I talked around it. I was embarrassed that he was worried I was different. I was was worried I was different and I don't want to worry about being different.

So from now on, no more dating foreigners for me. This whole exchange of feelings thing is hard enough without having to add any more confusion into the mix. And sweaty armpits. Nobody likes sweaty armpits.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll get better at all this and fly away to some distant country to find my forever snuggle buddy(who knows when to give me space). But for now, I'll wrestle with attempting to understand the members of my own country. Until next time. Stay weird.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

" How to Dance in Ohio" HBO takes a glimpse into living with Autism.

So recently I caught wind of an HBO special/documentary that was due to air on Autism. Anytime I hear of a documentary that deals with the raw realities of human behavior in any form, my attention is immediately captivated.

I attribute most of this to the fact that my entire life has been spent studying people in a die hard attempt at understanding them. All the while, without realizing it was never due to a lack of effort on my part, but rather a short circuit in my wiring from birth.

With that said, being able to witness how Autism/Aspergers looks in real life from an entertainment perspective, was both heartbreaking and endearing.

The documentary is shot in Columbus, Ohio, and follows three young women with varying degrees of Autism as they prepare for a spring formal set to be thrown by the moderator of a support group they all belong to.

I'm not going to go into a synopsis or play by play. I'll tell you that if you are interested in getting a glimpse of what the realities of being on the Autism Spectrum look like, you should watch it.

The reason for my writing this is to shed light on a few points that were touched on during the documentary that struck me as relevant and of importance as a female diagnosed on the spectrum.

First and foremost, the documentary discussed the difference in challenges as an adult and as a child on the spectrum. I think that many people who lack a solid understanding of the varying degrees of the Autism Spectrum have a tendency to dismiss the diagnosis in adults, while placing more emphasis on the treatment in children. As an individual who was diagnosed well into adulthood, I can attest to the fact that more often than not, certain behaviors can and are overlooked in children and later on as adults become less socially acceptable and begin to cause more problems.

A good example of this is shown when one of the young ladies is reprimanded by her boss at work for being rude to her coworkers. The young lady sits in the chair across from her boss in tears, completely unaware of her behavior and exhibits true remorse over it. In her mind she was expressing her feelings and didn't understand that in the process, she was hurting someone else's.

I think that females especially have a tough time with this. It has been studied that females on the spectrum are better at adapting to social norms in childhood and early adulthood which ends up masking the symptoms and delaying diagnosis. Years of bottling up feelings of confusion, misunderstanding and isolation in turn leads to depression and anxiety in adulthood, which are often comorbitities of those diagnosed on the spectrum. Many times, individuals will be diagnosed with anxiety and depression early on, with professionals never really getting to heart of the matter, which is the Autism. This was true for me personally. I was treated with antidepressants since I was teen, medicated with dozens of different medications until the day I told my psychiatrist I was strong enough to see myself through these difficulties without the aid of prescription drugs. Only then was I able to identify where the real issue had been all along.

When I was growing up I was called shy, slow to warm up, defiant, sneaky. At summer camp one year I received an award for making the best facial expressions, which, looking back, were most likely rooted in confusion. What I am trying to say here is that in females, certain characteristics are more acceptable and tend to go unnoticed. That is, until adulthood hits.

What was once shy and slow to warm up turns into rude, antisocial and standoffish. Character traits deemed highly unacceptable in adulthood. Things necessary to coexist in the adult world in the the workplace, relationships, and parenting that haven't been cultivated come to the surface. I think its important to note that just because a person is grown, does not make their diagnosis any less difficult. I agree with the psychologist in the documentary when he states that if anything, the diagnosis of Spectrum disorders presents more challenges and becomes more difficult with age.

Another aspect of the documentary I felt was relevant was the emphasis the psychologist placed on empowering these individuals. Being on the spectrum I have spent an overwhelming amount of time second guessing my behavior in social settings and later punishing myself for screwing it up. I think when you spend most of your time trying to make sense of circles when you only see in squares, you get used to feeling defeat. I have, on more occasions than I can count, tried to talk myself out of a challenging situation because I felt so afraid I would fail. Never having a solid grasp on what was expected of me as a human and being able to carry that out with success drove me into a hole.

I have said in prior posts that I feel unsure of whether receiving a diagnosis as a child would have changed anything about my life now. I can honestly say I am conflicted. While I may have bypassed a great deal of pain and hurt, I believe that I am here today despite my difficulties and I have overcome so much, and I am proud of who I have become.

I do believe that those who are diagnosed as children and grow into adulthood learning to navigate through life according to their specific needs are absolutely at an advantage. In the documentary there was a scene that struck me where one of the young ladies is sitting at the kitchen table with both her parents and what appeared to be a caseworker. They sat and encouraged her to advocate for herself in regards to her feelings and her needs, while equally supporting her and allowing her to feel safe and protected offering their advice in whatever decision she made. She mentioned not feeling secure in the idea of living on her own and that when the time came, she preferred a roommate. Listening to the way she was expressing herself and how she had that support system to encourage her, to me, was bittersweet. I cant lie, I found myself wishing I had the same when I was growing up.

One of my biggest hurdles is my struggle to feel safe. I think that if I had the kind of support I needed emotionally where I felt encouraged to express my needs and feel understood that would have provided an enormous help to me. Lets face it, a person cannot feel safe unless their needs are being met consistently and they feel understood. Communication is an essential component to the human condition.

The last point I want to touch on briefly is something the psychologist stated about the way he encouraged interaction between the teens despite the inherent difficulty they would encounter. He mentioned how in reality , even to neurotypicals , the world of socialization and relationships can be frightening. And how he felt almost guilty inviting them to take part , as if it were his job to protect them , but also encourage them to grow.
Navigating through the world of social norms can feel at times, impossible to any individual, not just those on the spectrum. It comes with pain, and hurt and sadness, but also tons of happiness. The reality is, in my opinion, if individuals on the spectrum aren't exposed to situations to promote growth, understanding and acceptance, they face stagnation. I'm not saying this is true in all cases. There are varying degrees and everyone has their abilities. I'm saying even if we are pushed just a little bit outside our realm of existence, who is to say that no good can come from it. I am a firm believer in self expression, honesty, thinking outside the box and challenging myself as a human in order to experience growth.

I'll always have Aspergers, but my difficulties day to day don't have to be riddled with shame and confusion. I think if more people were exposed to what its really like to live on the spectrum, those of us who live it as a reality may feel more inclined to share these parts of ourselves that have for decades been largely misunderstood. Kudos to HBO for shedding a little light on the world myself and fellow Aspies live in.