7 Awesome Things About the Pupper Being 1

Nothing can prepare you for a puppy. I’m an obsessive researcher, I thought I knew everything there was to know and that I was totally prepared to be a dog parent.

Let me admit right now how arrogantly wrong I was.

Winnie was 12 pounds of crazy. Potty training, teething, exercise, all of this was frustrating and exhausting, and on top of it all, the pupper didn’t even seem to like me that much. And she finally finally finally seemed to chill out, and then the dreaded adolescence hit. Nothing can prepare you for adolescent either. Teenage attitude is the same in every species, it turns out.

So Winnie is 1 now, and while I obviously loved her before, she is 100% more lovable now that she’s more grown-up. She’s smart and funny and has more personality than should fit in her 60-pound body.

And so, I present to you here 7 awesome things about Winnie turning 1, with pictures included.

1. learning tasks- Winnie is in training to be an Autism Service Dog for me, and the one thing that defines a service dog is that they do specific tasks to help with symptoms of their handler’s disability. This is a picture of Winnie doing Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) to help me when I’m overstimulated. She acts like a living super warm breathing weighted blanket. Some other tasks we’re working on are medication reminders, sound alerts, and general obedience like public access!

2. a great snuggler- Some puppies are snuggly right out of the gate, but Winnie was definitely not one of them. She had a tendency to overheat when she was little and was she wasn’t hot and sleepy, she didn’t stop moving long enough give so much as a kiss. It was hard back then because she (like all puppies) was so much work, and she didn’t really show any interest in me at all. Luckily, she’s grown out of that so much that that, everything I do must be checked out and Winnie approved.

3. poses for pictures- Let me tell you that up until the pupper was about 6 months old, 98% of pictures I took of her were just a big black blur. Getting her to sit still was a miracle in and of itself, and her staying where I’d put her long enough to get a picture took a second person and a whole lot of treats. Now the percentage is more like 50%, which is a massive improvement, and her outtakes get funnier and funnier as she gets older. I’m immensely proud of both of us that we get this picture for her 1st birthday!

4. plays independently- Puppies take so much attention folks. They can’t pee by themselves, they can’t sleep without assistance, they can’t be trusted alone with anything, ever. One thing I didn’t know about puppies was that they don’t really know how to play with toys right off the bat. And it seems like Winnie was a bit of a slow learner because she really needed help figuring out how to play with toys until recently. It has been so amazing that we get to give her toys, and she’ll play independently (the toy in the picture is Erik the Viking, from Barkbox). I think she’d still rather play with us, but we’ve all got a nice balance.

5. takes long naps- Puppies are supposed to sleep around 20 hours a day, which sounds really awesome. It really isn’t. 20 hours in 2 or 3 hours chunks is NOT the same as 20 hours where they’re waking up every half hour or so. She’s also gone through stages of being both very good and very bad at sleeping through the night. At the moment she’s sleeping great, which means we’re sleeping great, which means everyone is happy!

6.  can be left alone- For the first month or so after Winnie came home, we literally could not leave the house. We either had to bring her with us or go out one at a time. You don’t realize it, but being stuck at home, not getting to see friends or go to activities really takes a toll on your mental health. It took longer than average for Winnie to be okay with crate training,  but thank goodness she has. These days she happily goes into her crate (or her ‘fort’ as we call it) when we leave, eats her peanut butter treats, and then sleeps the whole time we’re out. We can hang out with friends, go to the movies, even go pumpkin picking! We still bring her along to dog-friendly places, but having a choice is nice, right?

7. her farts don’t kill- There’s no nice way of putting this- when Winnie was a baby, her gas could clear a room. It smelled like she had pooped every. single. time. she. farted. And she farted a lot. We tried a lot of things, some of them working better than others. Turns out that Winnie doesn’t tolerate wheat-based kibble very well, which is ok because Jess’s Celiac wasn’t a fan of the wheat either. Sadly, we also found out that the pupper is SO DAMN lactose intolerant. No pup cups for Winnie, but it’s been worth it. She still farts, but they’re normal dog farts, and we can all live with that I think.

It should not come as a surprise to you that I welcome any pet photos from dogs to rabbits to fish, I am not picky about the cuteness.

The Pain Scale

“And can you rate your pain on a scale of 1-10?”

I don’t know about you, but for me, this scale is not useful AT ALL. I’ve gotta tell you that the yellow face looks more constipated than in pain, and the utter horrible face seems more like he’s upset that his flight got canceled and he’s going to have to eat at Chile’s.

I’ve been thinking about pain a lot recently, mostly because I’ve been experiencing varying amounts of it recently. Last year, my neurologist began to suspect that some of my symptoms (extra high heart rate, ringing in the ear, and postural headaches) might be caused by a spinal fluid leak. We took a bit of a gamble and decided to try a procedure called a blood patch that would fix the leak if there was one. And it worked! The procedure itself was painful, I was couchbound for a few days and it took a week or so to feel normal again, but it worked and it was worth it.

As I implied earlier, I’ve been in some pain. You may have even inferred that I had a new leak. This is all true, but it’s not the reason that I’ve been in so much pain- this time around, the blood patch wasn’t nearly as straightforward or worth it.

I won’t describe how a blood patch works (you can google it if you want) because it makes some people squeamish, but some degree of pain and discomfort is normal. I can handle normal. The first 48 hours after seemed pretty normal, but normal disappeared pretty fast after that.

At one point I rated my pain as an 8, which may not sound like a bit deal until you hear this fun fact about me. Several years ago, I was in the emergency room with GI pain. The lady at the desk saw how much pain I was in and got into triage almost immediately so they could get me admitted and on some pain medication.

I sat in a chair, and a nurse starts talking to me, and I pass out. I wake up almost immediately and then pass out again. I struggle to stay conscious the whole time I’m being interviewed, and at the end of it, the nurse asks me to rate my pain, and I rate it a 9. The nurse informs me that if you’re in so much pain that you can’t stay conscious, that is always a 10.

As I said, an 8 is a big deal for me. The 8 lasted 24 hours. The pain has been slowly drifting down the number line, but still, it’s been almost a month, and I’m tired of it.

I find it odd how I can tolerate chronic long term pain no problem. I dealt with an entrapped nerve for 10 months, I’ve had PCOS for more than a decade. But acute pain? Discomfort? I can’t handle even a little.

I’ve heard that this is an autism thing. Folks like me are either perceived as feeling too much, or not enough. But it’s so hard to tell because I can’t really describe the intricacies of my pain to you as much as you can describe yours to me. We all assume that our 5/10 pain is the same as someone else’s 5/10. Be we can be completely wrong! Mine could be burning and yours could be stinging, mine could aching and yours could be stabbing. It hurts my head, I swear.

I thought I’d leave you with my favorite pain scale, use it as you will

5 Things That Determine Your Professionalism (apparently)

It seems to be a torturous right of passage to make college students go to a job fair. It is my worst nightmare to have to talk to people who could affect my education while they judge me as a person and as an employee from a 3-minute discussion.

I’ve found that for the most part, my classmates don’t really agree with me. The anxious kids are generally on my side, and sometimes other non-traditional students like me, but in general, your neurotypical mentally stable average college student find the idea of dressing up and talking to people in their field and the possibility of internships or employment to be exciting.

I took a management course last semester, and I learned a lot about what employers expect, and a lot of them were brand new information to me, so since I have to go through this, you have to learn about it too.

1. How You Dress- What’s the difference between a golf shirt and a polo shirt? I’m still not sure, but I know that it’s important, because one of them is more business casual than the other. And in this situation, business casual is important, mostly because on one end, it’s a breath away from being casual, on the other end, it’s almost formal. Formal is what you need for a job interview; for me, that means a suit and tie. For this job fair though, business casual is fine, but not the lower end. I plan to wear purple dress pants and a button-down shirt. Apparently having something interesting about your dress can let employers remember you, so I aim to be the purple-pants-person. For some reason, people are really judgey about what you wear, don’t ask me why. But doing some research about dress can make a huge difference.

2. Your Body Language- People who are in the position to hire you want to know a lot about you very quickly, and that means that they rely on body language a lot. Like way more than normal people. From what I’ve heard, body language can tell how confident you are, if you’re outgoing or not, even if you’re trustworthy. Gut reactions rule when it comes to professionalism. I do know for a fact that my standard body language doesn’t show any of this, but luckily, it can be faked. Standing up straight is important, as is (at least the image of) eye contact. You want to shake with a firm-but-not-finger-breaking grip, and staying as calm as possible can make you seem more confident. Basically, the rule of body language is if you act like you know what you’re doing, then people will believe it.

3. Your Expectations in Life- Interviewers love asking questions, usually about what you want for your future. Being prepared to say why you’re majoring in your major, and what kind of job you see yourself in can go a long way. My Management Professor drilled into us that no one’s going to hire someone who doesn’t have at least some idea of what their future looks like when it comes to education or employment. So having some talking point memorized will definitely help, and while I’m not usually a fan of dishonesty, I think that in this situation, making up some details to talk about won’t hurt anybody; you can always change your mind later.

4. How Much Prep You Did- Apparently not extensively researching the companies you’re talking to is a massive faux pas these days. I have my doubts that an interviewer is really going to care if I know what their mission statement is verbatim, but then again, I find a lot of these professionalism requirements kind of ridiculous. What I can say, is that if you’re really interested in a company (or in my case, a nonprofit), knowing a few things about them can’t hurt. Especially if what they do is something you’re passionate about too. I always like knowing projects that some of my favorite nonprofits have been working on because it gives us something to talk about, plus you know if they’re the sort of people you’d want to be working for. So, research something you’re interested in, not just something that proves you can memorize stuff.

5. Things You Can’t Control- Thanks to autism/auditory processing/hearing loss/learning disabilities, there are things that advice from some random blog (thing one) can help with. I have a serious case of raptor hands that no amount of paying attention can stop me from doing. When I get stressed (for example at a job fair) my ability to communicate verbally drops drastically, plus my echolalia increases, which is always fun to explain. What I’m saying is that no one’s ever going to be perfect, regardless of if they’re neurotypical or neurodiverse, and being prepared is the best thing you can do. Whether it’s a job fair, an interview, or just a meeting, know where you’re going, know what you want to look like, and know what you want to say. The best you can do is your best.

I know I’m in for years of this process, I’m hoping by the end I’ll have a decent handle on it. And, as always, if you’ve got tips, I’d love to hear them!

6 ASL Signs For Autistic Folks

Because Jess and I really need one more thing to do *sarcasm* we’re learning American Sign Language (ASL) together. When you think about it, it’s very practical. When I’m having a nonverbal moment, or hour, or day, we can communicate like usual. We also won’t know for a few years if my hearing loss will progress, so learning ASL now is ideal.

I will say right up front, that signing is definitely limited in its helpfulness, especially if you don’t know anyone else who signs. It can be helpful when it comes to emergency situations. Many paramedics, firefighters, and ER employees know some health-related signs like ‘what hurts?’ and ’emergency contact’. The most signing situation is getting friends and family involved. If the people around you know can communicate with you on a verbally challenged day (that’s what we call it anyway), it can keep everyone from getting frustrated, which means needs are met more quickly, and everyone involved feels better faster.

I’ll be linking the signs I talk about to Lifeprint.com, which is considered to be the best sign language resource on the internet.

1, ABCs– This is cheating but ABCs are the biggest bang for your ASL buck because it lets you communicate any word you want, as long as you can spell it. Fingerspelling is great in a pinch, but it gets annoying for the signer and the signee really fast. Still being able to fingerspell is always a skill worth knowing.

2. Help– This is primarily one of those ‘in case emergency’ signs. Hopefully, if you are ever in a place where you need help, a police officer, EMT, or ER nurse will recognize the sign and provide assistance. Conversely, this sign works great in letting trusted friends or family know that you need help now.

3. Autism/Autistic– Because being able to sign who you are is pretty important. That being said, the sign for autism/autistic is often problematic. There are lots of versions, and a lot of them are considered out of date or offensive. There are also a lot of regional signs for autism, so someone in Florida might no use the same sign as someone in Minnesota. In St. Louis, we sign autism/autistic using the sign for ‘spectrum’ which I love!

4. Hearing– When it comes to ASL, there are generally 3 groups of people- Deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing. Autistic folks who are nonverbal, people with aphasia, and people who are mute are a minority. If you’re using ASL the Deaf/hearing/hoh question will be the first one you’re asked. This is more about social rules than anything else.

5. I need– ‘Need’ shares its sign with a lot of other signs like ‘must’ and ‘should’ which makes it extra useful. Pair this sign with fingerspelling of whatever you could possibly need is a powerful communication tool to have.

6. Home signs- The same way hearing people give things nicknames, Deaf people give home signs. While it’s very bad etiquette to make up signs, giving objects that don’t have signs ‘nicknames’ to be used amongst family members is very common. For example, we use the letter ‘W’ twisting back and forth to refer to Winnie. So having home signs figured out for important things like ear defenders, stim toys, or other necessities is a smart thing to do.

There we go, the most useful signs that I’ve learned so far! I know that I meant to start learning to sign for so many years and that it took having actual hearing loss to get my butt in gear and just start learning. So hopefully if you’re anything like me, these essential signs might be the push you need to check out the resources that are out there!

 

5 Summer Reading Books

One of the great things about living in the future is that you don’t ever have to leave the house if you don’t want to. I can log my summer reading books online, and I can even report my participation in the library’s reading challenges!

(the library systems here make summer reading more interesting by giving extra prizes by doing things like reading books by authors whose race, gender, or sexual orientation is different than yours. You can also get prizes for writing book reviews and posting pictures of yourself reading on the go!)

All of this is very well-timed, because I’m currently out of school for the summer and am laid up with a foot injury, so I’ve got endless hours for reading.

People often think that Summer Reading means easy beach reads, and I don’t disagree that those are fun, but as with all of my reads, they’re kind of all other the place. So, these are my favs from summer so far, they’re all different, and all awesome in their own way.

1. Good Omens – A novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett could not possibly go wrong. And Amazon Prime agreed, because the miniseries of Good Omens just came out, and was a great interpretation in my opinion. It’s the end of the world. After a plan to bring the Anit-Christ to end the world goes a bit awry, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowly team up to stop Armageddon (mostly because they realize that they like living on earth, and Aziraphale doesn’t want to back to heaven, and Crowly definitely doesn’t want to go back to hell).  It’s easy to say that fans of the humor in Pratchett’s Discworld series will love Good Omens, and Gaiman lovers will appreciate the character design and world-building. The humor lasts through re-reads too!

2. Daisy Jones and the Six– This book is nothing but drama and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s set in the late ’70s and follows a rock band from its rise to its crash. The story is told through interviews, done by someone who’s authoring a book, and it reads like a 300 page Rolling Stone interview. Some books told from multiple points of view can be hard to read because the characters’ voices are too similar, but Daisy Jones definitely didn’t have this problem, in fact. This is not the kind of book that I would usually pick up, but I took a gamble on it because it was getting such glowing reviews (which can bite me in the ass sometimes). This was a solid 4.5 for me, so I’m very comfortable recommending it.

3. Binti Trilogy- So some might say that this choice is cheating. “Meesh,” you say, “a trilogy is 3 books, you can’t count them as a unit!” But hear me out. Binti is a trilogy, yes, but it is a trilogy of novellas, which makes all 3 books together shorter than a lot of stand-alone books. I can always tell I’m going to enjoy a book when the opening sequence gives me goosebumps, and Binti and its sequels did. It follows a classic trope. Naive adolescent runs away from home and encounters new planets and alien species and learns about herself in the end. She eventually has to question who she is and where her place in the world is. This book is solidly written modern sci-fi, and with each book being under 200 pages, it’s a quick and satisfying read.

4. Naturally Tan– I love the new Queer Eye. I’m old enough that I remember the first Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which was revolutionary in its time but didn’t necessarily age well. The new Fab 5 focus on self-love and become who you want to be, and it’s awesome! Tan is really open in his book about how Pakistani and Muslim culture influence who he is as a gay man and a fashion expert (he’s owned multiple clothing companies). He is also incredibly funny and very honest and has managed to curate such a positive worldview.

5. Train Go Sorry– One of my goal this year has been to read more about Deaf culture. I figure that’s only fair now that I’m hard of hearing, right? Train Go Sorry was written in the ’90s but is still one of the go-to deaf culture books. It is written by a hearing woman who grew up in a school for the deaf and follows several deaf students during their time there. There are also sections that deal with deaf culture, and with the author’s journey to become an ASL interpreter. It was a really interesting historical look at the culture at that time, and it makes me want to read some more current accounts. An interesting note- the more I learn about Deaf culture, the more similarities I see between it and Autistic culture, interesting, right?

So that’s my Summer Reading so far, is anyone else participating in their library’s program? I’d love to hear about your library’s program, especially if you’ve got good prizes!

If you’re just reading for fun, I always love to hear what you guys are reading, so let me know if you’ve read anything good lately! My Goodreads account will thank you, and I will too!

 

 

It’s The Little Things

Theory of Mind is a weird thing. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even know it was a thing at all, and now I see it everywhere. This is mostly a good thing. Pre-autism diagnosis, I was…let’s call it ‘confused’ a lot. Mostly because people kept doing things that seemed completely irrational. It surprises a lot of people, but it never even occurred to me that other people might think or feel differently than me, so that knowledge was a game-changer. Granted, it took a while to shove the idea into my brain, and more time to be comfortable with it. Even now it’s something that I have to consciously think about.

But this is not what I want to talk about today. It’s wonderful that I can see others as separate from me, but there are also major upsides to thinking that other people think like me, and it leads to me being a better person.

I believe in karma. I believe that my actions influence my future. Not in future lives, but in the here and now. I also believe in the golden rule. I have to be careful with that one though because people don’t generally like it when I treat them the way I’d like to be treated. I try and make sure to treat them the way they want to be treated.

So I try to be the best human that I can be, not just because of karma, but because while I know that I’ll probably never change the world in a big way,  I can change it in little ways every day.

The little things

  • Smiling at people
  • Treating employees like humans
  • Giving compliments freely
  • Tipping well
  • Letting cars merge ahead during rush hour
  • Putting carts back where they go

They say “the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think; the one you think next defines who you are.”

Regardless of what that quote implies, I don’t think that I’ve been conditioned to be an asshole or anything like that. Far from it. What I do think is the fact that I’m autistic who’s been blessed will very poor theory of mind makes the second step easier. The ‘first thought’ is what I think, the ‘next thought’ is what others think.

And it turns out that for the most part, what I want and what other people want is pretty similar. We all want to be respected. We all want people to give us the benefit of the doubt. We all want to be treated like humans. Turns out, it’s not that complicated to be a decent human being.

I know that I’m trying my very best to make my small patch of earth a better place, and I actively choose to believe that others are too. While I’ve encountered a couple of terrible people in my life, my goal is to try to move on from those instances and remember all the good ones, because that means that regardless of the consequences, everyone is trying, and everyone benefits.

Are people innately good? I don’t think we can know. All I can do is quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and say that I believe that the universe “bends toward justice”. Maybe it bends towards karma too, eh?

 

How Autism Fucked With My Mental Health

Announcement: I was in a really bad mood when I came up with this title. I’ve been turning an idea over in my head. I wanted to write about the intersection between autism and mental health and how it’s affected me personally. It sounded like a professional topic. And then I had to get pissed off and name it something petty.

Pettiness aside…

My therapist and I are taking this summer to do a bit of inventory. Basically, we’re going through each diagnosis one by one to see if we need to spend more time with anything or if certain areas need new goals. Is it exciting? No. But it’s more interesting than you’d think. It’s sort of like organizing your desk. You find cool things that you forgot you had, and it the end, the important things are much easier to find. It’s a win-win.

Imagine a 3 circle Venn diagram, with each circle labeled with one of my mental illness. It goes like this- Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and Anorexia. And at the middle of it all, Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Even thought diagnostic manuals like the DSM and ICD make it seem like each mental illness exists in its own tidy little squares, that just isn’t the case. Mental illnesses are messy and they find a way to interact with everything around them.

And all of this mingling makes diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and other disorders, developmental disabilities,  neurodivergencies, and learning disorders a complex endeavor. There are so many crossovers going on in my brain, it probably looks like a subway grid.

Autism and OCD:

Once upon a time, most psychologists and psychiatrists wouldn’t diagnose both autism and OCD in the same patient. There was considered to be too much overlap. It’s more flexible now, but when you really think about the similarities, you can almost see where they were coming from.

Autism and OCD overlap in two main ways. One, both of them are incredibly inflexible, and two, both have routines that they compulsively adhere to. Individuals with either disorder (or both) are also usually highly anxious, in a general sense and over specific situations. I have a lot of trouble knowing if I’m obsessing over something in an autism way (which my team and I agree is an okay thing) or if it’s in an OCD way (which isn’t good and generally needs intervention).

Autism and Anorexia:

An individual having autism and an eating disorder is actually quite common. A few decades ago, they would have been called ‘picky eaters’, but these days, it’s often diagnosed as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Syndrome. I, however, have spent the better part of two decades with Anorexia Nervosa. It mimics autism symptoms surprisingly well though. In fact, I started on the road to an autism diagnosis because I was struggling with eating disorder recovery.

There’s an awful lot of overlap. Both disorders cause issues with rigidity (when it comes to food). Neither likes to have food routines changed and often have a short list of safe foods. And autistic meltdowns about eating or food can look almost identical to eating disorder panic attacks. Thanks to MRI studies, we even know that autistic brains look incredibly similar to those of patients with anorexia.

Autism and Bipolar Disorder: 

Out of everything we’re talking about, autism and bipolar disorder are the only things that can sometimes be considered ‘fun’. The beginnings of mania, with its extra energy and hyper creativity, is right up there with autism’s special interest joy and sensory bliss. Eventually, though, mania starts to become overstimulating and rub the autism raw. Even worse, depression can weight the autism down, forcing you into your head. The similarities are mood based and subtle, so it’s very possible for things to escalate quickly.

When we put it like that, rigidity, obsession, and control are common themes.

It’s so easy to feel like just one single thing is the complicating factor, but I’ve had enough therapy to know that it just doesn’t work that way. They say in regards to mental health that nature loads the gun and nurture pulls the trigger. I was already genetically disposed to having OCD, Bipolar, and Anorexia. On top of that, my life experiences also made me susceptible to mental illness. Add both of these things to the fact that it’s believed that autism is a genetic disorder present at birth and well, it’s hard to blame the autism for anything.

Does autism interfere sometimes with my mental health? Sure. But so do my physical disabilities like POTS, my multiple learning disabilities, and the fact that I’m Hard of Hearing.

I’m trying hard to channel the frustration that I sometimes feel into something more productive. Instead of being upset that autism, or any other of my mental crap, is quote-unquote ‘fucking up my life’, I take a good long look at whatever’s wrong and start figuring out what I can to do fix it, for me and for my communities.

Advocacy, self and otherwise, is something that I am lucky enough to be able to do. And I guess I can ‘blame’ autism for that too.

 

6 Essential Self Care Things

It seems as though I never think about doing self-care until it’s too late. Let me explain, at this point in my life I find the act of self-care pretty instinctual, and when I’m doing alright, I rarely have to think about it. It’s when my mood starts creeping downwards and my anxiety heckles raise, aka the exact time when I need self-care, I forget to do it.

Luckily, over the years I’ve developed tools, I track my moods and my self-care, I have lists of options, and I follow the buddy system and have people who can remind me to check in with myself.

I think these self-care categories are largely universal. Neurodivergent or neurotypical, people with mental health stuff and people without. Everyone will have their favorites and areas that work better for them, but all in all, I think this list offers full coverage.

1. Sensory Things– This one’s easy. I don’t know about you, but my body uses sensory devices to unconsciously soothe me. That’s a really nice way of saying that when I’m stressed out I rock. Rocking isn’t the only sensory means I use to care for myself. I like swings, I like hot hot hot showers (as long as my face doesn’t get wet). I also use stim toys like tangles and squishes and slime. My hard of hearing side as well as my autistic side both enjoy as-loud-as-it-can-go-speaker-vibrating-would-probably-cause-hearing-loss-if-I-wasn’t-half-deaf music.

These aren’t the only options though, some people like ice packs and essential oils and fish tanks and a million other things. If you use your senses to experience it, then it counts as sensory!

2. Comforting Things- This one is highly personal, but I think it’s one of the more important categories. I know when I’ve had a godawful day I want nothing more than stuff that makes me feel safe. Disney movies (Moana, Big Hero 6, and The Emperor’s New Grove to name a few), my weighted blanket, and preferably a pet (or 2!)  are my ideal combination.

Some people really like tea. Some people like rewatching all 9 seasons of The Office (or Buffy, or Scrubs). Some people like big fuzzy sweaters. Some people like going for a run. If it makes you feel good right down to your soul, then it’s likely a great candidate as a comforting thing.

3. Connection Things- Autism can make this more complicated than for your average person, but it’s still useful. Most of us aren’t overly social, even if we enjoy people. I have a great time in small groups where I know everyone well. My ultimate nightmare either a roomful of people, or talking 1 on 1 to someone don’t know. *shudder*.

There are lots of ways to feel connected if you’re willing to think out of the box. Connection can totally happen with people you meet on Tumblr or Discord or WordPress (hint hint). I love going to coffee shops to read or write because just being around other people gives me a connected feeling. So find your connection to the world and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong!

4. Creative Things- Sometimes when I’m in a brain space where I need self-care, the only thing that will work is the act of creating something. I think it’s the feeling you get when you can hold something tangible in your hands that you made.

Luckily, there as many was to create as you can think of. I’m partial to things like knitting that have repetitive motions, and Sticker by Number books that have a huge creative bang for its minimal effort buck. Other mediums include Perler beads, crochet, painting, sewing, and polymer clay. You can also incorporate a Special Interest and double your self-care!

5. Movement Things- I hate admitting that movement is good for me. I’ve always hated doctors telling me I’ll feel better if I  just ‘go for a run’. Well, it’s true. Not the running part, I hate running, but finding ways to move my body that I enjoy can really help. I love riding my bike and playing with Winnie (who is still full of puppy energy). I also, despite being 31, still love to climb and jump off things.

“Good” movement is different for everyone. So walk through your neighborhood and stretch like a downward facing dog and become a ninja warrior and play a team sport. It all builds up. So jump and twirl and spin your cares away!

6. Organize Things– There is nothing more satisfying than having everything in order, and I can always tell that I’m stressed when I start making lists of things. This year during finals week I reorganized my whole to-read list on Goodreads- all 1300 books of it!

There are lots of things to organize though. Alphabetizing your books or sorting t-shirts by genre or color. You can sort Tupperwarewear or photos, plus you can make lists! Favorite movies, places you’d like to travel to, and go-to meals are just a few of them. If you need inspiration, Marie Kondo has a Netflix show called Tidying Up that’s both soothing educational.

There we go, my top 6 essential self-care categories. Think I missed something? Let me know! The more self-care options the better in my opinion!

Why Am I Here?

No seriously, do you know why I’m in the kitchen? Because I don’t.

I may joke about a lot about being old, it’s mostly a product of having spent the past few years mostly surrounded by people who are 5+ years younger than me. On one hand, this is great, I get to keep up with what’s new and popular, but on the other hand, people tend to assume that I’m about 22. It’s flattering (I think).

I know that I’ve said before that nothing makes you feel older than foot pain, and I stand behind that, but I’d like to add an addendum that says that memory loss also makes you feel infuriatingly old. No matter what my intrusive thoughts say I know that I don’t have any super weird and rare medical thing going on. My trouble remembering stuff is a combination of mental health issues and totally normal aging.

Still, I say “I don’t remember that” an awful lot these days.

I don’t remember a lot of things these days. I can’t remember if I fed the dog or not, I can’t remember what I had for lunch. I certainly can’t remember why on earth I’m in the bedroom and I can’t remember where I left my book. Actually, those last two could be related. If challenged, I can only remember what I just said about fifty percent of the time and can remember what you said even less of the time.

I had troubles galore during the FIFA Women’s World Cup remembering which countries were in which group. This would normally be something that I’d take great joy in memorizing but while was I sure that Norway had just played Nigeria, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the other two teams were in Group A. I’m sure you’re hanging on the edges of your seats with me so I’m happy to inform you that the other two Group A teams were France and South Korea.

For me, this whole thing is more of an annoyance than anything else, but like everything else about being in a marriage, Jess is affected too, and I feel bad about that. We’re not the sort to bicker about everything but there was some general crankiness on both sides before we realized that I was missing some key memories.

So, theory time. We all know that my hearing is not great thanks to super calcified eardrums, could it be that I’m simply not hearing things? That covers some stuff, but it doesn’t explain why I forget where I’m going or what I was doing. My quality of sleep has suffered greatly with the breathing troubles, but I have doubts that sleeplessness could be that big of a factor.

I could be losing my mind. It could be alien abductions. Hypnotism is always a possibility.

No matter what, I feel like I’m going crazy, which is so frustrating because up until recently I’ve been feeling decidedly less crazy than usual. And honestly, if I was going to pick a crazy, I’d do something cool like Synesthesia, not Forgets Just Enough to Be Annoying Disorder (not a real disorder).

I suppose that until this thing sorts itself out, I can just remind myself that Neville Longbottom had a terrible memory too and he turned out pretty awesome.

 

 

5 Summer Hacks For Autistic Folks

Summer is here! The exclamation point is less about excitement and more about alarm. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things about summer, like smores and fresh berries and corn on the cob (how have I never noticed that my favorite parts of summer are food?) But at least to me, the downsides of summer outweigh the good stuff.

I’ve spent 30 summers on this earth so far, and I like to think that I’ve learned some things, especially when it comes to sensory stuff. So here it comes, the worst parts about summer and how to deal with it.

1. Sun Safety- There is a video of me dating back to about 1988 that I will never live down. I’m about 18 months old, I’m at the beach, and I’m refusing to let my mom put sunscreen on me. This is slightly funny at best until you picture a tiny Meesh rolling back and forth across the room attempting to escape the sunblock.  Luckily it is no longer 1988, and there are many more sun safety options.

As an adult, I still find sunblock on my skin to be sensory hell. I have found, however, that the spray on versions are way more tolerable. These work for me because I’m biracial and don’t burn, however, this may not be the best option for people with lighter skin. This year though I found Solar Buddies. You can fill it with your favorite sunblock, and it has a foam applicator and a roller ball for a thin but protective layer. And if sunblock is a total no-go, a good hat and a light coverup can do a lot.

2. Staying cool-  I live in Missouri, and that might not mean anything to you yet, but I have 2 words for you: 80% humidity. It is hard to keep cool for your average person, but autistic people like me need to work even harder at it. I can overheat in about 10 minutes, which is unacceptable to me when there’s so much cool stuff to do. I refuse to miss out on festivals and concerts and roller coasters just because I can’t figure out how to stay cool. My two staple things to beat the heat are fans with water misters and chill bandanas. They both involve small amounts of water, but it’s never been enough to bother me (and I’m the ruler of hates getting wet). Bringing a large umbrella for the worst of the sun work well too. Plus they come in cool prints!

3. The Pool- Ask any kid what the best part of summer is and they’ll tell you that it’s the pool! Even as a child I was confused by this. It’s not that I hated swimming, I was on the swim team for years, but what I did hate was chlorine stinging my eyes, water getting stuck in my ear, and the way the pool felt all rough on my feet. I still hate those things, but I feel like I’m better able to tolerate them now with the tools I have. Here they are- goggles (I think these seal the best), pool socks, and swimmer’s earplugs. If you really want minimal getting wet, more and more pools are putting in splash pads too. I still don’t like getting wet, but sometimes it’s necessary.

4. Clothing- I am bad at going from season to season when it comes to clothes. So bad in fact, that it was cited in the documents about my autism diagnosis. It’s just so stressful! It’s hard to tell when it’s time to switch from pants to shorts, or from tank tops to hoodies. It also doesn’t help that sometimes wearing a t-shirt is okay, except that it gets soaked at the first drop of sweat.

So here are my rules for dressing during the summer. Rule 1, try to stick to light colored clothes if you’re going to be outside a lot. It’s a little thing that really helps. I also have super lightweight vests if I need layers. Rule 2 is all about athletic wear. The moisture wicking is amazing, so it helps keep you cool, plus it keeps the gross sweatiness at bay. Lastly, rule 3 is natural fibers whenever possible. Polyester doesn’t breath the way that cotton, linen, or hemp does.

5. Hygiene- Do you know what comes along with the summer heat? Sweat. And sweat makes everything feel…honestly? gross is the best way I (a Writing Major) can describe it. The balance is so hard because there are two opposite forces pulling at you. One says that the sweat is making your skin prickle and you clothes clammy, and the other says that the last thing I want to do when I’m already hot and uncomfortable is to get in a hot shower and get my hair and my body wet, and risk getting water and soap in my eyes. Did I mention that I hate being wet? So here’s what I’ve got for you. Deodorant wipes are about the best thing ever. I like these Pacifica ones. But they make scentless ones and individual wrapped ones. Anything you could possibly want from a wipe. I also like Lush’s anti-chafing powder, mostly because you can put it anywhere you get sweaty and it will absorb the sweat and make things smooth.

So there are my summer tips in a nutshell. Summer officially starts after the 21st of June, so we’re just in time! If any of you have summer tips I will gladly take them! I’m already counting down until the coolness of Fall rolls in.