Happy New Years! It’s 2018, the Year of the Dog and the year of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea! We all know that the New Year comes with the ball dropping, lots of sensory unfriendly fireworks, and the worst thing- New Years Resolutions.
I hate resolutions. Every year that I’ve tried to make resolutions, I’ve felt terrible pressure to always be working towards them, and terrible guilt when I fail. That’s a terrible way to start a new year, right?
In treatment, there’s a big focus on making goals, and as I’m sure you can guess, that’s didn’t go so well for me. I got lucky though, I work with an Occupational Therapist, and she suggested rather than put the focus on making goals, I should think about things I want in my life, but don’t have. Ways that I want life to be different. Then I could find ways to make those things a reality (which I know is just a different way of saying goals, but hey, it works for me.)
So instead of posting about my New Years Resolutions with you, I’m going to share what I want to be different in 2018
- I want to be more independent. I didn’t realize until recently that I don’t really do things by myself. I rarely leave the house alone, mostly because I’m worried about autism problems, like getting lost, becoming nonverbal, and having meltdowns. Going new places, and going places that trigger sensory overload (like grocery stores- why must your florescent lights be so bright and everything be so loud?) I feel like a need a buddy just in case something goes wrong, and it can be very limiting. So here’s hoping that 2018 is the year of independence!
- I want to be more involved in my community. I wasn’t diagnosed with Autism until 2016, when I was 28, and it wasn’t until almost a year later that I, with great joy, discovered the vibrant and brilliant autistic online community. I immediately knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of, even though I rarely used social media in my “real” life. I’ve taken small steps, this blog being one of them, but I want more. I want to educate, I want to be an advocate, I want to lead. I’m planning on continuing to do what I’m doing, and to look for opportunities and contribute and connect.
- I want my health to be better. I’ve mentioned before that not only do I have a neurological condition called Dysautonomia (POTS is the specific syndrome), I’m also dealing with some hip/nerve issues that we haven’t really found an answer for yet. They’re both highly limiting. There’s not a lot that I can proactively do about my hip, but once it’s doing better, there’s a lot I can do for the POTS, it can’t be cured, but I can reduce the symptoms. Right now, I can stand for about 2 minutes, and walk for about 5, before I become at risk for fainting. There’s a physical therapy protocol that I’m going to try, so I can get back to doing things that I love, like hiking, longboarding, and rock climbing.
- I want to be more comfortable with my gender. Right now, I identify as Nonbinary, which is a word I love, because it gives me so many options. I spent so much time being frustrated because I knew that I wasn’t a girl, but I didn’t think that I was male enough to be transgender. I’m happily settled with the Nonbinary identifier, but one things I haven’t figured out yet is pronouns. She/her/hers makes me uncomfortable, but they/them/theirs bothers the grammar nerd that still lives within me. Xe and Ey and everything else doesn’t seem to fit either, and I’m not sure that I’m boy enough to use he/his. So this year, I want to figure out my pronouns. This year I want to figure out what will be necessary to help me deal with dysphoria. This year, I want to be more comfortable with who I am.
I know sharing resolutions can be sort of stressful, but if you’ve got any that you’ve like to talk about or share, I’d love to hear them!
Technology is amazing, and it’s so hard to believe that in the last twenty years, we’ve got from cell phones the size of bricks, to tiny computers you can hold in your hands. Out of the millions of apps out there, there are a great deal that I’ve found incredibly use for not only Autism, but Mental Health as well.
They’re not all Autism specific, but even so, I’d like to share some of the ones I find essential.
1. Habitica- I’ve mentioned here more than once that I struggle with Executive Dysfunction. And on top of that, I’m not the best at transitioning between activities. Habitica helps with both of these tremendously. It’s like a To-Do list on steroids, and it fills in the gaps in my brain. All you have to do is enter tasks you need to complete, whether it be daily, week, or monthly, and it helps you track them, and will even send you reminders. And to encourage you, it takes the theme of a Role Playing Game, so the more tasks you complete, the higher your level, the more powerful your weapons, and the cooler your pets! I definitely get more done using this app.
2. Emergency Chat App- This app is designed spefically for Autistic people. It fills an incredible need- communication when you’re non or semi-verbal. One of my biggest fears about going places by myself is that I’ll get overwhelmed and lose my words. This app calms my nerves. When opened, it pops up a message, telling the reader that I’m not currently able to speak, and that I’m very sensitive, so I shouldn’t be touched. It then provides a text chat service, where the other person and I can text back and forth. Although I rarely need it, the fact that it’s there makes me feel safer.
3. Community Apps- One of the best things about my Autism diagnosis is that it came with a huge and wonderful community. As someone who would be considered a life-long lurker, it took me a while to dip my toes in, but now I’m liking and posting and commenting all over the place! I love having access to my people wherever I go, and to be honest, sometimes the apps are better than the websites (I’m looking at you Instagram!) The ones I rely on most are Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress, and Reddit. They all have amazing Autistic communities, whether you have a question, have something to share, or just want to feel understood.
4. Distraction Apps– Sometimes all I need is a distraction, and my number one favorite distraction is board games. They force me to focus on one thing, and let me tune out the many things in this world that overwhelm me. Now, I prefer to play games sitting around a table with real people, but lets me honest, that’s not always possible. Luckily, as board gaming gets more popular, the app versions of many games are getting better. All of my favorites have single player options, where you play against an AI, and even better, some let you play with friends. My favorite distraction-worthy board game apps are Onirim, Ascension, Tsuro, and Lattice. I especially like that I can play Lattice with my wife over a period of days. The heated battle of tile laying is definitely a distraction!
5. Spotify– Music is great, because it can serve a number of purposes. It can block out unpleasant noises, it can transport you to a different place and time, it can be a source of entertainment, and it can calm your mood. I’m including it here for the first and the last reasons. Oftentimes music and my headphones are the only way I can tolerate crowded spaces. And once I’ve survived said crowds, music also helps to calm me back down. Now I know that all phone give you access to your music library, but I chose Spotify because it provides you with community made playlists. So you can just search ‘calm’ or ‘anxiety’ and up pop playlists that work for other people, so there’s a good chance it might work for you. And as a personal note, if you use Spotify a lot- the premium version is totally worth it. I promise they haven’t paid me to say that.
Well there we are, my essential apps! At the time of this posting, all the apps I’ve mentioned are free, and available in the ITunes store. For Android users, you’ve got access to most of them, and from a quick search it seems like there are comparable options.
Are there any apps that you can’t live without? Let me know while I’ve still got some memory left on my phone!