Just Take Me Back to Who I Was When I Was Younger

“Just take me back to who I was when I was younger” A Great Big World

I turned 30 this year, and I’ve started to notice that people my age are feeling old (in a bad way). And I think that’s pretty standard for your thirties. Your twenties are for making mistakes and finding yourself, and you get through that all of that and come into your thirties only to find that you’re *gasp* old.

It hits some people harder than other, I think. From my observations, people who had really positive teens and twenties have a harder time leaving them. I’m talking about the folks for who the phrase “high school is best years of your life” applies. And this isn’t a bad thing! I mean, who can judge someone for having a positive experience, right? All I’m saying is that I was definitely not one of those people.

My teens were filled with a chaotic home life, trouble with teachers, coming to terms with my queerness, and the beginning of the mental illness that would define my twenties. My twenties, as you might have guessed from the previous sentence, were filled with breakdowns. I had an Autistic Burnout which left me with a slew of sensory issues. I cycled from being incredibly productive, to not leaving the house for weeks (if this sounds familiar, I suggest you check out Bipolar Disorder). I spent two years in higher level care for an eating disorder, and also three psych hospital stays during that time.

I clawed my way out of my twenties, and now that I’m free, I’ve realized something. You couldn’t pay me to be young again. I like being my age, so many good things have happened over the last year or two that makes me so happy to be where I am in life.

The thing that changed my life was my Autism Diagnosis. Guys. Ladies and gentlemen, dudes and dudettes, knowing changes everything, and the number one thing that it changed was how I viewed myself. I had been told (and so I believed) that I was smart but lazy. Feeling that way about yourself does a number on your self esteem. So when I found out that I was not in fact broken, but Autistic, something changed. Not overnight, obviously, fast than I had expected. My diagnosis also gave me access to services like Occupational Therapy, where I’m learning strategies to help me function as my best self.

So here I am at 30, and how am I spending the first year of my decade? I’m in college, for the first time in many many years. I am active in my church, and I volunteer with an organization that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities. In a few weeks my wife and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and our relationship is so strong (partially because we’re awesome, and partially because we’ve had a lot of therapy, individually and together. I’ve been working on my gender identity, and had top surgery to help me feel like I fit in my body. Due do a procedure and a new medication for my POTS, I am so far able to do more things (museums, the zoo!), and be so much more active (riding bikes, rock climbing!)

And that is just this year. For the first time in forever, I’m looking forward to what’s coming. And I’m not one of those blissfully optimistic types that assume everything will always be perfect. I have Autism, and sometimes, that sucks. I have mental illness, and sometime that sucks. I have a chronic illness, and that almost always sucks. But when these things are well controller, I can work around them. When I am a stable human being, I’m better prepared for issues that may come.

I definitely don’t want to go back to who I was when I was younger, but I do wish I could leave past me a note saying “don’t worry, it won’t always be like this.”

 

Great Expectations?

 

 

I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a wall lately when it comes to contributing to my community. It’s not that I don’t want to participate. It’s more like every time I try to, I freeze. This isn’t exactly surprising for me, and I’ll tell you why. We all know about the Fight of Flight response. What they don’t tell you until you hit Advanced Mental Health Status is that there’s a third ‘F’, and that ‘F’ is Freeze. I am a freezer. Not the kind that keeps your popsicles solid, no, I am that gazelle in the African Savannah who hears the lion coming and decides that the best course of action is to stand perfectly still and hope that the lion think’s they’re dead. Let me tell you right now, as a gazelle, it doesn’t usually work.

I love being an active part of my communities- and there are a lot. My friends used to refer to me as the Uber Minority, which makes me sound like some sort of awesome Transformer type robot. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it more means that people kind of tilt their heads when they first meet me. They know that there’s something different about me, but they can’t tell what it is. Sometimes they try and guess, which depending on my mood, can be a lot of fun. Given my combination of identities, no one ever guesses perfectly right, and honestly, if they did, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’d probably off up some sort of prize. Probably a Tangle, as I have a bunch, and always have one on my person. Not my fuzzy Tangle though. Hopefully they’d appreciate their prize.

A lot of communities mean a lot of opportunities to interact. There’s National Eating Disorders Month, Autism Acceptance Month, and Pride Month, just to name a few. All of these usually make me really enthusiastic about being active on Tumblr and Instagram, and even here on this blog. But it doesn’t be a surprise to you that every opportunity that’s come up this year has made me freeze. Activity on all of my accounts dropped off suddenly, and I hate it so much.

I’ve been trying to work my way back up. Luckily, I had submissions I could use on my Tumblr blog (check it out!), and was at least still comfortable liking things on Instagram- things with minimal interaction, and that didn’t require me to put myself out there. Because let’s face it, I’m a bit of a coward.

At least that’s what it feels like. If I think about it without beating myself up, it’s more like I’m a perfectionist- a perfection that when combined with my intense need to be a good advocate and a good disabled person, freezes me in my tracks.

But that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on myself, isn’t it? I can say it, I’m not sure that I really mean it. So let my put it all out there. It is not my job to represent every person in my community. It is not my responsibility be witty and eloquent so strangers will pay attention to what I have to say. I IT IS OK for me to explore my identities publicly, IT IS OK to share my opinions, and IT IS OK to say things that others in my community disagree with (as long as I am respectful).

I can take chances, make mistakes, and get messy and the world will not end!

Doesn’t all that sound great? How awesome the world would be if we were all able to go through life unafraid of trying, even if there was a chance of failing. Clearly more easily said than done. But if therapy had taught me nothing, it’s that baby steps are always the way to go. So:

I will keep to my Tumblr post schedule (but not kick myself if I miss a day)

I will keep writing (even if the end product doesn’t get posted here)

I will have fun posting things to Instagram (and stick around to see what my friends are posting too)

I will participate (and I’ll try to remember why I enjoyed participating so much in the first place)

And lastly I won’t get down on myself when things aren’t perfect.

 

11 Self Care Quotes

Happy Valentines Day! I’m hoping you all have a great day spending time with the people that you love. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I love using Valentines Day as a great opportunity to celebrate Self Love as well as romantic, familial, and platonic love. So here are some of my favorite quotes about Self Love. I take some of the ones that talk about practicing Self Love so you can support others with a grain of salt. I think that you should practice Self Care and love yourself for you- and if others benefit, that’s great. But they still have good stuff to say, so I included them!

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Pin for Later: These 50+ Quotes Will Remind You, Above All, to Love Yourself

Truth be told...   How critical it is to nurture, especially for children....

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It is sanity.” – Katrina Mayer  Click for 26 inspiring Self-Love Quotes, just like this one, that encourage you to love yourself.  Your self-love life is important, it's insane NOT to love yourself.

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Do you have any quotes about Self Care or Self Love? Let me know in the comments! Although please note that I had surgery yesterday, so I may be a little slow (or a little drugged up) in my comments.

 

Self Love

Valentines Day is coming up, and while I very much enjoy celebrating romantic love (my wife, Jess and I usually mark the occasion by eating chocolate and playing video games), I also think that the holiday is an excellent excuse to celebrate self love too!

As I think that I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time in Eating Disorder Treatment, which is basically a nice way of saying a butt load of therapy. Like, therapy 3 times a day. And a lot of the therapeutic emphasis is on self care and self love and all of those other ‘self’ things. So yeah, I’ve sat through a lot of group therapy on these topics.

And it may seem like I’m a self love zealot- I know, I have been talking about it a lot lately. But there are definitely parts of the self care thing that I think are silly, or don’t work for me.

For example, a lot of people have a really hard time with shame, and they need to put in a lot of time and effort to let that go.

And while I totally understand how it works, I don’t really experience shame (I do experience guilt, but that’s a whole different post), and so doing exercises around shame are sort of boring for me.

Self care though? I’m totally behind. Treating your mind and your body with care and respect? I’m all for it. I know that when I’m tuned in to what I need, I have more more energy, less anxiety, and I’m more flexible and less sensory sensitive. Win win, right?

There are lots of ways to care for and love yourself, and I’m just going to share today some things that I do in my day to days life.

Stimming is definitely the most important part of my self care routine. This is something unique to us neurodivergant folks, and doesn’t get included in most articles about self care. For me, this sort of self care takes two forms.

The first one is making time for stimming and sensory needs in my daily routine. I start my day with my favorite sensory friendly food (Cheerios). I take the time to knit. I wear clothes that are comfortable, tagless, with flat seems, and I buy the only socks that I find tolerable in bulk. I end my days lying in bed with my weighted blanket and my glitter lamp casting blue shadows on my ceiling, and I ease into sleep.

The second is certainly more challenging, but it’s also just as important. I call it sensory-on-the-go. And it’s a big deal because following my home routine is easy, really but dealing with the real world is hard. It’s really hard! You have to be able to sense what you need before you need it, because at least for me, by the time I realize that I need intervention, I’m not in a very good position to do it for myself. So on-the-go self care requires pre-planning, and, if you’re lucky, a buddy. So I don’t leave the house without a sensory emergency kit, and I check in with myself regularly, so meltdowns don’t take me by surprise. They still happen, but somehow it’s (a little) better if I know they’re coming.

I’m a total introvert, so this type of self care seems like the opposite of what would work, but I’ve learned that I need to connect with people. If given the choice, I’d go days without talking to anyone except my cats, and if you’d asked, I would say that this is the ideal situation, and that I was very happy indeed. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely need quiet me time, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I really benefit from interacting with people. So I volunteer, and I play music with people, I interact at church, and I connect to my awesome internet community. And while there are days when I don’t want to talk to anyway (not even the cats), that’s fine, because I know that my connections will be there waiting for me when I come back.

There are dozens of other things I do to take care of myself, and if I listed them all, this post would be 26 paragraphs long, and you’d probably have gotten bored 19 paragraphs ago. So here are a just a few more things that I think are worth mentioning, and then I promise that I’m done.

Hot hot hot showers. I hate being wet, so I sit on the floor of the tub and let the steam come rise up around me. I also like talking to myself in the shower, which is apparently a thing?

Bookstores. There’s nothing more calming than being surrounded by books. Especially if they’re used, cheap, and smell good.

Watching movies I’ve seen over and over again. Being able to predict every line and every song makes me feel safe. Props to Moana, Into the Woods, and Sondheim! The Birthday Special.

I feel really grateful for my time in treatment because it let me think critically about how I treat myself. Learning about who I am and what I need has let me practice self care, which in turn has led to self love.

I hope you guys are able to send some love to yourself this week, because Valentines is about all types of love, including self love. Happy Early Valentines Day!

 

My Fade Out

I dissociated today in therapy.

This is something that I’ve dealt with since childhood, although there’s no evidence to explain why. The problem with fading out so early in life, is that even if something did happen to cause it, I can’t remember what it is.

What happens to me is what therapists tend to call Profound Dissociative Amnesia, which sounds a lot more complicated than it is. It just means that when my brain decides that I can’t handle something (usually related to strong emotions), it just takes my  consciousness out of the picture.

While it’s very kind that my brain is looking of for me, it can cause a lot of problems.

Like not remembering most of my childhood.

Or ruining friendships in high school. Or coming to realizing that I’m driving around and I’m totally lost (this was before the days of GPS).

But this is about today.

I’m in the process of ending a toxic friendship. After months of trying to get them to respect boundaries, to not verbally attack me, and to not use me as their emotional garbage can

I‘m done. 

They asked for closure, and I think that’s fair, so I met with my therapist to plan out how to approach it. After talking about setting boundaries and making rules about behavior, my therapist started comparing my friendship to an abusive relationship.

And I was gone.

I came to with her asking me questions in a tone of voice I’d never heard her use before. She got me ice to hold in my hands, and grilled me on who I was, where I was, and when it was. Everything was fuzzy, like when you suddenly get woken up from a dead sleep. After I figured out the logistics of who and where and when, I knew one thing.

I was so embarrassed.

Which seems to be a theme lately. I’m embarrassed about meltdowns, embarrassed about dissociation, basically I’m embarrassed that I have non-standard coping mechanisms.

I wish it didn’t happen. It says so much about who I am and what I fear. Like today, triggers often come as a surprise to me, out of nowhere, and now my therapist knows.

I’m self aware to the point of dysfunction, and I hate not knowing what I’m feeling, or why I’m feeling it. I try to avoid talking to my therapist about things that I haven’t figured out, because the idea of someone realizing something about me, before me, terrifies me.

I do realize that’s what therapy is usually for, but I still anxious and scared about having to talk about the dissociation, and what the fact that I dissociated when I did means.

For now, I’m exhausted. I’m still fuzzy around the edges, and to be honest, I’m still fixated on what happened. I try not to ruminate about what happens when my brain exiles my consciousness, but I can’t help but wonder what happened while I was gone.

I don’t like when this happens. I don’t like feeling helpless, and I hate feeling like I’m being defined by my disorder. What do I do if this keeps happening?

Don’t worry. That’s a rhetorical question.

 

 

 

Meds and Me

Alright guys, it’s confession time.

I haven’t written anything in weeks.

Thank goodness for me, I had a bit of a backlog, but it was driving me crazy trying to figure out what was causing my “writer’s block”.

At first I figured everyone gets a little burned out, and I didn’t worry, but as the days and weeks went on, I started getting really anxious that I’d lost my writing chops.

That anxiety should have clued me in. But even though I’ve had anxiety since I was a tiny human (my family jokes that I started stress biting my nails the day my little sister came home from the hospital), I didn’t recognize it this time.

And that should be a good thing! It proves that I’m so well medicated, that I’m not used to being an anxious wreck anymore.

Once I realized that, I knew what happen. My psychiatrist wanted to try decreasing one of my anxiety meds, and since I do up pills two weeks at a time (it makes sense when you take 22 pills a day), I didn’t correlate the med decrease with the crippling anxiety I’ve been feeling.

I’ve been anxious about writing. About going back to school and deciding on a career. I worry that my wife will die. I worry that I’m wasting my life. I’m worried about getting old. I’m worried about dying. And about not dying. Sigh.

So clearly, the medication is going back up where it was. Depending on how things go, I may be quiet for a little while. I figure blogs are for honesty, so here I am.

Adept at Adapting

I can do magic. It’s a skill I’ve had since I was very young. And like any good magician, I’ve kept the source of my skills a secret. Why, a good magician never reveals the source of his magic. Especially when it’s not. Magic, that is. My tricks fall more in the line of pure deception. My goal is to get the audience to believe that everything is fine, and by no means should they pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. In short? I am a con artist. I con everyone I meet into thinking that I don’t modify the world to fit my experiences. That I don’t have to change everything I touch to make it make sense in my head. And that one deeply desperate thing I certainly don’t do is tweak myself. I am a con artist. And how could I not be? After almost 30 years of adapting to a world was not meant for someone with my brain, I’ve become pretty good at making things fit my needs.

When you find out that you don’t think like other people, you react in a couple of steps. They’re sort of like the steps of grieving, except that instead of grieving a person, or a relationship, you’re grieving a state of mind. While most of us go through a phase of feeling weird or alone, the idea that your brain works in fundamentally different ways than a “normal” person’s, you go into shock. At least I did. The idea is so foreign, it was a while before my brain could make sense of it. After that, I suppose there is a period of mourning. Mine didn’t last long. It’s not that I didn’t wish things were how I thought they had been, but more because the next phase is fascination, and fascinated basically describes who I am as a person.

I love to pick things apart in my head. I like to pick things apart with my hands too, but that’s a different story. Give me a thought, or a story, or a theory, and I will analyze the crap out of it. It makes conversations interesting, because I often get sidetracked thinking about what someone has said, even though they’ve kept talking. It usually end with me proclaiming the results of my thoughts in excitement, and them being very confused, as they’d moved on from that topic five minutes ago. Needless to say, I’m much better at text based conversations, as it gives me time to think and analyze without someone standing right in front of me.

Like a lot of autistic people, I learned to adapt to my surroundings pretty early. I think I was lucky, in that my love of analysis meant that I could observe how people around me acted, and then take that data to make rules for how people behaved. I don’t think I ever knew why those people were doing what they did, and I certainly didn’t know why I was acting that way- except because it was a Thing that people do.

This is the beginning of my long history of pretending. I mentioned that I am, in essence, a con artist, because I cultivate infinite versions of myself; whoever I need to be to fit the situation. Just to keep the record straight, I’m not changing who I am as a person, I’m not changing the important parts of me. Think of it more as a filter, as millennial as that makes me sound. The essence of the photo doesn’t change; the subject and the composition remain intact, but a filter lets people see it differently. And you can change the filter to fit the person. I may stay the same internally, but I certainly encourage people to see the external filter that I want them to see.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that all this amazing and complex filtering takes incredible amounts of mental energy. Which is interesting, because when I realized exactly what was going on, I was really surprised. After some, you guessed it, analyzing, I realized that over the past twenty-five years or so I had actually automated the observe-analyze-regurgitate process. It was like malware running in the background of my brain computer. I didn’t remember installing it, it slowed everything down, and it didn’t always have my best interest at heart. Not to say it isn’t useful sometimes, but I’d like to be the one who decides when it happens.

I’ll be coming up on my two year diagnose-iversary, and I’m planning on giving myself a gift. Luckily for me, I know exactly what I want: more brain space. Since I started learning more about myself, I’ve realized that there’s so much that I want from life. I want to educate people and to be an advocate, I want to go back to school, I want to write. And spending all my time trying to perfectly fit into every social situation is keeping me back. I’ve practicing being slightly more autistic, even though it feels like I’m doing something wrong, because of the huge amount of energy it grants me. I’m even getting more comfortable with just being myself. I’m perfecting the balance of wanting to be a kind and polite person, and staying true to who I am. And while there’s nothing wrong with adaptation, I’m finally learning how to make it work for me.