6 Ways I’m Getting Through The Semester

I have been in college for 4 weeks now, and has it been a serious adjustment. Last time I was on a campus, I was a tiny baby autistic me, only 18 years old! At the time I knew nothing about autism, and I especially didn’t know that I was, in fact, autistic, so I moved through the college world overwhelmed and confused.

I failed a class, not because I lazy, but because I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I tried, I got lost, and eventually I just stopped trying. Little me also didn’t know that you could drop a class, which could have been really useful.

I was also so sensory overwhelmed that I spent most of my time hiding under my bed. Some days I wish I could still do that now, but my bed isn’t tall enough. #adultproblems

Because I knew how hard college was last time, I made sure to have a plan going in, and that really helped. Did all of it work? No, of course not, but it gave me a great foundation for tweaking it, so it can be better for the coming semesters.

So, without further adieu, here’s what’s worked for me so far.

  1. Visual Directions: My wife is a genius on multiple levels, but the skill she has that I admire most (besides her ability to estimate, I mean how am I supposed to know how big an inch is?) is her internal sense of direction. She’s one of those people who can just point to north, just like that. A few hundred years ago she probably would have been burned as a witch. Anyway, the week before classes started we walked around campus, following my schedule, and she took a ton of pictures, and they turned into this! I have one for every class, and thank goodness, because 4 weeks in I still get totally lost without them.

 

2. Hybrid Classes: When I met with my advisor, I signed up for 4 classes equaling 12 credits, as a way of easing my way back into the wonderful world of college. At the time I wasn’t thrilled, because most people take 5 classes/15 credits, and I wanted to prove that I could too. Thank goodness I didn’t. I ended up dropping and replacing 2 of my courses, partially because they weren’t doable sensory wise (30 college kids in a tiny classroom all talking at one is my sensory hell), and also because I just couldn’t handle wearing my neurotypical mask all the time. I knew I didn’t want to go the all online option. It was fine for my associates, but I knew I needed to learn some of the social skills necessary for employment in my field, so I compromised. I now have 2 in person classes, 1 hybrid (half in person/half online) class, and one totally online class. I think if I had tried to tough the original plan out, I would have burned out by midterms.

3. Color Coding: No one who knows me would say that I’m an organized sort of person. Executive Dysfunction rules my brain, and I struggle with notes and studying, and with keeping myself on track. Color coding has been a life saver. Each of my classes has a color (red, green, blue, purple) and everything pertained in each class is done in its color. So my green class has notes in green pen, is highlighted in green, uses green post its, has its due dates written in green, and every mention of it in my planner is green. It’s a great way for me to visually track what’s going on, and to keep all the details from running together.

4. A Really Good Schedule: I struggle with making good use of my time. It’s hard for me to know what I need to be doing and when. In the wild, I naturally fall into a routine, and am drawn to activities that happen at the same time, every time. But when my day is totally packed with stuff has to get done right now, I need more than my natural routine, hence, a Really Good Schedule™. Folks, I am schedule down to the 15 minutes. I know exactly what time I need to leave, what time I do Physical Therapy , even what time I need to what time I need to shower. Having a Really Good Schedule™ makes the world of difference, mostly because I’m not constantly stressing out that I’m going to miss a class, or not leave at the right time. 

5. Built in Self Care: I’ve been in mental health treatment and therapy long enough to know how important self care is. But I am only human, and when my life starts getting busy, all of a sudden I forget everything that I know about self care. With hyperfocus especially, I’ll work for hours, only to realize that my eyes are dry, and my back is aching. So, I make sure set a timer so I take a break, stretch, maybe read a bit. Self care for me also looks like making sure to spend time with Jess. We try to do little thing like bake and play board games every day, and we try to go to the park or the movies or a museum once a week. But for those random “I need self care right now” moment, I have a list. It has everything from taking a walk, to playing brainless games on my phone. The most important part is that I don’t have to make a decision. If I’m stressed enough to need self care, I can guarantee I won’t be in a headspace for picking something and making a plan.

6. Quizlet: I am a largely visual learning, to the point where just making flashcards helps me study more than actually using them. Please excuse my age for a moment while I say that it is So! Cool! That there are flashcard apps, because when I was in school the first time, it was pen and paper all the way. Enter Quizlet. It’s an app that also has browser access, and it is so much more than flashcards. Not only can you make the cards as you might traditionally, but it will help you learn by increasingly spacing out the amount of time it quizzes you on things, plus, if you have the date of your exam, it will make sure you learn in time. Add in multiple types of games and the fact that you can use other peoples cards and share yours, it’s a win for me.

There we go, all of the things that have kept me sane for the past  month. I know that I usually open up the comments for your input, but this time I’m very very very curious. If you have any tips that got you through school, please let me know! I know I’m going to be tweaking my system for the next few years, and I could really use ideas!

 

4 Reasons There’s No Post Today

I’ve been having a tough week, health wise (see Monday’s missing post as an example), but I figured I could leave you with a short bit of dark humor

1. I think my head might explode: I have the headache from hell, and since it’s in my neck too, I’m having a hard times convincing my anxiety that it’s not meningitis. Also, my cat Spike is a mother hen when I don’t feel good. It’s sweet, except that he’s 18 pounds and he insists on constantly touching my face.

2. I keep falling asleep: And not just in appropriate ways like when I’m laying down. Sitting up is fair game too. You know the warning they put on NyQuil about not operating heavy machinery? I need that on me.

3. The world is spinning: Since I started physical therapy a few weeks ago, my POTS has been in a consistent flare. It’s depressing that 7 minutes of laying down exercise can affect me this badly. I’m eating tons of salt, like the experts recommend, but my I can’t really feel my face anymore…

4. My hands are shaking: Another POTS symptom, it’s because my blood sugar is all over the place. My body goes into full on trembling shaky sweaty rebellion if I don’t eat exactly every 3 hours. I never thought my pancreas could hold me hostage, but here we are. Who knows, maybe next week my spleen will demand $10000 in unmarked bills.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope your bodies feel better than mine.

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!

Image result for self care quotes

See the source image

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.

Image result for self care quotes

Image result for self care quotes

See the source image

See the source image

See the source image

See the source image

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!

 

Self Love Playlist

List Wednesday is going to be a little different this week, as the list is technically very long. I love music, and the right song (or songs), can make me feel empowered. There’s nothing like blasting a song and singing along at the top of your lungs to make you feel the love- the self love.

I made a Spotify playlist of some of my favorites. It’s collaborative , so if you have a favorite, feel free to add it and let me know in the comments!

If you don’t have access to Spotify, here’s the contents of the playlist!

  1. I’m Good- The Mowgli’s
  2. King of Anything- Sara Bareillesd
  3. Everybody- Ingrid Michaelson
  4. Born This Way- Lady Gaga
  5. I Like Giants- Kimya Dawson
  6. Transgender Dysphoria Blues- Against Me!
  7. You Learn- Alanis Morissette
  8. Confident- Demi Lovato
  9. Unpretty- TLC
  10. Superwoman- Alicia Keys
  11. Beautiful- Christina Aguilera
  12. F*ckin’ Perfect- P!nk
  13. Freckles- Natasha Bedingfield
  14. How Far I’ll Go- Auli’i Cravalho
  15. Love Myself- Hailee Steinfeld
  16. Try- Colbie Caillat
  17. Stronger- Britney Spears
  18. Let It Go- Idena Menzel
  19. Reflection- Lea Salonga
  20. Roar- Katie Perry
  21. Brave- Sara Bareilles
  22. Girl On Fire- Alicia Keys
  23. I Am Not My Hair- India Arie
  24. Be OK- Ingrid Michaelson
  25. Happy- Pharrell Williams
  26. True Colors- Cyndi Lauper
  27. Don’t Be Shy- Cat Stevens
  28. Greatest Love of All- Whitney Houston
  29. I Got This- Jennifer Hudson
  30. Fly- Avril Lavigne

Hope you enjoy some of these, crank up the tunes and have a virtual dance party for me!

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.

3 Of My Comfort Fanfics

So if I had to admit to a “guilty pleasure” fan fiction would be it. I have been “writing” stories based in established universes in my head since I was wee thing, and when I encountered the internet and found out that it was a real things that people do, I was amazed. I inhaled everything I could find in my favorite ‘verses, from the awesome to the not so awesome. Just like some people have comfort books and comfort movies, I have comfort fics. Stories I come back to over and over again when I need to feel safe, or like I’m home. Fandoms are highly specific, I know, so if none of these make any sense to you guys, that’s totally cool, but here they are anyway.

Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness: If you’ve been hanging around the Harry Potter fandom in the last few years, you probably know about this one. It’s a novel length fic of excellent quality, that blends in seamlessly with the canon novels. To the point where I basically count it as canon at this point. Which can be confusing. It follows the same timeline as the Deathly Hallows, but instead of wandering around the woods with the Golden Trio, it follows what’s going on at Hogwarts, with Neville Longbottom and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army. To be honest, Deathly Hallows wasn’t my favorite book of the series, I found the Harry Potter Goes Camping middle bit kind of boring. But Neville makes a great protagonist, and I really understand the problems he faces, being uncomfortable with the position he’s put in, but still trying his best for the good of others. Doing things for yourself is great, but not always possible, and it’s ok to do things for other people too.

Reluctance: This fic is set in the world of Sanctuary, a Sci-Fi channel series produced by, and starring Amanda Tapping (who you might know from the Stargate series). In this world, humans live side by side with Abnormals, like werewolves, mermaids, and Bigfoots, and Dr. Helen Magnus saves, studies, and rehabilitates them. This story is about Magnus and her protégé, Will. Will, for lack of a better word, doesn’t want to be known. He hides everything about himself, from his medical issues to his mental health. The whole, ‘I don’t trust you to handle me as I truly am’ trope is old and worn, but that’s what makes this one comfy for me. I share a lot of the anxieties that Will does. That I’m hard to love, that I’m too complicated for people, and that because my childhood wasn’t filled with comfort, that means I don’t deserve it. It also has a chapter involving Drugged!Will that’s hilarious.

Love is for Children: So this story is the only one I found on AO3 instead of fanfic.net. It’s also the most recent of my faves, and I feel slightly different than it than the other ones. It’s still comforting and relatable, but I think what’s different is that it’s so immersive. The author is incredibly dedicated to detail and it makes my little research heart so happy. If they mention making chili, a chili recipe is provided. If they make Russian Easter Eggs, there’s a link to the history of Pysanka. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this story follows The Avengers after the events of The Battle of New York (basically after the first Avengers movie). All the Avengers are experiencing PTSD, and their handler Phil Coulson, devises teambuilding exercises to help them heal and come together as a team. This fic started as a single story, but eventually more have added. I particularly love the ones from Hulk’s point of view. He is written as a foil to Bruce Banner. Where Bruce is a genius with no emotional intelligence, Hulk is more childlike, but with a deep understand of emotion, and a warmness that goes with it. As someone with a trauma background, I really appreciate how this series represents PTSD in so many different ways, and also that there are so many things that can help.

 

Here lies the end of what has probably been my most awkward and off the wall list. No worries, I promise the next one will be at least slight more relatable. As always, feel free to let me know if you’ve got any favorite fics!