So in my last blog, I talked about my personal struggles about possibly being autistic along with my son. Self-awareness is beautiful and so I wanted to talk about what it has been like discovering this part of my identity.
First– I have found people like me. (lol I can now sing the sound of my people–ARROOO! ARROOO!) They have sensory food issues (i was not kidding how horribly i hate avocados/mushrooms and mustard), qerky fun things about their personalities, dye their hair or do their makeup in the most amazing colors ON PURPOSE (not for style but stimming) and have similar struggles like when I watch movies where I get stuck in the movie world and it’s hard to transitions out without acting like the movie. And other autistics don’t mind if you emotionally need a break or if you’re going through a burnout — they get it. No explanation needed. And no one is “putting on face.” or “playing a game.” We really don’t know how. Neurologically speaking. Most of wear our hearts on our sleeve or if we do hide, we get really good at it. And even if by some review of sorts I’m NOT at least neurodivergent (not sure how I feel if that were to happen…considering things) — everyone should have an autistic friend in their life. Support and love them and learn to see a little of their world. As Agony Autie says (WATCH HER VIDEOS!) — it’s a privilege.
Identifying as autistic has also helped me understand some very major aspects about myself as a child as to why I just never felt like I ever fit in. Oh, wait, not fitting in, that’s a qualifier without me even realizing it. I am general an extroverted social person. But I can only slightly read people and NEVER know the right response. Or don’t have the time to process things. Check more on the autistic list.
Item Two: my friend count was low. Not bad. I had really great friends that many I am still friends with today. But no true one BEST FRIEND. When my mom got sick and I had to find a friend to take care of me because my dad would probably not be able to–I was scared because I had no 1 person (you got two choices anyways, but still.) And frankly– a lot of them I rarely hung out with outside of the environment I knew them in.Band Geeks (loud and proud) but never got along with band people. Was in honors but did not mesh with the popular crowd. I did girl scouts which I know struggled with keeping friends there because some girls used me (don’t worry I have a friend I live near I am grateful–but she’s half church half scouts so I don’t count that lol.)
Three (which will lead into the next part): I analyze and process SEVERAL THINGS A DAY. I am the truest sense of the word Curious. I like learning, reading or getting into the details. There were many times i thought to myself or my own mother said “people don’t think about this all the time, do they?” As an adult I have said this WAY more often about the simplest of things in which I revealed to my therapist who noted her head with that expression “Oh, NOW I see what you mean…” They usually get kicked into gear because of something I see or hear.
Lastly I am so excited to travel thru adulthood knowing my qerkiness was not just a phase. Remember me mentioning about having eye contact trouble? And expressive language issues? — I STILL struggle with those. I could never figure out why. A neurotypical person should be able to practice & get better as they work through something. But I didn’t. And i know friends & co-workers hardly have noticed. I just thought they were bad habits or me with just bad grammar. But then i realized I communicate better using things other than language. (I felt like music filled up your whole body vs. speech and therefore auditory because the things that mattered..oh wait, sensory stuff again…sorry 😛 .) I excelled at being in school. Task-oriented functions are my speciality. I’m probably an expert on data entry (patterns). Hey-I even tried telling a guy I like him by saying ” you have to listen to this song-because it will tell you how we should feel about each other…” Yep. That was me. And I wasn’t 8. I was 18.
So i hope i haven’t bored anyone. Or scared (definitely something you do not need to be. ) Just trying to be honest. I have a habit of being too honest before. Oops..
If 5 years ago you would have told me I was going to be writing what i’m about to say–i would have looked at you with the utmost confusion. 5 years ago I knew nothing about kids, about development and speech milestones or about sensory issues or …Autism.
But I’m tired of hiding behind hushed words. I’m tired of people telling me “my kid is fine” until he falls off the 5yo playground equipment because the toddler stuff doesn’t stimulate him enough. I’m tired of wondering where his sensitivities may have come from (so I can understand them) while I get nauseous around avocados and scrap off each topping of a pizza just as he does. Yes–I feel my son may be autistic and that I may be to. And yes-I’m seeing a therapist as is Austin (several in fact) to figure out if this is it or something similar on the neurodivergent spectrum. But let’s go back a little, shall we? Autism is not “just” those things.
It all started with a book Nuerotribes by Steven Silverman. I wrote about it here. My mind was turned on to how people could be so negative to those who are just “different” and the history of something I didn’t see as weird or diseased or needing to be fixed. I grew up in a house where all mental processing was accepted. My dad was bipolar and had infarct dementia along with his diabetes/Parkinson’s. My mom was a grade school teacher and was trying to escape her bad self-esteem issues alongside parenting really 3 kids. (i’ll keep where that came from as private as possible.) I grew up liking classic music, never seeing a major horror film or concert and protected by a parent at school who knew how to address my every need in learning. I made it to GATE despite almost not qualifying for language. That being said — I’m pretty geeky and nerdy and have been My whole life (not sole descriptions of autism btw.)
But then I saw a video by Agony Autie about being autistic. And another. And more videos by Neurodivergent rebel And learned an old friend from church had an autistic daughter. I learned autism isn’t a disease that needs curing, but a different way of communicating and thinking. I learned about neurodiversity (something I LOVE). I learned that we need to provide more support for the autistic community and just not drop them off in adulthood to fend for themselves or criticize their behavior. Then all these memories and connections to my childhood came flooding back. Something I had been trying to reach for a very long time since i have a hard memory block for what happened before my mom got sick when i was 12. I found pictures like this where I see nothing but a mirror image of what my son asked for the other night at the table.
See me?? Hands over my ears? Yep–Austin begs me to hold his ears and head like this when he has had too much. Occasionally when he’s trying to process a new noise.
So you’re probably thinking “you’re crazy Sara.” “you’re not autistic.” “Don’t worry you’ll be fine.”
Well first, I am fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. Second –I’m not crazy. There’s A LOT of things i cover up (technical term “masking.”)
1) I actually do have a problem with eye contact. I remember doing speeches in 4th grade and it was something I always missed (as well as talking too fast.) I learned to mask really young (typical for girls) and remember being told eye contact is super important so I forced myself to do it. It requires a lot of energy…but i’ve been doing masking so long I don’t even know if I can turn it off. What it feels like? – Like I’m staring. Even if it is for a couple seconds, I feel like I have stared into someone’s soul. And if I can’t pull away– i’m sucked in staring. not my fault I just haven’t satisfied my curiosity and thoughts about what’s going on with that person.
2) Transitions are SUPER BAD for me. I mean extremely super. Especially sudden change or if I have established myself in a good place (I.e. a Disney Cruise). Or if my routine (or what I think my routine is) gets adjusted too much. I sit and stew on exact words said and i go into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety. I’ve already been pseudo-diagnosized with Adjustment Disorder and possible PTSD. People that know me know i’ve been through a lot in my life before I was even 30.
3) I prefer to use music to express emotions. Blaring it so loud I can tune out the world. I sink into the notes and I don’t even register what or who is around me.
4) While I have PCOS (comorbidity occurs a lot with autistic, especially things related to healthy gut) which provides me with excess body hair and limited head hair– in college i plucked out 2 inches of hair on my scalp. Don’t. Believe me?-see my first passport photo. Why?-Because I didn’t want “fly aways” and I could see them on EVERYONE’s hair. I can still picture it now sitting in a dorm building meeting looking at peoples hair.
5) I fidget. More than I realize. I originally thought it was just habit. But when I’m dealing with stressful stuff–i click pens, spin fidget spinners, and tap my fingers a lot. Today I pinched my fingers together. It’s a stimming technique. And I guess so was my dancing, singing, music playing. Today I bounced up and down on the curb at Disneyland because the parade had just come thru and I was trying to watch my son thru the whole thing.
4) It is very likely I have expressive language issues. When I was in grade school I had grammar/spelling issues. I had trouble catching up to my thoughts racing through my head. I also titled my head when learning how to write handwriting. I do some of this still. Austin likely has this too… He also has clear speech delays, doesn’t express things that are personal (like “mine” or “i like”) and lacks some major (beyond normal) focusing abilities.
Don’t feel pity on me. This is a new experience and I’m learning a lot of things I’m very happy about like why I would get crying upset but not a really anxiety attack. It’s because my cooling skills were gone and I had “lost all my spoons.” And I have talked to my therapist who while noticed I was talkative and social could see why I may have dipped my toes in the rainbow you see below. I could go thru all the categories and show you where myself and Austin struggle with things. But that’s a whole other blog post. 🙂
So there. I have put it all for all to see/hear. Some may not be surprised. Others will criticize. But I’m getting the help I need and I am 150% and more here for my son. 🥰
As a goal and personal dream — I decided to dive into some really thick reading this year. Mostly because I have wanted to read this books for a while being a fantasy fan in addition to looking at them sit on my bookshelves in sorrow.
So I picked up Game of Thrones and the beginnings of Lord of The Rings. Luckily the LOTR series can really start off with The Hobbit which I will read first since its been a few years since I read it last (high school.)
So game of thrones is really REALLY THICK reading. I’m only half way thru. But it’s good. Is like the show and more details. Like details of their religion, layout of the houses and who is related to who and whatnot.
So i know lately i have been spending a lot of my time writing on the books I’m reading. Its a goal of mine to not only keep up on the reading challenge I set my mind to but to have a way to remember it in addition to making sure I write on some regular basis.
However, I realized it is time for a non- book challenge post *ish*. And I think I will go back to my old trusty topic: theology.
So one of the new “books” I started is a daily devotional called 100 days to brave by Annie F Downs. And while I am sure I will have a post about the devotional and all its lovely qualities– I wanted to talk about the importance having a daily devotional. Or at least the intention of having one.
I have never been an intentional practicing Christian. At least not after college while trying to have a working job & more so after trying to keep a family and household together. I do believe the Spirit “blows where it wills” and that sometimes as humans we need to try and catch on before it flitters away too fast because life keeps moving (forget the fact that life comes from the Spirit but anyways…) So whenever things like “read this daily for spiritual growth” come along, I usually get annoyed, bitter and judgmental. How dare someone tell me how to connect to my faith!
Well, I should remember this post when I say things like that. For it is the gentle little focusing that helps me digest the world. It is the fact I am intentionally taking time for thought that helps me get past the sullen sulking self that leads to self-loathing, sickness and separation. Three things that can take away life if you’re not careful. And don’t get me wrong, its rough at first. Especially if you’re trying it for the first time. Sometimes you have to read sections you don’t like, follow a train of thought you can’t handle, but trust me, in the end those little devotional or practices to set time away save you greater time in the long run.
So next time you think that little devotional is not for you–think maybe the coffee you’re drinking isn’t the kind of “jolt” you need to keep yourself going. It will for sure last longer than the caffeine rush.
8/25 (read a little flyer book on language disorders that goodreads counted-sure, Why Not, right?
So originally after I finished “Trudy” in the Mail Order Brides series, I was going to move onto the next book “Lina” by the same author Debra Holland. However, in starting that book, I felt like I was missing half the story. So i decided to take a risk and read the other author in the book series not knowing anything about her or her writing style. And I am glad I did — finishing my 8th book Mail Order Brides of the West: Evieby Caroline Fyffe.
The book was difficult for me to start. Not because it is a bad book — but because I was already mid-world in another authors series and to come into the same world from another speakers perspective and move towards a different direction throws me off immensely. See me trying to reading Star Wars.
But i kept going because I was searching to satisfy my curiosity from the first book about the character Evie. She is gentle, delicate but also hard working and determined. She takes on an adventure without knowledge of the future or what to expect. And the tale of her meeting Chance, her husband, is comical and serious all at the same time.
I am glad I kept going with the mail order brides of the West series. The stories are unique, the characters are full of life approaching a new world and the authors take care is describing their worlds that are deep in American frontier history.
Click image above for amazon link!
So I moved into another couple short books about parenting and dealing with sensory issues. I guess it’s a hope to find some relief and comfort in what I’m experiencing with Austin. One was a pamphlet on expressive receptive disorders (which he may have) but nothing of great consequence. But hey, book 6/25, right? Lol
So the next book came highly recommended and has a whole network of workbooks and such behind it. So I thought it would be helpful and enjoyable. It was also significantly shorter than any of the other books. The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. They are both highly educated authors as well as parents. They proved some general guidelines to the frustrations to parenting.
Overall the book is “nice.” There are simple explanations, nothing majorly complicated. However, I feel like all explanations are the so basic that any extremes would through a parent into more questions. There are visual cartoons to see mock conversations. But they are clearly so utopian that they don’t have layers. So for an average book, it’s average. I’m ready to move onto something more extensive.
The advantages to knowing a best-selling author is that you can ask direct questions of the one person who holds the authority on the books you want to read: The Author. So after finishing the last took books in the Montana Sky Series, I inquired on Debra Holland on which books I should read next. Deciding to stick to the chronological list she provided, I jumped into the Mail Order brides of the West Series. Mind you– while I had heard the author’s beginnings of these books in our church book group several years ago–I was a little skeptical about getting into a book about Mail order brides. I know its history– I just didn’t know if I’d like. But these are not the Russian order brides or crazy stories you here for the 21st Century. On the contrary, these romance novellas paint a unique pictures of women seeking adventures and new circumstances in a land where there is new everything to find. They actually awaken my curiosity for the West and the stories that could exist from pioneering living. Oh, and by the way — BOOK 5/25 (yep!-1/5th of the way done!.)
Starting off with Trudy was an excellent idea, despite it being first in the list I was given. After reading, I feel like I would related to this character well–mostly because she has similar thoughts I believe I would have if I was in her circumstances. Trudy is the daughter of a St. Louis lawyer who, after her sisters have all married off, decides to join a mail order bride service to go out west. She is cautious, smart, but curious and heart-driven. Overall, The book not only gives a glimpse of why any sound woman would want to voluntarily join a mail order bride service, but it also shows it was not just this business contract with no emotion or empathy but an actually serious endeavor, with legal and religious consequences.
Debra Holland brings back her readers to Sweetwater Springs, Montana territory, to the rougher side of the town. Seth Flanigan, a local at the saloon, decides to go in search for a wife after the “love of his life” (one of the saloon girls) leaves town to be with someone else. Seth is not the cleanest or most proper of the bunch. But he is a true realist whose heart is gradually warmed when he takes a “leap of faith” in ordering Trudy.
The book will not disappoint. Will not trouble your conscience nor your soul. It will keep you on your toes and at one point make your jaw drop. But in the end it will all be for the better. And a great way to start this little sub series.