Au-Some Afterthoughts 2020

Sensory Sensitivity

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Being new to the autistic community online-I have sat thru countless fact filled hours of YouTube videos and social media posts. They are really informative for a newly self-identified autistic and can be a great place for finding support. Just this morning, I watched a video on audio sensory sensitivities and ear plugs. Wow-what an amazing tidbit of information it was. And while I personally don’t have a major sensitivity to sound (some times I do, depends on my processing level)– I did want to talk about a legitimate sensory sensitivity I do have that I believe shows a little of my autistic side: light sensitivity.

When I was a kid- I always wanted to wear sunglasses. in class, outside, you name it. Even my high school sophomore year softball team I was known as “Meeko” because I always wore the sunglasses outside at practice. However, I didn’t think much of my eyes because I could still see really well. Unlike my mom who had classes at 8 years old– I only needed to have my eyes checked every once & a while to make sure they were still 20/20. However, one year (I think after I got real vision insurance)–I went to the eye doctor preparing to have my eyes examined. I remember being confused when I didn’t need to bring another person with me. Don’t all adults bring someone because you’re eyes get dilated? Come to find out-my pupils are larger than the average person resulting in not only my eyes never having to be dilated, but also having a increased sensitivity to light. (And also cops thinking I am always drunk and shinning bright flashlights in my face-not cool cops, not cool at all.) I never really noticed the light sensitivity until I began to lose focus while working on my computer. I would get tired a lot more easily than expected. Then lights got “too bright” or I was always reaching for my sunglasses when walking outside. It was described to me once that my eyes were trying to take in too much information. I was thinking “yep, just like my brain.”

My light sensitivity increased as I got older and changed eye doctors–I started to inherit my father’s far sightedness. This means that I can see things better when they are at a distance. It creates trouble focusing , headaches for long periods on the computer and having to squint to see things up close. Ironically it relates to my ADHD and autism. If my own eyes have trouble focusing and my brain gets distracted or bored and I am a complete mess at processing people talking to me. The eye doctor finally recommended I get a brown or black tint in my glasses to help in the office. Let me tell you–those glasses were life-changing. Not only did I not have to squint–but the world got softer with less light.

Today I wear black tinted glasses in the office. I have to constantly tell people they are not transition lenses but at least they are super comforting for my sight. For outside-i pretty much need my sunglasses all the time. In bright sun, today in cloudy overcast. Hey I’ve even worn them in the office when I forget my standard glasses.

Other light sensitivities that have come to the surface are my annoyance with too many lights on in the house, having lights turned off above my desk and returning my glasses to Costco because I needed the tint (they do not offer it by the way.)

What sensitivities do you have? Audio/Vision/Smell ( I have a little bit of this but that’s for another time.) Leave a comment below–maybe those with sensitivities can help others see all parts of the world.

The Days Following

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As I said-I wouldn’t do this every day. But I did want to track what is going on over time so here we are at the end of the first week of me taking meds for my ADHD.

So as the psych predicted, the initial intake of the Addarell wore off and im back to forgetting things, over and hyper thinking things and some of my other ADHD struggles. I realize meds don’t erase them but they can help my brain better control them. I went back to feeling lost in the millions of things I need to do and just spending the evening not doing said things. My anxiety has increased (there might be another realistic reason for that). No major negative thoughts, just “meh.”

Sorry this is short. But the week has flown by with the amount of preparation trying to happen.

So starting tomorrow, I will need to take 2 pills instead of one (20mg). We shall see how a non work day handles this after Friday cause thats a real test of time.

Day 2 meds

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While I will not be doing this every day for the rest of the time I am taking this medicine-i figured the first few days will be insightful at least. #EndtheStigma

So Day 2–for the first time I woke up on the first alarm. Like woke up, got out of bed and was awake. To be fair-i was awake at 6am already, cause i crashed so hard at 11pm last night i couldn’t keep my eyes open thru the three blogs i finished (see my previous post on Hyperfocus). But I have a feeling that is all related to my ADHD struggles that I didn’t know about.

You see-anyone who knows me knows I struggle with getting out of bed. I’m sluggish, even with telling my brain to “get out of bed.” It was really bad when I worked in Carson and had to leave the house at 6am. I was drive to work, then sleep in my car to get “more rest” until the office building opened. It was bad. It didn’t matter how much I slept, I was always tired. This has also become an issue with Church. I loce our eary service—but it starts at 8:30am and we live 45 minutes away. So getting up super early is extremely hard.

Then i read this article https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-sleep-disturbances-symptoms/. about sleep and ADHD and realized it was my brain probably preventing me from getting up and going. I also knew that PCOS has its issues related to sleep if you’re not taking your vitamin D. So I am excited to learn this may be the beginnings of better activity levels because i have found my brain’s help to function.

I have noticed one other thing: my talkative side has gone up. I partly know that it is because I am on a stimulant, but now I actually have to think about WHEN I talk. Like just now-I wanted to talk to everyone sitting around me at the Lab (bloodwork stop) but couldn’t. Why?- I think its not socially appropriate? So i kept to myself to keep blogging 😉 which is like talking to miscellaneous people. Hmmm…maybe ADHD and autistic people should blog and journal more. At least the extroverted people like me. It allows for “brain dumping” and release of stress to try and figure out where you fit in.

Thirdly, I have begun to notice I can legitimately stop myself from over-reacting to things. Now-its only happened with reacting to my son and only a couple times-but its an actual mental decision versus a physical habit with my brain catching up.

Anyways-lets see what the week on this medicatiom brings. If anyone wants to talk about their experiences going on new medication, feel free: this is safe space.

The Glazed-Over Stare Look

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                When people think of neurodivergent people (ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, & others), typically they think they lack verbal and language skills or lack intelligence or have a low IQ. However, neurodivergent people think and feel very differently than the average person.

After discovering what autism & ADHD truly are, I have began to see how my own struggles as a child and as an adult are representative of these two very different neurological thought-processes.. One of more dominate features I possess is hyperfocus.

Hyperfocusing is the state of mind when a person gets so engrossed in an activity or task that they doing only that thing and can not notice or interact with anything else. And when I say anything, i mean ANYTHING–people calling your name, your phone, your favorite food or item even. Autistic people and ADHD people both can have hyperfocus and it can manifest in different ways for differents reasons. Dare I say it can even be a trigger for the “journey towards the never-ending rabbit hole” of information that results in you barely remembering where the day went until its 3am and you’re still researching every detail of the topic you started at 8am the previous morning.

So I wanted to provide positive and negative pictures of what hyperfocusing can look for a Autistic/ADHD person.

click on image for source

My most recent example is adding to my blog. From my general reading of other autistic and ADHD, i decided I wanted to talk about common topics for Autistics and ADHDers. I got so focused on it so heavily that I wrote 5 blogs in one evening, all longer than the little “blurbs” I sometimes write. I also started several drafts of posts that were on very deep topics–something I have always wanted to do but lacked the energy. Or motivation. Or I was too…whatever (honestly, you should watch this you tube video about motivation in ADHD people–its EXTREMELY helpful!)I was able to produce a lot of information for the benefit of myself and others. This is why hyperfocusing can be a positive. 

I have also started a bullet journal. This has been a positive because I have used my creative techniques and imagination to almost my own DIY planner that I can change/add while continuing to write. It helps me stay focused and see my schedule for how busy it really is. And while I would like to call this a positive item… a negative side effect of this bullet journal is I have become so hyperfocused on decorating it. I skip getting ready on time, interactive with my family because I became obsessed about finding designs and templates online. It’s taken over my Pinterest. And while this is milld (focus on a planner), some hyper focusing can happen on negative things, and therefore should be addressed immediately.

Is there anything you hyper focus on? Has it helped you finish tasks? Books? A degree perhaps. Comment below your positive and negative thoughts.

Day one: taking meds

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March 6th, a Friday.

Today was the first day i started taking meds for my newly diagnosed ADHD. No worries–i find it a fun “afterthought” to realize less than 5 years ago, I had no knowledge of ADHD, autism, how to interact and treatment options. Life is life I guess 🙂

Anyways, probably because I was super hyper focused amongst trying to get my kiddo ready for the new sitter or because I was attentive to every little change in body and mood, I felt different after taking the first med. The major change was that I was able to actually clear my mind. Until today, my mind was always thinking something. Never turned off. And I see this medicine as a way of helping my brain turn off the countless stimuli that constantly turns off during the way. It was shocking at first but them actually calming. Today, I actually was able to calm myself down a lot and I’m not sure if I can attribute that to the meds or just having more confidence. I also noticed that I worked straight thru work with no “drawing” time. I was super productive. I was focused. And when I would switch from one item to another, I actually remembered what I was doing most of the time. Not as bad as before (like forgetting what file I was in for a good couple seconds. As I get closer to bedtime, I can feel it slightly drifting off. the pill is extended release and I took it at 7am this morning

Here’s hoping it works the way it was intended. My brain needs this.

Adhd-ing thru life

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I want to start off this post by saying my therapist is great. Its great when you find one you like, someone that pushes your boundaries just enough but not too far and most important of all listens. But when you go to therapy, you learn things about yourself that you never thought you would. While last year was more about learning the autistic side of things, this year is turning out to be an ADHD kind of year.

First—this is not uncommon (one google search found this article) A lot of people usually learn about one neurological difference or the other (ADHD vs Autism) and in learning about that end up discovering they are masking for the other side. They are almost sister neurotribes, to use the coined term. Let me tell you my story:

Silhouette of a child. Back to school. Doodle image. Stock Vector illustration.

It started when I was talking with my therapist about my anxiety and autism. We were going thru my traits and I would tell her how I didn’t feel like my brain shut off, that I had never had a “clear head” in my life (usually i try thinking of water environments as that was as close as I could get… or a dark warm cave) in addition to telling her problems I had in school as a young child learning, reading, etc. Personally I thought these were all underlying anxiety issues that finally rose to the surface. That I just couldn’t calm down enough to really “calm down.” (by the way– my brain, especially now after having a kid, does not comprehend calm.) I also began to notice I talked at my therapist very rapidly a lot. I mean a lot. For the full 50 minutes. I talked so fast I could get lost in what I was saying and end up at the end “now where was I?” constantly–usually jumping from one topic to another where surprisingly my therapist managed to keep record. Now I don’t know if it was that or my discussions about transitions that eventually lead to maybe this isn’t anxiety but a mild form of ADHD.

Thoughts burst into my head when it first came up: “Wait, What? Me? ADHD? Nah– I’m not hyperactive. Am I? I have other friends who are ADHD? But I don’t act like them. (spoiler: boys present differently then girls). And I can focus. And I’m organized, Right? wait..maybe i’m not.But my planner looks pretty”

Yep, folks. Sara fell for it. Didn’t even research or attempt to understand what ADHD looks like. So I continued to follow this train of thought until I realized I had started in the wrong place. I worked off my assumptions about a very well researched neurological difference where I should have asked around to those who know. So I went to my autistic groups and one recommendation in a chat was to watch a female YouTube channel (here, watch her, she’s awesome!)who has ADHD and explains things in a simple understanding way. Also, I decided to get officially tested (yep, ADHD has tests to check your traits) which had some hiccups along but the way but finally I was able to see my results from sitting in front of a computer screen for an hour.

So anyways, it was discovered that I have ADHD. ADHD can present itself in three main ways: Impulsive, Hyperactive or a combination of both. I have the latter–i am thinking maybe 70-80% impulsive and 20-30% hyperactive. What was also nice is that I finally got some medicine that could help me focus, turn off the motor in my brain every once and a while. Here’s a great explanation on this

sourced from this site

I am going to try and keep track of what is going on in my head with taking new meds and learning about my ADHD. Any thoughts, suggestions??-Place them in the comments. Especially if you are Autistic and ADHD. I’d love to know it feels like if your ADHD self clamming down results in your autistic self being stronger!

An Expertise or Advocate?

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Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a medical expert or doctor. These are just my opinions about the situation and if you feel you have an actual real medical emergency or have concerns, talk to a professional.

How many people grew up going to the doctor, trusting them to say “yes, your’e sick” and “here take this to feel better.” I know I did. I trusted that all doctors had my best health interests in mind and were there to guide me. However, after spending the last several years in & out of doctors related to myself, my husband and my son, I wanted to talk about something I find interesting when it comes to your health: expertise and advocacy. Today doctors (at least here in the United States) seem to place generalizes over specialities, drugs handouts versus reviewing pros/cons and just trying to push thru their patients’ problems. I feel it is relevant to self-discovery of my autistic journey and my struggles with PCOS. but this does have application across all forms of chronic illness or standard health practice.

Adams Ruins The Hospital

So above is a link to one of the several clips the show “Adam Ruins Everything.” And while it is not an end all be all of the health industry, it does give an interesting insight into Western Medicine and its approach to health care. For me, I wish I had watched this show going into college. I think I would have made a greater effort to take serious my own health and also my own advocacy. I went thru several doctors for several medical situations (an ear issue/my PCOS issues/My inquiries about my autistic self) before figuring out that they didn’t always know the right answer or that they were not utilizing their medical knowledge to apply the best treatment. I read a lot of material on my polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS) only when I brought up not only my own “hey what is this” but also source material from experts in the field, I had both my gynecologist and my endocrinologist say “oh, no, you don’t need or don’t have that, here’s some birth control and move along.” I felt like I had to become the expert-not so I could prove my doctor wrong, but so I could show them that I wasn’t “stupid” in asking the questions I did or that I had “legitimate” concerns. Personally I believe this SHOULD NOT be happening when it comes down to a person’s health. However, in continued discussions with my therapist–it is true that doctors see hundreds of patients and it is not plausible for them to remember everything about them even with the file records they keep. So when a chronic illness (my PCOS) or someone comes along who has done some reading, doctors may or may not know everything there is to know about your problems. The same is said over and over about autism-something the American community knows very little about and the knowledge they do know is either extremely stereotypical with a history that begins with placing autistic people in mental institutions blaming mothers for their behavior.

Now, I am not going to claim I know everything or more than my doctors. But I wish they would think of themselves too highly and that their patient may find the information they can review or consider in their medical expertise instead of pushing people aside.

In the autism world–a lot of adults, especially women, non-white ethnicities and those of the LGTBQ+ community are ostracized for bringing up legitimate facts, concerns about a diagnosis, and sensory stressors in life surroundings their neurological genetic difference. A good doctor will listen to a patient, work with their strengths and support their weaknesses to find a treatment that works best for them. I use the term “treatment’ loosely as I do not think is the autistic person nature is something that needs to treat. We need more help with sensory needs, speech, etc. Not let politics, social-economical status or another topic get in the way. Sadly–it is just not true for many. I know several self-identified autistics because they don’t have the time/the resources/money to get something official and having issues of talking to a doctor make it more difficult.

My advice? Don’t give up. If you have spent weeks and months researching your health problems and made notes and spent time talking to those with similar problems, then maybe you have done all you can do and it is about finding the right care and right doctor for your situation. Keep at it.