Friday, October 25, 2013

Journal Snippet: Figurine in Space

Most people on this planet are sculptures of moldable clay. But not me.
I am a lovely figurine, already formed, hardened, and polished.

This might sound like a good thing, but it can be a difficult state. Although I have talent and beauty, I am lacking the communication skills and flexibility needed to live amongst these creatures who differ from me... I may even have to abandon pieces of my unique self to make room for earth-features. In order for me to alter any details, I must be melted down and reformed. This nightmarish process in my life is called "change," and it's scary to me. Change means brainfog every day and anxiety attacks at night. Change means losing myself for a period of time.

I want more friends, but that means I have to get to know new people. Every new friend I make is likely to see me in a partially melted state: unstable, uncertain, and not quite as beautiful as I can be. I am only safe in my solid state, when a more static routine is in place.

But I'm going to dive right in. I'm tired of hiding in my safe but lonely bubble. Looking out into the atmosphere of Earth, I will venture into a world where I may be unable to breathe the air. Let's hope I have enough oxygen to last for a long time.

"Figurine in Space" art by me

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The "Floating Facebook" Farce Flimsily Facilitating Friendships

If someone handed you a random, jibberish-filled book with a blank cover, would you commit to translating/reading it? 
Book, why you so difficult?

For people with Asperger's, making friends is like sorting through dozens of books like this. I personally dislike choosing random people to talk to without knowing anything about them beforehand. It's a waste of my time and energy, and I don't have much energy to begin with, so
why bother?
I wish there was a system in place to make it easier. Like a simplified version of Facebook floating above everyone's heads, listing their name, interests, and what/who they're looking for. The Asperger's Awareness Community on Facebook certainly did this very well. I've posted this link on my blog previously, but I'll post it again since I want to emphasize the need for this kind of thing:
Asperger's Awareness Community Post
I was having a conversation with James, my online friend from Scotland, about this issue. I thought it'd be neat if everyone at my college wore a sign like this, though filled out:
Looking for:
That'd certainly make my life easier. James even suggested (jokingly) that it ought to be a t-shirt!

(Clever post title - courtesy of James)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Expressing Emotions

There are things about me that I'd prefer not to explain to people.

Let's just say that dressing in a chicken suit before having a serious conversation or asking for advice is the social norm (yes, I'm actually going somewhere with this). When you're having a difficult time dealing with something, do you want people to insist that you dress in a chicken suit in order to talk to them about it? If your preferences of interaction differ from this "norm," you'd probably want to strangle anyone who tries to get you in a chicken suit.

That's my stance on discussing my problems in person. Even with people I trust, it feels incredibly awkward because I cannot sufficiently express how I'm feeling unless I'm writing or typing. In person, I may appear to be emotionally flat at these times, when in reality, I'm suppressing any outward expression as sort of a defense mechanism. It's not that I'm incapable of expressing emotion—for I do so in solitude—it’s just that I would rather express things in writing so I don't spew incoherent nonsense to someone. Writing letters and chatting online gives me the chance to think through what I want to say, and the fact that no one is looking at me makes it easier. People may become frustrated with me when I don't want to talk in person, but the fact is, I simply want to protect myself and the other person from confusing situations due to misunderstandings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dream Glasses: The Blue Room

I had an interesting dream last night.

My blue "therapy lights"
I was in a classroom with the other students before the professor had arrived. The lights were a pleasant, dim blue (probably because I had my blue "therapy lights" on before bed), so I didn't have to wear my sunglasses. Because I could think clearly under the lights, I felt more social, so I was going around the classroom talking to people like it was no problem at all. I felt so vibrant... wonderful... complete. Like I actually belonged there.

Normally I'm okay with not fitting in, as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. But in that dream, I really felt as if I did, and it seemed very appealing.

Journal Snippet: Midterms and Rainy Days

It was wet and rainy today, but I didn't mind. I like the rain.
Today, my eyes were hypersensitive to lights... much more so than usual... probably due to my sporadic "midterm" sleep pattern. The barometric pressure was also giving me a headache. I reheated the odd breakfast I had made the night before (note to self: do not add vanilla almond milk while making eggs) and headed off to the testing center to take my Language and Society midterm. Because of my diagnosis and IEP, I get to take exams in a nice little testing room where I can turn the lights off. :3 Good thing I'm good at writing essays, because that's all the test was, pretty much.

After chilling in my room watching a movie with Teddy Jr. (my giant fluffy bear) and jotting down some plot points for my fantasy novel, I went to take my Advertising exam. I didn't schedule this one at the testing center because I thought I could handle taking it in the classroom. But not today... my eyes just didn't agree with me. The lights in the classroom were brighter than the ones in my other classes, so it didn't take long for them to fry my brain, and my sunglasses were no match for them. I spoke with the professor about it and he let me leave early so I could take the exam another time this week.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Silly Humans... Gossip and Complaining?

Two frivolous occupations of "normal" people (especially girls) that bother me are excessive gossip and complaining. Here's why:

I just don't get gossip.
Is there some kind of inner need amongst neurotypicals to talk about other people behind their back or something? Hearing gossip as I walk about campus bugs me. It doesn't help that I live in a building full of freshman girls (the only dorm hall with single rooms), because they seem to talk the most. My eyes always roll when I hear girls whispering about who's dating who, who did what, the oddities of professors... things like that.
My personal rule about mentioning other people:
If what you say isn't positive or true, then don't say anything at all.

Complaining isn't productive.
I can safely say that I avoid gossiping, but I have been guilty of complaining. Most of my complaints are related to my aspie needs though, like if a light is hurting my eyes or someone's blasting music. When I hear the complaints of others, they tend to be about little, insignificant things. I always use girls as examples because I live with them... they'd whine about their hair or not having time to put on makeup or the fact that a boy doesn't notice them... stuff like that. In these cases, complaining doesn't solve the problem, so I don't understand why they do it anyway. I probably can't relate to them because not very many things actually bother me, aside from my AS symptoms.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Puzzle Pieces

The world is a jigsaw puzzle, and I'm one of those odd pieces that don't quite fit.

I am a wanderer, a quiet and distant ghost that floats about and observes, but never joins. Everywhere I go, I don't seem to fit in, so I don't often make any effort to. It's taken years for me to be content with this, and I've had to tell myself over and over that it's a waste of energy trying, as a triangle, to fit into this circular world.

I've tried to be like other people and join conversations and groups, but I always go quiet because I can't find any way to relate to neurotypicals ("normal" people). Nowadays I simply observe, often thinking to myself, "Silly humans..." when I don't quite understand their odd banter and gossip. I've accepted being on the outside, and instead of getting my hopes up about making friends, I find other ways I can benefit from groups and events. Free food at parties, for instance; or bits of wisdom from church sermons. Sometimes I attend things just for the sake of people-watching, since humans are quite silly to watch sometimes.


JOURNAL SNIPPET: Relating to the info above (should've made a new post...)

Today, I hopped onto a shuttle provided by a nearby church so I could attend the service this morning. I wanted to check it out, and I brought my sunglasses and earbuds in case I encountered any unpleasant experiences. Strangely enough, I liked the church. The auditorium was sensory-friendly with dim lights and low volume, and I was able to actually be in the room without fear of brainfog. It's also a relatively small church, quite similar to the size of my church back home, so I wasn't too anxious being in the crowd. I made sure no one sat next to me so I could have my own personal bubble. Best of all, the sermon was great—quite genuine with no fluff.

I might actually go again next Sunday.

Sensory Overload

Yesterday, I went on a trip to Chicago to view a documentary film called "Tough Bond". As a film student, I took note of their choice not to use a narration to make it more engaging. They had a panel beforehand with the directors in the documentary competition discussing their films and answering questions... but I wasn't really a fan of this part because the volume of the microphone was too loud for my sensitive hearing. The fact that I didn't get enough sleep the night before made it worse.

As noted in my previous journal post, the lower my energy is, the more sensitive I am to external stimuli (or things around me). This sensitivity is quite common in people with Asperger's and autism, and it affects them on a daily basis. Too much sensory input can cause an aspie/autie to become overstimulated.

The nature and severity of sensory overload varies from person to person, but I can list off what affects me specifically. Most of these things drain my energy and give me brainfog.

Florescent Lighting
I love sunlight and natural lighting, but I can't stand white florescent lights or bare bulbs. They hurt my eyes and my ability to think, if I'm exposed to them long enough. I have to wear sunglasses in most classrooms and public buildings so my vision won't blur and so I'll be able to focus.

Bass from Speakers

Two words. Bass hurts. When I'm near bass speakers or even present in a room with them, I can feel the thumping reverberate throughout my body, and it seriously fogs up my brain. Even if the volume is lower, I can still feel it from a good distance away if the bass is intense enough. I can handle loud music without bass for the most part, but lower to moderate volume is preferable for me. Concerts and IMAX theaters are out of the question.

Crowds and Noise

I get a bit anxious in large crowds. It makes conversation difficult, especially if I'm not given any personal space. My space bubble is larger than the typical gap between strangers, and I have to step back when someone stands too close to me. If it's unavoidable, I just deal with it and don't make eye contact so I don't get brainfog. Also, noise from crowds irritates me, so I'd often sit at a table further away from people when I go to eat at my university's dining hall.


Finding clothes that suit me is no easy task. I can easily find things that fit me, but there are so many features of clothing that irritate me that it's nearly impossible to find anything that's comfortable and attractive. I can't wear anything that clings to my abdomen, under my arms, around my forearms/wrists, and around my calves/ankles. Jeans are not an option, and any pants I wear have to be elastic around the waist. I hate bras more than anything though; they drain my energy because they feel constricting. Also, no hats or high heels, or makeup, and I only wear lightweight jewelry. On most days at home, I'd wear oversized t-shirts, workout pants, and loose fuzzy socks because that's what's comfortable for me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Journal Snippet: EpiConnection and Asperger's Awareness

Yesterday was lovely. After an unusually long nap (two hours!), I made some cookies and brought them to my social/support group, EpiConnection. I had started this group last semester for the purpose of providing students with disabilities a place to belong and to sort through our unique issues with a counselor. We currently have only 2-3 members, but I absolutely love spending time with them. I also figured out that another member has Asperger's Syndrome too!

Other than that, I spent most of the day chilling. I wanted to take it easy after the exhausting week. I went on Facebook and liked an Asperger's Awareness page (link below), and I liked how they encouraged aspies to post below with a little info about themselves so it'd be easier to make friends on the page. I viewed the descriptions many aspies had posted, and added several of them to my friends list.
Asperger's Awareness Community post

I had a surprise visitor (she's friends with me and my suitemate Demi) later on, though I was delighted to see her. She came by to hang out and do homework in my room, and it was nice having her around. Because she reminds me of another friend of mine who has ADD and Asperger's, I find myself giggling when she becomes intrigued by things in a childlike manner.

Unfortunately, I didn't get enough sleep again because I was hanging out with her and Demi, and I was going on a trip to Chicago in the morning too... the annoying thing about this is how my overall sensitivity increases when my energy is lower, which I'll elaborate more on in my next post.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Silly Humans... Make a Wishlist!

Have you ever wanted to give a birthday gift to someone and you have no idea what to get them? This problem rather annoys me. I've been taught that it's socially inappropriate to tell someone what you want for your birthday unless they ask you directly, lest you be viewed as self-absorbed or persnickety. And if you do tell them what you want, you'd have to pretend you had no idea what they were getting for you and overreact when you do receive it. Well then, so much for a surprise...

I dunno about everyone else, but I am incredibly picky. I also don't like getting new stuff, particularly if they're unnecessary items I'd never use. Personally, I'd rather get something I really want/need for my birthday (which happens to be this month) than random little gifts that people vaguely guessed I wanted. I don't want to seem greedy or ungrateful, but I've had issues in the past with gifts. I don't think anyone would want to offend whoever gives them a gift, and if they get something they really wanted that didn't cost too much, both the giver and receiver are likely to both be satisfied.

I like the idea of wishlists. People can get what they really want and/or need, and those giving the gifts won't have to make any guesses. Both parties would be happy, and it will still be enough of a surprise so that no one has to do any pretending. Perhaps Facebook should create a wishlist feature so everyone can be satisfied. ^_^

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brainfog Strikes Again

Although my moods and thought processes are quite stable, today I had sort of a mini mental breakdown. I had been out and about all day, pondering more than usual, repeating my to-do list in my head, totally pumped and full of energy. I took an exam, organized stuff on my computer, printed out some posters for my disability support group, did some homework... and then I crashed. I couldn't even think clearly enough to finish my assignment. So I relaxed for a bit, and that's when the strange thoughts from my "brainfog" rose to the surface.

I wouldn't even call them thoughts. They're more like... weird sensations mixed with confusing emotions and imagery, and they tend to emerge when I've pushed myself beyond my limits. I often will fall asleep to cope with this when it happens (like a computer shutting down to protect itself from a virus), as what goes through my head can be frightening. It's very difficult to explain these experiences, so I've been weaving them into the fantasy novel I'm writing—but I digress.

When I mentally break down like that, I am also rendered physically useless, as it drains my energy and messes up my motor skills. After the little "episode" I had today, which was pretty much a mass of confusion, it felt like something broke inside me, sort of like how someone cries after bottling up their emotions. Instead of crying though, I just doodled with crayons using my now flimsy hands. I don't really cry much, anyway. I just act odd when I'm not feeling well.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Asperger's and Fatigue

I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

After a lovely day of exercising and video games, my dad took me back to school in his old green pickup truck. Shortly after arriving, I unpacked everything and cooked my dinner, and then I sat down to watch a movie. Despite my determination to stay alert, I fell asleep right where I was…
And that brings up another not-so-fun fact about aspies: we get tired.

Well, everyone on the planet gets tired; it’s a fact of life. However, aspies seem to fatigue much quicker than the average person—at least from my personal experience, since I have aspie friends with similar problems. For the longest time, I assumed it’s because we simply have less energy, but I’ve changed my theory on that after reading a blog post from another aspie on the issue.

As the blogger states what the lecturer said, I realize that it made an awful lot of sense: “…people with Asperger Syndrome experience a great deal of fatigue, because they are always conciously processing things with their intellect, as their brain doesn’t do it automatically.”

So it’s not that we have less energy than other people, we just use more of it quickly. The things that come naturally for others that they may take for granted require more mental effort for aspies. If we were all robots, the typical person would be set to “auto” while aspies are set to “manual."


Also, sensory stimuli—things going on around us—can contribute to the depletion of our “energy meters." The blogger lists of some of the things that affect him personality, and all of these bother me as well:
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Noise
  • Too much  going on around me
  • Interaction with others, particularly those I don't know well
  • Travelling
  • Change—different, new situations

Another interesting thing he said that I can relate to: “I thought that if others could do it, so should I be able to. And it did seem to me that my tiredness was not normal, compared with other people.”

He mentions later that he often felt guilty for not getting everything done that he initially planned to do, as if he was simply too lazy. I've felt like this countless times, as I’d look at my to-do list at the end of the day and be frustrated that I couldn't finish it because I got tired. Just like the other blogger, I eventually had to learn to accept the fact that I need more rest (or “vegetable days” as I call them) than other people. I could easily relate to this blogger’s post, and it reminded me that I’m not alone in this.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Inflexible Mind - Adapting

One common issue with Asperger's and autism is rigid thinking--basically an inflexible mind. That's why change and disappointment is so difficult to deal with. It takes an awful lot to stretch the brain of an aspie.

I'm thankful that I've learned to adapt over the years. I've been able to understand others far better than I could before, and I'm generally open to new ideas. To prevent rigid thinking, I try not to take sides or have strong opinions about anything unless I've done extensive research and/or have a passion about it. My tendency to give the benefit of the doubt certainly helps balance it out so I won't be entirely hesitant or indecisive... though I can be naive sometimes. I'm prone to believing whatever I hear, so I try to find a good balance of being open to ideas while remaining somewhat skeptical.

My naivete has been a problem in the past, but I believe that I can transform it into something good--to stand out in positive way that doesn't inconvenience me. Where people are concerned, I don't want to let my naivete get the better of me. I've learned that it's okay to disagree with someone, and that I don't have to adopt everyone else's beliefs and morals so they'll like me more. I've found ways to be close to them while still remaining distant enough to be safe. In any case, my goal is to be an open book in the library of secrets we live in; and to be a welcoming, unprejudiced person among the crowds of picky and private people... and yet still protect my mind from those who may want to stuff weird things into it.

Despite my slow crawl towards the status of "normal", there are things about me that I will never want to give up. I've been told before that there's something different about me, and I plan on keeping it that way.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Journal Snippet: Home for the Weekend

I decided to go home for the weekend to recharge my mental batteries. I love coming home. I feel safe around my family, and I love how my dog greets me at the door. Our house is spacious and comfortable, and I find it to be quite luxurious compared to my small dorm room (not that I dislike my dorm... our house is simply cozier).

There is only one small inconvenience about this. I find myself disoriented as I get used to being at home again. I can't do any homework the first day, since my brain is already using so much energy to adjust. But I'm okay with that... it's always good to just chill and watch movies with my mum and dad.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Transition Isn't Fun (and That's an Understatement)

The most bothersome thing at college is the first month of each semester. While I'm spending most of my time dealing with transition-related anxiety and getting organized, everyone else is establishing their social life. This seems to be the time period when students are the most open to meeting new people and joining clubs and whatnot, so by the time I'm mentally stable enough to make friends, I find myself facing crowds of "closed books" in a library of potentially awkward interactions.

But I suppose that locking myself away in my safe little dorm room for the first month is preferable to screwing up my reputation by acting strange in public...