Saturday, November 23, 2013

Journal Snippet: Fatigue solution?

If you silly humans have to consume drugs (aka coffee) just to function normally, there's something wrong with your lifestyle, not your energy!

I'm one of the few adults who don't drink coffee often, and yet I've been forced to in times of high stress and heavy workloads. I just don't understand why we have to do things that are beyond our normal abilities...

I'm so tired, and I have another research paper to write—and I just don't have the motivation. I gave up on it yesterday, so I have to make up for it today. In spite of my fatigue and dread to go out in public, I still wanted to see "Catching Fire" that night since my friend managed to get me a spot with a group from our college. Honestly, not many do what she did for me... not only was she willing to give me the spot that someone else gave up (supposedly that person wasn't going), but when things went wrong (cuz someone else took the ticket apparently), she gave me her own ticket. I could rant forever about how wonderful it is, since I usually have such bad luck that I miss out on all the events I initially wanted to attend.

Anyway, lately I have been looking up natural ways to boost my energy, because my body simply cannot keep up with my workload. Caffeine and sugar is out of the question because I don't like the artificial buzz. Apparently kiwis give a natural energy boost, so I tried them and they seem to work; however, they only helped me stay alert, rather than improve my cognitive functioning.

Since I'm pretty much a professional Googler, I finally managed to find something that helps nearly all my worst symptoms, like fatigue, stress, anxiety, heart problems, memory, intellectual capacity, and concentration. It's called Rhodiola Rosea, and after my research, it seems feasible since it's natural with no side effects. I've ordered some capsules online and have yet to try it, but I'll post again later with the results. Let's hope it works... I'm sick of being braindead and wiped out so often.

See the results here:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wrestling With Myself (Part 2) - The Reset Button

Does my lack of motivation hint at depression? Why am I so bitter? Will my bitterness turn into arrogance? Am I losing myself from all I've endured?

I often ask myself these questions as my "pressure gauge" rises, after stress builds up. It needs to be released somehow, and though I know myself well, it's sometimes difficult for me to figure out how to find relief when I've reached that point. The only way to release all that pressure is to press the reset button.

Sometimes, the reset button is right in front of me, clear as day. Other times, it can be hard to find. It could be something as simple as going outside, or it could akin to an unsolvable puzzle at the end of a long and dangerous journey.

In this case, it was a nap.

Pretty simple, huh? All it took was a nap to restart my system and set all my dials and meters to their default state.

But it made a world of a difference . . .

I am unable to recall how I felt, or why. Certainly this is an advantage of having a poor memory and emotional dissociation. My self-confidence has been restored. I know who I am, and while I am different from the NT's, I have my own strengths. Patience, determination, skill... and after all the bitterness disappears, a beautiful simplicity. I like using the analogy of me as a computer, because I often picture myself as an easy-to-use laptop with a minimalist design. I also tend to be more intellectual than emotional, valuing logic over "following my gut." Even with my artistic side, planning and organization seem to dictate my creativity. I've also been told I'm honest, reliable, and a give practical advice. I'm actually quite shy about mentioning these things to avoid bragging... I just wanted to share the things that restore my sense of self-value when I'm reminded that I have them.
I recently found a blog post with a list of positive aspie traits, and I possess all but seven of them, and far as I'm aware.
Read the list here.
(The ones I cannot relate to are 21, 32, 34, 35, 39, 46, 49. I think most of the sports/physical activity-related ones aren't applicable to everyone on the spectrum.)
Comment below if you find these traits among other aspies!

I feel energized, motivated, and free! I've been able to function enough to pump out thousands of words for my research papers that are due soon. I've gone a whole day without getting brainfog. The weekend has been conquered, and the weekdays lie ahead. I even walked nearly two miles to church without giving it a second thought after missing my ride, and here I am, still fully aware and cognitively functioning well at 1:00am.

I dunno about you, but I'm ready for another adventure.

Wrestling With Myself (Part 1) - Bitterness

Oftentimes, bitterness, envy, anxiety, and depression can build up without me even realizing it. This happens most often when I'm at college, and I tend to blame outside circumstances for my misfortune, even if it's the result of my sour attitude. I realized recently that my jealousy of neurotypicals was starting to show a hint of arrogance; and along with my [view] of NT's as a separate species, I began to subconsciously view aspies as superior.
I suppose I was trying to make up for my own inferiority in this society.

I recently read an article about Adam Lanza and reasons why he probably didn't have Asperger's. However, a heart-wrenching paragraph about an aspie at their lowest explains that we are at least capable of feeling enough anguish to corrupt us from the inside, if we're left to suffer long enough. Still, the chances of it developing into a conscious decision to hurt others is slim. When we're deprived of our needs and desires, what might emerge instead is anger and jealousy, as Charli Devnet points out in her article.

"Long after those days were past, when I was in my twenties and thirties—and, yes, in my forties—my heart would sink whenever I happened upon a group of teenagers chatting, flirting, and enjoying themselves. An unreasonable envy would seize me, and I would curse them under my breath and wish them misfortune. I knew that my reaction was irrational, that these young people had done me no harm, that they were not the bullies who had tormented me and locked me out of their world. Logic could not dispel the anger and pain that seethed within."
"Aspies are prey animals, said Tony Attwood…Wounded prey may, however, grow desperate and strike back."
Read the full article here.

Regrettably, I can relate. Oh, do I relate! When I'm having a bad day (which is about 50% of the time), this is my everyday experience, from going to classes to eating lunch alone in the cafeteria. Even as I pass people on the sidewalk, witnessing friends talking and having fun, and couples holding hands... my heart sinks because I can't have that. I have to conserve my energy, so I can't keep up with college life and friends at the same time. I have to sacrifice one for the other,  or at the very least, settle for less in one category.

It's difficult for me not to be bitter, since I'm constantly pressured by societal norms and expectations that I don't have the ability to meet. I cannot read people well or empathize, most social events cause sensory overload, and I avoid unfamiliar situations because they disorient me.
It helps to relate to other aspies.

Once I'm able to break the ice, I'm actually quite good at making friends. But my barriers, especially at college, seem to keep me a million miles away from having normal social life. My solitude becomes a prison of anguished loneliness as my discontent grows. My perspective narrows and I'm blinded by misery as I deal with these feelings by myself. I've conditioned myself not to cry, no matter how much it hurts.

As tempting as it might be, I shouldn't jump to the conclusion that I've got it worse than everyone else. We all have our own problems that differ in quantity and quality, but they are still difficult for each of us. Still, I cannot deny the fact that I have to deal with this every day of my life. Some days are better than others, but I'm constantly reminded of my shortcomings because our society seems to favor extroversion and social adeptness.

But it's not like this all the time. There's a way out of this mess.
Stay tuned for "Wrestling With Myself (Part 2)."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Journal Snippet: Great Software, Outdated Hardware

It's been a long week...

I was going to perform at the talent show tonight, but the friend I was gonna sing with suggested we wait until next year, when we're more prepared, since the song is difficult to master. Since my brain tends to be a one-way train, I still wanted to be in the talent show. I was determined. After recovering from one of my disappointment-induced solitary meltdowns—which I will write about eventually—I decided to wait and see if I'd have the energy for singing at the last minute, since I could always tell them to drop my act if I chose not to perform.

It only took a couple hours this morning to decide not to. I couldn't afford to waste the day thinking about it; I had better things to do. My food supply was running low so I needed to shop. I also have a research paper due on Thursday. Any energy I have must be used for the important stuff...

Mini Alyssa's

It's times like these that I view myself like a computer with poor compatibility, and I'm jealous of other computers that have features I lack.

I wish I had as much energy as everyone else, so I won't keep missing out on fun things. Allow me to explain this concept with a table of "system stats":

Region: The Moon
Region: Earth
Primary operations: Problem-solving, media creation
Primary operations: Social interaction, media consumption
Memory: Poor
Memory: Moderate
Battery life: 10-15 hours
Battery life: 15-20 hours
Power source: Solitude
Power source: Social interaction
Other info: The system is pleasantly quiet with a dull screen and sleek exterior. Its benefits are ease of use and it responds well to given commands, as long as it understands the language. It has powerful software installed, but it uses battery power quickly. Connectivity with Average Joe systems limited.
Other info: The system makes a lot of noise and the screen is very bright; also the exterior is so colorful it might blind you more than the screen. Sometimes it will blast music at random because of its unpredictable set of default commands. The software is power-hogging Earth stuff, supported by the system’s long battery life.
HARDWARE: Lightweight but delicate. Handle with care; do not expose to extreme conditions or distressing stimuli.
HARDWARE: Heavy and durable. Great for pointless endeavors like sports and parties.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Homeschooling vs. Public School

There was this odd kid in middle school, a girl with reddish hair, glasses, and crooked teeth. She lived in her own little world full of spaceships and aliens, cartoons, and especially cats. One of her dreams was to make a movie about superheroes, but she changed her mind when her main interest switched to pirates. While she was at school, her endless chatter about her dreams and stories was the extent of her social interactions. During class, she'd meow in response to questions, which the teachers found to be disruptive. She was hardly ever aware of the strange things she so often did.

Would you believe me if I told you that kid was me?

Well, it was. I had previously been homeschooled since the first grade, so my strange behavior had been passed off as mere eccentricity since I wasn't in many typical social environments. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in middle school, where these behaviors seemed strange and disorderly. I was given an IEP and put in special education classes. If I was ever picked on or criticized for my differences, I don’t remember it because I wasn't entirely aware of my surroundings at the time, and I have a terrible memory as is. After a month of high school, I wasn't receiving the help I needed since the school couldn't provide it, so they referred me to another school an hour away. It was a choice between enduring long and stressful days at this other school or going back to homeschooling. I chose the latter, so my mom started to homeschool me again until college.

One question my friend Linda asked me was how homeschooling impacted my development, and how I felt about the possibility of going to public school.

To be honest, I wouldn't change how things happened if I could, because it may have resulted in a different me. But if I were to really assess the pros and cons of public school, I could find things about it that may have impacted me positively.

Preparation for college
For one, public school may have prepared me better for college. The deadlines for public school assignments are stricter than those in homeschooling, so I may have learned to work more efficiently under pressure. Public school may have taught me the skills for managing a schedule and completing my assignments on time. I never took my assignments seriously in middle school though, since I could hardly comprehend the instructions given, and I didn't understand the importance of education overall. As a result, I'd often doodle in class and write silly things on my papers. Some of these doodles were of certain boys that really annoyed me, even if they weren't pestering me directly.

        Worksheet gone wrong

Annoyed doodle

However, even without public schooling, I've quickly adapted to the educational system at my college and am doing well. Prior to college, I was in a transition program called SAIL (Students Attaining Independent Living) that teaches young adults basic life skills like cooking and cleaning, paying bills and balancing checkbooks, and being a valuable member of the workplace.

SAIL Diploma

Thriving vs. isolation in public school
Public school may have helped me increase my social skills and confidence, and I would have probably had more friends. On the flipside, I may have isolated myself and "survived" school alone. I spent a great deal of time alone when I was homeschooled too, but there is a difference between isolation in public school vs. homeschool.
Homeschool solitude: I enjoyed being at home and made the most of it, and if I hadn't been homeschooled, I wouldn't have had the time for things like my first amateur film, my novel, and other hobbies (which I will elaborate on in future posts).
Public school isolation: This is just an educated guess, but I think I may have been a very anxious and depressed individual throughout high school if I had failed to make friends, which seemed to be 50% likely since I often have to sacrifice a social life to focus on managing my energy. At best, I'd be a zombie if I juggled friends and school.

Vulnerable faith

Also, whether I had friends or not, I would have likely lost my faith in God due to peer pressure. Being raised in a Christian home has strengthened my faith, even though being sheltered was a consequence of it. However, because I was so impressionable when I was young, I believe it was actually good for me to be sheltered for a while, at least until my late teen years, when I’d learn all the hard lessons I needed to. If I had been in public school any earlier than that, I get the feeling that negative outside influences would have been my ruin.

One last point I’d like to make...
If I had gone to public school, successfully made friends, and become socially “typical”—if not exceptional—from the experience, I don’t think this blog would exist. I probably wouldn't have started my disability support group either, or even pondered the idea of making a documentary film on Asperger’s and autism. I’d just be another human being enjoying life, unaware of all the other aspies out there who couldn’t adapt as well I could.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Perks of All Hallows' Eve

        I love Halloween.         
I feel more bold when I'm dressed in a costume, because I'd be fitting in for once, even if it's only for a single event. At least there's one thing that I can do with other people while actually enjoying it, since I love costumes and cosplay... and Halloween gives me an excuse to go all out. This is one of the few instances where I feel like I'm at an equal level with everyone else.

But alas, this year I was as shy as ever, in spite of my elaborate homemade costume. I was Dovahkiin—aka Dragonborn—a fierce Nordic warrior from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I thought I'd be more social and try to talk to people (other than the two friends I came with), but I've been more of a recluse this semester in general.
At least the haunted house was entertaining, and like always, I just waltzed through it unphased, since I am not easily startled or intimidated.
My hand-crafted "Dragonborn" helmet