Friday, 27 September 2013

100th Post on Young Autistic Female

Years ago, I came up with the idea to blog about my life as a young woman with autism.  I was in the ninth or tenth grade at the time; I had just started at a new school and, frankly, I was in a pretty dark time in my life.  Those early years of high school were very difficult for me.  I had a lot of anxiety problems in those years, a lot of social issues, no friends, and was going through a phase where I was often considering self-harm.  I had a very troubled relationship with my family at the time and, for whatever reason, every difficulty I ever had seemed to be attributed to autism.  I had tons of doctors at the time and my parents would seek them out complaining that they didn't know how to handle me and my autism.

I started this blog exactly 100 posts ago - last December.  I was going through a rough time then as well and blogging about ASD made me feel better about the relationships I had lost due to my then-recent difficulty in social situations.

100 posts later, here I am.

This is definitely not the most-read blog -- nor do I imagine it ever will be -- but that's all right with me.  The purpose of this blog is not to accumulate thousands of views a day.  Instead, what I endeavor to do here is share pieces of myself as I am able.  I try to share how I live as an Autistic individual and the struggles I face and how I overcome them.  This is kind of a cathartic thing for me, actually; it definitely helps me through some of my challenges.  I also like to share some issues I see in the Autistic community here.  I like to share news stories and advocacy issues and as much as I can about the little things I see in the news and other sources.  I want to connect with other Autistics online; I want to find mentors.  I want to discover and provide insight.

I am proud of myself as a Young Autistic Female and, frankly, I think that's the most important thing to me about this blog.  This is where I share my Autistic pride.  This is where I share that I'm OK with my quirks and, for the most part, I see my Autistic differences as having made me a better person.  I am pretty content with my life right now and I enjoy sharing it.

Happy 100 posts, you guys!  I've enjoyed being here as a tiny little part of the Autistic blogging community and I can't wait to continue blogging, meeting new people, and connecting with you all.

And, as always, THANK YOU for reading!  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Being Assertive

It is really hard for me to be assertive.
It stresses me out.  I have an actual physical reaction to it.
In front of my closest friends and closest family, I am able to assert my true feelings.  And yet, even then, being assertive is really difficult.  I usually break down crying after confronting somebody.
I hate being assertive.  I hate being assertive, and yet it stresses me out to reveal what I want and stand up for myself.
I'm not sure if it's a confidence issue.  I'm not sure if it's a social issue.  I don't know why I don't like being assertive, but being assertive always makes me anxious.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Critique of Autism Awareness Posters

I'm not sure how I feel about this poster.

I understand the purpose of graphics like this, but the problem with them is that they support a really narrow view of autism.  The pictures above (from UK charity at this site) are quite simplistic and depict autism as something simplistic as well, but we know that isn't the case.  Not all Autistics are alike, and while many Autistics display certain traits, it's upsetting when people lump all Autistics in to the same category and assume we all share the same characteristics.

Here's another example:

This poster is from a website that lists a series of "health problems" and includes autism on that list.  I have issues with the depiction of autism as a "health problem," but I'll get to that another time.  This is the site, if you're curious.

My point here?

Education is great!  I love education!  Education is the only cure for ignorance and, unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance surrounding autism.  But we need to provide people with the right education.  We need to teach people that Autistics aren't all the same.  We need to tell people that all Autistics are unique and don't all display the same traits.

We need to teach people that being Autistic is not a disability but rather a difference.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

90s Flashback

When I was younger, I loved this show.

When I was younger, Sabrina the Teenage Witch was my favorite.  I loved Sabrina and the other characters (especially Aunt Zelda).

Of course I'm far from the only girl who liked Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  I don't even think I'm the only one who wished I, too, could be a witch.  I enjoyed the way Sabrina was different.  I enjoyed the way Sabrina dealt with her challenges.  I enjoyed the way Sabrina took charge of her own life and always tried to make the best of any situation that arose.

Sabrina didn't always fit in, but neither did I.  Somehow, I felt like I could relate.

In episode 1 of the 5th season, Sabrina says to her new roommate: "I don't have to justify myself to you.  Whether you think I'm weird or not doesn't matter."

I loved that line when I was a teenager and it still gives me a happy shiver to this day.

"I don't have to justify myself to you.  Whether you think I'm weird or not doesn't matter."

For some reason, that is so empowering to me.

I love how this show scoffs at normal.  I love how this show celebrates the joy of difference.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

My Food Anxiety

School is consuming my life right now.  I had classes all day today and now I'm doing homework and floating around on Youtube.

I've been eating quite unhealthily recently and I'm upset about that.  When I don't eat well, I get jittery and anxious and I start to stress out a bit.  I get nervous when my blood sugar gets wonky.  I know this, but sometimes when I'm stressed, it's really hard for me to eat properly.  I get even more stressed at the idea of making food.  And I crave snack foods and need to snack to soothe myself.

Today, I ate & drank:
- hot chocolate
- one cinnamon bun
- a small plate of tortilla chips with some cheese and salsa
- a small bowl of Sunchips
- some pretzels
- Nearly 2.5 litres of water
- 2 litres of Diet Coke
- a lot of animal crackers

I'm not feeling great.  I'm enjoying these animal crackers at the moment, but my head is starting to feel wobbly and I want some proper food.

I don't know.

I get food anxiety.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Anatomy of Yesterday

Yesterday, I had classes most of the day.  During my short break, I socialized with a friend I haven't seen in a while.  It was nice to see her again and catch up.  After classes, I went to the gym to treadmill for half an hour.  Treadmill-ing has often been my stress reliever and yesterday was no exception.  After a good treadmill session, I went home.  I ate pretzels and drank Diet Coke while doing my schoolwork.  Yesterday's schoolwork took up quite a few hard-working hours, but I eventually finished it.  I also took a short break to watch some Rookie Blue (it's a show I've watched before and enjoyed, but haven't had a chance to catch up on in over a year).  I then completed my schoolwork and had a shower.  I was exhausted.  I fell asleep promptly after climbing into my bed.

Yesterday was a good, productive day.

I hope today will be good as well.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Thankful on a Monday

Yesterday, the pastor at church reminded me of the importance of prayer.  So often I recognize God's great presence in my life but forget to pray to Him.  That sentence right there just reminded me that I plan on writing a blog entry about autism and religion some time.  I am religious (obviously) but I don't care whether you are religious or not, or what religion you are, as long as your religion is based in love and being kind to others.  I find religion really interesting and, as a teenager, I became a Christian.  I'll talk more about that some time probably -- if I ever get around to writing it, that is :) -- but for now, I'm remembering in this moment how thankful I am for the many good gifts I have received from my God.

Whether you are religious or not, I believe it is helpful to recognize the good things you have and be glad for them.  I believe I receive these things from God, so when I give thanks, I give thanks to Him.  Other people believe differently than me and that is absolutely all right.

I am thankful for good friends who forgive me with grace and love.

I am thankful for a wonderful partner who makes me incredibly happy and for his loving family which has welcomed me with open arms.

I am thankful for intelligent parents who love me and support me.

I am thankful for my puppy dog, who gives me hope and joy daily and reminds me to be thankful.

I am thankful for a sweet niece who finds joy and wonder in little things.

I am thankful for good prices at Wal-Mart and inexpensive Diet soda.

I am thankful for the prescription medication that I take; thankful that it exists and is affordable for me, thankful that it works to improve my life.

I am thankful for the talented authors who write the books I enjoy.

I am thankful for teachers and classes and school.

I am thankful for tickles and jokes and games that make me smile and bring me joy.

I am thankful for new jobs and new opportunities and challenges that make me think.

I am thankful for the good people who share my religion and who provide me company at church and in worship.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dating & Relationships - Advice & Information

Perhaps some day I will formalize this.  Perhaps I will write it a bit nicer and fancy it up a bit.  But for now, I'm just pointing out a few quick little things that would have been helpful for me to know when, at the age of nineteen, I started dating for the first time.  These are a few of my hastily-written tidbits of advice.  If you want to add to it, please add your two cents in comments!  Thank you!

Social cues in dating are complicated and often very subtle.  I don't know how to read all of them.  And that's OK.  It's not something you can learn overnight.  If you are uncertain and feel comfortable to do so: ASK what the other person is trying to tell you.

Make sure you are comfortable with the person you are dating.  Consider that you'll have to spend probably an hour or so on a date with them.  Are you comfortable with this person for that long? 

Eye contact is usually expected for the date.  Are you comfortable with that?  Especially for a long-ish period of time?

Be prepared for small talk.  Small talk can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but it usually does come up on dates, especially at first.  Be ready.  

Everyone thinks dating is hard.  Remember that.  Sometimes you can feel awkward and uncomfortable and alone while navigating the complicated world of dating.  But you're not alone.  Other people have experienced the same suffering as you have.  

Really consider whether you feel ready to date before you choose to do so.  "Wanting a boyfriend/girlfriend" is not a good reason to date.  

Practice!  Dating is really socially complex and it can help to "role play" a date, either by yourself or with someone else, to practice and start to feel comfortable with the kind of behaviors and conversations that come with dating. 

Make sure the person you are dating is nice to you and shares your values.  It can be difficult to assess whether someone is interested in you, but if they are unkind to you in any way or do anything you are not comfortable with, they are probably not right for you.  

There are many levels of intimacy, such as holding hands, hugging, kissing, and sexual contact.  Which level you engage in is dependent on various factors, some of which are complicated.  

Consider with yourself and/or discuss with someone you trust whether you are old enough / mature enough / ready for sexual contact.  Be sure to educate yourself and your partner about sex.  Be sure to have an open and honest, frank discussion about sexual contact before you engage in it.  If you are uncomfortable in any way, you should not engage in this behavior.  Remember to always practice safe sex and use condoms properly.  

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Story of My First Boyfriend & Dating Can Be Scary

About a year ago, I was in a relationship with a young man.  This young man was my first boyfriend.  Our relationship was not particularly long-lived and -- frankly -- should not have lasted as long as it did.  I had never been in a romantic relationship before and I wasn't sure what it was supposed to be like.  I suppose I was glad that somebody found me attractive.

This young man and I never spent a lot of time together.  We rarely communicated.  He was hardly the one person I would confide my secrets to, nor was I to him.  We were just "dating" as they do in university, something I'd never experienced before and something -- to be perfectly honest -- I didn't enjoy as much as I probably should have.  I should have been pickier.  I should have seen the "deal-breakers."  I shouldn't have been so lenient.  I should have seen the signs and when I didn't like his behavior, I should have confronted him.  I was so scared to tell this young man how I felt.

I merely wanted a boyfriend.  I had never had one before, and it was exciting to have someone who -- at least some of the time -- wanted me.  Our feelings were never mutual and honestly mine were more of infatuation or lust than actual interest.  I was interested, I suppose, but I didn't know how to express that interest.  I didn't have the tools I needed to know how a romantic relationship is supposed to unfold.

He was the one who broke up with me, and it wasn't a surprise.  I was dreading it because I wanted to have him as my boyfriend because I thought I loved him, even though it turned out that I actually kind of despised him.  I just had this fascination with him, you see.  I wanted someone, and he's just the one who ended up in my life.

It has been nearly a year since we broke up and so much has changed.

I now know what true love is.  I now know what true support is.  I now am with a person who makes me immensely comfortable.  I am with a person now who doesn't make me anxious or ashamed of who I am.  I am with a person who is good for me.  I am with a person who brings out the best in me.  I am with a person who trusts me and who I trust.  I am with a person I don't have to make compromises for.

The point of this history is to really emphasize that -- when I was nineteen years old and in my first romantic relationship -- I didn't know what "dating" was and I didn't know how to handle it productively.  I have never been excellent in social situations and the one-on-one of dating with all the pressures that it comes with was absolutely overwhelming for me, a "Young Autistic Female" who'd never so much as looked a boy in the eyes.  Dating was scary.  Dating was hugely and immensely scary.  I rushed through dating that first young man with such fervor and frustration because I didn't know whether I was doing it right and I was constantly second-guessing myself.  I was terrified.

The advice I've received subsequently about dating has been invaluable.  I am so thankful to the many friends and family members who have stepped forward to explain dating and relationships to me and who have made sure that I'm safe and comfortable.  Because dating can be dangerous and frightening if you don't know what you're doing.  And I really hope -- for all the other girls out there -- that there's someone to teach you how to date safely and comfortably.

I'm thinking of doing a quick series on this.  Maybe I'll share some "tips" I learned about dating and relationships.

Anyways, I just wanted to impart that dating can be scary -- for everyone, regardless of whether you are Autistic or neurotypical.  And if you need a little bit more education on dating and relationships, that's absolutely OK as well.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

First Day of School

Today is Thursday.  Today is my "first day of school."  Technically, classes started yesterday and kids have been moving in to campus all week.  But today was my first class.  I'm hardly new -- I've been here years -- but still, getting back into the swing of things after an amazing summer away from here is going to be hard.

I don't like large groups of people, but unfortunately, university campuses tend to be just large groups of people.

I've found the past few days have been really difficult in terms of the many people around.  I dislike that the nights have been full of screaming teenagers drinking alcohol outside.  I don't like rambunctious partiers -- on principle or in reality -- and I don't enjoy that the entire campus seems filled with them right now.

Right now, I'm able to find solace in my small corner of our apartment, in my bedroom.  Thankfully, I have bright and understanding roommates who don't mind that I have my fair share of quirks.  Thankfully, I enjoy school -- I'm good at school.  I like studying and learning.  I get good grades.

I'm thankful for the new gym on campus.  The treadmill has been really great in aiding my stress recently.  I am glad I have that.

Still, I miss the comforts of summer.  I hope things get easier for me, in terms of anxiety.

I'm so happy, but I'm also feeling really anxious for some reason.

My goodness.  I have 237 days left of school for this year.  I hope it goes smoothly.