Not Like the Others…Autistic Kids Will Be Autistic Adults

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I have shared some insights on what it is to go through life as an autistic person from time to time. It’s funny because there is so much being said and done about accommodating children on the ASD spectrum but there is next to nothing said about what happens to these children as they become adults.

I sincerely understand what challenges autistic kids go through and what sheer hell growing up on the spectrum is, especially when you know you don’t belong, and no one, especially your own parents, knows what to do with you.

In their defense, they tried. Doctors had no answers. All they could say about the 2 year old who could read the dictionary but did not want to be touched, who was terrified of anyone who was not an immediate family member, was plagued by night terrors and screaming fits, and could not walk or run properly without falling, was I had “congenital gross motor deficits.” Physical therapy for my gross motor deficits was nominally helpful, as was vision correction. I am coordinated enough to drive a manual shift car and walk across a room without falling. I eventually got to where I could ride a bike and rollerskate, but much later than most kids and not as proficiently. Nothing anyone could do could assuage my anxiety and social ineptitude. I have worked with psychologists and counselors (some good, some bad, and some positively abysmal) but to this day I still struggle with both anxiety and social ineptitude. I have had to build my own roadmaps and navigate my own way.

Medication (Prozac and Catapres, prescribed by a one time family doctor who had some understanding of anxiety, depression and autism) and educating myself have been helpful in this endeavor, but there is no “manual.” There simply isn’t much help out there for people like me.

I had to figure out how to script, how to mask, and how to put up a good front to survive. It’s good that the bullying and mocking isn’t as widely tolerated (and sometimes even encouraged) as it was in my youth. Perhaps there are ill-coordinated, awkward, badly dressed, terrified, myopic, autistic girls like I was who don’t get thrown in the bushes or tossed head first into the trash cans every morning at school. That would be a start.

However well intentioned early intervention and active assistance for autistic children may be, the challenges and the social dystopia don’t disappear when one turns 18. If anything, life becomes more painful and complicated and isolated because there is a dearth of help or advice for autistic adults.

I’m 50 years old. I grew up in a poor backwater town where educational resources were sparse at best. On my first day of second grade the teachers were arguing in the hall because neither of them wanted me in their class, and both claimed that the principal had promised each one I would not be in either teacher’s class. Eventually they came to an agreement, in which the teacher with the least seniority had to take me. I am hyperlexic and could read before I was two years old. The teachers in elementary school were intimidated by my vocabulary and reading ability. They didn’t know what to do with my constant freakouts- like when bees or wasps would fly in the room and I would lose it in terror at the sight of flying insects. They had no idea what to do with me, and in retrospect I can see that my mere presence freaked them out. I don’t blame them. I wasn’t normal. I didn’t look normal and I didn’t act normal. I hated (and still have trouble with) maintaining eye contact with people. I don’t like being touched.

I have no explanation for my reading ability or the compulsion to read everything I could find in print, but I am thankful that I was verbal at a young age. I was probably spared a great deal of injury and abuse simply because I could speak out to some degree.

Even though I was verbal and quite literate very early, I still have issues processing emotions and making my needs known- or even knowing whether or not my needs are valid or appropriate. My constant and intense anxiety (which has not gone away with age) makes it difficult for me to communicate when I am stressed. I was easily intimidated and was routinely beaten up by my older sisters and kids at school. I was an easy target. The terror, insecurity and reticence to speak out or to defend myself remains.

My own mother would backhand me for “staring” when she thought I was too focused on someone or something, or for being “rude” for not hugging and kissing on people who were her friends, but who I didn’t know from Adam’s house cat. Physical contact of any kind is uncomfortable for me unless it involves a close family member (and then only in certain situations)- or a dog. My aversion to physical contact has gotten even more acute with age.

To make my childhood even more fun I had chronic health issues-including constant respiratory infections and a bout of rheumatic fever that has led to heart arrhythmia, joint damage and constant pain. I have ongoing difficulty with spatial perception which I am sure contributes to my poor gross motor skills.

On the plus side I have managed to stay gainfully employed since I was 16, my son is thankfully neurotypical and doesn’t have my wiring issues. But life on the spectrum is different. It’s hard to know where you stand with other people.

William Shakespeare once wrote,“All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.” This is so true for me when my every interaction with other humans must be carefully analyzed and scripted, and even then I am terrified of being inappropriate, using language that doesn’t resonate with my intended audience, and sending the wrong body language. To make it worse, when I’m tired, sick or stressed, my ability to script and filter goes right out the window. I am not normal. I can put up that front, but it has a very high cost. The older I get the more maintaining the “normal” facade exhausts and depletes me.

I understand I am the one with the disparity and I am the one who has to be accommodating and I have to adjust. No one is going out of his or her way to make my life easier. This world wasn’t designed for people like me.

At my age some of my idiosyncrasies get a pass. I dress how I want for the most part, and can decline most social activities outside of work that I deem stressful. It’s a mixed bag.

I wouldn’t say that being wired the way I am is easy but then again it’s the only way I know. I still have more questions than answers.

A Dearth of Reference Points, February Funk, and Wisdom from Dante

 

winter miseryIt’s February again.  That shortest month of the year, and the month in which the most people die. I think people just give up in February.  Christmas is long over (not that I am a great fan of the holiday hype,) and winter seems to just keep hanging on.  Most people are still paying for the crap they blithely and wantonly purchased for Christmas, that the kids have either broken or gotten bored with already. If you’re going to go, why not now? All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

That is a morbid thought, and I am no stranger to morbid thoughts.  I am always pulling worst case scenarios out of my imagination.  I should write horror movies, or at least get to narrate a guided tour of the Mütter Museum.  (I should get to actually go to Philadelphia to see the Mütter Museum…it’s on my bucket list.)

This morning’s drive was particularly sucky.  40-50MPH winds combined with temperatures in the low 20s and snow squalls meant that not only was the car being blown around, but there were little patches of ice hiding beneath that blowing snow.  I got here OK and with little incident, but some jackwagon in a Jeep Wrangler bought a trip to the ditch, likely arising from the erroneous assumption that 4 wheel drive makes one invincible.

Days like this remind me of my own fallibility and mortality more than I would like. Yes I know I screw up (a lot) and that every passing day I’m (to quote Pink Floyd’s song, “Time”) one day closer to death.

Days like this remind me of how not normal I am too.  Maybe it’s the overwhelming fatigue, or the inevitable joint pain that accompanies a low barometer, but I suspect it’s something deeper than weather. I went to the Dr. just the other day and my labs and such are mostly normal, so I probably don’t have any additional health failures. Even so, I am so tired I could sleep for weeks.

Maybe I am still guilt tripping.  Call it survivor’s guilt or maybe worse.  It’s not right to feel as if a weight has been lifted from me.  I feel like I don’t deserve a normal life…and maybe it’s not.  I don’t have a clue what “normal” is, nor have I ever had an accurate frame of reference and it scares me.  I don’t know what I am supposed to feel.  Then again, feeling anything always seems foreign to me.

I needed an extended sabbatical a long time ago but for various reasons that wasn’t able to happen. So I have to take bits and pieces of mental rest and reflection where I can get them.  Sometimes drive time is good for that.  Not lately, because driving is stressful when the weather sucks, but sometimes. I should have a Cougar Nap Saturday coming up and I will take advantage of that if I can.  If I take a few hours to just nap and watch reality TV (Botched is a good one, or The Incredible Dr. Pol, if I am in the mood for watching farm animals) on a Saturday, who can blame me?

I do need to set up a time (probably next Saturday) to get my oil changed and tires rotated, or I might arrange to drop the car off one day next week and drive the truck.

I am not looking forward to my birthday, which I hope most people I know will overlook. Usually they do because it’s at the end of February, when the winter funk and the it’s-not-quite-winter but-definitely-not-spring blecch season is in full swing in Ohio.

I think I might decide to set up some sort of weekend getaway sometime soon.  Maybe.

And it is quite OK to forget my birthday.

 

 

Beauty and Scars, Sacred and Profane, Meaning and the Depths of Faith

I find it hard to imagine the innocence and the uncertainty of being a child bride. Both times I got married I had that horrible sense of what the hell am I getting into and both times my instinct was right. I should have ran both times.

Granted, ball and chain #2 was an improvement over #1 but not by much. Jerry was an alcoholic. Admittedly he was functional, and could be a great guy- when he wasn’t butt drunk. Most of the time when he wasn’t at work he was butt drunk. Then the games began. He could be destructive, verbally abusive and I did way too much enabling and covering the consequences of his drinking and irrational behavior connected with it. To make it more awkward and regrettable, Jerry spent the last four years of his life terminally ill, which didn’t do much for his outlook, his behavior, or for me wanting to be around him. He was unpleasant, demanding, clingy, and often nasty before he got sick, and the sicker he got the nastier and more clingy he got.

It sounds cruel but it got creepier and creepier being around him. He wheezed and coughed constantly and gagged all the time- the unfortunate side effect of pulmonary fibrosis. What breath he could get he spent barking orders at me. Sometimes he was downright cruel and went on and on calling me bitch and other foul epithets. Toward the end he couldn’t drive anymore. Just going to the bathroom or showering was a major accomplishment for him.

The sucking sound of the oxygen box was creepy- I didn’t have the heart to turn it off even when I knew he was dead. I asked the paramedic to do it. The room smelled like an unwashed old man. I sort of felt like the little kid in Stephen King’s short story “Gramma” where Gramma died when the kid was alone with her, and Gramma was demon possessed.

One fine morning – like I knew I would-I wandered in his room and found a corpse. The worst part of that is I didn’t know how I would react when that happened. I didn’t want to touch him out of fear of…well I read way too much Stephen King in high school… but my major irrational fear was that the cops would think somehow I killed him. Sins of commission? Omission? Should I have called the squad the night before when he wanted to come home from the Moose early? I sort of anticipated it, and something had told me his time was short that night, but it was still surreal at 5AM just dialing 911 and telling the dispatcher, “I think my husband’s dead.” That is a bizarre thing to do.

I never felt so alone. Usually I am fine with solitude and prefer it, but not in the same space with a corpse. Waiting on cops and paramedics. Because paramedics are the Ones Who Know Dead. They even have special equipment to verify death. Who knew? Who wanted to know?

Do I guilt over sighing a huge sigh of relief that it’s finally over? Sometimes I do. Not much so far. I wonder long term if I will handle it the way I usually handle things emotional- with a 20 year delay?

In a lot of ways I feel guilty because I stayed with him long after the love had gone- and his illness (over which of course he had no control) made being around him even more repulsive. I do feel bad about that. I went through the motions. I tried to do the right things for him but it was sort of like when little kids hold their noses when forced to eat things they find to be gross. I served him from a sense of inward duress. Love is indeed a choice but when love is gone only duty and guilt remain.

I think he knew I was only there for him out of pity and duty. I was, and I feel bad about that.

Mourning is a weird thing. It seems pathetically selfish of me to mourn the 20+ years I spent with a man who loved me- albeit in a twisted and sadistic way at times. Yes I mourn wasting the better part of 20 years being treated like trash and living in fear of the next tirade. And I feel guilty for admitting it.

All this comes back to faith. Did I fail? Yes I did. Was I perfect or even good? No. I have no right to complain and every obligation to confess my sins and lack of love to God. I can only thank God for His mercy.

By faith I know God forgives me. The scars remain. The fear persists. Even though I know I am forgiven I still have anxiety. I still believe…but I call on God constantly to help my unbelief.

Sometimes I feel guilty because my life is better now. As if I should want to put on a hair shirt and attempt to do useless penance.

Is there beauty on the other side? Yes. Am I still cynical and scared? Yes. I am still learning that what I once thought was normal is anything but.

It’s been almost two years and I am still getting past the trauma. I am still trying to rediscover life.

God have mercy.

The Dismality of February, and This Will All Thaw Someday

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Oh, the dismality of February yet again.  There is a reason why February only has 28 days (at least for three out of four years,) and that’s to put a lid on the number of people who die in February.  If February were 30 or 31 days, half the damn population would die in February, and that would just be weird.  We have to spread the death throughout the year better.  Not that everyone should die from heat stroke in July, but jeez.  I can understand losing the will to live when it is 90° and 100% humidity if there’s no air conditioning, perhaps a bit more than most, because I am not at all equipped for high temperatures.  I can abide cold a far sight better than extreme heat.

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But at least in July there is sunlight, and Ohio winters are notoriously dark and sunless. I can go all week without seeing sunlight save for maybe a ray or two on the weekend-  unless there is a damned blizzard going on.  And even if the damned blizzard is going on and it’s 4° below, Target still has nothing but bathing suits, tank tops, sandals and sleeveless dresses on display.  If I need a parka, I will have to wait until July when they put them back out.

Here in central Ohio we have been enduring a rather harsher than normal winter.  Oh, yippee skippy, because I just adore driving in ice and snow.  I’m all about those below zero temperatures too.  There is simply nothing like one’s ass freezing to the toilet seat unless I break down and turn on the space heater in the bathroom.

“Spring” will arrive someday. Probably sometime in May there will come a day when my back yard will transform from frozen tundra into Dog Shit Lake overnight.  Oh, the smell of Spring in the air.  Temperatures will go from -4° to 90° and 100% humidity within the span of about 12 hours.  There is really no Spring in Ohio. There is just arctic cold and wind, followed by stygian heat, usually accompanied by torrential rain.

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This is Brutus, the Catahoula^ (Catahoula Bed Hog Dog)

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This was Clara^ (God rest her sweet soul) the Malinois

Note to self: the 80# Catahoula shits according to his size.  For those unaccustomed to dogs, for an example, a 65# Malinois has the strength to overpower a 300# man.  The 65# Malinois consumes, and disposes of about the same number of calories as a 300# man every day. Imagine that kind of waste load deposited in your back yard every day for six months from October until the May Thaw arrives.

In all fairness, since a Malinois is an ultra high energy, high metabolism dog, a 65# Malinois and an 80# Catahoula are pretty much identical in strength, energy consumed, and waste put down.  My paradigms have been pretty much the same for awhile.

There’s going to be a lot of dog shit to deal with.

Sensitive Snowflakes, Making Perverts Out of Nothing at All, and Follow the Money

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I find it a bit ironic that poor people are almost never accused of inappropriate groping, sexual harassment or any of that twaddle. Now it seems that affluent men across the political, financial and celebrity spheres have all become perverts overnight, some for alleged behaviors committed 30 years ago and more. I’m cynical, yes, but the veracity of many of these allegations is dubious for even the most trusting of souls.

I have worked in a male dominated industry my entire life. I have supervised automotive technicians. I have heard (and probably repeated) every sexual innuendo known to humanity. In the course of my long and illustrious career I have been called everything but a fine upstanding white woman. Big whoop. I have been known to be a tad bit on the raw side, at least language-wise, when dealing with assorted idiots myself.

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I guess my mentality is more old school. I don’t care what you say or how you joke with me (or even not joke) as long as you keep your hands and other body parts to yourself, and refrain from stalking me. As a person who is generally not cool with physical contact, keeping one’s meathooks and other appendages off of me (unless I explicitly approve of such activity) means a lot. As far as commentary or innuendo, I could give a flying flip less. I can verbally parlay with the best of them. Just don’t touch me, physically threaten my person, or be found on my property without permission, and I can deal. Verbal sparring, joking, teasing and flirting are all part of the experience of being a human being. Unless of course one of the parties involved has cash or clout. Then it becomes a feeding frenzy for any money hungry attorney who capitalizes on character assassination.

I am not talking about legitimate victims of sexual assault. Rape is a serious crime- one of the few that I believe should warrant the death penalty- and it should be taken seriously and prosecuted with extreme prejudice. But true sexual assault is far different than casual banter, comments, or jokes. Sexual assault or rape is not an allegation to toss on an ex-lover or a regretful (but consensual) hook up for revenge for sex from a failed love affair or favor for hire gone sour. To call regretful sex– sex one wishes one had not consented to after the fact- rape is to lessen the severity of legitimate sexual assault and rape. If you made your bed with a scumbag in exchange for a favor, that’s on you. If you thought that sleeping with a tomcat would make him leave his wife for you and he didn’t, that’s on you too.

I am talking about women who go back twenty or thirty years digging up old skeletons such as “so and so said something suggestive about my butt back in 1986” or “I gave so and so a BJ in 2001 because that’s what you had to do to get an audition.” Too bad so sad…NOT. Choices have consequences. A bad decision does not give one the right to seek revenge.

Let’s call it for what it is. When a woman voluntarily exchanges sex for money, favors or career advancement, that makes her a whore. When a man exploits women and takes advantage of their willingness to spread their legs in hope of being granted money, career advancement or favors, that makes him a tomcat and a lecher. Consensual sex is just that. If two people decide to play the sex and power game then the emotional, spiritual and physical consequences lie on them both equally.

This being said, neither party is more or less culpable than the other for the fallout of their behavior.

Unfortunately there are too many women jumping on the “he groped me, etc.” bandwagon. The sad thing is that legitimate victims of sexual assault are being overlooked because women who played the whore are trying to capitalize on their regretful sex and poor choices.

Human beings are male and female, and sex is part of the human condition. As much as society tries to deny the reality of gender and the role of sexual attraction, the elephant is still in the room.

You Know Who You Are, and the Past Should Stay There

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Every now and then I entertain myself with a game of “what if,” even if that game simply reinforces the feeling and the thought that I have spent the last year walking away (relatively unscathed) from a 20+ year long train wreck.

Perhaps I have some “survivor’s guilt” and maybe a panic attack now and then, but even a necessary amputation is going to leave a scar.

I wondered if the 1 year anniversary of Jerry’s death would be traumatic.  Not so much. I spent a rather lovely day with family, and the date didn’t cross my mind until someone brought it up.

I do wonder if my experience of grief (or the lack thereof) is cold and heartless- because I don’t really miss him. He had managed to kill any affection I had for him long before he died. Between the alcoholic rages, browbeating, name calling and other indignities, I had gotten beyond angry and went straight to numb. I can’t say I have felt much of anything except maybe relief.

It used to be common wisdom (though we know better now) that children were born as tabula rasa, or with a clean slate- no experience, no biases, no predispositions.  In some ways I feel sort of like that, as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, but then I feel as if I should have some kind of sadness.  Maybe I do feel a bit melancholy for years wasted or opportunities lost, but not what I would really call regret or even mourning.

I don’t think I am a heartless bitch.  Maybe numbness is a lot better than unforgiveness or just plain rage.

 

 

Privacy Has Its Advantages, Free Speech, and a Nod to the Sleep Deprived

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Welcome to redneck heaven.   I still can’t get it why people around me seldom have blinds nor curtains.  I understand real curtains are expensive, but in a pinch a blanket from the Goodwill will serve as a curtain.  Poverty should not overshadow modesty. If there is a will, there is a way.

At any rate, I have no need to invite peeping Toms to gawk in on the happenings in my home.  My shower and my toilet are private.  My living room is private.  So are my laundry room, kitchen, dining room and bedroom.  If I want to wander around in any of them in various states of undress that’s my business, hence the blinds and curtains. I also don’t care to share what types or how much technological equipment or furnishings are or are not in my house, nor do I wish to broadcast my TV viewing to the rest of the block.  Live and let live.

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The only things anyone outside of my very select circle of family and friends needs to know about my home and the activities therein are: Yes, I am armed, and yes, I have dogs.  Take my word for both, stay the hell away, and I promise you will not encounter either the hollow points or the canine jaws.

For some reason I have been wanting to nod off all day, and I slept reasonably well last night.  Maybe it’s because I have built up a sleep deficit that would last 10 years before it would even out. I know sleep loss is cumulative, but at some point I would think I would be making some headway on making it up.

I am not one of those people who really has a problem with the rebel flag.  It is historical and it has some sentimental value for people who have roots in the South.  I am not from the South, nor do I have any particular emotional ties with things Southern or of the Confederacy, so I am not going to be flying the stars and bars myself. However, I am not butt-hurt over those who do. It amazes me that even now people are ignorant enough to riot and kill each other over historical symbols.  Both sides- the “Alt-Right” and the “ANTIFA” people have it all wrong.  There is no such thing as “white supremacy” unless you are stupid enough to buy into debunked Nazi myths, and as far as reparations for slavery and all the government entitlement and reverse discrimination horse shit goes, that dog doesn’t hunt either.  No race or ethnic group is superior to another, and no race or ethnic group owes another anything based upon the actions of their ancestors.

If that were the case, the Irish and the Scots- not to mention various Asian and Indian nationalities- should be clamoring for the rest of the world to kiss their behinds.  The reality is that at one point or another all of us had ancestors who were oppressors.  All of us had ancestors who were oppressed too.  How we treat each other now is what matters.  Let It Go.

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I did have a problem with the guy across the street from Dad who decided to use a Nazi swastika flag as a curtain in his front window.  I found his choice of window treatment most offensive considering my grandfather (Dad’s Dad) fought the Nazis in WWII.  However, this rather dimwitted chap decided to remove it when Dad enlightened him that while it is his first amendment right to express himself, people who fly such flags in public view have a greater than normal chance of having their windows shot out.

Things have a way of working themselves out.

I wouldn’t say that I am easily annoyed.  My coping mechanism is usually to tune out the people who piss me off.  That’s why I haven’t had much commentary in the political or social spheres as of late.  I think it’s bloody hilarious that the same people who whined and cried because conservatives dared to criticize the sainted king Obama, have been positively bloodthirsty and shrilly outspoken in their hatred of Trump.  I think it’s just the way it goes.   It’s ok to hate white people even if you are white, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I notice quite a bit of vitriol directed toward white men who want to end the welfare gravy train.   Follow the money.  Who benefits from the entitlement system?  Why do they object to it being reformed?

Then again, even haters have their first amendment rights.

I don’t understand how racism toward whites somehow makes up for racism against blacks.  Racism is destructive regardless of where it comes from and who it is directed toward.

Sometimes critique of a particular ideology can be construed as a critique of an entire race, which is a dangerous logical fallacy.  Not all white people are white supremacists or Nazis, and in reality a vast majority of white people would never dream of subscribing to the myth of white supremacy or to Nazism.  Most black people are NOT screaming “reparations” or “kill whitey” either.

Hate organizations are hate organizations and should be called out and condemned no matter who their racism targets.  The KKK and Alt-Right and other white supremacist organizations have no place in a civilized, ethnically diverse society.  Neither does ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, or any other organization whose aim is to foster hate and division against other races.

I am curious about all the people so quick to crucify Trump because he didn’t explicitly condemn just the KKK and Alt-Right and all the white supremacist wackos.  He did the correct thing and condemned ALL racial hate groups.

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Where were the Trump critics when Obama never had the balls to call out ISLAMIC TERRORISM?  Especially when there were so many egregious examples of it during his administration, so much so that I am convinced to agree that he was in collusion with them?  Trump is definitely not a white supremacist or a supporter of white supremacists.  Obama on the other hand, was a prime enabler of Islamic terrorism.  Why is nobody in the media calling out THAT happy little fact?

Granted, Islam is not a race, and not all adherents of Islam are out there actively promoting jihad, but Islam is a poisoned and flawed political ideology that hides behind the façade of religion. It is naïve and dangerous to pretend otherwise for the sake of “political correctness.” When one’s flawed and poisoned ideology turns into criminal actions that bring harm or death to others, this is where first amendment rights end.

Believe what you will, but there must be consequences should your beliefs trigger you to actions that break the law- regardless of whatever “protected status” you seek.