Loneliness, stress and a lack of sleep

Loneliness, stress and a lack of sleep

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m just starting writing this.  No, I didn’t get up early, I haven’t fallen asleep yet.  I tried going to sleep a little after ten, but as it’s been for the past month, on a good night I get three hours sleep and not three straight hours.  It’s a half hour here, an hour there and as I’ve sat and thought about it for hours on end, it’s because of loneliness and stress.

I moved to the Ozarks from Southern California nine months ago and have met some great people, but only a handful that I would really call friends and of those, two that I’ve ever done anything social with and those things are rare.  I don’t blame anyone for this.  It’s just the Asperger’s in me. 

We tend to not go out and involve ourselves in situations where we meet people and so for days on end I don’t leave my log cabin near the lake or talk to anyone besides my service dog Tye, or myself, masquerading as talking to Tye.  I want to meet people and make friends, but fear sets in and I know how to deal with the loneliness, so I do.

I thought for a while about online dating and finally got up the nerve to put up a profile and even sent messages to a number of women, but never received a response.  Three women contacted me, but they were all in their early 60’s and as I’m fifty-two, I just wasn’t into it.  I even went as far as to put something on Tinder, but the one who connected with me texted a few times and then told me she was too fearful of going out with anyone and wished me luck.  Not many women are into Aspies with a purple goatee and service dog, apparently.

The loneliness brings on low self-esteem for brief-ish periods and that contributes a lot to the lack of sleep.  The fact that I’ve been sitting at my computer for days on end writing, self-publishing and now trying to figure out how to properly market my book on no budget brings on more loneliness.  And stress.

I’m stressed that the book won’t sell because I can’t market it properly and I won’t get it in front of the right people.  I stress because I have three more that I’m trying to work on and if I can’t get this one to sell, is there a reason to write the other ones?  The answer, of course, is yes, but I still stress because that’s all I know how to do and thus, I don’t sleep.

Loneliness and stress are two things that at times consume me, but I know I shouldn’t let them.  I know that my life is so much better now that it was nine months ago, but I can’t focus on that because I’m too busy focusing on the loneliness, stress, and lack of sleep.  I stress that I won’t be successful and that I won’t be able to take care of myself financially and that freaks me out like you can’t believe.

I know good things are coming my way and I truly believe that, except for the moments of loneliness and stress.  I know I’m not the only one who deals with these things.  My fellow Aspies all deal with them, but how am I supposed to advocate for them and write books to help, when I’m dealing with these things?

What I have to remember is that I have Asperger’s and that I’m human.  Too often I get frustrated because I want to do everything perfectly, even though I know that’s an impossible challenge and something that will never happen.  But do you think that stops the stress from hitting me when I screw up?  Or that it makes me want to go out and meet new people when I don’t feel good about myself?

I need to stop letting loneliness and stress take over my life and I need to believe that good things will happen and that I’m capable of getting the current book to sell and the ones I have bouncing around my brain, to sell and sell well.

Belief in yourself is a great cure for loneliness and stress and feeling better about yourself doesn’t hurt when it comes time to sleep, which I’m going to go and try to go (again) in a few minutes.  I was hoping that writing this and getting this off my chest would help me feel better and I guess it has a little.  Here’s hoping that by the time I crawl back into bed, I feel more than a little better.

One thing that may help me feel a little better is you liking the new J.R. Reed, Author Facebook page as well as Not Weird Just Autistic (yeah, those were stupid, shameless plugs).  While you’re at it, follow me on Twitter as well.

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook groupAspergers Life Supportrun by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in blue.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

Service dogs get a bad rep

Service dogs get a bad rep

Today I want to talk to you about service dogs.  Particularly those fake service dogs that you see in stores without a vest and running around on six-foot leashes while their owners are looking for the cheapest generic beer they can find.  And those little yappy ones that sit in the front of the cart and probably pee right where you’re about to put your groceries the next time you go in the store, It bugs me like you can’t believe.  Probably because I’m a service dog.  A real service dog.

Let me introduce myself.  My name is Tye and I’m J.R.’s autism service dog.  Ya, that’s right I’m a service dog that knows how to blog.  Earlier today me and the owner were talking about an idea for a blog post and he thought it was a good idea, but I asked him to let me handle this one.  Amazingly he said yes.  He doesn’t let anyone touch his computer, though he is OCD enough that he took some of those adult butt wipe things and wiped off my front paws before I touched the keyboard. But I digress.

The following quotes are pulled directly from the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) website.

A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.

Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.

Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog that has been trained to perform tasks that assist individuals with disabilities to detect the onset of psychiatric episodes and lessen their effects. Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding the handler to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches, or turning on lights for persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, interrupting self-mutilation by persons with dissociative identity disorders, and keeping disoriented individuals from danger.

 SSigDOG (sensory signal dogs or social signal dog) is a dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the handler to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping).

 Seizure Response Dog is a dog trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder. How the dog serves the person depends on the person’s needs. The dog may stand guard over the person during a seizure or the dog may go for help. A few dogs have learned to predict a seizure and warn the person in advance to sit down or move to a safe place.

What does that mean?  That means that the 90-pound pit bull on a six-foot leash who’s owner wasn’t paying a bit of attention to him while he attacked me last November and grabbed my throat inside a Walmart is NOT a service animal.  Nor is Muffy or whatever your little yappy dog’s name is that you carry in your purse or put in the front of the cart to presumably wiz where my owner may put his food.

Those are called pets and as you’ll see in the next quote, your pets need to stay at home.  Frankly, I don’t care how attached you are to your pet, because when you bring your pet into a store you lower my credibility as a specially trained service animal who always wears his service vest and who is properly controlled by my owner. 

I’ve heard people make comments to my owner, asking if he just bought the vest off Amazon so he could bring me into the store.  It offends him as an autistic individual and it offends me as a dog who was rescued from a shelter and trained for two years before being handed over to J.R.  People wouldn’t make those comments if so many people didn’t bring their pets into stores that don’t allow pets, but they do and so we, as legitimate service dogs, get a bad rep.

This is where everything breaks down and where the law needs to somehow be re-written and be changed. The fact is people lie.  They can pretend to be the holiest of people, but walk into a store with their precious little baby and they will lie their old asses off.

When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of his disability. Only two questions may be asked:

1. Is the animal required because of a disability?

2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

The reality is that J.R. rarely gets asked any questions, and generally only the first, but when he does, he truthfully answers yes. Can anyone tell me, please, what service an animal can perform, according to the terms in the fourth paragraph from the top that would be handled from the basket of a cart?  I’ll give you the answer to that question.  NONE!!!

I know I’ve ranted long enough and probably made my point, but let me conclude by saying this.  All of you people who go into stores and lie saying you have a service dog because of a disability should be ashamed of yourselves and frankly, you mock not only the legitimate service dogs but also the people with the legitimate disability who actually need them.  

When you’re in a store with your pet and you see a truly disabled person with a legitimate service dog, would you go up to them and flip them off?  Why not? That’s what you’re doing just by having your pet inside the store.  You’re telling that disabled person that you don’t care about them and their needs because you’re special and should be allowed to break the rules and bring your pet into a store.

You’re special all right.  A special kind of something that I know J.R. will probably edit if I put in here.  Please do all service dogs and all the disabled people who own them and truly need them, a favor and leave your pet at home.   Oh, and the next time you’re in a store with your precious little baby in a cart and someone with a legitimate service dog says something to you about it, don’t pop off about minding our own business because we are minding your own business. If you left your pet at home we wouldn’t have to say anything about you mocking us.

We’re following the rules and you’re an adult who can presumably read the signs that say no pets.  I guarantee the sign doesn’t mention, “Except for XXXXX.”

Thank you for letting me rant about this topic.  Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bowl of grain free dog food sitting here and I’m hungry.  To all my legitimate service dog homies out there, thanks for all the work you do.  I sincerely mean that.  For all you posers and your loser owners, STAY HOME!

 

Business and careers with Asperger’s

Business and careers with Asperger’s

Having Asperger’s is bad enough, but trying to succeed in business, any business, much less have a career is tough, if not nearly impossible when you’re on the spectrum.  Why?  The overwhelming majority of those that are high-functioning autistic are unemployed, mainly because they don’t have the social skills to get through a job interview.  It’s tough to succeed in business if you can’t get through the interview process.

Take it from a guy who was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age forty-six, because there was no such thing as autism or Asperger’s until I was well out of high school.  I went from job to job and ended up stuck in a career that I felt forced into when I was younger and one that I knew was absolutely wrong for me, but, since I didn’t know I was on the spectrum I assumed I was bad at it because I was stupid, lazy or any number of the other things I was called by employers, co-workers and, yes, even customers.

What field was it that I hated, but couldn’t seem to get out of?  Auto sales.  What kind of business is that for someone who is afraid to talk to people, hates confrontational situations (and negotiating anything is a confrontational situation) and dreads the whole car sales game?  The answer to that question is a horrible business, but as I said before, I felt forced into it when I was around twenty and for some reason I could never get out of that rut and find a different type of job.

So that became my career.  One that I absolutely loathed and one that I was horrible at.  Not many days went by when I wasn’t yelled at, degraded or otherwise put down for letting a customer go, for not getting a phone number or for some other reason related to my fear of dealing with people.

It was and still is, a horrible business to be in even if you’re not on the spectrum, but it’s sheer hell for someone with Asperger’s; even if you don’t know that you have it. I remember my first car job, selling Hyundai’s back when they were new and no one wanted them.  The daily verbal beat downs did wonders for my self-esteem and for a lot of years I straight up hated myself and wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t do what the other people did.  Now I know.

I bounced from dealer to dealer, and from one shady boss to another.  It got to the point where I went in to work and just waited for the reaming that I knew was coming at some point during the day and wondered if today was going to be one of the days where I was told I was stupid and lazy and get sent home early.

My point in telling you this is because you most likely know you’re on the spectrum and you probably know your limitations, triggers and what works for you and what doesn’t.  The reason so many of us that are able to secure jobs have such self-esteem and depression issues is that we find ourselves in the wrong business.

When looking at job opportunities, we as Aspies need to look realistically at what we can and can’t do.  Look at what we’re good at and what we enjoy doing and see if we can find a way to make a career out of that,  From the time I was in high school I wanted to write, but my high school journalism teacher on more than one occasion told me to drop the class and take something else because I couldn’t write and never would.

It took me fifteen years before I got up the courage to take a junior college journalism class and then for the next several years I did some freelance work for bi-weekly newspapers and covered high school and junior college sports for three daily newspapers in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas.  I still had to work my crappy car jobs, but at least I was doing some writing.

That eventually turned into a career that has spanned twenty years and counting and I’ve been published in over thirty different magazines and a dozen newspapers.  One magazine published my work over fifty times.  I’m not telling you this to brag, but to show you what can happen when you look at what you want to do in business and not do what you think you have to do.

Will there be exceptions due to the economy or your family situation?  Absolutely, but do your best to get out of it as soon as possible.  I can tell you that for the better part of fifteen years I was depressed like you can’t believe and my self-esteem was in the sewer.  After I stopped selling cars and was writing full time, it still took years–more than ten–to get my self-esteem out of the sewer and into the toilet.  It took another five to get it all the way up into the sink.

Just because I’m writing doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games.  I still have to pitch articles to editors, basically sales, which I still to this day cringe at having to do.  Even though I’ve turned my focus to strictly writing about Asperger’s and autism, I still have many moments of self-doubt as I attempt to make contacts that will help with getting these blog posts noticed, help sell the books I’m working on and landing me speaking engagements.

Ask anyone who is self-employed and they’ll tell you that yes, they’re most likely doing what they love, but there are still sales involved and dealing with people, which for some can be scary and for other’s terrifying.  In my case, I don’t find it quite as bad now, because, as I said, I’m writing about autism and I’m proudly Asperger’s.  Plus, having a service dog with you all the time tends to let people know there’s something going on.

Aspie BusinessI thought about this a lot over the weekend as I was getting my first book, An Asperger’s Guide To Dating Neurotypicals ready to go to print and I decided that there’s a real need for more discussion on this topic and how we as proud Aspies can best succeed in business and find careers that highlight our abilities, such as out of the box thinking.  Look for An Asperger’s Guide To Business and Careers later this summer on Amazon(UK and Europe as well), Kindle, my website and (hopefully) many retailers across the US.

Don’t let society, our families, friends or others hold us back.  We can succeed in business and we can find careers that are satisfying to us and ones where we can come home at night happy and proud of what we did that day.  Don’t be like the younger me and hate your job, hate yourself and wonder what you’re even doing here.  Go out and be a success in business!

I want to hear from you.  What struggles or successes have you had with jobs?  Share them in the comments section and let’s get a dialogue going.

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

Murder is NOT fatherhood

Murder is NOT fatherhood

After a long, but very good, day on Sunday, I sat down at my computer to do a few things before heading to bed.  I decided to quickly check CNN.com before I shut it down for the night and what I saw made me sick, angry, disgusted and actually made me cry for a few moments.  What did I see?  A story about a father in Tennessee who committed murder and killed his five-year-old nonverbal autistic son.

For days this piece of garbage (let’s call him what he is) lied to the police and had multiple police jurisdictions and hundreds of volunteers out looking for the boy that he reported missing on Wednesday.  On Saturday he finally manned up and confessed to the murder of his son.

For just a paragraph let’s forget that this little boy was a non-verbal autistic child who had no way to communicate with the world and just focus on the fact that he was this father’s son.  What kind of parent murders their own flesh and blood, much less any child?  Or anyone for that matter?

The whereabouts of Little Joe, as the boy was known, are still unknown as his father, Joseph Daniels hasn’t yet told police where he put the body after he committed the murder. As if murdering your child isn’t enough, not giving the boy’s mother, the volunteers who searched diligently for the boy and the community who prayed for him any closure is another sign that this guy needs to have a date with Ol’ Sparky or find a needle in his arm.

After combing through at least a dozen news stories, I can’t find anything that says whether or not Little Joe was able to communicate through sign language or through the drawing of pictures, but does anyone really care?  We also don’t know the intelligence level of Little Joe, but again, who cares?  He was a human being and a defenseless child who relied on his father to take care of him and his father betrayed that trust by committing murder.

From time to time someone will try to use the, “Put the child out of their misery because they’ll never be a functioning member of society,” defense, but that’s simply a load of crap.  Can anyone show me the definition of, “Functioning member of society?”  Do we have a standard that if someone doesn’t meet that it’s ok to get rid of them?  Not in my world and hopefully not in yours.

Little Joe, you deserved better than the father you got and I pray that you’re in a better place now and that you are better than you’ve ever been.  The rest of us down here will do everything we can to make sure that the man who helped conceive you, (I can’t bear to call Joseph his father) gets exactly what he deserves and that he pays for what he did to you.

May you rest in peace in that better place while the man who both gave you life and took it away rots in a prison cell.

 

 

Rough days happen

Rough days happen

Ah, Saturday, the alleged most glorious day of the week.  We relax, have fun, do things that need to get done and generally feel good about things.  But not always.  Why?  Because sometimes rough days happen.  Even on a Saturday.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining and complaining about my Saturday, just saying it was one of those rough days that all Aspies face every once in a while.  Friday night as I tried to fall asleep my brain was racing, much like a NASCAR race.  Zooming around in circles, thoughts occasionally bumping into one another and, “trading paint,” as they call it.  And there was the occasional caution flag that came out.  Still, I finally fell asleep and woke up around 10 am.

snow rough daysAfter a day that was near 60 on Friday, this is what I woke to on Saturday morning.  By about 2 pm it was all gone.  Welcome to Missouri.  I’ve heard people say that a lot in the nine months I’ve lived in the Show Me State and now I know what they mean.

After a breakfast of frozen waffles and green tea, I jumped on the computer because I received the foreword for my book, An Asperger’s Guide To Dating Neurotypicals, and I also received the first of three reviews to put on the back cover.  I went to work on those and then, with the foreword in place, was prepared to begin numbering the pages.

You would think adding page numbers to a Word document would be an easy task, but as mentioned before, it was one of those rough days, which meant that what I thought should be an easy task turned into a four-hour stress-fest.  I had mini Jerry Garcia and my tye dye Magic 8 Ball in front of me, so I figured it would be more of a rock fest than a stress-fest, but it turned into the latter.  Thank God a fellow writer and good friend offered to do it for me but told me that I had to wait until tomorrow when the effects of her multiple martinis wore off.

That was fine with me because I was still working on blackberry moonshine and 7-Up, so I totally got where she was coming from.  To be clear, drinking is NOT how I generally handle rough days, but it was a Saturday and I was hanging with Jerry Garcia, so you know, what was I supposed to do, right?

During my four hours of trying to figure out how to format a Word document with page numbers that started on page twelve, where the first chapter starts, I called the self-publishing company I was using and was shocked to hear the way they talked to me.  I thought I was asking a pretty simple question, especially since I was using their template, but you would have thought I was asking for the keys to the kingdom.

To say they were no help was an understatement.  In fact, a supervisor actually told me that if I couldn’t figure out how to do it, that maybe I should use a different company for my book.  I was mildly shocked at what he said but only mildly, because I knew it was just one of those rough days that us Aspies face, and stuff was bound to happen.

We all do it.  We face a challenge and instead of doing the right thing and working on it for awhile and then taking a break to let our brains cool off before going to tackle it again, we instead get tunnel vision and focus solely on fixing the problem and nothing else.  That’s what turned today into one of those rough days.  No matter how hard I tried to step away from the keyboard and do something else for a half hour, I had this internal need to figure out the problem at hand.  Especially after I was told to go use another company by the supervisor on the phone.  My mindset was that I was going to show that guy! 

Once Mrs. Martini came to my rescue, I was able to walk away from the computer and try to work on something else.  As I walked out of my office and into the kitchen I noticed the dishes that needed to be done, so with a big sigh, I tackled that fun project.  At this point, it was still one of those rough days, but I could feel it getting better and it had nothing to do with the blackberry moonshine.  Seriously.

With the kitchen now mostly clean I was able to sit on the couch for a moment to breathe and reflect.  Here it was, nearly six at night and in my mind, I really accomplished very little during the day, but it was okay because, although I got into that Aspie tunnel vision mode, I was able to avoid having a meltdown and that was an accomplishment.

When I lived outside Buffalo, New York, my neighbiors always invited me over to watch MMA and since I’m no longer there, when it’s on they generally remind me and when I can watch, I do and we text back and forth talking trash about the fighters and pick winners,  The first fight that I turned on happened to be two women and when asked who I was taking, I watched for a few minutes and decided that if I was ever in a bar fight (something I plan on NEVER being in, mainly because I don’t frequent bars), that I wanted the dark haired one on my side.  She ended up winning and my day/night started going a little better.

After realizing that I hadn’t eaten anything since ten am and it was now a little after eight, I decided I needed some good old fashioned California comfort food, so I whipped up a pot of albondigas soup (Mexican meatball) and let it simmer until around ten before gulping down a couple bowls.

By this time, the violence was over and there wasn’t much worth watching on TV, so I checked out what free movies were available.  The Fantastic Four caught my eye for some reason, and I started watching it.  Late in the movie, The Thing meets his future girlfriend, a blind woman named Alicia, and as she’s feeling his face so she gets an idea what he looks like, she said something that resonated with me and made me realize something.

I was frustrated with myself for getting the tunnel vision today and for putting so much focus and mental energy into something that wasn’t worth all that I expended and to be honest, I was a bit down on myself for that.  What Alicia said is this.

“Being different isn’t always a bad thing.”

Yeah, my brain is wired a little different than most, and that’s something that generally I’m proud of and I advocate for all my fellow Aspies to be treated like people and to find ways to integrate their lives with those not on the spectrum so they can feel normal and not like we’re weird or crazy. 

Today I let that different brain get the better of me and I’m not overly proud of that, but I can own it and admit it.  Good or bad, right or wrong, it’s who I am and I need to learn that when we have rough days, that we, and by we I mean my fellow Aspies as well as neurotypicals (non-autistics), need to take a step back, breathe and regain our focus.  

It’s now a little after one am and I could have left this until tomorrow (technically today) to finish, but I felt it was important for me to write this and get this out before I went to bed.  I felt like sleep would come easier if I did, knowing that today was one of those rough days, but that I found a way to turn it into a good evening and knowing that Sunday will be a much better day.

 

P.S.  I woke up Sunday morning, put the music on my phone on shuffle and the first four songs that played were my favorites, plus I got a message to meet someone for lunch that I’ve been wanting to meet up with.  Sunday is definitely NOT going to be one of those rough days!

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

Brain overstimulation, the ugly truth

Brain overstimulation, the ugly truth

Overstimulation.  To those on the spectrum, it’s a word that brings fear and panic.  I know because as the blog name implies, I’m a high-functioning autistic who was diagnosed six years ago at age forty-six.  For the majority of my life I was never able to figure out why I would get tired, irritable and become a huge pain in the ass from time to time, but now I know it was because my brain was becoming overstimulated and I hadn’t given it a chance to rest up.

I’m not a computer geek by any means, though at times I wish I was.  I liken overstimulation to having to reboot your computer when it freezes up.  I’m writing this on Easter Sunday and on Saturday I had an event that I had been looking forward to for probably two months.  A friend of mine, Lisa, and her crew from Paranormal Science Labs was coming to my town, Hollister, MO to investigate the Olde English Inn, which is reported to be haunted.

They were giving a public tour and investigation to the State of the Ozarks Creative Community, of which I’m a member, but after the general shenanigans were over, Lisa was going to let me and Tye hang with them for, shall we say, the after-party and get down to some real ghost-busting.

It was going to be a blast and I was really looking forward to seeing what could be seen, but I got so focused on other things that I forgot to pace myself and when Saturday came, so did the overstimulation.

I’m writing a book titled, An Asperger’s Guide to Dating and Relationships With Neurotypicals and between my physical therapy to rehab my shoulder surgery and spending close to fifteen hours a day with my face in a computer monitor writing and in front of a tablet reading for research on the subject, I was overwhelmed.  On top of that, I took Tye out on Friday night to a taping on one of my favorite shows, The Mystery Hour and that kept us out late.

Saturday morning I was back on the computer writing and dealing with family stuff until it was time to go to a meeting at two before the ghostbusting at seven.  When we got back home around four I knew I had burnt the proverbial candle at both ends and overstimulation had set in long ago.  So, I texted Lisa to apologize and by 4:30 I was in bed.

I woke up at 10:30 pm feeling much better but knowing that I still needed more rest.  I put a service vest on Tye, we ran to Walmart to do some quick grocery shopping and once we arrived back at home, I put away the groceries. took a shower and was back in bed.

The sad thing is that I know better than to do what I did, but I ignored the warning signs of overstimulation and continued to push myself through them.  #stupid.  All this could have been prevented had I just allowed myself to take breaks and step away from the computer and the tablet for a while.

My fellow Aspies, life is short and I’m lucky that Lisa is coming back in June, so I’ll have another chance to bust ghosts with her, but what if it had been a one-time event like a wedding, a birthday party or something else special that I had missed because I couldn’t  control myself and allowed my triggers to get the best of me.

Do you want to hear the really funny part of this story?  Part of the time that I was writing on Friday and Saturday, I was writing about pacing yourself and avoiding overstimulation.  How ironic is that?  Here I am reminding my fellow Aspies to avoid burnout and potential meltdowns by avoiding overstimulation and here I am overstimulation myself at the same time.  To me, it sounds pretty stupid.

I can tell you one thing for sure and that’s, in the future, especially the very near future, I will definitely be watching myself, what I’m doing and how much I’m running around with my head on fire and will absolutely keep it under control.

How about you?  Do you allow yourself to get overstimulated?  If so, how do you control it and what do you do about it once it happens?  I’m curious to know and I’m sure the other readers are as well.

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

Aspergers IS Autism

Aspergers IS Autism

It’s no surprise that autism is a condition that many, or probably most, have little understanding of.  Autism, the spectrum or whatever it is that we’re calling it this week, is an ever-evolving condition, and research is constantly bringing new information to light.

When I graduated high school in 1984, the term “Autism” was being used on only the lowest functioning of us, but by 1991 they were diagnosing kids in school as autistic and by 1994, the term Aspergers was being used to describe high-functioning autism.  Nineteen years later, in 2013, the spectrum officially replaced all the former terms I just used, though the reality is everyone still used the terms, “Autism,” “Aspergers,” and “High-functioning Autism.”

The reason I bring all this up is that today I received a huge shock when I went for my yearly check in with my neurologist.  As I sat in the room with the nurse, who was an RN, I know that because her name tag said so, she got on the computer and went through my list of medications and things like my recent triple rotator cuff surgery and she mentioned Aspergers.  Then we actually had the following conversation that she started.

“I’m not going to add autism in here because I want the doctor to check you out before that goes on your record.”

“Uh…you already have it in there.”

“I do?  I don’t see it.”

“You said Aspergers as you were going down the list.”

“Right, but I was talking about autism.  I want the doctor to make sure you have that.”

There was a long, awkward silence while I stared at her with a look of befuddlement on my face while I again checked her name tag to make sure she really was an RN.

“You do know that Aspergers IS high-functioning Autism, right?”

“It is?”

“Yeah.”

What makes this conversation really sad is that there are only three types of doctors who typically diagnose people as autistic, Asperger’s or on the spectrum and that’s psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurologists.  One would expect an RN working for a neurologist to know this, but apparently not.

I write this not to bag on this particular nurse, but rather to point out how little people actually understand about us.  And by, “Us,” I mean people on the spectrum.

One of my neighbors recently said that the girl who moved in around the corner had some condition, but she couldn’t remember the name, She knew it was something like being mentally retarded, but couldn’t think of it.  Moments later she remembered and said, “She’s autistic.”

I sat there saying nothing while her husband nearly fell out of his chair laughing as he asked her if she needed some WD-40 to help get her foot out of her mouth.

“You know that J.R. is autistic, right?”  He asked her.  “And I believe you meant developmentally disabled and not mentally retarded.”

How do we go about educating people about what it means to be on the spectrum?  The answer is simple.  We talk about it.  Too many people I know that are high-functioning autistics try and hide it from everyone because they’re ashamed.  What’s to be ashamed of?  Autism isn’t some funky venereal disease that one can only pick up from a, uh, working professional.

I’m proud to be an Aspie and in fact, I’m planning on having the picture on the left tattooed on my left inner bicep.  On the About page on this website, I proclaim that I have Aspergers and I have no problem telling people.  Why?  Because as mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A simple analogy is that our brains are wired differently than that of a Neurotypical (NT or non-autistic person).  Our brains aren’t wired better, just different.  There are a lot of people who have this crazy idea that the autistic brain is on a higher level than that of a neurotypical brain and that’s simply a myth.

The problem with studies conducted on autism and Asperger’s is that no one can exactly agree on the numbers, however, studies are all generally in the same neighborhood, which makes them seem pretty legit.  Studies show that 5-8% of NT’s fall into the genius IQ range and 7-10% of those with Asperger’s.

Realizing that there is always the disclaimer on these studies that say the results are within 1-2% either way, that still means that IF, and I stress IF, Aspies have a better chance of being a genius than their NT counterparts, it’s just a 1-3% difference and when you consider the number of Americans as a whole, I personally consider it a wash and say that one group isn’t any smarter than the other.  That’s something I’d like to see those guys on Mythbusters try and bust.

So how do we educate people on what autism is and isn’t?  That’s a good question.  I think that child autism advocates like my great friends at Stars For Autism and Adult Asperger’s advocates like myself and others need to keep on doing what we’re doing and maybe even step up our game.

People in general and especially those at the city and county government levels would also benefit from shelling out ten dollars for the book, Blueprint for an Autism Friendly City: How Battlefield Became the First Autism Friendly City in Missouri,” written by my friends and mentors Dr. Linda Barboa and Jan Luck.  They went into the city of Battlefield and spent an enormous amount of time making that city autism-friendly.  The book is available on Amazon and is definitely worth reading.

autismAnother outstanding book, also by Dr. Barboa and Jan Luck, and one which I bought for my mom, brother, and daughter to help them understand me is,  The Nuts and Bolts of Autism: Just the Facts! It was written for guys, as we have a need to want things in a condensed version so we can move onto our next project, but it’s a must-read for anyone who has an autistic person in their life, is an Aspie or wants to learn about the condition.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but in late April or early May, my book, “An Aspergers Guide To Dating Neurotypicals: P.S. It’s For Married Couples Too!”  Will be out and by the time school gets out for the summer, “Asperger’s Isn’t Contagious: Helping High School & College Students Understand and Include Their Autistic Peers In Their Social Groups.”  Will be on Amazon and several more places, including the parent website of this blog, Purple Chin Media.

Now, those may sound like shameless plugs, but really they’re not.  They’re tremendous resources and I give you my word that I will NEVER promote anything just for the sake of promoting it.  The books I’m writing, I do because I have a true desire to help my fellow Aspies integrate into the community as a whole and to no longer feel like they’re on the outside looking in.  I did that for forty-five years, as I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at forty-six and I can tell you it’s not fun.

Even now, I’ve been in my new home in the Ozarks for eight months and I can count on one hand the number of people I would call true friends.  There are only two that I’ve done anything socially with and only two that I would, very hesitantly, call for help.  My point is, that even though I know how to integrate into mainstream society, the reality is that it’s hard.  It also doesn’t help that I spend most of my time banging away on the keyboard in an effort to help my fellow Aspies, because, as I said a moment ago, that’s where my heart truly is.

To sum this all up, Asperger’s, autism, spectrum, and Aspie are all the same thing.  They’re interchangeable words and we need to help educate the community at large about our condition and that we’re regular people, just like them.  If you find the information in this site informative and helpful, I encourage you to share it with your friends, whether or not they know of an autistic person in their lives.

The reality is, with the CDC saying 1-68 of us have autism and with knowing that they plan on changing that number to a lower number in the near future, you most likely work with, live near or interact with Aspies on a daily basis and don’t even know it.  Knowledge is power, my friends, so please, take the time to learn what you can and share it with others.

Please keep checking back for new posts, and in fact, take a moment and look up in the upper right-hand corner of this page to sign up for new posts via email.  Your info is safe with me.  It won’t be sold or used for any purpose other than it was intended.  I hate spam and I respect your desire to read what I have to say.  It makes me feel good and I won’t break that trust.

autismI have a special guest blogger this week.  He comes to us from my personal blog, A Calazarkian Life, and is truly is a one of a kind writer with a unique perspective.  That’s right, it’s my best friend and loyal companion, Tye the world’s only blogging autism service dog,  Tye never disappoints, so please sign up and be notified when he posts,  Don’t let his apparent laziness in this picture fool you, he’s just resting up to write some awesome prose.

Have a great week!

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

Aspergers dating- navigating potholes

Aspergers dating- navigating potholes

I’m not sure why a majority of my blog posts contain disclaimers at the top, but they do.  It’s probably to keep my Asperger’s butt out of hot water from other people, but either way, this is my disclaimer when it comes to Aspie dating. 

Dating between two NT’s (neurotypical’s or non-autistics) is tough and can be downright insane at times.  Now imagine if one of you is on the Spectrum and it can be a circus.  That’s because our brains are wired differently.  One set of wiring isn’t better than the other, they’re just two different ways of thinking, reacting and navigating our way through life.

  Dating is a two-way street.  There has to be both give and take or it’s not a real relationship.  What I say in this piece, even though at times it may sound like a slam on Lilly, the woman I dated that I use as an example, it’s not.  The same, or similar. could be said about me.  As in any relationship, each person contributes to both the good and the bad.  That being said, here we go…

log cabin datingIn early August I moved to the Ozarks from Southern California to enjoy a lower cost of living, nature and a more peaceful life.  As you can well imagine, So. Cal. is nothing but sensory overload and that’s not good for us Aspies (those with Asperger’s).  Here I’m among trees, lakes and occasionally have deer in my front yard.  Plus, I live in a log cabin, which is pretty cool.

In October I started dating Lilly (not her real name).  I had just gotten my autism service dog, Tye, and this was my first time dating with a black lab as a chaperone.  I was very upfront about my condition and the fact that not only would Tye be on the date, but if we continued to date, it would always be a threesome of sorts.

Get your mind out of the gutter because that is NOT what I meant!

Lilly was fine with it, which quite frankly, surprised the hell out of me.  I expected that women would see a guy who owned up to being autistic and had to have a service dog to help him stay calm and relaxed and take off running for the hills, pun completely intended.  Even if you didn’t get the pun (Ozarks…hills) it was funny to me and that’s what really matters.

I get down on myself quite easily, which is why I figured that a nice, attractive woman would want no part of a guy who had to rely on a canine to make his life better, but I was wrong.  The first date was great, as was the second, third, fourth and probably even the fifth.  Things were humming along nicely until shortly before Thanksgiving when Lilly invited me to go with her to her hometown to enjoy the holiday with her family.

Ask any Aspie what it’s like to be in a closed setting with a lot of people you don’t know and they will tell you that it’s terrifying.  I knew from past family holiday gatherings that it would be a very difficult experience for me and that’s why I told Lilly several times, even as recent as the night before Thanksgiving, that I was considering staying home with Tye and just cooking a chicken.

I knew she wanted me to go and meet her family and I know that she told me she had prepared her family for the fact that the guy she was dating was autistic and had a service dog.  The mere thought of meeting all these people and having to talk to some of them freaked me out like you can’t believe.  To say she wasn’t happy that I was considering staying home is a huge understatement and so I did what any good boyfriend would do.  I sucked it up, brought extra anxiety pills and went with her.  Big mistake!

It was everything I expected and more. We came in the back door and I planted myself in a chair and didn’t get up out of that chair until it was time to eat.  She asked me several times to come mingle and every time I said no, I could see her frustration growing. 

Sorry, but there was no way I was going into the kitchen and the main part of the house because that’s where most people were and so at mealtime Lilly fixed me a plate and brought it to the table I moved to, about eight feet from where I had been sitting the past few hours, mostly alone, while she hung with her family.

After dinner, the room I was in started filling up and so did my body with panic  I took Tye out for a short walk and when I came back inside, there were even more people in the room and the panic attack went from Code Orange to a full-on Code Blue.  I told Lilly I was going out to the car and she could come out whenever she wanted to.

Whenever she wanted to, turned into more than an hour of me sitting in a freezing car and partially fuming because the woman I was dating didn’t care that I was having a panic attack and was in total discomfort.  After a half dozen texts from her, almost demanding that I come in and me responding that I was staying put, she finally took the clue that I wasn’t coming back in and stopped texting, though she stayed inside with her family.

are you dating an AspieWhen she finally arrived at my car, she told me that her family wasn’t happy that I didn’t come in to say goodbye.  She also informed me that she told her family I had stomach issues and that’s why I was in the car.  I was upset that she hadn’t been honest and told them I was having a panic attack.  In my mind, she was embarrassed about me and that’s what started the off again portion of the on again/off again relationship. 

Again, I’m not saying this to make her feel bad, but it hurt that the woman I was dating seemed to be ashamed of who I really was and couldn’t share that with her family.  Also, I was hurt that she was really upset at me for having the huge panic attack I had warned her about for weeks and which could have been avoided if only I stayed home.

That three-hour drive back was extremely awkward.  I was fuming and she couldn’t get why.  After a couple weeks, we talked (though she still couldn’t figure out why it was wrong to not tell her family the truth) and we tried again.  This time I think it probably lasted all of a weekend. 

It didn’t matter how many times we talked about communication, there never seemed to be much of it that went right. I could go on and on for hours, but the bottom line is that it would all turn into a disaster sometime between her arrival on Friday night and Saturday night/Sunday morning.

I liken a relationship to driving down the same road every day.  One that the city needs to fix in a big way.  That road is full of potholes and you can either hit them and throw your car, and your back, out of alignment, or you can learn where they are and navigate your way around them so you have a smooth commute.

We tried to navigate the potholes a few times, but nothing ever seemed to work for more than a week at a time.  Communication between us was horrible and once the communication broke down, so did everything else.  Lilly lives about forty-five minutes away with roommates and I live alone with Tye, so most weekends she would come down here.  There were times that by Saturday night I was ready to have her pack up and head home. but I rarely said anything because of the extra drama I knew that would ensue.  Does that make me a wimp?  Probably, and I own that, though not proudly.

Not every Aspie on NT relationship is bad.  There are several people I know who have very successful relationships.  One person I know, Darrin, has been married to an NT for twenty-five years and a high school friend, Sally, is in an amazing marriage with a guy on the spectrum that she met online.

As I mentioned before, communication is key.  The couple almost has to develop their own language to communicate properly and they can’t be afraid to ask for clarification if something isn’t clear or if they think the other person is talking down to them.  If they’re truly in love, or at least in deep like, chances are that it’s a misunderstanding and not the other person talking smack to their partner.

I could go on and on for many chapters and possibly even a book on this subject, but the last big tip to leave you with today is to develop a respect for each other and the differences between the two of you.  The reality is that the Aspie has certain limitations, many of which are social, and the NT partner needs to be ready, willing and able to pick up the slack and lift the other up. 

Just as autistic kids have meltdowns, so do adults.  If we allow ourselves to get overstimulated, more often than not the proverbial you know what will hit the fan.  I know my limitations as far as stimulation and sensory overload go, and my partner, if indeed I ever decide to date again (and right now that’s a HUGE if), needs to know as well and needs to be able to see the warning signs.  If our partners know our triggers and can help us manage them, that is more of a blessing than an NT could ever imagine,

There will be many more blog posts on dating over the weeks, months and years to come and now that I’m writing this, I realize how much there is to talk about, so maybe an e-book is in order.  We’ll see.

Now that you’ve heard my story, I want to hear yours and so do the rest of the readers.  Give them to us, both good and bad.  What worked for you and what didn’t?  Unless we come together as a community and share, nothing will ever get better.  See the comment box below?  Use it.  Please!

 

Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people.  There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red.  If you have Aspergers or are a loving NT of an Aspie, I definitely suggest asking to join the group.  They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.

 

My Aspie brain won’t let me sleep

My Aspie brain won’t let me sleep

After my post yesterday about Stephen Hawking and calling him the poster boy for Suck It Up, Buttercup, I feel like an idiot for being up at 1:25 am writing this.  But I am.  Because I’m an Aspie (someone with Asperger’s) and I can’t always control my brain, it’s running at top speed worrying and thinking about things that in the grand scheme of life are nothing, but inside they worry me like you can’t believe.

What’s going through my head at this moment?  Two things, really.  Neither of which I can do anything about at this moment, but still, I lie awake and worry, because I’m an Aspie and that’s what we do.  It’s not what we want to do, but it’s what we do.

The first thing is laughably stupid.  For over a year I’ve been harassed by a sales guy ay Yelp.  I keep telling him not to call, but he does.  Repeatedly and often.  So far I’ve blocked eight numbers from Yelp that he calls from, but still, he calls.  If I don’t answer, he just calls more often.  Last week I was having coffee with a friend when he called yet again.  I told him I wasn’t interested and to stop calling me.  Not twenty seconds later, my phone rang and it was him again.

“I don’t think you understand our latest program…” was all I heard before hanging up and blocking number nine from the 415 area code.  I tried contacting the company by phone, but no one, not even the operator, answers the phone.  Everyone has voice mail.  So I went to them via Facebook and Twitter and to my amazement, I was completely blown off and was told that I would not get a call back from anyone in regards to this because only their sales team has phones and they do business by DM and email only.

Again, this is something so stupid that it shouldn’t be bothering me, but being blown off and feeling like no one cares bugs me.  Why?  Because I’m an Aspie and that’s what our brains do.  It takes little things and won’t let us get rid of them, even though we want to in the worst way.

The second thing involves a doctors appointment later today.  Six weeks ago I had pretty major shoulder surgery and I have an appointment with the surgeon’s nurse practitioner.  “Where’s the problem?”  You ask.  Well, she’s afraid of dogs and had a rough time entering the room when I saw her before the surgery, but Tye, my autism service dog, was great and just chilled on the floor next to me and when the NP left the room she was comfortable with him and complimented him on his behavior.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from someone at the doctor’s office, who refused to give her name, telling me not to bring Tye because the nurse practitioner doesn’t like dogs.  I politely reminded her that the NP had been in the room with Tye before and had no problems and again I was asked not to bring him.

I then reminded this person that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t contain a clause for nurse practitioners that are afraid of dogs.  The woman sighed and said, “OK then, do what you want.”  To me it sounded threatening, but what do I know?  Remember, I’m an Aspie and taking cues from people isn’t always our strong suit.

My fear is that I’m going to show up with Tye and they’re going to start some sort of drama that will end up biting them in the butt in a big way.  No, not Tye.  He doesn’t bite.  I mean fines and the junk that goes with not allowing a service dog into your business.

Not allowing a service dog into your business isn’t exactly what you would call legal and my brain is racing as I think of every possible scenario that probably won’t, but might, happen.  How I should or will react to that situation, isn’t going to change what happens when I walk through those doors shortly before 9:20 am.  But I worry about it because that’s how the Aspie brain works and though I hate it in ways most people can’t understand, that’s just the way it is for me right now.

yellow light aspieThere are ways we can slow down our brains and help us sleep, but right now those ways aren’t working for me and I’m not quite sure why.  So instead of staying in bed getting frustrated, I decided to come to the computer to regale you with this tale of not sleeping because I’m worrying about stuff I can’t fix or change.

The point of this isn’t the obnoxious, arrogant culture at Yelp or the rudeness of the woman at my doctor’s office.  It’s that our brains function in ways that we don’t always like, but I need to take a moment and remember what I wrote less than twenty-four hours ago about Stephen Hawking and tell my Aspie brain to suck it up, buttercup and let me get some sleep.

I doubt that simply remembering those words will work, but I’m going to cross my fingers, put on some meditation music and give sleep another shot. 

Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be held back

Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be held back

This story isn’t about the degrees Stephen Hawking received and the individual accolades he racked up.  It’s about a man who life kicked in the crotch and who kept rolling along, always finding a way to overcome and succeed.  If you want to know what degrees he had and what actual discoveries he made, I can direct you to at least a thousand other articles that are online today.

I’m an Aspie and proud of it, but I’m not always proud of the way I react to situations.  Something doesn’t go as planned or I get way overstimulated and there’s a possible meltdown on the horizon. 

stephen hawking smilingCompare that with the fact that Stephen Hawking had to talk by moving his cheek muscle and you’ll see that the problems of the high-functioning autistic are the equivalent to stubbing one’s toe in the middle of the night as you dip that giant Hershey bar into a jar of peanut butter.  If in fact, you’re one who would do such a thing at three in the morning.

I look at moments that didn’t go my way, but for Stephen Hawking, life itself didn’t go his way.  I get depressed and anxious about things that I think are huge but in reality. are nothing.  Last night when I read the sad news that Dr. Hawking had passed, several thoughts raced through my brain.  Once I was able to slow that Aspie roll, here’s what I came up with.

 

  1.   Stephen Hawking is the poster boy for Suck It Up Buttercup!
  2.    He had more inner strength than I will ever hope to have.
  3.    Stephen Hawking took everything life threw at him and, if he had the physical ability, would have flipped it the bird.
  4.    The man that I playfully and respectfully referred to as Doc Hawk, had a sense of humor about life and about his situation, as noted by his several guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory.
  5.    This guy was more of a man than most of us will ever hope to be, because physical strength, physique, and cool hair don’t make a man.  What Stephen Hawking stood for, what he accomplished and who he was inside made him the man that he was.

 

Stephen Hawking, I don’t understand a thing that you accomplished in your professional career but I do understand the kind of person you were and frankly, anyone who has a disability should be proud to have had you in our posse for seventy-six years.  You are, or at least should be, a hero to each and every one of us and to the population as a whole.

Your life was an example of how we should live our own and I’m happy to be able to say that I shared this earth with you for fifty-two of your years and was able to see firsthand who you really were and what you were all about.

Roll on through those pearly gates, Stephen Hawking and know that, while you’re in a better place, the world is a little worse off today without you in it.  Thank you for being a shining example to us all.