Tuesday, September 29, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 9/22

One site again.  The doctor was thinking about doing two, but when she asked about the effect of the first one and I reported feeling more awake, she muttered something about my brain being very sensitive and put the LENS equipment away.

I'd be annoyed, but she's probably right.  I can throw my entire mood down the toilet if I eat too much sugar.  Getting insufficient sleep has definite effects on me.  It wouldn't at all surprise me if my brain was something on the order of the princess in "The Princess and the Pea," where the lady in question was apparently so sensitive that she could feel an uncooked pea shoved underneath 20+ mattresses, and that was enough to keep her from sleeping.  The story always struck me as utterly ridiculous, especially given the glorification of said sensitivity at the end, but the comparison may be apt.

This week I will be handing in my resignation to my job.  I don't love what I do, and since I have the option to not do it, I should focus on doing something else that will be satisfying and worthwhile.  It took me awhile to get to this point, because it's easy to stay miserable and stable, and hard to throw it away and pursue something new and only possibly better.  I blame my doctor.  She won't mind the negative phrasing of that last sentence and will definitely approve of my decision to leave. 

This week I also have to panic about presents (three family birthdays incoming, gah), get tires for my poor long-suffering car, and get new shoes.  October is the month of wallet-suffering for my family.  My mother, father, sister-in-law, and I all have birthdays in October.  My brother is the only one to break the trend, with a birthday in June.  The parents and my sister-in-law's birthdays also fall within two weeks of each other.  And I'm doing to be seeing all of them in a week or so.  Must shop for aaaaallll the things. 

I might see if I can get a haircut this week or next, too.  It's getting cooler outside, but my hair is not getting in any better condition and I'm kind've tired of it being everywhere.  I'll see how much it'll take to donate the cut hair to Locks of Love, then have them do something nice and low maintenance with whatever's left.  At least it'll be easier to care for in the morning. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

On "mind blindness"


This article gives a brief history of how autism came to be associated with a lack of empathy.  It also makes an important point about empathy: that just because you lack the innate cognitive ability to recognize why someone is sad or angry doesn't mean you lack the ability to emotionally share or pick up on that sadness or anger. 

Personally, I feel like I fell behind on the cognitive ability, at least for awhile, but the emotional ability to feel others' emotions has been there, making my life painful.  I think in general I have a low tolerance for emotions.  I used to cry a lot when I was little, whether I was in pain or sad or angry or happy.  It wasn't a choice, my eyes just got started and didn't wait for the rest of me to okay that it was appropriate to do so.  Sometimes my eyes' enthusiasm plagues me to this day, and it irritates the heck out of me.

I can't tell if LENS has made that better or worse.  I feel more emotions now, rather than walling them away because they're exasperating and don't make sense and are hideously inconvenient.  But they're still plenty exasperating, hideously inconvenient, and don't make sense. 

I think maybe I'll keep that phrase "my eyes' enthusiasm," or maybe "my eyes' exuberance" to describe why I tear up more often than I'd like.  It's a fallacy, of course, my brain is probably the culprit, but I have a lot of things to scowl at my brain about already.  Best to spread out the blame and maybe amuse some people in the process. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 9/15

One site today again, at LENS.  I guess that's just how it's going to be from now on.  No interesting side effects.  I'm a little concerned for the future, when we eventually get back to... I forget, either the motor strip or the sensory strip.  They're right next to each other on the brain, but the motor strip controls movement in your limbs and the sensory strip processes touch and stuff for your skin.  One of those two areas, when stimulated by LENS, makes me immensely angry, impatient, and unpleasant.  My doctor assures me it'll still be awhile 'til we get to that spot, though, so I should worry about it yet. 

I'm starting to have problems sleeping well again.  Something to talk to the doctor about.  I'm having trouble getting to sleep, but then I'm also having trouble staying asleep.  I used to be able to get by using sustained release melatonin... basically stuff that gives you regular doses of it all night, rather than just a ton of it to knock you out cold at bedtime.  Unfortunately I seem to be waking up repeatedly again.

I've switched back to the "knocks you out cold at bedtime" stuff because that hasn't been giving me wonky dreams and making me feel completely out of it in the morning.  The awakeness seems to give out of me about an hour or two into my morning, though, and then the tiredness makes me crabby.  Given how much I like my job to begin with, it's a not-fun combination. 

There're a number of things that could be contributing, such as my not-perfect diet right now, the fact that I've started reading webcomics right before bed (staring at backlit screens before bed is bad for you), or the fact that the stress of my job has ramped up with my decision to quit in the future.  Or a bunch of other things.  I believe "death by a thousand cuts" was how one of my friends described it.  Or I guess "grumpiness and stress by a thousand cuts," to be more accurate. 

I'm going to give it a month or so to see whether time will settle things down.  Once I run out of webcomic, I should be good to get back to reading actual books again.  That would solve the "bright screen before bed" issue, which might solve the "not sleeping well" issue.  Then too, I'll get more used to work and leaving it, so time will help with that too. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

On the effects of autism on trauma

I took a call today at work from an organization that works with kids with disabilities/differences, and their families.  The worker, if I recall correctly, hadn't ever spoken to this worker, but she had an extensive file on the case and insisted on telling me about it.  She had hopes that I could direct her to services for the family, whose only insurance was Medicaid.  (Medicaid is incredibly difficult to get therapy, medication, or really anything at all with.)

She got her recommendations.  I got a lesson in misconceptions about autism.  The case was a 10 year old boy, diagnosed autistic.  In the last few years, he had been sexually assaulted.  The worker told me, repeatedly, that the family felt his autism was a blessing, because he seemed somewhat unaware of the enormity of what had happened to him.  Sexual assault is always traumatic, she hastened to assure me, but the family was of the opinion that his autism was sparing him some of the more horrible feelings and reactions people have to such an assault.

I held my tongue at the time, because it's rare for any family to appreciate autism, I didn't have the words to express myself at the time, and I didn't want to yell at her for trying to do her best by the family.  She called to get resources to give the family, not to get a lecture.

But I should have given her the lecture, because the idea that autism protects you from trauma is the biggest bullshit I've heard this month, if not the whole year.  If that logic makes sense to you, I beg you, keep reading, because everyone needs to be disabused of this notion. 

Recently I accidentally dropped a 25 pound weight and the assorted contents of a shelf onto my foot.  Now, I'm not a trained medical professional.  I don't know the names of the bones in my foot.  I don't know how many major veins and arteries there are in there.  I don't even know precisely what made the puncture in my foot, because it was 1am and pitch black at the time.

Did the fact that I didn't know all that make the injury hurt any less?  Hell no.  My foot bled, bruised, and hurt like anyone else's foot.  However, unlike most people, I didn't yell, cry, call for help, or anything like that.  I just took my foot out from the pile of stuff, attempted to check whether I had broken bones (thankfully no), cleaned it, and bandaged it.

You know why I reacted that way?  Because I think differently than most people.  If someone saw that accident, and then saw my reaction, they'd probably think it wasn't that bad of an accident, and I'd seen something like this before or wasn't concerned about the accident.

But y'know what?  My foot bled on and off for days, and kept oozing plasma for more than a week and a half.  I was scared a lot of the time, even while I hobbled on it at work, because I've never broken a bone before and don't know what it feels like.  I spent a lot of time wondering if I needed to go to the hospital or the urgent care room, and worried about whether my doctor would yell at me for not immediately going.  And I spent a lot of time pretending my foot wasn't injured, because it really upset me to think about it.  I need my feet to work.  I don't have extra money to throw at medical expenses.

Would you see any of that if you'd watched me at work?  Absolutely not.  That's not how I naturally function.  To all appearances, I was merely inconvenienced by my accident.

My autism did diddly squat to protect me from the trauma of smashing my foot.  And as much as society likes to pretend emotional and mental illnesses and differences aren't the same as physical injuries, they absolutely are.  The fact that you can't see them bleed, or see a cast on them makes them even worse.  If people can't see anything wrong, they assume nothing's wrong, so you suffer in silence, alone.  

That 10 year old kid who's been sexually assaulted?  According to the case file, he's developing OCD-like behaviors and other anxious tendencies.  You want to tell me he's somehow shielded from some of the awfulness that was done to him?  Really?

No.  Do not buy that crap.   You don't need to know the size and speed of a foot-crushing object to feel every ounce of the pain.  Autistic people are often even more sensitive emotionally than their neurotypical counterparts. That boy is suffering as much or more than he would be if he was neurotypical, and worse, he's going to suffer alone.  His family is going to just keep thinking, "Well thank God for his autism, he's not showing the normal trauma reactions we expect victims like him, so he must not be suffering too much." 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 9/8

This is horribly belated.   I missed a couple weeks of LENS and Life, because I've been in a funk for the last couple weeks (unrelated to LENS).  In brief: (1) my job is really getting to me, (2) I accidentally overturned an entire shelf onto my foot, and (3) a computer game has been eating my social life.  In order of mention...

(1) I will not be at my job this time next year.  It's hurting my sanity and I think it's mostly outlived its usefulness in terms of educating me in ABA and autism.  I don't love the work, and it's not what I want to do with my life anyway.  I don't anticipate cheering about this decision from anyone except my doctor (she sees life very differently than other people), but it's mine to make.  My boy is okay with supporting both of us in the future, when I finally leave, and I intend to start attending events in the community.  Getting myself and my name out there, trying to help or direct people who need the direction. 

(2) The Shelf Incident.  So I keep a fan near my window and the window AC that's the room's only source of cooling.  I have to switch the fan between window and AC, which unfortunately involves moving a lot of stuff around.  This stuff includes several plastic crates full of miscellaneous etc, and a 25 pound weight.  So while I was doing that at 1 in the morning a couple Fridays ago, everything unbalanced just the wrong way and the crates and weight fell right off the shelf.  Naturally, gravity took its course and they fell at and on top of my feet.  Something- I'm not sure what- found the top of my foot, and the 25 pound weight followed after.  I yanked my foot away pretty fast, but whatever it was left me a nice deep puncture in the top of my foot.  Fortunately not a large puncture, but it was definitely bleeding. 

I did what most groggy first aid unsavvy people would do, which was to clean the stab site out, slap a bandaid on it, flex the entire foot to see if I had any broken bones (nope), and then go back to sleep.  I woke up about an hour later to the feeling of blood trickling down my foot, and a small puddle on my sheet.  I'd never seen an injury refuse to clot like that, so I woke up a bit more this time and slapped gauze over it, taped the gauze down with medical tape, bleached the sheets, and went back to bed.  I woke up the next morning to find it was still trying to bleed every time I moved.  Which is how I ended up wearing gauze and medical tape every day for a week and a half.  It stopped periodically bleeding after a couple of days, but refused to stop oozing plasma until I lost patience with keeping gauze on it and let the air dry it out. 

Which gets us pretty close to now, one day after I took a walk with my boy.  It feels like the internal injury bit of the puncture is mostly healed.  I've stayed off the foot as much as possible, but I don't want to get too out of shape.  At this point the internal bits pull slightly when I walk full stride, but don't hurt.  I'm able to wear my running shoes without pain.  So it's probably safe to say things are going to be okay.  I still want to get back to jogging, because that was good exercise and I need the exercise, but I'll be content with taking 2+ km walks for now. 

(3) World of Warcraft is a terrible thing for people with addictive personalities and less self-control than they would like.  It's an immense game, with an immense number of things to do.  Unfortunately, a lot of its players are not nice people.  To give you an idea of how many things there are to do...  Did you ever collect bottle caps, or stamps, or trading cards?  Great!  In WoW, you can collect mounts (like horses, dragons, gryphons, etc).  You can also collect toys, or special items you can use for an amusing but harmless effect ingame.  There are toys that let you blow bubbles ingame, toys that let you turn into other creatures, toys that summon a comfy chair or a board game.  And you can collect achievements, which are basically proof that you did a thing.  You can get achievements for completing a dungeon, collecting this or that hard-to-find toy or mount, or making your way through the entire story of an area.  

There are dozens of unique areas in the game, and you progress through them as you progress in the game on a character.  Each area has at least hundred quests, often much more, and while you don't need to do every quest in every area, there's a set of achievements for doing so across the world.  See how this all starts linking together?  You get achievements for collecting, for doing quests, for doing special areas called dungeons... 

The game is built on the concept of its players never, ever running out of things to do, and unfortunately, it succeeds.  I suspect the only group of people it doesn't succeed in keeping occupied are the ones who've played since the game began, and so were able to keep up with the absurd amount of content they've spooled out over the past 10 years.  Newer players, like myself?  Have no chance of ever catching up. 

The tagline I've given WoW is "just one more thing."  That's because when you play, you know you can stop playing at any time, but ooh maybe you should spend a few minutes trying to get this one thing.  It won't take long, and it looks really cool.  And once you finish that, you're notice from the information on the screen that there's an event going on right now, and maybe you should go do that since it's not always here, and when you've finish that you get distracted by a friend ingame wanting to do this or that together... and by the time you look up it's past your bedtime and you have work in the morning. 

I suspect, if I weren't under so much stress and frustration with life and politics and everything, I wouldn't be so susceptible to the "just one more thing" syndrome WoW manipulates you into.  But unfortunately, that's my life right now.  It took me awhile, but about a month ago I canceled my subscription.  It's a monthly subscription, so it took until yesterday to run out.  Hopefully this will mean more time to spend on my blog, with my friends, and on life in general. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

A short history of autism and its myths


This is an interest piece for a recently released book: a man's take on autism, its history, and the ways we look at it as a result.  The article itself briefly summarizes several key parts of autism's history, including Professor Hans Asperger and the movie Rain Man.  (I have yet to see the movie, but I'm a little afraid I'll wince all the way through it.  Depictions of autism in media have yet to do justice to us, with the exception of the Temple Grandin movie)

What I find most useful about this article, though, is located near the end.  It's a call to learn from the past, but not dwell on it.  Instead, to deal with what is.  We are here.  We are often suffering from alienation and misunderstanding.  And we're falling off the grid, because we don't stay small and cute, and the state and federal government stop paying to help us. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Autism and Creative Thinking


In brief: a study was conducted measuring creativity in people on the autism spectrum.  As it turns out, autistic people and people with other developmental disabilities are more likely to come up with unique ideas to creative problems.

Key sentence: "We speculate that [the results] may be because they are approaching things very differently."

Yes.  We are.  This is the entire point of the neurodiversity movement, and why eugenics is such a terrible idea.  If you wipe out diversity, you destroy humanity's potential to progress.  You lose all those ideas from all those people that don't make the perfect ideal model for a "healthy" human being. 

Great artists were often depressed.  Great men in history had psychological or genetic problems that made their lives a struggle, but they took that struggle and used the wisdom it gave them to benefit others.  (Examples: Vincent VanGogh, Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats, Abraham Lincoln, and the recently departed Robin Williams) 

Going by eugenics and the idea of "weeding out imperfections," none of these people would have been allowed to live.  The world would be a much poorer place without them, in my opinion. 

Eugenics and neurodiversity aside, it's nice to see another field besides IT possibly opening its arms to people on the spectrum.  I think we have a lot to offer pretty much any field, but the vast majority of them aren't welcoming to people with social difficulties.  Because humans are such social creatures, it's immensely difficult for people without social intuition to network their way into most fields. 

Perhaps I'll be able to watch different fields of the world open their arms to neurodiversity the way I watched one state after the next approve equal marriage.  It was like watching dominoes, in very slow motion.  Someday soon, I hope.