Friday, October 30, 2015

Minus One Job, and What's Next

Yesterday was the last day of my job at Hope Network.  I have mixed feelings about that; change is hard for people on the spectrum, even good change.  But my boss was a good guy about it.  He went and snagged me some nice boxes of tea, including one he personally enjoys.  So I had a cup yesterday evening, and it was quite pleasant. 

He also snagged a card for me, and went around getting it signed by the staff.  Mostly the one from the building I worked in.  People said some nice things, so that was sweet of them.  I need to find a place to display things that make me happy (-ier), because I'd like to put that up.  Probably going to have to wait 'til I have more space, though.  There were also "muffins" (gourmet muffins, definitely cupcakes with delusions and less icing). and those were tasty. 

Notably absent from any of this was my boss' boss.  She definitely had the news that I was leaving almost immediately after I put in my notice, but beyond checking what day I was leaving, I had not a word from her.  Does that say something about her, or something about my work, I wonder.  Most people, my boss included, seemed to think I'd done an okay job.  Or better than okay.  It's just odd, and puzzles like that bother me.  It's like seeing something out of the corner of your eye in a computer game, repeatedly. 

The difference between an angry expression and a fearful one is a few muscles, mostly around the eyes.  If you 're not looking for those little details, you can misinterpret a situation entirely wrong.  That's what makes that detail bothersome.

Eventually I'll have to truncate that train of thought, because it's unproductive.  I don't think I'll come to any understanding I don't already have.  Either she'll tell me what was up, or I'll live the rest of my life not knowing.  Either way, it's a little sad.  We didn't necessarily get along extra well.  I think she's used to communicating in emotions, or thinks that I do.  And I really don't.  I have emotions, and they can play a role in what words I choose, but given that I'm practically another species for brain wiring, I don't think it's wise to assume my emotions match a normal person's in any given situation.  Nor that I'm even listening to those emotions.  I communicate in words and logic.  Furthermore, I say what I mean, directly and honestly.  This sometimes results in misunderstandings, ironically. 

There was one conversation where she said I needed to do something, and I said "I'll do my best."  And she must've thought I was trying to weasel out of it or something, because she all but got in my face, telling me that this was part of my job (well duh) and she expected me to do it (double duh).  I would've gotten annoyed, but I kinda figured that would just make her more angry.  So after three or four repetitions of, "Yes, I understand, and that's why I'll be doing my best to do it," she left off. 

Classic misunderstanding.  There's a lot of ways to say "I'll do my best," and clearly she's heard ones with attitude a lot more than she's heard ones like mine.  I don't at all appreciate it, but it's a mite more understandable with context. 

I probably won't hear another word from her, honestly.  Post-job, I intend to be at lots of seminars and meetings for autism.  I didn't really see her attending much of those, beyond (maybe) the Hope Network events.  With luck, though, I'll see my boss at those and other events. 

What's next for me is to keep busy, learning.  I'm thinking I might audit a class or two.  Grand Valley State University has an autism program.  Seriously, an entire course schedule specifically to teach you about autism.  I tried and failed to talk to the head of that program in the past.  What better way to learn what people are leaving school knowing about us, and what better way to connect with that professor? 

I think my hardest challenge there is going to be to not correct the professor if they say something I know full well is wrong.  Like "people on the spectrum don't have empathy."  If the program is as good as people say it is, they probably won't teach that fallacy, but you never know. 

In addition to snagging some classes, I'm going to be attending a number of seminars though Autism Support of Kent County, and probably several other programs.  I have a lot to learn.  I never had an IEP for school.  Disability and the laws around it were never on my radar.  I have no idea what the legislation for reasonable accommodations is.  But I need to know all these things, because that's the world for autistic people today.  I want to speak and write and make people understand what it's like to be autistic, but I also want to be a resource for people on and off the spectrum.  You can't improve lives just with understanding.  That's a major component, and immensely important.  But not enough. 

Understanding a nonverbal autistic is already difficult because we rely so heavily on words.  You can do it with observation and patience and lots of time.  But you can also help them help themselves with a program on a tablet.  It has pictures that the person can press, like a stop sign.  When pressed, they say things, like "I need a break."  You can customize those pictures to the person's interests and particular needs. 

I barely know any of this stuff, because I wasn't diagnosed until my 20s.  (Augh, I'm going to be 27 tomorrow.  Gee, age 30, you're looking very intimidating from here.  I'll just try to enjoy not being you yet, 'kay?)

I barely know any of this, but I need to.  I can't be a good representation of autistic people if all I have is my own experience. 

In the meantime, I'm also going to try to start up something I wanted to do 10 months ago: a D&D campaign.  I haven't had the energy or time to do it- more on that later- but I should now, if I'm careful about my scheduling. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 10/20

One site today.

My birthday is coming...  But first, my friend's birthday is coming, and I get to watch him squirm a little bit.  Also foist presents upon him.  Thankfully he's gotten a bit better about appreciating presents as gifts, rather than debt.  He was apparently radically conditioned to believe that he's a waste of matter, and all presents are debts that must be repaid because he clearly cannot possibly deserve either friends or freewill gifts.  I sympathize, because I too feel like a waste of matter on occasion, but do not even slightly agree.  He's a pretty cool guy, with a fantastic work ethic and an immense amount of passion for his hobbies, and he deserves all the appreciation he gets. 

Before my birthday hits, but after his hits, my job will end.  My doctor has recommended that I celebrate the end of my job and celebrate my birthday separately, so I might just do that.  (The fact that she's got at least two doctorates makes it extra amusing, because I can say "my doctor recommends..." quite seriously, like it's a prescription or something.)  At least one of those celebrations will involve fondue.  I've always kind've wanted to go to a fondue restaurant, so Chris has somewhat begrudgingly agreed to take me to The Melting Pot, a chain mid-fancy fondue restaurant.  They're not precisely around the corner, but at least they do have a location within half an hour's drive. 

I won't be able to have the meat fondue (I didn't realize that was a thing, now I want to try and make some with humanely raised beef), but I can definitely have the cheese and chocolate fondues.  The former are apparently served with vegetables and bread, and the latter with seasonal fruit.  I'm kind of excited.  I wish the experience wasn't going to be so expensive, but it's still going to be fun.  I really like both cheese and chocolate, so as long as I don't burn my tongue, it should be a good experience.  And a nice way to end the month. 

It's weird, I don't usually look forward to things.  Usually they fill me with dread, anxiety, or at least mild stress.  Progress, hopefully. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

High and Low Functioning, or Dehumanizing Descriptions

I hear autistic people described a lot as "high functioning" and "low functioning."  Even fellow autistics and parents use these designations.  I initially found myself using the descriptor "high functioning" to assure people that they didn't have to worry about me throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown or something amorphously awful.  But I've given it some thought after reading other sources, and I've decided to stop using those descriptions of people.

Firstly, as someone much better at speaking than me pointed out, calling someone high or low functioning is dehumanizing.  Respectively, you're calling them "almost human" and "not really human," and defining "human" as "able to blend into our health- and wealth-center idealizing culture."  That's not okay. 

Second, the standard of measure is false.  Saying someone is high functioning is effectively saying that they have few problems with blending into the modern culture.  That is false, at least in my experience.  The most successful of us to blend are the ones who can act; the ones who studied what "normal" is supposed to look like and shaped ourselves masks to fit. 

As long as we wear the masks, people won't give us too hard a time for existing, or draw away from us, or worry about being near us.  But they're just masks.  Worse, is that when you act "normal" people assume you have no problems.  That's laughable even for neurotypical people, but it's especially laughable for autistic people.  The autism alone gives us plenty of problems, but it often comes with a host of other problems: depression, anxiety, sound or touch sensitivities, and even food sensitivities or allergies.

I'm somewhat on the fence about how to describe autistic people so as to assure our humanity to the casual listener, but at least one category that can be used is "verbal" and "nonverbal," with plenty in between.  Most days, I'm pretty verbal and articulate.  Some days, not so much. 

In truth, I spent so long trying to learn what "normal" was and compromise with being myself and being "normal" that I'm not entirely sure whether the verbal and articulate parts I've developed are really me.  Or what exactly "me" is.  So perhaps I or someone else verbal and articulate on the spectrum will be able to develop a descriptor that doesn't deny humanity to those of us that are a bit different.... not less. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 10/13

One site again today.  It's probably just going to be one site forever, after this, until we eventually taper off and cease treatment entirely.  Or unless I get a traumatic head injury, I guess.  Going to try and pass on that. 

The family birthdays have almost abated.  I have to make sure to say something to my mother tomorrow, lest I be a terrible daughter.  I already gifted her something, and she liked it, but that's really not an excuse to ignore the day itself.  After this it's only friends' birthdays, and eventually mine.  Bleh.  Yay presents, boo people making me the center of attention.  I share that dislike with my boy.  Though it kinda looks like he's gearing up to throw me a party, which gives me license to visit the same unkindness on him next May.  I should probably tell him that in the spirit of fair warnings. 

A couple weeks left at the job.  This week has actually been kinda awful, so I started counting days.  I was really trying not to do that, because I've found it directly corresponds to a marked decline in good attitude, but at this point the attitude is already gone, so I might as well.  Between multiple new insurances, my boss forgetting to do stuff 'til the last minute (and then unfortunately having me do it, because he's still absurdly busy), and the never ending slew of callers and voicemails, I'm out of energy and sanity.  I am literally glaring at the phone when it rings, and not picking it up.  And sometimes making mouthy comments at it.  It deserves it.  The people on the other end probably don't, but that phone absolutely deserves my dislike. 

I'm starting to spend a lot of time in bed, rather than sitting at my computer or going out and doing things.  I think I might need to cut that out.  My bed is nice and comfy, but I seem to end the afternoons brain burned rather than feeling relaxed.  I blame the fact that I stare at a computer screen most of the time at work.  Doesn't really make me want to stare at a computer screen when I get home.  But perhaps if I started using my desk as a desk instead of a computer-stand, that could be something. 

My old desk wouldn't have stood for that, as it was barely big enough to hold my computer, but I have a new one.  I rescued it from the dumpster.  It unfortunately needed a good bit of cleaning, but it's relatively well made, larger and sturdier than my old one, and even comes with a keyboard shelf.  I don't dumpster dive as a hobby or even really a passing interest, but my mother taught me that sometimes people throw out perfectly good stuff.  I once got a fantastic (if odd) pole lamp that way, a coffee table I'm still using, a TV and VCR in college, and another TV I ended up gifting.  Also a couple computer screens, a keyboard (which I'm now using), a set of shelves, a handmade kitchen island (made for an apartment just like mine, still using), and this desk.  I guess donating things is a lot of hassle for some people.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LENS and Life, week of 10/6

One site today.

Well, the weekend was exhausting.  Not really surprising.  I love my family and they're pretty low key, but my grandmother is not improving and my little nephew has a cold.  Unfortunately that made him a little fussier and squeakier than he would've been otherwise, neither of which was helpful for stabilizing me.

I probably could've helped myself a bit by finding a place to go hide for a time now and then, but I see my family so seldom that it didn't really occur to me.  Once or twice a year is about the standard, unless it's my other grandmother.  She lives around here, so it's a little easier to visit.

Everyone in the family, practically, was taking pictures of my nephew and everyone else interacting with him.  After being bemused by that for awhile, I realized that while I absolutely still don't like pictures, we may not have my grandma around that long, and my nephew will never be this small again.  So I took a few videos with my new tablet.  (That would've been a useless gesture with my old iPad, but this tablet's camera is of sufficient quality that the result is passable.  Yay.  Much better than still pictures, in my opinion.)

I got to hold my nephew for a very short time.  I don't really know what to do with babies, so I basically just put out my arms and held very still.  If you hold very still, nothing can go wrong, right?  He didn't start crying, anyway, and I think people got some blackmail material, so that's all fine and well.

I ended up driving back late Saturday so I could sleep in my own bed, in my relatively quiet apartment rather than in the tiny cold bedroom above a blaring TV.  I got back home about two hours after my bedtime and was exhausted all the next day, but I still think it was worth it.  Now to survive the week.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Psychology says...

Have a graph.

That's a link to a graphical summary of some cognitive biases in Social Psychology.  Also a number of things I try to avoid or take into account on a regular basis. 

I try to avoid or sidestep #13, the placebo effect, the most.  A lot of the therapies and treatments I use aren't heavily backed by scientific studies, mainly because no one wants to fund those studies.  Research goes where the money is, mostly, so therapies like LENS and more natural remedies don't get a lot of attention or care.  This is extra unfortunate when those therapies actually do work, but you have to be careful; the power of belief is truly immense. 

#8, the conservatism bias, is hard for me to forgive sometimes.  I think that's because I'm still young and relatively flexible in thought.  Hopefully not because I'm an unaware hypocrite,  But I need to be more accepting, because there's been some evidence that people who're more conservative in nature are literally wired differently (brainwise) than liberal-minded people like me. 

#14, the innovation bias, sums up a lot of mistakes companies like Apple and Google make.  In some cases the product is actually excellent and just doesn't catch on, but... does anyone actually need an Apple Watch?  I don't.  Could just be me, I guess. 

#17 and #18, in my opinion, sum up a lot of the problems with human interaction.  We come to a discussion with an agenda in mind already: Us vs. Them.  The "Us" varies by the situation, but "Them" concepts are often very flat, unrealistic ideas.  Stereotyping is particularly annoying if people are expecting you to be Rain Man or entirely nonverbal. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

LENS and Life, Week of 9/29

No sites today, because my doctor is on vacation.  I should be fine for a week or so without LENS, but I'm worried about the upcoming weekend.  I will be seeing lots of family, including my new nephew.  I will also be staying in a house I don't much like, in a room that isn't mine. 

I love my family, and of all of us, I have the shortest drive for this family gathering, but I definitely expect this trip to be exhausting.  I've mostly managed to avoid being a terrible daughter/sister-in-law by snagging presents for everyone, so at least I have that going for me.  I still have to wrap them, though...

It's hard to think, honestly.  Road trips make my brain full of anxiety-fog, and this trip, though short, is no exception. 

Let's see... what else.  I put in my notice today.  My one-month notice.  My boss took it fairly well, which was good of him because it would have hurt if he'd gotten mad at me.  My reasons for leaving are good, and I know they're good, but it still kinda hurts to disappoint him. 

This week I also get to have my flu shot.  I'm getting it earlier in the year this year, and fervently hoping the disease experts chose the right strains.  When you get a flu shot, it's not just one kind of dead flu they inject you with, it's several.  That's in hopes that they'll cover whatever mutations the flu goes through as it travels.  Some years their guesses are better than others.  Without a job, the effect of having to stay home for a week wouldn't be as bad, but I'd still rather skip it.  I'm also really hoping I don't get sick from the shot, because apparently that happens too.  Still, likely to be less sick from body over-reacting to dead flu than body being attacked by live flu. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

More on the gifts of autism

Seems like there's increasing evidence for autism benefitting all kinds of intelligences and fields, not just science and mathematics.  I'm glad to see that, because math took a disliking to me in 6th grade and hasn't really gotten along with me since.  And science is fine, but not something I want to devote my life to.
My interests align more closely with writing, reading, education, and public relations.  I'm starting to see the need for visible autistic people, not just visible in print or in books or at conventions, but visible in the lives and communities of people.  But that's hard to do if people assume you can't do all of that from the start.  You can only kick down so many closed doors, y'know?