Friday, April 29, 2016

Comic: Understanding the Spectrum

A friend of mine linked this to me earlier this week, and I thought it was worth sharing since it taught me something.  Psychology, at least currently, defines everything (autism included) in spectrums. Specifically, as far as I can tell, straight line spectrums. The author here points out that a spectrum need not be a line, and in some cases is much better off visualized more complexly.  Instead, the author pulls out what I can only describe as the color-picker circle in drawing programs.

They list things autism can affect, such as language, motor skills, perception, executive function, and sensory filter.  I personally wonder how exhaustive those categories are...  I suppose I'll need to do more reading.  One thing the author definitely did correctly, though, was to exclude depression and anxiety as part of the color wheel/spectrum.  Those categories do apply to a large number of autistic people, but only because being a square peg in a round hole, then getting hammered down by society for not fitting right, is a traumatic thing and has adverse side effects.

You can be anxious about trying to fit in.  You can breed anxiety in yourself by constantly trying to make sure you're doing everything "right."  You can be depressed because despite all your efforts, you still stick out like a sore thumb.  And you can be depressed because people are cruel to you for sticking out like a sore thumb.  But autism itself does not directly make you depressed or anxious.  It's external forces that make you depressed or anxious, and the more you marinate (live) in them, the more likely you are to internalize them.  So even when people are no longer cruel to you, and even when you're fitting in just fine, you're still depressed and anxious.

I find myself wondering where precisely I fit into that color wheel/spectrum.  My executive function (ability to keep track of time and plan) has gotten markedly worse over time, even as my anxiety and depression have lifted.  My perception is pretty much stuck at crap.  I scored in the lowest 5% of humanity for comprehending and integrating visual detail.  I'm not entirely crippled; with a bit longer to look and a working knowledge of what to look for and where, I have learned some body language and facial expressions.  But my starting point is probably pretty close to center.

Motor skills just makes me laugh.  I joke that I have the best "bad balance" in the world.  Like my Latin teacher in high school, I can and absolutely will trip over a flat surface.  But also like him, I've learned to catch myself very adeptly, so it's rare that my clumsiness makes me fall to the ground.  I also started with rather poor manual dexterity/hand eye coordination/fine motor control.  Now, after years of practice, I can fold origami cranes and flowers, and they look decent enough.  I'll be folding a few hundred for my wedding decorations.  My parents also had me play the piano and a couple other instruments, which I can only assume helped as well.  I'll rate myself a middle on the motor skills, I guess?

I'll flatter myself and say my command of English is pretty decent, and I can usually get my point across in writing.  I'd have to ask someone else to say how good my body language is, but I'm going to guess it's not as good.  I recently attended a open microphone night, where people read poetry and sing songs they wrote themselves.  The best performers were the ones with very expressive faces, but also hand gestures, shifts in posture, and the like.  I can say pretty confidently that I don't measure up.  I could perhaps learn, but it's definitely not my natural talent.

Which brings us to sensory filters...  I've written on sound sensitivity before.  I guess I would say that my position on the sensory filter spectrum deteriorates the more stressed and unhappy I am.  Early in the day, I can shrug off loud noises without flinching, but if I've had a hard day, I might jump a foot out of my chair.  Sudden or sharp noises will disrupt my train of thought.  I'll be conscious of the refrigerator turning on when there is no reason that would be relevant.  I also have limited light sensitivity in that strong sunlight can hurt my eyes, but usually I don't have problems.

Recently I realized that I do in fact have touch sensory issues.  Temple Grandin talks, sometimes, about how a simple touch on the arm could hurt.  I've heard that from a few times from various sources, but it didn't occur to me that I might have that problem, since it's never really been something I noticed.  I don't mind hugs, after all.  However, sometimes if Chris affectionately strokes my arm, it does actually hurt.  Not a lot, so I didn't really notice other than being slightly uncomfortable.  But what should be a comforting sensation is too strong, and becomes uncomfortable, to the point of being slightly painful.  Between that and being irritatingly ticklish, it can be kind of frustrating.

So to get my position on the sensory filter part of the wheel/spectrum, I guess I'd need to plot and then average my various sensory issues.  Or just make a range.  Which gets us this!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LENS and Life, week of 2/26/16

No sites yet this week.

This weekend was exhausting.  I barely got to play any DDR, partially because I needed to keep my hair unsweaty, but there were three birthday parties (four, if you count the one yesterday!).  The three parties were for my grandmother, who has just turned 90.  There was a fancy dinner party, an open house, and then another dinner party that was thankfully less fancy.  The open house was very well attended, with many people coming to visit and congratulate my grandmother on her life and accomplishments.  I felt more like a showpiece than anything else for much of it, but that's acceptable, given the occasion.

I did get to see my parents and my brother and sister-in-law, though.  They live about 12 hours away in opposite directions (Connecticut and Iowa, respectively), and have their own lives, so it's unfortunately rare for me to get to spend time with them.  I even got to spend 15-20 minutes just with my sister-in-law.  In order to feed her baby properly, but not have to be onhand all the time, she's opted to use a breast pump machine to extract the milk for later use.  (She works full time as a professor, and my brother politely stays home and works on his thesis, bakes for a local shop, and does kidlet care.  The latter consumes a surprising amount of time, especially now that their son has started crawling...)

Due to society being rather touchy about a woman's chest (except, y'know, in ads, at the beach, and pretty much anywhere besides the context of child care), she excuses herself to a private area to use the breast pump.  She invited me along, and since I was rather "peopled out" and I don't get to talk with her much, I agreed.  The resulting experience was pleasant, if slightly odd.  The machine makes a surprisingly loud noise for such a small thing, and for all that my sister jokes about it ("mooooo") it is kind of odd to see such a machine work.  But it was a good conversation and I don't regret it in the slightest.

The last party, yesterday, was for a friend, and sadly about a week late.  Schedules are hard to align.  But she seemed to have a good time, and since it was a small party, it wasn't too stressful for her.  We played a game I now kinda want to own despite the annoying amount of money involved: Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival.  It's basically an electronic game for up to four people.  You each choose an amiibo, which is a figure of a character with a fancy (NFC) base.  Then you take turns going around the board, with your characters living the events of a month inside an Animal Crossing world.  Animal Crossing is well-noted for its lighthearted, friendly, cute, and happy environment.  So events like "I took part in a singing contest and won a prize today!" or "Today I went fishing and caught a ____ worth 1000 bells!" (currency) are pretty common.  Unlike other electronic party games, this game didn't really foster a cutthroat competitive spirit, though it was the players versus each other.  Something that distinguishes this game from a board game easier played in person is the fact that you can "level up" the amiibo figures, unlocking new content for them.  For instance, the owl character I played was level 2, and had two outfits available to him: his normal attire, and a fancy white tuxedo. 

To get and use the game, I would need to buy the game itself for $60, the console for $180, and at least two more Amiibos for another $24 or so.  All told, over $250.  Sadly not worth it.  I guess depending on how busy they are, I might get to play again at their place, but they're often very, very busy.  So I wouldn't count on it.  I don't have sufficient numbers of games I'd like to play on the Wii U (that I'm aware of), to merit spending the money for one. 

We did also play an actual board game based on the series Discworld.  I've only read it once, and then only up to book 4 or 5, so sadly I didn't get as much enjoyment out of the cards and pieces as the players who'd read the books more recently.  Still, the game was interesting, if complicated.  Chris and I played as a single entity, and partially due to his trolling/scheming, we won.  Each player gets a win condition that only they known, randomly determined at the start of the game.  Ours was "if the deck runs out of cards."  I rolled my eyes at it, assuming that would never happen.  But with four player-units (two teams, and two players playing for themeselves), it did actually happen.  Chris smokescreened our win condition twice: first as a personality that wasn't even on the board (we knew this due to a card, nobody else did) and second as a personality that thrived on having many markers on the board.  That turned out to be the team across from us, so we certainly didn't fool everyone.

Overall it was a pretty decent, if extremely tiring, weekend.  Next weekend won't be much better, as unfortunately my other grandma is fading fast.  Given my druthers, I'd rather keep my head down over here on the other side of the state and not visit, but she only has three grandchildren, and I'm the closest.  And admittedly, if I was on my deathbed, I guess I'd like some company, even if my focus has deteriorated to the point of being unable to make conversation.  So that's this coming weekend, at least in part.  I'm unsure if Chris and I will opt to stay there overnight.  I'm not overfond of the house and environment, but it's a 3 hour drive to get there.  That's a lot of gas.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Article: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

The full title of the NY Times article was a bit long to put in my own title, plus it's clickbait.  (Clickbait is something that is clearly titled or described such that grabs you and insists you drop everything and read whatever it is, right now.  Fine for important things, really not fine for the latest diet pills.  As you can imagine, the latter example tends to be much more common.  As with all abuses of psychology, it annoys me.) 

The author of this article is the renowned John Elder Robison, and while he's written a book describing this experience, I thought it quite interesting to read this short description of the transcranial magnetic stimulation, or T.M.S, therapy he underwent. 

Besides the results, which were apparently remarkable, I found the description of the therapy (noninvasive, applied magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain) oddly similar to the premise of LENS. The major, and apparently excruciating difference in the results, is the speed of those changes.  The LENS, when used by my doctor, changes your brain's connections and signals a few at a time.  That's on purpose; in harder-hit cases, even a few changes can turn a person's world upside down in good and bad ways.  Therefore, they progress as the client is comfortable, giving them and their families time to adapt.  This honestly strikes me as wiser than slapping the person with all those changes overnight, and hoping bad times won't ensue. 

I feel rather bad for Mr. Robison, honestly.  In a sense, connecting him to the emotions of others basically peeled several layers of his emotional skin off, leaving him vulnerable.  And this is not a happy world we live in.  Negative emotions are often shouted, positive ones are usually quiet and subtle.  For example, you can tell a scowling, stomping, angry man a mile away from the noise and the fact that he may get in your face.  But most of the smiles we give other people in a day are because of politeness, not true happiness.  Being handed a very useful coupon at the grocery store, unexpectedly, might produce a real smile.  But how often does that happen in a day?  In addition, humans are weighted to remember the negative things consciously, meaning he got a double whammy of negativity.

So Mr. Robison suffered.  I sympathize, because while I can shake off empathized emotions, I tend to absorb them without meaning to.  Years of living like that has perhaps made me more resilient to that experience that Mr. Robison was, at first. 

I find myself vaguely bemused that Mr. Robison had thought being able to read someone's emotions would tell you who they are and all of what they want.  Humans lie to themselves at least as often as they lie to others.  Reading emotions off someone definitely helps to get a sense of how they themselves are feeling, but it's no look into their soul.  We keep a lot hidden from everyone.  He figured that out eventually, and adjusted successfully, but it wasn't a pleasant process.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

LENS and Life, week of 4/19/16

No sites this week yet.  Probably one site again tomorrow. 

I've dropped down to taking the B vitamins every other day, on advice from the doctor.  She suspects my sleeplessness was probably just my system adjusting, but just to be safe, I'm going to keep it at every other day for a bit. 

This weekend was a little more intensive physically than most.  Chris and I had been meaning to get a gaming center together, so we could have our various consoles available for guests.  The limiting factor was the stand for the TV.  Chris was very picky about what it would look like and how tall it should be.  So the project fell by the wayside for awhile.  But this weekend, we finally found a suitable piece of furniture. 

There are a number of places in this area to go for secondhand, and thus inexpensive, furniture, but the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is basically the best, hands down, for deals.  We walked away with a suitable desk, to the tune of $8.  Two catches: the desk is solid wood, and it was extra-dusty.  The solid wood part was the harder of those two problems. 

You may recall that we live on the third floor.  This affords us numerous advantages, not the least of which is the impressive lack of ants and spiders.  It does, however, mean having to haul each and every furniture piece up three flights of stairs.  With a solid wood desk, that was not happening by hand.  We tried, very hard.  But there's a certain amount of hopelessness and weakness I'm familiar with, that basically tells me that no matter how hard I try to bruteforce my muscles into obeying, they're not going to manage a task.  And this was one of those instances. 

So now we had a solid wood desk, and no way to get it up 3 flights of stairs.  We needed help.  None was forthcoming, however, and when we asked, the maintenance guy wasn't allowed to lend us his help or his hand-truck.  However, Home Depot would rent us one, for a small fee.  The hand-truck's wheels weren't quite big enough, but with one of us pulling forward and the other pushing up, we managed to haul the enormously heavy thing up all the stairs.  I then spent about half an hour cleaning dust and bug bits off it. 

We finally got it set up yesterday:


The mat there in front of the desk is a DDR pad.  Basically, a specialized game controller meant to be used with your feet.  Because DDR stands for Dance Dance Revolution, and the aim of the game is to get you moving to music.  

This is, most likely, going to replace trips to the gym.  I feel a bit less comfortable going jogging in my new neighborhood (not that I was ever really comfortable in my old one), so this will be an option for days when I really just can't make myself go outside/elsewhere.  Today, for instance.  Well.  Maybe today more qualifies as, "but I just got the DDR set up and haven't touched it in a year!  I must regain my lost skills!"

Just like roller skating or biking, you relearn how to do DDR relatively quickly, but there is a period in which you are still very rusty yet know you could be doing so much better.  That's about where I am right now. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

New Car Story

I've been promising this entry for over a week, and no more too-early mornings have intervened.  So here it is: I finally got a car to replace my Odyssey.  

First Attempt

I mentioned in the previous entry that I'd located my minivan of choice, a 2006 Toyota Sienna, down in Zeeland.  I called, and they did in fact still have that car.  I arranged with them to take it for a test drive, and then arranged with the local Toyota dealership to have it checked over.  Just as well that I did... The dealership (and most mechanics) will charge you about $100 to look through the car's internals, but it's unfortunately worth the money.  The dealership, having no stake in whether I bought this car, informed me that several key pieces of maintenance hadn't been done, and there was a near-thousand dollar repair that needed fixing.  In addition, the back two tires were heavily used, one to the point of  being illegal to drive on (and one pothole away from sprouting a hole).  There were a number of smaller things wrong with it, too.  

In light of all of that, the dealership that owned it shrugged and said, "we'll fix the thousand-dollar issue and drop the price $1000, but that's all we can do for you."  So now the car had about another $1000 worth of repairs left needing fixing.  In addition, when I inspected the outside and inside, the inside was a bit torn up.  It was clean, because of course it was.  But the elbow-pads were torn off the armrests on the doors, leaving sharp edges behind.  And there were other signs of wear that suggested the previous owner really didn't care about their car.  I told the dealership I'd get back to them, took my copy of the estimate, and wrote out the details of the car: condition, price (now $8000), and contact info for the dealership.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find a better car.

Second Attempt

Annoyed with the whole ordeal, and worried that I wouldn't be able to find any other Siennas for sale, I called both Toyota dealerships in my city asking after the '06 Sienna.  The first one had a single car matching my description, the second didn't even have that.  So again, I made an appointment to check out the car.  Confused by the fact that this was already the Toyota dealership, I didn't initially make an appointment to get the car checked.  I went to check out the car and confused the salesman by not wanting to test drive it.  I was, perhaps, put off by the pricetag: $11,000.

It was also here that I got a taste of the more old fashioned used car salesmanship tactics.  The first car place either didn't care about my case or simply doesn't engage in such tactics, but this dealership pays its car salesmen on commission, and it's only a short leap of logic to understand that the salesmen are then only held back by their own morals from being cutthroat, lying, scheming, horrible people.  I doubt my particular salesman was trying very hard, but I still caught more than 3 pieces of bad psychology: "This is a high demand car, it might be gone in a couple days- but no pressure."  Yeah, sure.  Totally believe you with the no pressure thing.  Yep.  

I missed most of the bad psychology the first time around, but my memory was good enough that I was able to examine it in retrospect and get pretty annoyed.  Still, I had examined the car and gotten the dealership's report. All the regular maintenance seemed to be in order.  But the bad psychology had gotten me thinking, and made me distrustful.  I contacted my parents, who informed me that I should pick a local mechanic I thought well of and get it checked.  My parents are much wiser than me about such things, and it made sense anyway, so I did in fact make another appointment and this time took it out for a "drive" which went right to the local mechanic.  

Second and a Half Attempt

Unlike my last waiting room experience, this one was basically just quiet and somewhat awkward until I chatted with the staff a bit.  The place is Zandee's, and one of their employees goes to my church.  Eventually, they came back with a report: this car, too, wasn't perfect, but it was flawed in somewhat amusing ways.  The horn, of all things, was broken.  For some reason I found that vastly amusing.  All the working parts in a car, the vast intricacies that make a car move... and the horn was broken.  It was also missing the spare tire. Finally, there was some darkish residue around the valves by the motor, suggesting to the mechanics that someone may have missed an oil change or two.  

I took it back and had the Toyota dealership check the car's history.  There was a short period of about 15,000 miles where the car didn't have recorded oil changes.  That was it.  When I got back, the salesman in charge of my particular case was busy with a higher priority deal: an older couple, perhaps buying a new car.  My parents, given their choice of the two cars I'd seen, vastly preferred this car.  Which left me with the dubious experience of trying to out-psychology the people that do this for a living.  My father coached me.  Included were tips such as:
  • Come with your checkbook, and make your offer.  Tell them, "I'll give you X for it, and here's my checkbook, I'm ready to make the down payment right now."
  • If you're not making any headway with the salesperson, ask for the sales manager.  The sales manager isn't paid on commission and as such prefers cars sold and moved over extracting the very best price.
  • Come prepared with a second offer, so you can say "well, I have another offer for X, but I like this car a little more, so I'll give you Y for it."  This tells them you're not their only option and that you're willing to walk away if they don't work with you.  
  • Be actually prepared to walk away, and see if they chase you.  If they don't chase you, call again in a week or so and say "My offer is still there; you ready to talk business yet?"  
  • Know how much the car is actually worth, using Kelly Blue Book. Keep in mind that this price is both the worth of the car (including all repairs) and a fair markup for the dealership, meaning they will make a profit.
Needless to say, there was a lot to keep in mind. But this did seem to be the best option.  As it happened, God smiled on me.  It was the 31st of March, the final day of the first quarter of the calendar year.  And one of the employees, perhaps feeling sorry for me, informed me while he was looking up the car history, that if they could sell one more used car by the end of today, everyone would get a bonus.  Valuable information. 

So with the salesperson still busy, I lingered at the desk until I could speak to the sales manager.  I offered him $7.7k for the car, and gave him the line that I was quite willing to make the down payment immediately.  He made grumpy noises about Kelly Blue Book, as did some of the other staff.  Apparently they use a different metric for determining the worth of a used car.  I didn't let that deter me, and waited patiently.  Finally, the manager gave in, surprisingly without even trying to haggle.  So in the end I got the car for just over $8k, with all fees, taxes, and etc. figured in. 

This is my new (to me) car: a 2006 Toyota Sienna.  It's 7 years and 117,000 miles newer than my old car.  Longer time readers will know I'm really not fond of red in the slightest (this is maroon, but it's red enough).  I am, however, pragmatic enough to care more about the internals of the car than the paint job, and other than the horn (heh) and the spare tire (easily acquirable at a junkyard), it's in near-perfect condition.  Also it has an MP3 player input, meaning at long last, I'll be able to plug my tablet into my car and play music.  I'm excited about that. 

Less happily: I now have to dispose of the Odyssey.  The dealership offered me $200, which is a pittance for a car that has a lot of usable outer parts and probably a number of good internal parts, too.  I've been dragging my feet, but there's a transmission place about a half hour away that I should call first.  They like Honda, and Odysseys in particular, and they've done me a good turn in the past.  The car is worth anywhere from $250-800, but there are multiple things wrong with it, so I'll see what they think it's worth.  There's also a junk yard near here I need to visit anyway, to get a spare tire.  They would also probably have an offer. 

I'm probably dragging my feet for sentimental reasons as well as the fact that it's effortful to use the phone and arrange for the "death" of my old car.  But the license plate and insurance have been transferred to the new car, so I'd best get on that soon. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LENS and Life, week of 4/12/16

One site last week, probably one site this week too. 

I managed to not get entirely lost whilst my tablet was gone, and now thankfully it's fixed.  I think they may've been sweethearts and fixed the bent pin in the charging port, too.  But I'm not sure, and I paid them a lot for the repair, so I'm mainly just happy they did, in fact, fix it flawlessly. 

This weekend was a bit quieter, thankfully.  There was still the Sunday night D&D, but everything else was quiet.  Well, except for the cats.  I occasionally do cat care for some older, more travel-prone friends of mine, and their cats are characters.  The one is huge and fluffy and a complete fraidy-cat.  The other is absurdly thin and acrobatic.  Normally she's affectionate, but she seems to be giving me the cold shoulder right now.  In any case, I've been grabbing a book and heading over to their place for an hour or two, getting them fed, and annoying them with the toys and laser pointer.  They don't seem to mind.

I mentioned B vitamins in the last entry here.  In an effort to combat my sleep issues, my doctor has recommended I try a B complex.  This is the second time we've tried this.  The first time I went and got a thing from Meijer and tried having that with my breakfast.  The results were... completely horrifying.  Upon taking the pill in the morning, I would burp the acrid flavor of B vitamins for the next four hours.  Approximately every 3 minutes.  I tried varying my breakfast, as that can help keep bubbles from forming in the stomach.  Nothing worked.  I gave up in less than half a week, because I simply couldn't handle the disgusting. 

So now, about one year later, we're trying again.  This time the supplement is medical grade, meaning the FDA actually cares what's in it and it has to be a certain level of purity.  Apparently not all supplements are created equal, and some companies will advertise a certain amount of a substance in their product, but really have anywhere from 20-70% of that amount  and the rest is filler.  Distressing, but that's why you have to be careful about where you get your stuff. 

If I take these B vitamins on an empty stomach, I do still burp the taste (like once every half an hour).  But these are milder by a good bit than the other supplements.  If I take them with food, I don't even get that.  Which means something really bad was up with those Meijer supplements.  Disappointing.  In any case, I'm now having new and different sleep problems. 

B vitamins serve to wake you up, which is why I was told to take them in the morning, opposite the sleepytime stuff.  That's to minimize their chances of affecting your ability to get to sleep.  Naturally, that is apparently insufficient for me.  I'm now waking up every few days at 2-4am, and then being unable to sleep for at least an hour.  Last Friday's entry was the second such experience, and I've had another since that gave me a 9 hour-long headache after I woke up. 

I might consider taking the B vitamins every other day.  They are doing stuff, as evidenced by my shifting sleep patterns.  But I can't cut the dosage in half, because the pills are those capsule things.  (Well, I could open the capsules, pour out half the stuff, and take them, but that's a lot of work.)  I'll ask the doctor what I should do in the next couple days. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Happy 4am / Reflection on Friendships and the Spectrum

I was going to write something cheerful today about my new (to me) car, because that panned out.  Unfortunately, life intervened.  It's 4:30am, and I've just given up on getting back to sleep.  I went to bed at 9:30pm or so with a head full of dark and angry thoughts.  I woke up at around 2am, when a noise roused me from the melatonin-daze.  I opted to use the bathroom while I was awake, then went back to bed... and promptly couldn't sleep for a half hour.  I got up, took my newly-fixed tablet (it has a blue light filter, so it's less disruptive to sleep) and went to the guest bedroom.  I have a backlog of comics, so I figured I'd read those 'til I got sleepy.  Except I didn't, all the way to 3:30am.  It occurred to me that I might've gone to bed hungry, so I ate a small, nutritious snack around 4.  Went back to bed and figured that would be that.

Nope.  So here I am, still with a head full of dark thoughts, and it's three hours 'til Chris will be awake.  About the same for any semblance of daylight.  And unfortunately I do have things to do today, so hopefully the fact that I got maybe five hours of sleep doesn't destroy my chances of managing things...

Actually, maybe one of those things will be okay.  I have a friend in England I'm rather fond of, and being a sweet person, he has requested we play video games together.  He's having a rather hard time with life right now, and I kinda am too, so perhaps we can complain to each other while we game.  The current things bothering me are perhaps something he could help with, since they're social in nature and he, like me, thinks deeply about things.  He may have some insight I don't.

Social things is rather nondescript.  I shouldn't point fingers or name names, as that's not terribly mature or really even conducive to problem solving, but the short is that I'm having trouble either being a friend or having friends, or both.  Being too close to the problem, it's hard for me to say whether it's something I'm doing wrong, or something wrong being done to me.

Autistic people, as a rule, have more difficulty with making and keeping friends than most.  So even though I should know better, I tend to automatically assume that if a friendship isn't working out, it's my fault.  Perhaps I'm not being sensitive to their needs, or not being open enough, or welcoming, or entertaining.  That is, I think, a somewhat fair concern for someone on the spectrum to have, since our skills have to be learned, rather than intuited.  There are bound to be holes in that education.  That's simply life.  We learn as we make mistakes, get help figuring out those mistakes, and grow as people, but those same mistakes can end relationships.

So then I have to wonder: is it my fault?  Or perhaps, "is it all my fault?" is more apt.  I tend to assume yes.  The alternative would be assuming it's all their fault (because the middle ground is harder to fathom) and these are people I like, after all.  It would be uncharitable to assume they're simply being bad friends.  Their lives, after all, are hardly paradise either.  The thing is, that admonition rings a little hollow when those friends make time for other friends, but not for you.  They don't call or email or send messages saying "hey let's do stuff."  You do that for them, and get "yeah sure" or "eh, maybe another time"  but there's no reciprocity.  That's a breakdown in the process.  It's the problem point- but not the problem.  Like my sleep problems, there are a lot of factors that go into a good friendship, and if some of them, or even just one, are sufficiently out of whack, the whole thing starts stumbling.

I'm tempted to be direct and straightforward, and simply ask what's going on.  But that's never worked out for me in situations like this.  If I decide to give up on the whole thing, perhaps I will ask, just to see what they say.  But in my experience, people simply aren't aware of that level of disharmony.  When put on the spot, they flounder and make excuses and try to be polite.  I don't need polite; I need honest.  I'm likely to get a bunch of hooey about how things are stressful right now, and everything's in transit, and embarrassment about their lack of sensitivity, and none of that helps me patch the relationship or decide it's not worth it.

I suppose this has all come into light for me since I recently had a nice time with a couple other friends.  People who actually act like friends.  They're more social than I am by a good margin, but they make time for me and Chris.  They actively consider how we might be feeling.  They're genuinely interested in us, and we in them.  That is, as I understand it, at least one definition of a good friendship.  Certainly all friendships are going to differ, since there are so many kinds of people in the world.  But it's not really a friendship if it's one-way, right?

I know the confident person response to a situation like this.  It's to say, "well, if I'm not worth their time, they're not worth my time" and walk your talk.  Stop being the one-way street.  Find other friends.  Fill the emptiness that comes with the passing of that friendship with new people.  I know that; but it's harder to believe that's the best course of action.  These are good people, with many good and admirable traits.  True to my base nature, I guess, I tend to assume good people that make good friends to others like me can make good friends to me.  That, clearly, is not the case.  In addition, it's really hard for me to make new friends.  I'm unusual.  I have interests that don't line up to most of my peers.  I'm quirky.  It takes some getting used to, and some effort to accept those oddities.  So far as I can tell, the people willing to put in that effort are few.  In this busy society, full of overworked, underpaid, under-empowered, and under-rested people, summoning up the patience to befriend someone like me is less and less likely to happen.

I also know the traditional wisdom response to that.  "Better few friends that are healthy for you than many that poison you."  And perhaps another relevant bit of wisdom: "Don't make big life decisions while sleep deprived."  Come daylight (it's 6am, still none of that to be found) I'll discuss this with my friend, and with Chris.  Both of them will have different things to offer, and that will hopefully help me make a good decision.  Not one made in the bitterness steeped over several years, on a morning that started far too early.

Sorry about the morose today.  Happier things next week, like pictures of the new (to me) car.  And the B vitamin supplement that isn't making me shriek in disgust every 3-5 minutes. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

LENS and Life, week of 4/5

? sites this week, because my appointment is tomorrow.  I feel like this section of the entry would be a lot more exciting if we weren't dealing with a lifelong issue.  I can mostly just say that I don't see any major changes, and it's vastly difficult to track incremental progress without thorough documentation.  Sadly, I am neither organized enough nor obsessive enough to accrue said paperwork.

I am sad.  My trusty tablet is still out of commission, and will be 'til this Saturday or perhaps even Monday.  Apparently the supplier sent the wrong part, so then my two-day repair became a two-week repair with needing to exchange parts.  I miss my library.  And my on-hand Internet.  And my music.  I've fallen way behind on my comics and the news sites I like to follow.  I have to run between kitchen and computer if I don't remember a recipe.  But perhaps most importantly, if I get lost while driving, I'm lost until I stop and ask for directions.  Or more likely, wander in a direction until I recognize something.  That hasn't happened yet, because I'm less than willing to drive somewhere new without my tablet.  But it might, if this keeps up.

Chris has been sweet and let me borrow his phone a couple days last week, which was good because I had to drive a half hour into new territory to check out the Sienna I mentioned last week.  It's possible I could have made it to the correct place without an auto-updating map, but getting back might have been a bit more challenging.  And of course I needed to take the car to a mechanic to get it checked, to say nothing of the hour and a half of sheer boredom in the waiting room.

Seriously, the place was blaring Fox "News," the hot water machine for tea was broken, and the food offered was donut holes.  I may have had several donut holes in an attempt to dull the frustration of listening to Fox "News'" fearmongering.  Thankfully, God smiled upon me, and the other customers left the waiting room.  I was extremely tempted to just turn the dratted TV off, but I figured that might not go over well.  So I turned it to CNN and snuck back to my seat.  CNN still annoyed me, but it didn't blast its news at top volume and it didn't make as many broad, sweeping, blatantly ignorant assumptions.

Which isn't to praise CNN.  I'm sure it made several of those assumptions.  They were just quieter and more subtle and didn't demand my attention, so I was able to ignore them entirely.  Can you tell I'm not a fan of TV news?  I think the only TV news I'd watch, if it was a thing, would be BBC.  And that, only if they would please condense the important US and world news into bullet points.  I can research from bullet points, and bullet points are less likely to be all biased and ugly by virtue of their brevity.

I'm still a bit worn out from this weekend.  There was checking out cars (more on that this Friday) and pestering my parents about cars.  Then on Saturday, which is normally my day to stay in and enjoy quiet time with Chris, we had company, which turned into us being dragged to a marathon D&D game.  I have a pair of friends across the state near Detroit, and they periodically come to visit friends here.  So a couple hours visiting at my apartment, then, 7 hours of hanging out playing D&D or watching soccer (football to the British and most of the rest of the world).  This friend group is louder than most, so I got worn out pretty fast.   But I didn't feel comfortable leaving quickly, because we were right in the middle of a game.  Go figure.

The next day was more D&D, with a different group.  But again, 7 hours.  Needless to say, I was not rested and refreshed for the coming week yesterday (Monday).  I actually spent most of yesterday with an anxious, buzzy brain.  Didn't really make for getting much done.  But Chris made corn chowder soup, with some help chopping potatoes and vegetables.  It turned out pretty well, and he made a double batch!  Freezing most of it except for two additional portions.  Lunch or dinner today will be tasty tasty soup.  Something to look forward to. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Article: Phrases for Calming Anxiety

Articles like this are always interesting to me, because I've lived with untreated anxiety so long.  I guess I no longer qualify for that category since I started LENS and various supplements, but I still clocked over two decades prior to that.  I still experience plenty of anxiety, especially over major life events like, say, buying a car.  More on that next week. 

I like a number of the ideas in here.  Changing "let's take deep breathes" (#3) into "let's blow up a giant balloon" and making silly noises to complement that strikes me as something that, while childish sounding, might still work on adults.  It's something my fiance would do, if he had to work me through panic attacks.

I'm not sure how useful asking the "why" of something is (#5).  If a child or adult is having a panic attack, their likely answer is "I don't know augh everything is terrible and I'm gonna dieeeee!"  I guess for less episodal anxiety, like mine, asking the why of the anxiety isn't quite as pointless.  My particular brand of anxiety doesn't really have a specific cause... it's right in the name.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  In plainspeak: everything makes me anxious. 

Asking "what happens next after this thing that makes you anxious" is probably pretty good advice overall.  I personally just try to keep in mind the phrase "this too shall pass." 

I think #9, drawing a picture of the monster-feeling, kinda got permanently disrupted by seeing some well-made artistic renditions of different mental illnesses.  You can find the ones I mean here.

A few of the other options are visualization options, or having the child talk through their thoughts.  Those can be very helpful options for parents (and perhaps for kids, too), since it can be very hard to get inside an autistic child's head. 

Many of the other options are emotional support.  I... guess I don't necessarily identify strongly with the need for those, but most children didn't try to be Spock (without knowing they were trying to be Spock, or otherwise) when they grew up.  So I'm going to guess that those affirmations "I love you; you are safe," "you are not alone," "I am proud of you already," "I know this is hard," etc, are pretty helpful.