“Do you know any lesbians?” “Uh, uh, sure I do.” “How many?” “Three, maybe four.” “Maybe four?” “Well, waiting on confirmation.” “I like lesbians.” “Yeah, they’re, they’re swell.” 

A few weeks ago I attended the Pride festival in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I had been looking forward to it for a few weeks. I wanted to show my support to those who belong to the community. I had a friend I wanted to tag along with me but they were unable to make it. The reason being- they had attempted to commit suicide a week before the event due to them identifying with the LGBTQ+ community. They felt ashamed, as they were surrounded by people who did not show the support they needed. I’m sure there was more to it then that, but I know that is one of the feelings this friend had: shame. 
I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of four. My parents or grandparents never shamed me for it, it was part of who I was. They let me know that I had ADHD and they helped me understand how to cope with it and what tools to use in order to be better in the classroom. When I was in the fourth grade, I had a friend, J, who was also ADHD. We were goofballs and loved helping each other find ways to get distracted in the boring classroom. One day, our teacher, Mrs. B, was having a classroom discussion with us. She said, “Raise your hand if you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD,” so, J and I raised our hands. “I remember when my son was diagnosed with ADHD,” she began, “it was so devastating, I cried all week when he was diagnosed…” and she rattled on and on about how ADHD had ruined her life. I was confused and embarrassed. That was the first time I had ever felt ashamed of myself; it was the first time I knew I had to be ashamed of myself. 
I remember the first time I was questioned about my sexuality. I attended a private, conservative, Christian school in the 8th grade. As an Autie, I wear my heart on my sleeve. As we were leaving class one day, I told my friend, “See you later! Love you!” and she looked at me bewildered, lowered her voice, and asked, “are you a lesbian?” 

“No,” I replied, “Why do you ask?” 

“Because,” she said, looking at me, careful judgement in her eyes. “I notice you only hang out with girls and you tell them that you love them.” 

Okay, I thought, sorry you live a loveless life and the guys at this school have pea-brains that I can’t stand talking to them. 

So, the running “joke” at school was that I was gay. 
A few weeks later as I was naively teasing my friends telling them I was gay, Mr. W, screamed at me and said, “Leah Whitehorn! I cannot believe you would say such a thing! What would your mother say if she heard you saying that you were gay?!” 

I looked at him, fire coming out of my ears, mad that being “gay” was something I would have to be ashamed about and confess to my parents in the first place. Then I laughed, and spit the words out, “She’d laugh,” I replied to that spineless, arrogant, teacher. 

He did not like that reply, and away I went, sent to the principles office. 
A few years later, in high school, I attended another small, private school. It wasn’t a Christian school but it was run by Christians. 

During class, my principal/teacher often went on rants. She would tell us that gay people became that way because they were molested as children. She also told us about a movie that she went to go see in the theater. She reported that there was a scene where two men started kissing each other. She said she was SO disgusted that she got up and walked out of the movie theater. 

The sad thing about this teacher and her stories were that she told these stories with the students she knew were part of the LGBTQ community sitting in her class. 
My senior year of high school I joined the LDS church. It kind of felt like “coming out” to family and friends. I know it’s not fair to relate my story in this way, but bear with me. I lost a few friends, and I definitely had a few family members show disappointment in me. I was told “have a nice life” and “you’re going to hell for your decision” and it was a hard time. But, I also had so much support as well.

Then, the church that I loved so much made a official, public statement saying that children of same-sex couples were not allowed to be baptized until they were 18, only after they admitted that their parents relationship was wrong. Their “official” statement rocked my world. 

I have family and friends who are dear to my heart that are part of the community that the church was officially showing opposition to. They can preach love and acceptance all that they want but if the actions do not count, I’m not buying it. 

So, I wear my rainbow pin to church every chance I get, in hopes that an LDS member of the LGBTQ community sees it and knows they are not alone, they are loved, and they have an ally. 

But, I’m also considering changing to a more accepting congregation of church goers. 
All of this to say, LGBTQ community, I’m so sorry for the hate that you endure. I understand, to a very small extent, the hate and shame that is aimed your way. Please don’t end your life. If you need someone, I will fight for you. I love you and I will fight for you. Always. 

“Tell us more about this racquetball…what are the clothes like?” “Can we wear cute outfits?” “I do.” “I think racquetball sounds great.” 


At the beginning of this week, I didn’t know where the week would lead me…little did I know that I would get a lesson in self-love. 

It’s no mistake that I’ve had issues with my autism spectrum diagnosis. Accepting it has been a pattern of grief, relief, understanding, and confusion. I had been focusing on all of the struggles that have been in my life due to autism. I didn’t know how to embrace autism and let it define me in a positive light. 

For the past 2 weeks I had been looking into forms of exercise that would appeal to me. I found some methods that worked for me and some that didn’t. 

This week was very successful in finding what I love. 


I had seen an event in my area being advertised as “farm yoga.” I was incredibly excited for this! I’ve tried yoga in the past and fell in love. One of my special interests is animals. Put both interests together and you get success!!! 

Farm Yoga was hosted by Garden of Edens Massage Therapy in south Oklahoma City (Moore). The instructor was Kyleen and she was extremely friendly! Upon arrival, I pulled up to a big red barn in the countryside. I was welcomed by a small group who welcomed me in! I paid $5 (I love cheap deals!) and received a free chair massage, some feed for the animals, and I put my name into a drawing to win some free stuff! As I was enjoying my massage, Chewy the goat came up to me and asked me for kibbles! It was so much fun. 


After my massage I decided to feed the goats and donkeys that were in the same pin we were doing our farm yoga in! The donkeys were a little skittish and Chewy was a food hog. 

During the yoga class, there were a few moves I couldn’t do whether it was due to coordination or working around the extra fluff I have going on. The best part about yoga is listening to your body and asking it with what it wants, what it’s comfortable with, and what it would like to try or hold back on. When my body asked to hold back on certain poses, we stopped and pet a goat or donkey. Sometimes it was hard to keep my concentration. Every once in a while a goat would come up to me and lick my toes!!! 

The most memorable moment of farm yoga, for me, was at the end of our cool down. At “namaste” I looked over my shoulder and one of the donkeys was kissing my shoulder! It was like he could feel my happy spirit and was encouraging me to keep going. Animals are so magical. 


At the end of the class we enjoyed new friendships, conversations, and refreshments! I, of course, decided to feed some of my furry friends some more kibbles!!! 

As if my day couldn’t get any better, I also won a gift basket containing a charcoal face mask, Epsom salts (which are always a need in my life after yoga), a bath bomb (I LOVE bath bombs! Especially Lush), an eye mask, candies……and…..a gift certificate to a free one-hour hot stone massage!!!!

Farm yoga=no regrets. 


One of the most exciting things about learning that I am a member of the autism community is making new connections. I met my friend Ariel on a Facebook group for the Aspie Adults of Oklahoma City. She is also part of my Facebook group named Oklahoma Women on the Autism Spectrum. I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting her in-person yet and when she announced her fitness class on her personal Facebook page, I KNEW I had to meet her and befriend her! 

Ariel Cullison is a Pound Fit instructor and leads classes at The Wherehouse OKC located in Del City, Oklahoma. She is so much fun, she’s friendly, and has an amazing energy. The class is extremely welcoming to all ages, races and sexes. She provides modifications in her fitness routine to those who would enjoy more of a challenge or those in need of a more gentle method of movement. 

Sounds great! But what exactly is Pound Fit?! Glad you asked! I was introduced to Pound Fit when I watched the show This Is Us. Kate participated in a cardio fitness class that involved drum sticks, music, rhythm, and I KNEW I had to find a class for myself! 

While Kate’s class takes on more of a therapeutic feel, don’t let that scare you. Ariel’s class was definitely more cardio-based and fun-filled and had some fun jams that went along with it! I struggle with coordination and there were a few times I got lost on the rhythm, but Ariel was encouraging and didn’t let me get too far off the beaten (haha, get it?) path! 

Even through the sweat and sore muscles, I had a smile on the entire time and really felt free, energized, and empowered. I’m incredibly grateful toward Ariel for helping me embrace that side of myself and her class members for helping me feel encouraged. If you’re in the OKC area, I HIGHLY recommend you check out one of her classes! 
This week is only half-way through and I’m loving the opportunities it has had in store for me and the lessons it has taught me. I have found confidence in myself, I’m learning to take better care of myself, and I’ve found a few new hobbies and friendly faces to become more familiar with. I am grateful and my heart is full. 

Aspie Meeting update and Autistic Burnout topic 


Autistic burnout. It’s rough. It’s tough. But it doesn’t have to beat you down. 

I’ve been trying to blog on this subject for a couple of weeks. The truth is, I’m learning that burnout takes a longer amount of recovering than I realized. I’m still experiencing burnout even as I type this. It’s also a never-ending cycle. 

Let me start from the beginning.

I had a dream a few days ago. I was walking and running with all the energy in the world, my body wasn’t holding me back and I wasn’t huffing or puffing. I love those dreams. When I woke up, I decided I wanted to try training for a 5k. I usually hate exercise. I associate it with people yelling at me and it being a scary, overwhelming experience (we’ll touch on that another time). I really enjoy yoga but I haven’t done it in months so I haven’t felt comfortable going to a class. So, I decided to download the Couch to 5k app, go to the lake’s walking trail, and do a little training there. I decided on this because I would be in control of the pace of the workout and the intensity. As I began my walk I was encouraged by Britney Spears’s “Stronger” telling me that I was “stronger than yesterday.” I started reflecting on “yesterday”. “Yesterday” I was stuffing my face in an ice cream sundae from Braum’s and today I was on the running track. I was both mad at myself for the choices I made but happy that I decided to change the name of the game.

As I started my routine, the sundae (and the extra bowls of cereal, the poptarts, and ice cream all from the past 2 weeks) started catching up with me. Let me put my body image into perspective for you- as I was doing the two-minute running portion of my exercise, my body fat was clapping against itself. I didn’t know if I should feel encouraged because it sounded like my body was encouragingly applauding me along, or if I should feel humiliated because all of this excess fat was swishing around in the air, banging against itself, and creating a siren that rang “LOOK AT ME! I’M ATTEMPTING THE THINGS!” 

I didn’t last very long. I only did half of the routine. I became discouraged, found a park bench, sat, and sulked. I’m the master of sulking. I looked over the horizon of the lake and thought to myself, “here’s another thing I’m attempting at that I’m quitting. Again.” Then I thought, “Why do I have to quit? Why am I quitting? Is it just because it’s hard?” I decided to get up from the park bench and make the long (to me) trek back to the car. As I was walking, one of my favorite songs from middle school came on Pandora, “Fly” by Hilary Duff. In her encouraging fashion, Hilary sang to me, “When you’re down and feel alone, just want to run away. Trust yourself and don’t give up. You know you better than anyone else.” So, I decided I wouldn’t give up, I would just adjust my workout to fit in a way that better suited me. I decided I would do water walking and water jogging instead. My knees still hurt but not as much.

Moving on….

I recently reached out to a local group in my area, Aspie Adults of Oklahoma City. The group usually meets in Norman once a month. I asked the leaders if they could have a group closer to where I live in OKC and they said that was great- if I wanted to pull it together. I struggled with the decision for a couple of months but decided I would give it a go. A wise individual (Okay, Hilary Duff) once told me ““Fly, open up the part of you that wants to hide away. You can shine. Forget about the reasons why you can’t in life and start to try. ‘Cause it’s your time, time to fly.” 

So, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. I would start a North OKC chapter for the Aspie Adults of OKC.

 At first I decided I would have the meeting at a local library in the middle of town. I found out that the public library in Norman lets the Aspie Adults of OKC reserve a room for free. The public libraries in OKC have rooms that cost anywhere from $30-$100 an HOUR. It may not seem much to you, but that’s much to me. So, I reached out to a local LDS (Latter-day Saints) Facebook page for my area and asked if anyone had any ideas on where I could go that was fairly cheap or free. I was hesitant about using an actual church building in my congregation because I know some people feel triggered by religious environments and wanted to keep the group neutral. I would stay awake at night and worry about where I was going to have the meeting. Finally, someone in my stake (Mormon term, look it up) reached out to me and said they would let us use their conference room, free of charge! So, if you’re in OKC and ever need a place to get your electronics fixed, go to Digital Doc off of May and 59th!!!!!! They are great people. They said it was alright with them if I held a meeting every 4th Saturday of each month. Thank you, Digital Doc!!!

The next plan was to come up with the discussion topic. I wanted to do a get-to-know-you activity, while celebrating our diversity, but also acknowledging that we can all come together as one. The first thing that popped into my head was puzzle pieces. I was really hesitant with this thought because puzzle pieces is usually associated with Autism Speaks and that particular organization is very triggering to a lot of auties. Basically AS doesn’t have any auties on their board of directors and also things autism is a thing that needs to be cured. They have used the puzzle piece to represent autism as something that is puzzling and a cure (the missing piece) needs to be found. That’s a very butchered version, but that’s the gist. To me, the puzzle piece represents something I have been trying to find all of my life. I’ll speak on that another time. For this exercise I was preparing for my Aspie meeting, I was wanting to use the puzzle as a way to show how each other in the group were different but could come together and find their place in our meeting-it wasn’t even related to autism at all. So, I reached out to an autism women’s group on facebook and asked their opinion. They suggested I make the pieces in a shape that didn’t look like traditional puzzle pieces. It was a very helpful comment and I took the fellow-aspie’s advice. I decided to buy some new coloring crayons and some markers at my local Target. I already owned coloring pencils. I wanted to make sure there were different “artistic” methods of creating a personal “all about you” puzzle piece that would speak to each person. 

I arrived about 30 minutes to the meeting. I had brought name tags. I’m really bad at names. I either remember your name or your face, it takes me a long time to connect both. I learned that some aspies at my meeting had a disorder of some sort that caused them to not ever remember names so the name tags were a great idea. Good job, me. Digital Doc did a great job setting up the tables and chairs the way I requested, and I arranged all the art supplies and puzzle pieces the way I wanted to.

I ended up having 6 people (excluding myself) show up to the meeting! Some of them were leaders and members of the group in Norman and I believe a couple were new. One of the members told me “one fact about aspies, they’re either really late or really early.” So, in true aspie fashion we started 30 minutes late! It was fine, though.

 I prepared a few questions that we could discuss. My first question was “What was life like for you growing up with autism? Did you feel like you fit in or did you feel like you were an outcast?” I heard stories that were like mine- a few members were diagnosed later in life and a few were diagnosed in childhood. They all had feelings of isolation. 

The next question I had was “What advantages do you feel come with being on the spectrum?” Aspies are known for having special interests. Some suggested that their special interests helped them be self-reliant. For example, one of my member’s special interest is religion and he has been able to be a pastor. Therefore, his special interest of religion has helped him make a living. My favorite, and I feel like the best comment was made by one individual who said, “Once you harness it, you become a great anthropologist.” So true, the one thing that has gotten me through the NT (neurotypical) world is copying behaviors I’ve seen by others. 

The last question I had for them was, “Do you feel like you have a place or have found your place in the neurotypical world?” This is the question that I was most anxious to get answers from. I wanted to know the secret of fitting into the world around me. However, everyone answered a big ole “NO.” It was both discouraging but comforting to hear that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of isolation. 

After our discussion, I asked those who felt comfortable to tell us what they put on their puzzle piece. I received a round of applause when I mentioned I had written “Weight Watchers” on my piece because I had lost 50 lbs on the program. One person had shared with us a drawing on their bearded dragon, I think it was, because they collect amphibians. Another person was a truck driver and shared a drawing of a truck. My favorite one was an individual who said “I like Star Trek.” and held up their drawing of a Star Trek space ship thingy thing, for lack of knowledge of technical term. 


I ended the meeting by having us put the puzzle together. My parting statement was, “Although we may feel different, we fit in somewhere. Just like any puzzle, it may take time to find the spot where you fit in perfectly, but I promise you fit in. Especially here, at Aspie Adults of OKC.”


All in all, it was a very successful meeting and I had a great time. I was told by the members that they enjoyed the meeting as well. That was very encouraging. 

However, it took a lot of energy. I was high on energy after my meeting and wanted to do a lot of things, I didn’t want to go home. I think I was running on adrenaline. My husband had been called into work that morning unexpectedly and didn’t have the energy to go on a date with me so I went by myself. I ended my evening at a coffee shop, listening to a live performance. I was the only member in the audience, which was fine by me. It was a man singing and playing his guitar. He asked me what I liked to listen to and I told him “pop.” Poor dude. He tried, unsuccessfully, to play Britney Spears for me. I later told him a song by the Black Crowes would suffice. So, he played “She Talks to Angels.” I think my dad would have been proud of me. (Don’t tell him I had to do a quick Google search first.)

Saturday (meeting day) was great. The day after was a whole other story. When I woke up Sunday morning, I already off. I felt incredibly guilty because I didn’t have the energy to get up, go to church, and teach my primary class that day. I woke up with a sore throat (battling a sinus infection, which is NOT sensory friendly) and I was just overwhelmed from the start. I was mad because I was in a bad mood and didn’t know why (Oddly enough, I still have a hard time recognizing burnout at times) and ended the day in a meltdown. The meeting went great but the weekend didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get to spend time with my husband in the way I had planned all week. We were supposed to go fishing that weekend but so many other things came up that we didn’t make it. So, disappointment and exhaustion ended with a mild meltdown Sunday evening. 

I think the most frustrating thing is that I need so much downtime to recover mentally from all the activities I put myself through. I don’t give myself the time I need, mainly because, sometimes, there’s not time to give yourself. 

Needless to say, I think this week is going to be low-key and activity-free. Although, I’m planning to go to Farm Yoga. Stay tuned for a blog post on that. I already have an idea planned for my next meeting on the subject I want to talk about. I’m very much looking forward to that!

Thank you for making it to the end of my blog post. I apologize if any of it was confusing to follow. Writing while experiencing burnout is pretty interesting and exhausting but I wanted to give you guys something!

Take care!

“If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next, don’t be. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places.”

daddy2

 

In true aspie fashion I’ve been anxious about the 4th of July because of the festivities. I am very afraid of fire and the 4th usually consists of drunk people handling fire. I’m also not a fan of loud and sudden noises and that also seems to be a big part of celebrating. During all of this worrying, I have been forgetting the true meaning of the holiday.

My dad was active in the United States Army while I was growing up and I experienced a LOT of change. Change included saying goodbye, moving to new places, learning a new culture, making new friends, and the dreaded deployments. My parents handled everything with grace which I think was the only thing that helped me through it. I also had my forever friend, my sister Ariel (who I lovingly refer to as Poozle), by my side.

My parents always made a new move sound like an exciting adventure. My parents always “bribed” us with a new comforter set for our new bedrooms and it always made moving sound a little more exciting. We got to redecorate our bedrooms! (By the time Daddy retired in 2010, we had a crap-load of blankets and comforters in our closet.) It didn’t make the change easier, it made it more bearable.

I remember when my Momma and Daddy sat Poozle and me down to inform us we were moving to New York. I was 11-years-old at the time and obsessed with Hilary Duff. When I heard “New York” I immediately thought the whole state was a giant NYC, full of celebrities, and I was determined to bring an autograph book with me everywhere I went in the big chance that I would run into Hilary Duff on the sidewalk. Tip: Fort Drum is nothing like NYC. Bring snow boots, not an autograph book.

The last time I had moved I was 8 or 9, so I was still a kid and could make friends by just liking the same toy as another kid. When we moved to New York, I was 11 and I learned the hard way that making friends as a pre-teen was not so easy. I also believe being undiagnosed autistic made everything so much harder. I remember lying in bed one night, sobbing my eyes out. My mom came into my room and asked me what was wrong and I told her “I don’t have any friends here!” My mom tried her hardest to help me make friends. She tried to involve me in youth group at church, she signed up for the local homeschool group, and she enrolled my sister and me into dance classes. I remember going to church and hiding in the bathroom stall, crying. The new environment was a lot to take in, and I was so mad at myself because I didn’t know how to make friends or control my emotions! I felt like an idiot. I think dancing was my saving grace at the time. I wasn’t good at it but it helped me to express myself and make friends. I ended up taking several dance classes!

The hardest part about living in New York was having my dad deployed in Baghdad, Iraq most the time. Whenever Daddy left for Iraq, he always took a piece of our hearts with him. I can remember this time of my life being the worst for my anxiety. I spent a lot of nights imagining what he was going through, being shot at. I imagined how he would be killed, dying all alone, without us there to be with him as he passed away. The biggest thing I worried about was my Daddy being alone. I also imagined how we would be informed of his death. A lot of nights consisted of tears and panic attacks.

I remember being mad. I was so mad that he loved his job more than he loved his family. He let his job take him away from us. We needed him.

It wasn’t until later that I realized because he loved us, he allowed his job to take him to these terrible, scary places. He loved my mom, my sister, me, and all of America, and wanted to ensure our freedom. Even if it meant his life.

This past Sunday my parents invited me to their church to a Freedom Celebration (I don’t remember the actual name) where we praised God for America and recognized all the men and women who served. There was a moment they had all the men and women who had served come up to the front of the church, presented them with medals, and had them stand on stage so that everyone could recognize them. It was a very powerful moment. In that moment, I realized the sacrifice that was given on my behalf. I felt so grateful and undeserving. I felt so proud to have my dad on that stage. He would deny it if I said it, but it feels like I’m related to a super hero.

As you celebrate 4th of July, don’t forget it’s true meaning. It is about celebrating our independence, our freedom, and the ultimate sacrifices given on our behalf. Don’t get so caught up in the fireworks and the cookouts that you forget to shake the hands of those who ensured you could celebrate in this way.

Don’t forget this is Independence Day.

 

 

 

***Side note: please be considerate shooting off fireworks. There are many veterans with PTSD that have flashbacks caused by these loud noises. Keep your pets locked up and help them feel safe. Also, those who struggle with autism or any form of anxiety have a particularly hard time with loud sounds as well.***

Expectations, Infertility, and Autism


I think the main entity that causes anxiety in life are expectations. The anticipation at the results of an event or the sudden change in plans drives my anxiety through the roof. It also happens with good things! The planning and excitement leading up to events leaves me exhausted. The exhaustion isn’t always bad, and I’ve even learned to welcome it, give it a warm hello when it knocks on my door, and offer it a room to have a nice, comfortable stay until it’s visit is over.
Expectations require a little more planning on my part. Scratch that, they require a lot of planning. I’ve learned it’s important to have a Plan A, Plan B, and even accept that there is no plan at all.
Alongside my parents, I was also raised by my grandparents who I loving refer to as Granna and Poppy. G&P adopted my Aunt Martha who has several mental and physical handicaps, all of which don’t keep her from smiling the biggest smile you ever witnessed and demanding hugs at every turn. Martha taught me the importance of ability in disability. Granna taught Martha she could pretty much do anything she wanted, if she put her mind to it, and tweaked a few things. Aunt Martha lives an independent life in a group home with other ladies, she has a job, and she even has a boyfriend!
I feel that when the media includes autism in its programs, it only illustrates one side of the spectrum, and it is usually the side I don’t entirely relate to. There is an entire other half of the spectrum that Hollywood doesn’t explore near enough, and when they do touch on it, it usually showcases the “classic,” male-sided idea of autism. The truth is that people on the spectrum, and all differently abled people can live healthy, productive lives and be part of society.
With all of this in mind, I know how important differently abled people are to the community. I know they can live successful lives, I know they can over reach impossible standards placed before them. Even with this knowledge and witnessing it first hand, I’m ashamed to say that upon receiving my Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis…I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be put in the same category as these types of people, handicapped people. Then I felt ashamed of myself for having these thoughts and feelings. I was raised to include everyone, different or not; to embrace them as equals. So, why did I have these thoughts and feelings? One answer…expectations.
Expectations followed me into my marriage. You know the saying, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage”? Hello, expectations. I was determined to get pregnant right after I got married, in 2014. I just assumed my Momma’s prayers reached God’s ears with more force than mine because my husband and I were stupid-broke newlyweds who could barely afford to live ourselves much less care for a kid, and that’s why there was no success in conceiving.
Earlier this year, after much discussion and prayer, we decided to contact my OBGYN and get the process started, for real. My expectations were that the doctor would figure out what was wrong, she would give me some medicine, we would do The Dance, and we would get the results we wanted. HAHAHAHA!!! Yeah, it doesn’t happen that way.
One morning I decided to take my one millionth pregnancy test of the week. Guess what?! It came back positive! I showed a few friends who confirmed that their eyes saw a positive, I showed my husband, I texted my sister, then I called the doctor. As I waited for the doctor to call me back to confirm my blood pregnancy test, I calculated that my due date would be December 24. Christmas had been such a bad time of year for my family since my Mammaw, Nana, and Granna had passed away a few years earlier on or around Christmas. I began to refer to the holiday as Doomsday. I was so ecstatic that I would get to give my husband and the rest of my family the best Christmas gift ever and make the holiday season happy again, and associate it with LIFE. I even tried to convince Christopher that if the baby was born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day we would name her/him Noel.
Then I received The Call. Along with autism, I also battle with Polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s pretty common for people with PCOS to receive a false positive, or a chemical pregnancy, due to imbalanced hormones, and that is what happened in my situation.
Expectations out the window, I was crushed. I was bombarded with anger, shame, guilt, jealousy, just to name a few. I had “all the feels,” if you will. Those feelings are overwhelming to anyone, especially to an autistic.
Here I was, struggling with both my mind and my body not working “correctly.” It was embarrassing. I questioned my self-worth. Why was I on this earth if I was going to be “retarded” and barren? I questioned my worthiness of motherhood, if I would even make an “acceptable” mother since I had autism. Surely God thought the same thing and that’s why he didn’t send me a baby.
The truth is there are plenty of women on the spectrum that have successful careers. There are many women on the spectrum that live an ordinary, everyday life and blend into the crowd. There are many women who live amazingly funky lifestyles and are noticed for their talents. There are plenty of women on the spectrum who reach motherhood and excel. There are also many women on the spectrum that let life take them on a journey and learn to embrace their travels, heartaches, and joys.
My goal is to open the door to that discussion, to break down the walls and barriers that are autism. It all starts when we begin to open our mind to the great and numerous possibilities. It starts when us aspies begin to believe in ourselves. Most importantly, it starts when we change our expectations. 

A Day In The Life


Whenever I divulge my diagnosis to someone, it is usually replied with a puzzled look and the person exclaiming, “really?!?!” At first I was annoyed by it and a little offended, but now I laugh. I laugh because I feel free and I feel like my freedom is used to educate others. I’ve also educated myself on autism. It has helped me become self-aware.
No one has asked me what it is like being on the spectrum. I don’t mind the question and I’m not sure why no one has asked me. Maybe because I talk about it all the time that I already answer the questions. So, I have asked myself “Self, what is it like being on the spectrum, now that you know that is what it is?”
For me, being on the spectrum is like being on a computer. I look nice, and presentable, just like any other computer. No one knows I’m any different. It isn’t until you start interacting with me that you notice I’m a bit slower than the other computers. All the other computers can handle several tasks at a fast pace, without freezing. My program takes a while to load, can only handle one task at a time, and if you attempt to make me multitask, I will freeze up, shut down, and will need to be restarted.
I have a few tips on how to avoid a meltdown that work for me. But I am also learning what exactly triggers me and sometimes meltdowns can’t be avoided. So, I will also give you some tips on what helps me calm down from a meltdown.
I should probably explain what a meltdown looks like for me. Just like autism itself, my meltdowns just have a spectrum. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are extreme. Usually in a subtle meltdown, I’m aware that I’m in a meltdown and can talk through it. When it is subtle, I just look like I’m in a bad mood. If needed, I can fake a smile but it looks forced. Body language will be off. If it’s too loud, I may cover my ears. A medium meltdown usually has some tears and snot. I’m not a pretty crier so it’s always snotty tears and loud sobs. Often times there will be yelling as well. A major/extreme meltdown, luckily, doesn’t happen often for me. I don’t really want to explain it because it’s embarrassing but I’m trying to be honest with this blog. An extreme meltdown will have screaming, crying, rocking back and forth, and sometimes I end up under the bed or in a closet or something. Let’s not dwell on the bad times!
Okay, so, to avoid a meltdown, I have a few items on hand.
1. Ear plugs.
Life on the spectrum is LOUD. I have songs, conversations, and a plethora of other things going on in my head. So, my head is already loud enough as it is. I haven’t figured out why, but I’m also more sensitive to sounds. So environmental sounds are louder to me than they are to you. For instance, when I am at the grocery store, the radio is loud and it feels like it’s screaming in my ear, I can hear every single cash register beeping even if I’m across the store, the employees have radios on and talk to each other, people are being paged over the intercom, there’s a screaming child the next aisle over…….you get the picture. I get physically exhausted by the time it is over. With ear plugs, I still hear everything but it is so much more quitter and I can pay attention to my shopping list.
2. Fidget Tangle
This toy is way more subtle than those fidget spinners. I use this tool mostly when I’m at church. Sacrament meeting is a quiet and gentle service and sometimes my mind wanders. I have a hard time keeping still and this tool allows me to get my wiggles out without being a distraction. It also helps me think more clearly and stay focused.
You can find a fidget tangle here-
https://www.amazon.com/LayDUS-Classic-Therapy-Original-Imagine/dp/B071WNNLN6/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1498617118&sr=8-18-spons&keywords=fidget+tangle&psc=1

3. Walking.
My mind is always filled with thoughts and songs and conversations that I need to “walk it out.” Whenever I get information overload or am in a loud environment, I have to walk around. It helps clear my mind.

4. Say Something
Even if it’s just as simple as “I’m stressed out” no one will know that I need help unless I say something. Sometimes it’s easier to say something to someone I really trust, such as my husband. The reason being because I feel embarrassed by how little of a situation can make such a big complication for me.
5. Reusable grocery bags.
Yes, this silly thing has helped me avoid a meltdown. I cannot stand clutter. I will easily get stressed out, and feel guilty, after grocery shopping if I come home with a million plastic sacks or paper bags. Reusable bags don’t make that crunchy sound, and they are pretty stiff so I can look directly into the bag. Believe me, this subtle change in my life has become a tremendous miracle.

I’m still working on my list, it’s every changing and ever growing. Some things need to be tweaked. Also, it’s important to note that no matter what tools you have on hand, sometimes the situation placed before you is a bigger issue than any reusable grocery bag can handle! Sometimes I have to face those meltdowns.
Right now I have found that routine is best when it comes to settling down.
1. I notice that the one thing that overwhelms me is clothing, accessories, and hair. I need to change into comfy clothes, take my jewelry out, and put my hair down or at least out of my face.

2. If I have time to shower or take a bath, I will do that. A lot of autistics say the water physically hurts them and they can’t stand to take a bath or shower. That idea is totally foreign to me and I have an opposite experience. Water always takes the pain away, helps me focus, and is just nice.

3. Next, I go into a cool, dark room. If I’m at home I lay in bed. I also make sure to have some DoTerra Lavender Essential Oil in my diffuser. This stuff is amazing for a meltdown. I do straight lavender. I’ve noticed that using blends, such as Serenity, are too much of a sensory overload for me; I need to use just one, simple scent.

4. I love to utilize my library’s OverDrive app where I can either listen to audiobooks or read eBooks. Usually I listen to an audiobook when it comes to winding down. I also listen to something simple. Right now my go-to is anything by Janette Oke. Her books are conservative and a little cheesy but I find that simple and conservative help me when I’m dealing with a complicated issue.

5. I know that medication can be a good thing, and I am on it myself, but sometimes I like to go a more natural route sometimes. If I need a little more help to settle down, I use Calm. It is a magnesium supplement drink. It comes in different flavors or you can purchase it unflavored. My mom and I found a variety package at our local health food store so we could try all of the flavors offered. The flavor I like best is Raspberry-Lemon. It almost tastes like Crystal Lite. This drink settles me down and also makes me a bit sleepy.
https://www.amazon.com/Natural-Vitality-Magnesium-Organic-Raspberry/dp/B00BPUY3W0/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1498626606&sr=8-2&keywords=calm+magnesium+drink

6. Lastly, it’s important for me to get a lot of rest in recovering from a meltdown. I try to listen to my own body to determine how much rest I need. Sometimes it’s minutes, hours, or days. It can be super annoying, especially if I have things scheduled to do. But I know it is important to listen to my body and what it needs.
Before I was diagnosed I found that I was extremely embarrassed and ashamed of myself because I became overwhelmed easily and would shut down from the outside world. In the past, I shut out a whole sorority of girls when I was in college because I didn’t know how to handle the social aspect of being part of a sorority and the general drama of being around a huge bunch of girls. I wish I would have known then what I knew now about myself and I wouldn’t have closed off some good friendships I had going for me. However, I now know which signs to look for, and I mostly know how to handle myself before I go into meltdown mode. Looking back, I wish I could fix mistakes I made, and in true aspie fashion my mistakes give me anxiety today. But, I now know myself, I laugh at myself, I learn from myself, and I try to move onto a bigger, better, brighter future.

“You polled yourself?” “I was right there. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Since being diagnosed with autism, I have learned to experience my emotions instead of pushing them away like I used to do. I used to get really upset and I didn’t know why because I didn’t let myself feel my feelings. I’ve now allowed myself to feel my feelings and explore it in order to understand myself better. My mom teaches first grade and told me that when her kids coke to her with a problem, she asks them if it’s a small, medium, or large-sized problem. This method allows them to really think and consider their situation, practice mindfulness, and gives them an opportunity to consider how best to express their problem to their teacher. I think. So, I’m using that method here. At this very moment. Aren’t you lucky to be reading about it? I’m writing this with a medium-sized emotion that I will try my best to explain. The emotion is a little bit of sadness, happiness, and gratefulness. I also feel bittersweet.

Autism can have its moments of isolation. Especially if you’re a woman with autism. Most of the books in the library are focused on helping your CHILD with autism. Or, the stupid one I saw was “the autism cure.” Gag me. (I pictured myself in an 80’s updo saying that phrase.) Online sources on adult autism usually point toward autistic traits in men. I tried listening to an audio book written by Temple Grandin. She is amazing, really. But she is also on another side of the spectrum that I cannot relate to and I feel that a lot of her research is a little outdated. (Although that’s not totally fair of me to say because I didn’t read the whole book, but she is also a bit older than I am.)

However, tonight I found someone I totally relate to! Her name is Katy and she is also on the autism spectrum. Everything she said, I totally related to. Her video can be viewed at this link.

In my last blog post I stated my Aunt Jeanye had created a beautiful piece of artwork for me. Well, I don’t know if it was made for me specifically, but I ended up with it. So, I’m just going to assume it was specifically for me. Anyway… What makes it special to me is not only the words on it, but that I received the original piece. It has texture and I can touch the lace and the glue and paint. It’s a real experience, that silly little canvas. It brings me much joy.

The words on the canvas state “love your you” which I think is the best motto that can be given to any girl, but especially one on the spectrum. A lot of girls on the spectrum spend their entire life trying to conform to the standards society expects of us. It is a really special and wonderful sensation when we are given an “olive branch” that speaks the words “I love you, and I accept you. All of your weird, unique quirks. You are loved because you are you.”

It’s feels freeing, like I can fly in the wind. Just like a butterfly, showing off my beautiful wings.

“We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.”

Focusing on happiness and where to find it has brought me to a weird revelation. I thought that I would have to find it somewhere. I checked out books at the library. I considered trying to find a new meditation method. I was really lost on where to find this happiness I was searching for in order to come up with a new, cleaver blog post. This weekend our church held a conference for the churches in our area, called a Stake Conference. My husband and I attended a talk focused toward Native American’s. The talk about given by a member of the Seventy (really important church guy) named Eldee Echo Hawk, a Pawnee tribal member. My husband is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and so I try to pay special attention to NA (Native American) facts for our future children if/when they show up so I can later educate them. Anyway, Elder Echo Hawk spoke of a General Conference (a conference for the entire church given twice a year) talk given by Elder Wildord W. Anderson of the seventy titled The Music of the Gospel.  

There’s a really neat video you might enjoy inspired by the talk.

Basically, the talk is about listening for the music of the gospel, which is to say listening for the Holy Ghost. And once you hear the music, you follow with the dance steps which is the instructions given by the Holy Ghost. By listening for the music and participating in the dance, Elder Anderson assures us that we will find true joy and happiness. 

I had to laugh at myself. Of course happiness would be right under my nose! I was looking everywhere else and in all of the weird places for it when I had already been surrounded by it. 

I don’t know if it’s because of my autism, but whenever I get really upset about something, I lose focus. Autism has its ups but the downs can be losing focus. I get into a funk sometimes and it causes me to lose focus of my testimony of the Gospel. 

So, what I’m trying to say is that I have to go back to my roots in order to find my happiness. I was recently given a gift by my wonderful and artistic aunt. It was an art piece that had the quote “love your you” on it. That reminded me to go back to my roots. What do I love? I love animals, family, church, friends, and so many things. I need to focus on what I already know. Keeping my focus on the things I know will surely reveal the path I am supposed to take in life. 

“What she tackles she conquers.”

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a habit on hanging onto negative feelings. I thought that if I talked about my hard feelings and letting people know what I was going through, I would feel better. Sometimes it helped but mostly it just made me feel worse.
For the month of June I’ve decided to focus on HAPPY. I’ve concluded that happiness can come from changing your perspective on the events playing out in your life.

happy1

Things That Make Me Happy (in case you were wondering)
• Cold, wet puppy and kitty noses
• Paws
• Whiskers
• The smell of rain on cement
• Fresh cut grass
• Volunteering
• Floppy dog ears
• Sore muscles from exercise
• Swimming
• Fresh peaches
I could go on….
Because I always must have anxiety in my life, I’m feeling anxiety about having a new perspective of “happiness” in my life. I think the anxiety comes from acknowledging that I do not have control on life and accepting that fact. However, I remember an episode of Blues Clues (very reliable source) that taught about changing your fears into excitement. Actually, I think it was about changing your nightmares into silly scenarios instead but that isn’t the point I’m trying to make. The point is that I have the power to accept what I cannot change and I have the power to create a more optimistic outlook on life.
So, who’s ready to focus on “happy” during June?!

“It’s fine. I’m great. It’s a big fat happy sunshine day for me.”

The best year of my entire life was my first year of college, 2011-2012. Everything was new and exciting. I was starting veterinary technology classes, I was living in the dorms, I went on my first date that was completely awkward, then I met my boyfriend who I would later marry. Everyone I loved was alive and everything was perfect. I lost a lot of weight that year. I walked around campus constantly. I stayed out late with friends. I snuck into my boyfriends dorm or he snuck into mine. I got drunk off my butt and had some funny stories to share. My friends laughed at me because I had no clue what I was doing with the cigarette in my hand. My roommates and I stayed up late either having deep conversations or giggling at each other. I had the most intense study sessions. I felt like I was going to make a difference some day. I absolutely loved my science labs, choir class, and being free. 
It seems like a lifetime ago. It seems like just yesterday.