I’m so tired of sitting at home all the time sulking around. I really want to get a job but I don’t have good luck with my jobs because I’m not a quick learner. I’m very high functioning autistic but information goes in one ear and out the other for me no matter how hard I try. Most places of employment require quick learners and I’ve had employers Roll their eyes at me and talk bad about me because of how slow I am. I don’t necessarily want to go through a disability employment agency because there are others with more pressing needs but I feel like that is the way I may have to go. Any auties/aspies have any advice?
Section D: Comorbid Attributes
I’m skipping section C and will go back to that next time. The reason being because this is my blog and I make the rules here.
So, today is a good day so this should be a happy post. I wanted to write about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how my autism brought me to the Church.
If you don’t know me then here is one important fact you should know about me: my middle name is Anxiety. Any event that could have the potential to make anyone anxious usually already greeted me at the door and offered to take me out on a date with the conversation topic of Let’s-Think-Of-All-The-Bad-Things-That-Could-Happen. I get anxious in large crowds, loud music, awkward conversations, and growing up church wasn’t my favorite place to be. The church my family attended was all the anxiety rolled into one. I was not a fan of the electric guitars, the drum set, and any of the instruments that created the worship band, excluding guitar, piano, and violin (because I’m allowed to be picky. Again, this is my blog). The only thing I appreciated during worship time was listening to my family sing and reading the lyrics on the screen. Everything else was noise. My dad worked hard when he was the worship leader and there were a lot of times that people would come up to him and complain over the song choices that my dad decided on, I saw how it discouraged him, and maybe that had a lot to do with my choosing a different church to attend as well, but this blog post is not about that so we will move on with the story. (In the middle of writing this, my doorbell rang and I was worried it was my visiting teacher or something. I love her but I’m not dressed for company. I opened the door and it was my sister. I forgot I told her to come over. We had a good visit. Moving on…) Mostly there were a lot of doctrinal questions I had that no one could answer without giving me a long, complicated, scholarly article. Doctrine shouldn’t be so complicated, in my opinion.
I attended a retreat with my youth group at Ozark Christian College and one of the classes I attended was “How To Save Your Mormon Friend From Hell.” Awesome. I love learning about new religions and I don’t want people going to hell. I don’t remember exactly what all was taught in the class but I do remember a little. Basically the Jesus Christ in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wasn’t Jesus Christ. Makes perfect sense, right? (Sense my sarcasm?) and Moroni who came to Joseph Smith in his bedroom one night to reveal to Joseph about the Golden Plates was a demon and ended up possessing Joseph Smith. It was terrifying. I ended up sleeping with my light on (no joke) when I got home because I was scared to death that Moroni was going to appear in my room at night, like Joseph, and possess me with his devil-ish powers.
Obviously, that didn’t happen (although I’m a member of the Church now so maybe I did get possessed? Again, sarcasm.) and it just lead me to want to learn more. So, I did what anyone would do. I went to http://www.mormon.org ,straight to the source, to research it out. It was about the same time I was reconnected with my childhood friend from Hawaii (Hi, Saren!) and I wanted to make sure she didn’t go to hell. I was on a mission to save this good friend of mine over Facebook and I needed to do my research. As I was reading about the story of Joseph Smith, I found a lot of similarities between us. Joseph Smith wanted to know which church he should join. He read in the Bible that he should pray and ask God. So, Joseph went to the woods to pray. As he was doing so, a bright light shown above him and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared before him. The Lord told him not to join any of the churches because they were twisting doctrine around and everything was incorrect. The Lord told Joseph that he was going to be the prophet of the Restoration and restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. There’s more to the story and if you want to learn more go to http://www.lds.org. Moving on. So, with all of the research I was doing to try and convince my friend that she was going to hell and she needed to be saved, I instead discovered the church she attended was a church of true grace and mercy and love and….I could go on. Someone else had already asked all the questions I was wondering about and his name was Joseph Smith. He was a cool kid in my book. One you could relate with. So, in true Aspie fashion, I became obsessed with anything Mormon and did as much research as I could on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I talked to the missionaries online and asked all sorts of questions. I learned all there was to learn about the Church. All my questions were answered, I wanted to be a member, but one thing stood in my way- my grandpa was a preacher, my dad was a worship leader, my family came from a predominantly Church of Christ background, and there was no way I had the guts to disappoint my family. I loved my family and they taught me some amazing values growing up. The last thing I wanted to do was thank them by tossing it all out the window and joining a church I knew they wouldn’t approve of. But, I already knew I loved the Church and I was so unhappy attending the church my family belonged to. So, I had to take a risk.
The first Sunday I attended, I walked in the front doors, stood and looked around. I didn’t know where to go. So, I asked. There was a little elderly lady and I said, “Excuse me, I’ve never been here before and I don’t know where to go.” Her eyes got so wide. If you know anything about Mormons, they are usually the ones knocking on doors trying to find investigators. It’s not every day an investigator just shows up on their doorstep asking to be taught. The lady told me to hold on for a moment and found a pair of Elders (missionaries) to introduce me to. I don’t remember their names.
Walking into the sanctuary, you could feel a calmness. It was so welcoming. It felt familiar and pleasant. I felt at home. All my aspie senses were tingling in a good way. The service was nice, calm, quiet, reverent. I loved it. Perfect place for someone with autism, in my opinion.
I took the lessons from the missionaries, had a baptism date set, and then I did what any investigator would do: I chickened out and started avoiding the missionaries.
I was scared. The Church felt so right but I was so scared of disappointing my family. And I was confused. And I was a teenager. Graduation was around the corner. So much change. And gnomes. Gnomes don’t really have anything to do with this story but I feel they always need a place somewhere in life. So, gnomes.
So, I tried attending my family’s church again. I tried to get involved in youth group. But my best friend Rachael had moved and I hated trying to make friends, especially if they were going to move again. (Military life, gotta love it.) Again, I was trying to search for answers in my church that I knew weren’t there. I ended up just feeling depressed, disappointed, and frustrated. I really did try. Rock and roll music just doesn’t have a place in church in my opinion and playing Spoons in youth group wasn’t going to help me learn about the Bible and the doctrinal questions I was searching for. If any of that sounds confusing to you, welcome to my world.
After a few weeks, or months, of trying my hardest to like the church I grew up in, I decided that I just had to do what made ME happy- and that was with the Mormons, sorry mom and dad and sister and grandma and grandpa and youth group leader and preacher and random friends.
So, I walked into church again the next Sunday I made my decision. And guess who I met? The sister missionaries! Hey, Sister Lamb and Sister Buckley and Sister Wright and Sister Esau!!!! The sisters became my very best friends. They answered all my questions, prayed for me, read scriptures with me, included me on their P-day (preparation day, the one day missionaries take off from mission work to do their laundry, get a haircut, and do some sight-seeing, etc.), randomly texted me or called me, and just became my best friends. They were so encouraging and true examples of everything I was searching for- a friend in Christ, a sister, and someone who knew their stuff! If they didn’t know an answer, they knew where to look. I loved it. They were genuine.
In May 2011 I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I thank my Autism Spectrum Disorder for that. My sensory issues, general anxiety, my questioning of my place in the world all sent me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, I do get mad at God for giving me ASD but I also realize that without it, I wouldn’t belong to this wonderful church and it gives me a unique story.
I’m so thankful for Joseph Smith for asking the questions that I would one day ask myself and I’m thankful for my family for respecting my decision. I know a lot of my posts have been discussing the anger I’ve had towards Heavenly Father lately, but I feel that it is part of the process of getting to know myself and my diagnosis. Thanks for getting to know me as I get to know myself!
And remember: gnomes.
Section B: Naive
Seeing the world through a fresh set of eyes.
Possibilities, adventure, safety.
Free in spirit and sincere in consonance.
Then the rocks are flying in from several directions.
Though innocent, she somehow finds trouble. Rather, trouble finds her.
The rocks continue to fly by, sometimes making contact, other times missing.
The rocks cause scars. The scars, painful reminders of the past.
Where did she go wrong?
She didn’t know.
Now she knows, the scars tell her so.
She brushes off the dirt, although discouraged, starting to close into her shell.
She misses the innocence but she cannot go back.
There are no re-dos and there is no hiding.
She must forgive.
Only forgiveness will help her through her trials.
She back tracks to the days of good.
Kitty whiskers, warm and wet dog noses.
Rainy day reads.
These are the only thoughts she cares to keep around.
As the rocks continue in.
Section A: Deep Thinkers
Thoughts pass by others, linger with me longer.
What’s the meaning, truth, feeling of the words?
What’s the message that is being conveyed?
My thoughts have taken me through great possibilities and my destinations have been places I would have never suspected.
Memories are good, bittersweet.
Moments are temporary, but there are always the memories that were made and hold dear onto.
But most importantly, life worth living.
(TRIGGER WARNING!!! This isn’t part of the series I am doing. This post is TRIGGERING so please be warned and don’t read if that will affect you in any way.)
I have days where I totally love myself and I’m so thankful for my existence.
Then I have days where I absolute loathe myself, my existence, and just everything.
Tonight is one of those nights.
I’m so mad about everything my body cannot do. I feel like I am failing at every goal I have set for myself. I have so many friends graduating, announcing pregnancies and births, starting careers. Then, here’s me. Barely making it. Taking it day by day. I just dropped out of my third university because…I don’t know why.
And then I am ultimately mad at God. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to think about him. I’m so mad that he gave me this disability. And I’m so frustrated with people telling me to just read my scriptures because it brought them closer to them through their trials. I don’t like the advice.
I’m also mad that I can’t seem to find any good out of my trials. There are people with all sorts of disabilities with a smile on their face. I have a dark cloud following me most days and today my cloud is raining and crashing thunder all around me. I feel like I’m drowning.
I’m so tired of feeling useless and without hope. I hate this place.
My emotions were triggered by seeing another pregnancy post on my social media timeline tonight. I’m so mad because I just want to be happy for those people but the big monster of jealousy and hurt shows it’s ugly head instead. And I’m so ASHAMED of myself. I know better. Not only am I autistic but I also struggle with PCOS and infertility. I go to a church that is family-focused. Every week I get to endure the talks and lessons on parenthood and the importance of celestial families. The constant lectures on not waiting to start a family, God will provide, so hurry up and spit them out. It is the most overwhelming environment of my entire life. I’ve been trying every method of parenthood and I feel like God is excluding me from the very thing I want most, that is preached at me every week.
The biggest feeling I struggle with is embarrassment. I am absolutely humiliated over all of my struggles. I’m upset with myself for not finding the good. I’m mad I am constantly overwhelmed by the worst, biggest, and hardest emotions.
I just tell myself to breathe.
And I do.
Deep breaths will get me through.
So, what exactly is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016) Some individuals are slightly affected while others are severely affected. About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017)
This fact by the CDC really irks me:
ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017)
So, why is ASD more common in boys? Behavioral and preliminary neuroimaging findings suggest autism manifests differently in girls. Notably, females with autism may be closer to typically developing males in their social abilities than typical girls or boys with autism. Girls with autism may be harder to diagnose for several reasons, including criteria developed specifically around males and overlapping diagnoses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or anorexia. (Szalavitz, 2016) Please visit this website for elaboration on the science and research behind the topic. It’s extremely fascinating. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/autism-it-s-different-in-girls/
So, what does autism look like in girls? Well, that’s why I started this blog- to find out more about myself while exploring the signs. We know since the spectrum is wide, it’s different in everyone, as we have established, so I will just stick to talking about myself and my experiences- I’m good at that! Perhaps I will get my mom to write about the early years since I don’t remember them so well (it would be neat to hear her perspective anyway), so I’ll stick to the years I can recall better.
I’m going to base the next few blog posts on a list I found of girly aspie symptoms, compiled by Samantha Craft, a fellow Aspie and blogger.
(Her list can be viewed here https://everydayaspie.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/females-with-aspergers-syndrome-checklist-by-samantha-craft/
I hope my upcoming series will be beneficial and informative for all who may stick around and read!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, March 10). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, October). Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml
Szalavitz, M. (2016, March 1). Autism- It’s Different in Girls. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/autism-it-s-different-in-girls/
I think the one thing that overwhelms me about my diagnosis is feeling free. There’s a lot of freedom and possibilities.
I feel free because now I know why I do weird things. I know why I have sporadic obsessions. I know why I start breaking out in nursery rhymes for no reason. I know why I have conversations with my husband and sister in a silly voice. I know why I get frustrated so easily.
The possibilities I feel I have now are to choose if I should continue to “fake it” and force myself to have neurotypical behavior, which causes me a lot of anxiety and concentration, or I can just choose to let go and let me be myself. That is hard. That is vulnerability. And I don’t know if I have the courage to do any of it.
The first thing you should know about me- I hate being vulnerable.
The second thing you should know about me- I force myself to be vulnerable every single day.
For the longest time, I considered myself a bad person, unable to grasp the concept of grace that was constantly preached to me in church. I was born a sinner. I was a terrible kid, truly. Anything could set me off- touch, smell, tone of voice, sounds. When I look back at childhood, I mostly just remember chaos and then feel guilty for putting my parents through that type of hell. (Side note- I really did have a good childhood with happy memories. But I mostly was a little shit.)
I always knew I had a learning disability, ADHD. However, I was always told that if I just concentrated harder, tried better, I would understand what I was being taught.
The first time I realized that something was seriously wrong with my brain was when I was starting, yet again, at a new job. The seventh in two years. The new job was at a call center. I tried so hard to understand what was being taught. For some reason the information just wouldn’t click. I tried taking my Concerta. It helped me concentrate but I still couldn’t understand what was being taught. I remember calling my parents and telling them “Something is seriously wrong with me. No matter how hard I try, I JUST CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT.” Eventually it got to the point where my supervisor was getting annoyed with me for asking too many questions, not understanding the information, and I could tell I was the butt of the jokes, yet again. I knew work wasn’t supposed to be fun, but I didn’t want to me the laughing stock of the office. Again. It made it harder than the actual job. (Call me a snowflake if you want, I don’t fucking care.)
That weekend was the beginning of my mental break down. (This is the brief, very edited description of how it went) I cried the entire weekend, non-stop. I remember being underneath my bed at one point, rocking back and forth, screaming at God asking him to please kill me already. Just come down to earth and take me already. I didn’t want to be alive, I was a useless human being that was taking up too much space, causing everyone around me too much grief. You hear all the time that millennials are lazy people who just wanted hand-outs given to them without working for them. I didn’t want that at all. I wanted to work and earn a living, but I knew I was a burden to my employer and the other employees at every place I worked at. I was so tired of being laughed, mocked, and feeling like a complete failure. I wanted it all to go away and I didn’t want to exist anymore.
My only saving grace was my sweet husband who would just hold me as I cried, trying to recite every encouraging word he had already told me, hoping one of the phrases would ring some feeling of self-worth back into my brain.
Finally, I told him, “I need help. And I need it now.”
My wonderful mother and my Aunt Jeanye helped guide me in the right direction toward getting help. They sent information on women who had gone through similar experiences such as mine. I love this video. While I was watching it, I started crying because I felt I had finally found the answer. Those ladies were just like me. I knew I had Asperger’s Syndrome, now called Autism Spectrum Disorder.
It took a year for me to finally get the official diagnosis. I went through several psychiatrists who would literally laugh in my face when I mentioned “autism.” But, I don’t want to dwell on that now. Maybe later. The important part is I finally found a specialist that specializes in autism and he helped me and diagnosed me.
When I first received my autism diagnosis, I was relieved for a quick minute. “Executive brain functioning disorder,” is what the doctor first explained it as. Great, answers, finally. Then the fury set in. Why the hell did I have to live my entire existence thinking I was a fucking idiot? I literally thought I was the stupidest person on earth because I didn’t understand simple concepts. It took a lot of repetition. And sometimes that still didn’t help. (While writing this, I had to step away from the computer and calm myself from a melt-down.) I thought about blaming my parents for not catching this sooner. However, the reality is that I know that my mom tried her best. She knew there was something wrong right away. I was non verbal for the longest time. There were so many signs. She took me to the doctor and they diagnosed me with ADHD at the age of four, prescribed me some magic pills, and sent us on our way. So, I thought I should blame the doctors for not catching this sooner. Then I blamed it on sexism. Doctors were so busy on researching autism in boys, they didn’t even want to waste breath on girls. I needed someone to blame! But the truth is, autism is such a wide spectrum that researchers are just now noticing that autism even shows itself differently in boys and girls.
The biggest realization I’ve had since my diagnosis is that I’m not a bad person. I was not born a sinner. No child is born a sinner. (LDS doctrine, most won’t agree, I know) I’ve spent so many years thinking that I was a terrible, terrible human being. I spoke out and acted in anger several times and I’ve burned so many bridges. Like, a whole sorority of girls worth of bridges. And probably a coven or two of cousins, aunts, and uncles. That’s another story, though. Finally, I know why I have acted the way I have over the years, and it’s not because I’m bad. It’s because my brain works differently and just gets overwhelmed easily. Grace is a new concept that I’ve had to embrace and I’m still working on it.
I’m not the first to go through this experience. And I know I definitely won’t be the last.
Part of my reason for starting this blog is so maybe others who are searching for a diagnosis will be able to relate to my story and seek the help they might want and need. The other reason why I want to share my experience is to hopefully meet other Aspies who can give me some tips because I don’t even know how to freaking help myself at this point. I’m open to suggestions from my seasoned veterans. Lastly, I want to share my experience to show you neurotypicals how hard it is to live in your world. And you don’t make it easy. Maybe this will inspire you to better understand those with invisible disabilities, such as mine, and instill in you some patience. Because you seriously need to work on that. Please.