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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. 

“I am a young, desirable woman.” 

Upon this journey I’ve been trying to come to terms with my autism. I’m trying to see the good more than what I consider to be “bad.” And I’m so mad at myself that I even see any “bad” at all because I don’t think autistic people are bad and I wasn’t raised to think that way either. I think “bad” may be a wrong term for my feelings toward everything but for lack of proper wording I will just use that. Anyway, I’ve become a bit (emphasis on bit) more comfortable with my tendencies. One tendency is to squeal and scream whenever I see an animal. Bird, squirrel, dog, cat, I will literally scream out of delight. Mostly just around people I’m totally comfortable being autistic around. Holding it in kind of physically hurts. I don’t know how to explain it. Another one is to blurt out phrases or songs that are stuck in my head. The songs that I sing aren’t ones on the radio, they are usually nursery rhymes. I don’t listen to nursery rhymes on a daily basis but apparently I have an internal radio that is stuck on the kiddie channel. It likes to play all kinds of songs. Row row row your boat, there’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza dear Liza…..it is the strangest thing but I’ve just learned to go with it because it’s there all the time and there’s no shutting it off. Believe me, I’ve tried. The last one I do is blurt out street signs/ store signs I see or blurt a phrase I said a little earlier. As my husband and I were leaving the house, I had just gotten done having a conversation with my cat. (It sounds crazy because it probably is) so, as we were entering the car I belted out the worlds loudest “me-OW!!!” The neighbors looked. The neighborhood stays looked. Cars on the road stopped. Then I laughed at myself and asked christopher “did I just meow in public?” And he said “yup, you did.” Sometimes you just have to laugh at your quirks or you’ll just be a big ball of anxiety instead! It’s nice that I’m letting the autie bag loose and getting more comfortable in my skin, weird quirks and all! 

Job, job, who wants a job?

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? 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to call a hymn gay. It’s like a sin or something.” “Whatever, man. I’m not saying bulwark.”

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.

“Am I laughing or crying?” 

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. 

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. 

“I don’t like Mondays. Unfortunately they come around eventually.”

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. 

Love. 

Loss. 

Joy. 

Despair. 

Friendship. 

Breakups. 

But most importantly, life worth living.