Quarter Life, College, And Autism

It’s natural for people in my age group to have one or a million quarter life crises. I can’t tell you how many I’ve had. Whether it was trying to decide what major to choose, the wretched “OHMYGOD, what am I doing with my life???” moments at 3 am bawling in my Easy Mac, stress baking while putting off assignments because I was so stressed about what I had to do the next day, etc. Quarter life crises are hard for everyone, but especially for autistic college students. Even though I’m out of school for the time being, I still consider myself an autistic college student. I’m still in that age group and I will be going back to school at some point. For autistics, any derailment in plans or routines will send them directly into a tailspin. A quarter life crisis will send them into an “Oh my god, what is happening into my life?” and they’ll shut down. I’ve spiraled into dysfunctional shut downs, withdrawals, and depressions over quarter life crises. And not just quarter life crises, but entering quarter life in general.

Just being in college. Going home for vacations means changes in routines, and changes in routines means feeling a little uprooted, and feeling a little uprooted means some changes in my behavior, i.e.: being a little more irritable, withdrawn, or numb than normal. Going back to school means the same thing. You get settled into a routine at home, all of a sudden you have to go back and go through the same thing all over again. A new roommate moving in means more stimulation and noise, and that may cause me to act a little scattered, anxious, or nervous. Because I’m sensitive to changes in the environment. If I seem nervous in class or don’t talk a lot, it’s because the noise level in the classroom is starting to get to me and I’m getting overstimulated. If I leave the room a lot, no I don’t use the bathroom that much. I just need to take frequent breaks so I can walk around and decompress so I don’t completely shut down and not be able to pay attention at all. Not everyone in this classroom can sit down for 50 minutes straight and pay attention like you. 

Why do I have to have let my professors know I have a disability? Because I need accommodations so I can function in a college classroom. If it’s test day and you don’t see me there, I’m taking the test in another room where it isn’t so noisy and distracting. No, I am not ditching class. Do you see another person sitting next to me? That person is taking notes for me because I can’t process everything the professor says and need someone else to take my notes so I can understand the material. Do you see me at professors’ office hours a lot? I just need the extra help because I care that much about doing well in his/her class. I don’t ask a lot of questions to be annoying. I’m just trying to process information.

This is a little of the day in the life of what it’s like to be an autistic college student. I can go on and on forever about this, obviously but I won’t.

Until next time, my loves. xoxo

Dreams, Aspirations, And Goals

I’ve had a lot of them over the years. Growing up though, the only thing I wanted to be until I was about 12 was “normal”. Even though I developed hobbies such as writing, drawing, reading, cooking, baking, and then some. Once I realized that normal wasn’t an occupation, I started getting really into medicine and medical books. My parents keep a big red medical book in the house as well as a book about pharmaceutical drugs. I started devouring medical terminology, treatments, diagnoses, causes, etc. I could diagnose people with certain diseases on the spot. I could also tell what a certain drug was just by what the pill looked like, what it did, what dosage range it had, and then some. I wanted to be a pediatrician, then a diagnostician, then work in the oncology ward, then a psychologist and work in the mental health department because psychology was fascinating to me. I loved watching shows like House and Trauma: Life In The E.R. I could get the disease before Dr. House did! Which didn’t really shock my parents because I come from a family of doctors; psychiatrists, nurses, pediatricians, and physicians. My mom’s mom used to be a pediatric nurse and her father was a dermatologist and an allergist/immunologist. So the passion and knowledge for medicine is in the blood and genetics. So between the ages of 12-15 I had a passion for medicine and psychology.

From 15-19, I had a passion for working in the hospitality/management/restaurant industry. Every career inventory test I ever took from 9th grade-12th grade said that my interest range was in food service and hospitality. My interest in medicine had waned and my interest in the restaurant industry had increased. This also could have started when I was 12-13 after the “Food Network Summer” I had when I spent the entire summer watching The Food Network and I was enamored at all the shows and chefs and dishes and food and ahh my god. Anyway. So I developed a passion for it. While I was interested in that, my long term goal was always to graduate high school and go to college. So when I turned 18, I got accepted into Sonoma State University and did just that, and put hospitality on the back burner for awhile, and got interested in kinesiology.

When I was 19, I was interested in being a physical therapist and rehabbing people back to health after sports injuries, traumas, car accidents, or strokes. But once I saw how much sciences and math [which I do not excel at] was involved, I was quick to change my major status to undeclared. So I explored. I toyed with the idea of being an English major [hey I loved writing! Why the fuck not?] and even going into nursing, thus pursuing the love of medicine I’ve had and taking after most of my family. But did I want it want it? In November of 2009, at 20, I declared a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I started developing interests in women and gender studies after exploring what classes there were and took a women and body image class in the spring of 2010. However, my major? Still no idea.

Then, I had an a-ha moment in December 2010. I was 21 at the time. Psychology! How perfect! I could be a counselor and work with kids on the autistic spectrum in the 7-12 age group. But once I found out the major was so impacted there was an application process involved and you had to keep a certain GPA [and my GPA was not good], I was told to check out the sociology department a floor below me. So I checked it out, spoke with an advisor, signed papers, and became a sociology major. I finally had my life figured out. It was all coming together. I took amazing classes and had amazing professors who saw my potential. But one class threatened to derail me: Sociology 300- Sociological Research Methods. It is as hard as it sounds. I took it in the fall of 2011, and failed. I took it in the spring of 2012, and failed again. I was growing increasingly frustrated, [and my mental illnesses were starting to worsen and take their toll on me] and wondering if this major was worth it at all. I was even contemplating just quitting and going to culinary school because joining the workforce seemed easier than what I was doing at that time, until I realized I wanted to go to cooking school purely for escapist reasons and not because I truly wanted it.

Fast forward to fall 2012. I’m 23 years old now. I’m still a sociology major and preparing myself to take that wretched class for the third time. Tearfully, I go an advisor and tell her I have to change my major due to the nature of the class. She tells me not to worry, that I’m a lovely person, and that she sees my potential as a student and that I should switch my major to Women and Gender Studies and she hopes it works out. Wiping tears away, I quickly see my life fall apart. No graduation? No cap and gown? Everything I worked so hard for is just gone? Like that? Then I realize that I can turn things around. So I go to the WGS department and I’m able to turn that around and reverse things. WGS major; sociology minor. I was set to graduate in May 2014. I was looking forward to doing a summer internship at places like Verity this summer. But my mental illness and eating disorder had other plans and I had to leave school for a year.

I don’t even know if I’m going back to Sonoma State at all. I may be going to a local junior college, completing my degree, and then figuring out what to do with the rest of my fucking life. And that scares me. Which is probably a natural feeling for people in my age group, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.

Until next time, my loves. xoxo

Well, I Guess I Have To Update [Happy March Everybody!]

Yes, yes. A new month. A new start. February’s bad days, mistakes, and such have been wiped clean. A new slate. Even though for an autistic, it feels like all that shit never goes away. My recent post “Autism And Me” got me thinking about my life with autism…..a lot. I run multiple blogs, so sometimes, I leave this one in the dust but I use a lot of excerpts from entries and post quotes on this blogs, so I make up for it somehow. But I was thinking about how autism will always be a theme in my writing. I will never not write about it; it will always be relevant. I wrote a post called “Yes I Really Am Trying: Life With A Learning Disability” that I will not post on here for various reasons [I don’t want anyone finding that post and calling me out on it so to speak], but what I can do is send the post in a private link for those who do want to see it. I hate conflict and being called out on for speaking my mind, because I’m finally getting to a place where I realize it is OKAY to TALK about my LIFE. It is okay to SPEAK UP. I was always dubbed as the “shy girl” and the “quiet one” in middle and high school. I was “weirdo” in elementary school.

Anyway, so how is life? Well, I’m hanging in there. Life is okay. I had to go off of one of my medications for depression because it was proving to be ineffective, so now I’m waiting to go on something else. I started attending two support group meetings a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, which is great. I love Northern California, everything about it. The people, the nature, just being here. My therapist is fabulous. My psychiatrist is terrific. I have amazing family support. I haven’t been in the greatest touch with my friends, but that will be remedied eventually. I’m just not in the space where I can be super social right now, and I need to keep reminding myself that’s okay. I’ll get there eventually. “I’ll get there eventually” needs to be my new mantra….hmm.

I’m not back in school yet, and don’t know when I’m going back. But I will go back. I’m also not back to work, and won’t be going back to work for quite sometime. I am not in a position where I can and am able to work, so I will figure that out too as time moves along. I’ve been out of school and work since October, and taking this time off is one of the best choices I’ve made in a long time. I couldn’t have possibly juggled school, work, therapy appointments, doctor appointments, and recovery at the same time. By the same token, it was also getting more difficult to juggle school, work, and the worsening symptoms of my mental illnesses. I had juggled that for a few years, but this last fall, my threshold for handling it had been reached and I had to withdraw from school. And that was okay. Now, I have to focus on my recovery. As for the other aspects of my life, such as when I’m going back to school, I’ll get there eventually. 

Until next time, lovelies. xoxo

Autism And Me

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my disorder. I was formally diagnosed at the age of four years old, and was told I had it when I was older, around thirteen or so. However, I knew something was off about me before I even knew it had a formal name. It’s caused me a lot of grief over the years. I’ve hated my autism for most of my life, in fact developed an eating disorder from the deeply rooted self esteem issues I had from ASD as a child. I’ve had pre requisites to Binge Eating Disorder since childhood; maybe around 10-11 years old. I was born premature and was always a slight kid because of it, then started gradually putting weight on when I was about 9. But I started compulsively eating around age 10-11, and started putting on more and more weight. It got worse when I hit my teens, and I started binging and compulsively overeating at age 16 [I was completely in full hate and anger towards my autism in my teens]. The subtle signs were there during my teen years, but during my college years, it completely blew up into a full blown eating disorder ranging from tendencies of anorexia and binge eating my freshman and sophomore years of college to full scale Binge Eating Disorder my junior and senior years of college. I have since been in recovery for 4.5 months.

I did have a period of time where I accepted myself for who I was, autism and all. It was a part of me, it wasn’t all of me. I have an amazing, supportive family who always told me, “It doesn’t define you. It will never define you. You are you, you are not your autism.” and I always held that to my heart. There were some happier times. It wasn’t always painful. I graduated high school. I got accepted into college with full honors. I got a job. I held it for 2.5 years. I attended college full time for 4 years. I made lots of friends, I really met some amazing people who accepted me for who and what I was. They didn’t care I was autistic. They just saw ME, not my autism. The fact that they gave me a safe place to open up when they asked me what learning disability I had meant the world to me. The fact that they accepted me, flaws and all, meant the world to me.  But somewhere down the road, I went to hating it again. I question the period of time that I was accepting of it. Did I really understand the magnitude of my disorder? Or am I just entering a stage of my life where it’s once again taking center stage? It could be possible. A relative told me this once, “When you don’t wear it on your back, you wear it on your shoulders or your heart.” That could be true also. I’m still quite unsure. All I know is, while it will always cause me a lot of pain, grief, and self esteem issues, it will still only be a part of me and not all of me. It may feel like all of me, but it sure isn’t.

Until next time, loves. xoxo

Relationships?

That may have to just wait a bit longer. I have a tendency to close myself off to people and don’t like being vulnerable. At all. I have ignored my feelings and stuffed them down with various things. It’s mostly been food. I am now in a stage of my life where I now have to feel my feelings. I’m having a bit of a tough time with this, and I can’t always articulate how I feel. I’ve become very well spoken and articulate over time, and when I’m at a loss for words [for once], it tends to shock people.

Anyway. But the idea of relationships, especially for autistics I think, can be off putting. I don’t like the idea of them. One thing being relationships for me equals being tied down. I feel like I’m too aloof and independent to be in a relationship with someone. I don’t want to feel like I’m tied down. I like my alone time to decompress and mellow out. I like to be alone and be by myself in general; I am largely introverted. Too much socializing tends to overwhelm me, so the dating scene does not appeal to me, even when I was in relationships I didn’t always return the affection and was often accused of being robotic, shy, and inaffectionate.

The second thing being physical contact in relationships, for me at least, has always felt awkward and somewhat uncomfortable. Hugs and hand holding I can deal with. I don’t like kissing or making out; don’t get me started on the idea of sex. I cannot imagine myself having sex; I am a twenty-three year old virgin what the hell do I know about it? How do I know what I would want? I don’t even have any ideas because I don’t know how sex feels. I know this is kind of a touchy/risque issue to talk about on a blog, but I can’t be the only one who feels the same way. I am also overweight and feel self conscious about my body, I wonder who would even have sex with me? What if I get into a relationship and my boyfriend wants to have sex and I don’t? What if we get to having sex and he finds my body off putting?

The third thing being who would even date the autistic girl in the first place? [Even though I’ve been in relationships before, I still think this….I know]. But the difference between then and now is I didn’t reveal my autism to those people, because I didn’t want to. Because I hid it. I’ve always been very self conscious about revealing my autism to people, even to people I  befriend, so to reveal that I have autism to someone who could potentially be my boyfriend? No thanks. Sorry. No can deal. Again, my apologies for talking about sex in this entry, but I just had to get it out.

Until next time, my lovelies. xoxo

 

Breath

I always have to be reminded to just take a breath. Stop and smell the coffee. Relax. Take it easy. I’m too intense. I’m too serious. I know I can be too rigid, serious, and intense a lot of the time. I just get so set in a routine that any shake up in it gives me a lot of anxiety. Transitions or changes in any routines are very difficult for me. It took a lot of strength and courage for me to move away from home to go to college, but I wanted it badly and I did a lot of breathing (it was very anxiety provoking). Eventually, I settled into a routine of classes and learning how to live with other people. I made the choice of whether I let roommates know I was autistic or not. I usually did after the first year because I felt like I trusted them enough with this secret. I feel like college I really had to learn how to relax and be less rigid because in high school, I was anything but.

In middle and high school, I was very intense and serious. I was very rigid and studious. I hated any changes in routines. I had panic attacks and freaked out if I got less than an A in anything on exams, especially end of semester exams, and in classes. My friends often wanted to slap me for flipping out the way I did. “But a B is such a good grade!” they said. “You should be so proud.” “No I shouldn’t! I could have done so much better! My parents are going to be so disappointed!” But they really weren’t. It was me who was disappointed. I was disappointed in me. Nothing anyone said could deter me from my mind set. When I got a grade like that, it affected me all day and I would come home in tears. “Just take a breath. Relax. You did very well, and you should be proud of yourself, Simone. I’m proud of you, you get an A for effort.” my parents would say. Red faced and nearly hyperventilating, I would say, “But I’m not proud of me, and I want an A on that test instead of that fucking B.” My first thought would be upon getting my exam, This is rigged. There is no way this happened. I thought the world was over. It felt apocalyptic.

It took four years at college to mellow me out. Now, I’m not that girl anymore. I know how to take a breath, and relax. Funny how now I would kill to get a B on a test or in a class. I’m lucky to get a C. When I got in A in a class for the first time in four years last year, I sobbed like a baby. It’s amazing what you take for granted. It’s astounding, really. What you think is falling short for you could be lucky for other people. Of course there are times when I miss that girl who was so manic about her grades, but after the fact, I really don’t. I was so worried about my studies and defined my intelligence by my letter grades for so many years that I missed out on the rest of who I was. Just because my letter grades aren’t A’s and B’s doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent. So, how does this tie into my ASD? I became a perfectionist. I still kind of am, I just targeted academia because I felt it was the one thing I could control in a world where I felt so out of control. 

Until next time, my lovely followers. Cheers. Xo    

 

 

How Outside Looks From In Here

It always looked so intriguing and magical when I was growing up. I always wanted to be like the other kids growing up. I wanted everything they wanted. I wanted to dress like them. I wanted to look like them. I even imitated their mannerisms, the way they spoke, and their behaviors. They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Maybe. When other kids did certain things at school, it was cute, or funny. When I did it, it was awkward. It wasn’t funny at all. All I got were blank stares, or “Well, aren’t you a sassy one?” when my intent was not to be sassy. I was just trying to be normal. I was just trying to fit in. I always did things like that at school just to fit in. It wasn’t until high school that I realized trying to do all that was stupid. It was a waste of time. Why fit in when it was obvious I wasn’t made to?

So from that point on, I had learned to embrace myself the way I was. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. That doesn’t mean it didn’t take incredible restraint to resist reverting back to old behaviors when high school is so full of peer pressure and so many people around you trying to “fit in”. While my “trying to be like other kids” persona had changed, there was one thing didn’t: my constant need to prove myself to everyone. I always tried to justify my overdrive and studious ways by coming up with a list of people I needed to prove myself to. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized that proving myself to “everyone” meant me. I needed to prove myself to me. I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t my label and that I could finally be on the outside looking in for once.

But I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, not even me. What do I need to look outside to see into anyway? Why do I need to be normal? Why do I need to be anyone other than me? There are times I still think outside and think “I wonder what it’s like”, but no way do I think it’s as magical as when I was a child. Because I’m a young woman of twenty-three, and realizing that normal isn’t a standard to strive towards; after all, it’s just a setting on the dishwasher.

Until next time, my lovelies. Xoxo