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Category Archives: Autism: Reality, Sensory Issues, and Other Abstract Concepts

Autism: Fair Trade

The weeks go by, and still the sky is filled with smoke. There has been no rain. The fires continue to burn. Many days, I can’t even see the mountains or the lake from my house – yet the lake is only about 7-8 houses down the street. For much of the rest of the year, we have a wonderful view of both.

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Last year, it was the spring that was hot, and the rain came all summer. It was great!

This year there was so much rain in the spring we had mud slides and flooding. And then the rain stopped, and now there are fires.

The fires are close, but they’ve been closer other years. Because of that, every time summer comes around again, I consider what it would mean to us if it were our town on fire; our town being evacuated; our home burnt to the ground.

I consider those things, and do what I’ve always done – seek out the positives that might be brought about from that. I think maybe I could have been an optimist… if only I could block out reality.

The consolation from these thoughts is rarely equal to what I would be giving up – but they do help me to avoid meltdown (before I am alone, at least.) Like when I was dating my husband, and never knew if he would ask me to do something with him, or turn and walk away. I don’t handle the unexpected well – but didn’t want him to see that (as much as possible) so I would comfort myself with this:

“If he doesn’t take me out, I can go home and have a Pepsi.” Not exactly a great trade, but as I said, it did help. Of course it meant I always had to ensure I had pop in the fridge at home. It also meant really working to savour that pop until my mind was calm enough to move on – which also fed an addiction to Pepsi that I still frequently have to fight some 16 years later (even though I am rarely bothered when I stay home now.)

In fact, some things become so frightening to me that the things my mind creates to get through are much bigger than a can of pop – and I fixate on the consolation to the point that people on the outside begin to believe that is what I want; when in fact ‘that’ is only masking the very real fear of what I have to lose:

  • my dog
  • my children
  • my confidence
  • my job
  • my house
  • my husband
  • my family

In my earlier days, those around me became so convinced that what I was fixated on was what I wanted, that they also convinced me it was true (though I fought and denied it for a time) and caused it to become a reality. I think that is what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy? Only the idea came from me – they just didn’t understand at all that it was hiding a fear rather than revealing a desire.

People around me are still convinced now that what they see is desire – and it still costs me. It still brings those fears into reality. And it is still not enough to cover the pain of the loss.

So the smoke fills the air and I think, “if our house burns down, at least the renovations will get done, and I won’t be overwhelmed by all the stuff we are storing, and the things that need cleaned, and…”

And for a moment it calms me. For a moment. I think of a fresh start, and it eases the burden. For a time, I might even be convinced this is what I want.

And then I remember the cost. I look at my animals, and remember that when my grandma’s house burnt down, her 5 cats were killed in the fire – and upon returning home and seeing the smoke, she burnt her hands trying to save them. I can’t lose my babies – especially not like that. So I pray, “Please Lord, if our house is going to burn, let us be warned so we can all get out on time.”

But then I look at the box of my dog’s ashes. And there are the pictures of my son from before we got our digital camera. And there are the dolls that sometimes seem so real to me. And there are boxes of artwork and schoolwork from my children. And there are my journals, and my books, and…

“Wait,” I cry, “I don’t want my house to burn!” And that is when I remember that my fixations are more likely to reveal my fears than my desires. Not what I want. Not what I want! Like trading a relationship for a Pepsi – because of course that is a fair trade!

 

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Autism: How the Story Ends

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither.” (Psalm 37:1-2)

I read that in my devotional this morning, and it was so needed; for I frequently find myself full of pain and fear over the evil that is in this world.

The greed.

I guess I have known this for a long time, but the older I get, the heavier the weight it carries: capitalism feeds greed.

It isn’t even about wanting more and more, and working hard to get it. That, I suppose, is what capitalism is about: the hope that if you work hard enough, and give enough of yourself, your circumstances (will?) improve.

But that isn’t the reality for most people – and even that isn’t what bothers me most.

It is the greed that says, “I will do whatever it takes to get ahead,” and either doesn’t take into account, or doesn’t even care what it costs to others.

Like pet food companies that work for profit, and keep products on the market even when they know it is killing animals.

Like clothing companies, or toy companies, or shoe companies, or… just about everything that uses slave labour to create products at the cheapest cost to sell in richer markets for a huge profit – not caring what they are doing to the people on the bottom.

Like people who cut down rain forests to grow crops to feed animals, so people in the developed world can feel rich eating much more meat than their bodies require – while people are starving in other parts of the world, and plants and animals that should have been left alone, become extinct.

Like people who buy multi-million dollar vacation homes that are left unused much of the time while children are dying of hunger, and for lack of proper medicines and clean water.

So much evil! So much greed!

And it overwhelms me most of the time; I can’t block it out.

How could we?

How could we keep doing this year after year, and decade after decade, and think it is okay?

And I guess if it weren’t for money, people would seek power in its place – and people would be abused, and used, and killed for others to get to the top. And I ask myself, why is it so competitive? Why can’t we work in cooperation instead? Why can’t we make it better?

But the world is full of evil, and sometimes it seems that evil will win.

But evil doesn’t win – and that is what this verse reminded me of today. “In the end it will all be okay; and if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.”

I read the book. I know how the story ends. If only I could remember that when I look around and see how bad things are right now.

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Autism: Sad Research

The things I heard, and the words I read were…

  • Painful.
  • Disgusting
  • Frightening.
  • Discouraging.
  • Upsetting.
  • Lacking Hope.

How was I to find an answer, when the so called ‘options’ were so full of…

  • Greed.
  • Cruelty.
  • Corruption.
  • Evil.

The challenge was that I had to find a new brand of cat food to feel to my cats. Cat food! I expected to have to pay a little more to get a better product. You get what you pay for, right? And really, the main reason I was searching for a new food was because the one they were eating could only be found in the weight control formula, or a flavour they didn’t like. They didn’t need the weight control formula anymore – and in fact, it would have been an unhealthy choice to keep them on it.

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So, true to myself, I spent many hours researching what would be the best (and preferably not too expensive) food to try next.

And during those hours, my eyes were opened to the absolute greed that a capitalist society feeds.

And it broke my heart.

Six years! Six years a food was left on the shelves, and the company knew it was killing animals. They knew it, and still they left the product on the shelves, and assured people again and again that it was safe.

And when they were sued? They had to compensate the people for the cost of the pet and vet care. That is it! They traded lives and loves for profits, and in the end, it didn’t really cost them anything at all.

But you read something like that, and shake your head, and say, “horrible!” But surely it is an isolated event, right? Yet the more I read, and the more I researched, the more I understood: This is nowhere close to rare. Nowhere close.

They make their money, and they don’t care that what they are selling causes so much sickness, death, heartache. They don’t care. Pets are property; nothing more. They aren’t even legally obligated to report these things in a timely manor. Some aren’t even sure they have to report it at all. And the animals die, and the family’s hearts are broken – and if it can be connected, the courts say, “how much did it cost?”

But these are my babies! Not property – family. And the cost of losing them is so, so much more than the money I paid to try to save them, or the cost to bring home another. Irreplaceable. Priceless.

As I read these things, and watched the reports, I thought of my dog who died of heart failure in the spring of 2016, and I wonder. I wonder because he was not even 8 years old. I wonder because a lot of dogs in the area died young from similar things at that time.

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What can’t be proven hurts still. What can be proven is not compensated enough – not nearly enough – for the pain they caused.

Powerless. What could I do?

So I got them the best food I could find – one where right at the top of the list were actual meats, organs, eggs for a long way down, followed by fruits and vegetables I recognized, and no corn, potatoes, grains, chemicals, poisons…

And then I went to the grocery store and bought them real food: Chicken, liver, salmon, eggs.

And my babies were very pleased.

 

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Autism: Powerless to Help

There was a Facebook post: A 13 week old puppy, who carried a stuffed toy with him wherever he went was at a shelter. He loved the toy so much, the workers would have to take it away from him so he would eat.

But the shelter is a high kill shelter, where the animals are given just weeks, sometimes even days, to find a home – before they are ‘humanely’ put to sleep.

No one showed any interest in him, so he was moved to the back – to death row.

He took his stuffed toy with him. His only source of comfort as he sat in the cage waiting to die.

I don’t know what happened to that puppy. I know there are many young and old in a similar situation. I can only hope the word got out on time, and he was saved.

I cried when I read about him. I am crying still. The world is a cruel and evil place, and I feel powerless in it – nearly as powerless as that puppy, sitting in that cage, holding his stuffed toy for comfort.

I cannot save them all. I couldn’t even save that one. And it destroys me.

Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to live in this world: I can’t block these things out. I can’t NOT see – and I am powerless to help.

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Autism: Like Losing My Children All Over Again

The week my mom left was an especially difficult time for me. It is so hard for my mind to understand the abstract nature of this world – such that, “my mom is gone; will I see her again; and… are my memories of yesterday(s) real?”

Above the difficulty I was having with her departure, I also happened to be reading a book that led me to question my faith. It wasn’t so much in belief, but in “faith without works is dead.” So I was overflowing with guilt and shame, regret, and fear that since I seem to fail at everything. Does this then mean I won’t have ‘works’ to show my faith is alive, and therefore God will reject me?

That same week, I must have been triggered by something (perhaps the dream in which I was trying to bring my children home,) for I was emotionally re-living the loss of my (foster) children, and the attack I had experienced at that time much like it was occurring again in the present time. My pastor says that the emotional receptors of the brain don’t understand time. Therefore, when a memory is triggered from something that was emotional (and that time in my life was very much so) it feels as if we are experiencing it again. Therefore the saying “Time will heal,” is not accurate.

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I tend to agree with him on that one, as it is certainly true for me. I frequently relive traumatic times in my life when memories are triggered, and it really hurts as badly now as it did then. I may not be living it every moment of every day as I did when it happened – but the pain is just as intense, and the hurt just as strong, as it was in those days.

And then I had another dream. And though the dream was extremely unlikely to be a subconscious reflection of reality; and though he has never given me any reason to believe this might be a possibility; and though I have not been suspicious, or jealous, or anything in our relationship – the dream still had a very strong impact on me.

In the dream, my husband was confessing to cheating on me continuously, and was mocking me for being upset, and for being too stupid to know he didn’t want our marriage to last.

It wasn’t even a very long dream, and when I woke up, while I still acknowledged such a thing to be extremely unlikely – emotionally I was aching, and responding to my husband as if it were true. I didn’t speak to him of this – it was a particularly ridiculous dream; yet perhaps if I had I would have been able to heal, and not fall apart in ways he couldn’t understand (not knowing where such things were coming from.)

It has been hard enough living with this idea that he doesn’t want me battling in my mind for several years – but to have this added to my mind: that he doesn’t want me because he has someone else (even if I know it to be untrue, and only the result of one nightmare) brought me to a certainty that he doesn’t love me, and doesn’t even want me around.

And while it was unfair to him, since it had nothing to do with his actions, and everything to do with my dream; I still responded to him as if it were truth – and it hurt. It really, really hurt. And he had no idea.

So he fed this belief he didn’t know I had, from a source fully outside of reality, by responding to my discussions about not being able to go to the lake since I had no solution for keeping my girls safe with (what appeared to me) indifference – and as if he really didn’t want me to go with him. And then he got my gloves wet, and I fell apart, and it was like…

It was like losing my children all over again.

 

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Autism: Apologies

There is this thought that continues to creep into my mind that I don’t love my husband as I should. Perhaps that isn’t the best way to put it, as once written, I suddenly get a picture in my mind of shocked responses from the people who are reading it. I do love my husband. I even like my husband. But I still don’t think I love him as I should.

Easter 2015

The thought grew stronger after I had written my post about wet gloves. Though all I wrote was true, and reflected accurately my experience of the situation, it wasn’t… edifying is the word that comes to mind – towards him.

So I had this constant though in my mind that I should revise the wording of that post. I went away camping for a week, and all the time fully intended to alter it when I got back home, before its scheduled release the following Monday. When I got home, however, I re-read the post and concluded that it was an accurate portrayal of my experience, and to alter it would be… almost a lie. I couldn’t do that.

While I don’t think my response to the situation – though admittedly much more intense than other people might have responded – requires my apology (I stick to what I wrote, and what I felt about that) I do believe I need to apologize for the way he came across – not only in my post, but in my thoughts as well.

It is difficult for people to understand struggles outside of their experiences. It is difficult for people to be able to consider how what they do might strongly affect another person. Especially in terms of such things that most people don’t have strong reactions to – such as heightened sensory issues, or even allergies.

For instance, I have a severe egg allergy. Every year when I go camping, and other people are around, the others seem to have a really difficult time understanding the allergy. They want eggs for breakfast. Pancakes are cooking on the grill. They want to add eggs to a different section of the grill. They don’t understand why I ask them to wait until my food is finished cooking before they add theirs. It isn’t that they are meaning to hurt me, but that they honestly can’t see why this is a problem.

It is the same with wet rubber gloves. Most people do not have sensory issues to the extreme where a bit of water accidentally dripped inside of rubber gloves will cause a full meltdown. It isn’t that when such things happen people are intentionally doing something to hurt me. I know this. It still hurts, but I know it isn’t on purpose.

So when I wrote, I wrote from my experience. My sensory issues cause me pain. Real pain. So it possibly comes across as the person who caused me that pain maybe should have known better. Maybe should have understood. It isn’t… edifying.

The thought continues to come through my head that I don’t love my husband as I should. So how should I love my husband?

Unconditionally.

Yet unconditional love is hard. Really hard. Nearly impossible for an easily hurt, easily offended sinner such as I am. In fact, for all relationships I have had, there is only one person I can think of that I have even come close for – and that is my son.

When my son does something that upsets me; or does things I wish he wouldn’t; or does something that hurts me, or someone else, or himself; or takes the wrong path, or… in that moment what I want most for him is that he overcomes the issue and does better next time. What I feel is a strong desire to reconcile that drowns out all thoughts of pain, or hurt, or anything negative. “See what you have done. Overcome it. Let it go.”

I think everyone should be love like that. I think that is the love my husband should have from me. So I pray, “Please Lord, teach me to love my husband as I love my son.” And I say to my husband, “I am sorry for not loving you like I should. Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”

 

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Autism: Fantasy or Reality

Last night I had the strangest dream… whenever I want to share I dream I have had, I think of that song we used to sing in grade school music class: “Last night I had the strangest dream, I’ve ever dreamed before. I dreamed mankind had all agreed to put an end to war.”

Well, I guess my dream last night wasn’t about putting an end to war. It was more, I suppose, in reflection to anxieties regarding my mental state – which has been… challenged, I suppose, with the departure of my mother (on an airplane, not in a grave.)

Vacation July 2016 014

At first I was in a building of sorts. I think it might have been my church in the area which is now being used as a toddler room, but used to be the library. My son and I were in that room, only he was a young child (as he was when it was a library) and he was playing hide and seek with another child who was somewhere down the hallway.

My son had hidden under a shelf and behind the book drop box that used to be in there. I was sitting on a chair reading, and waiting for my husband, I assume. He used to work there, and was on the worship team for a while, so in the past (when my son was young, and that room was a library) we used to wait for him a lot in there.

As I was reading, I looked up. At the other end of the room was a double closet (which is not there – though my son has something like it in his bedroom at our house.) In the closet was a large pile of laundry, dirty sheets, and such. Suddenly several of these were lifted up by invisible hands, and flung at me. Not only were the sheets and other clothing being thrown at me, but heavier objects as well, such as a lamp, and books.

I got my son, and fled.

When people asked me what had scared me so badly, I told them of these objects coming through the air on their own. “The wind,” they said. “Demons,” I responded. I took them to the room and showed them the heavier objects that had been flung at me.

As a result of this, I was encouraged to check myself into a mental hospital. I have been in that hospital several times in my dreams – though I have never been to one even to visit in reality. This building was really nice. It had hardwood floors, lots of plants, a few indoor gardens, an atrium, and even the rooms were well decorated. Above that, they had activity rooms for crafts, and other things of interest to me.

In past dreams, when I have gone there, I decided not to stay. I needed to be with my animals, and couldn’t leave them behind. Above that, the rooms were often shared, and I couldn’t bring myself to a place where I would have to share a bedroom, and especially a bathroom. So I filled out the paperwork, and I left.

This time, however, I knew I needed to stay – the outer world was becoming too dangerous for me, and I couldn’t live well in it. So I walked up to the admitting desk, where I knew the man behind the counter (a man from my church who is in his 80’s I think.) He was sure I was there for someone else, but I corrected him, told him my paperwork was completed, and that I was Autistic.

What got me most about this dream was not that I was questioning my mental state (which I do) but the fact that I finally admitted it was bad enough that I was willing to stay in a place where I had to share a bathroom in order to be treated.

Since my mom went home five days ago now, I have been really struggling again with abstract concepts of time and distance. She was here, and now she isn’t. Not only isn’t she here, but she can’t be, as she lives to far away to just come back. Try as I might to recognize this as truth, it just doesn’t fit as such in my mind. So things like this bring me to a space where I am questioning if anything from the past (including the visit from my mom) was real – or was it just a dream?

And I suppose with that comes the fear that each time these things occur, my sanity slips a little – and that fear that my memories are but a dream carries into my dreams to tell me some day I might need extra help in seeing the difference between dreams and reality.

 

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