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Autism: Future Blindness

I dreamt my son and I were doing some type of concrete forming on top of a highrise. We had to climb ladders in precarious positions to reach our work, yet even standing on the roof terrified me. I felt all the time as if I were sliding off, so I was lying down holding onto anything secure within my reach (so of course not doing my job.)

My son, on the other hand, was climbing on the ladder, and walking on the ledges 20 stories in the air as if they were nothing.

True to me I was panicking for the safety (or lack of) for both of us. I am sure the dream was the result of seeing a contractor climbing off a roof onto a ladder while my son and I were out for our walk the day before. I couldn’t watch, it scared me so much.

Now I know my son is not fearless – not like in the dream. He would never be found willingly climbing such heights, walking on ledges, or even doing that type of work. For a while however, I thought I could do… maybe not work on highrises, but construction of a sort anyway.

I had myself so convinced that I could do it, and would even like to do it, that I took two trades courses at our local college: A 12 week gateway program, and a 6 month Residential Construction foundation course.

ResCon

Yet I was so afraid of heights that I would cringe when other people in the course were climbing ladders, or walking floor joists or walls. I was afraid of the heights. I was afraid of the tools. I was generally afraid of the entire construction process.

I don’t know how I could ever have convinced myself that it would be a good career for me except that… I can’t see forward.

The older I get, the more I realize this.

I have a great imagination, and I am very good at dreaming things up, or picturing what situations might look like. I am also very good at seeing all that could possibly go wrong. The trouble seems to be that my imagination doesn’t take into account how I might experience these things.

Also, when I convince myself that something might be good for me, I have to block out thoughts of any fears that might come with it. I am always afraid. I am afraid of everything. So in order to convince myself that I can do anything, I also have to block out all thoughts of what could go wrong – which I am able to do so long as I am not actually in the situation I am dreaming up.

It is like any other fantasy that I dream up – like something impossible. As if I am as likely to be able to create a portal to another part of the country, or learn to fly (without the use of tools) or to alter reality with my mind as I am to get a job in construction, or adopt a sibling group of children, or…

So long as it is just an idea and not part of my reality, I am fine – but once I am actually a part of it, all of my fears, and failures, and limitations stop me from actually being able to continue on.

This makes it very difficult (if not impossible) to consider what I could do with my future as a job, or any other part of my life. Without the physical experience, I have no clue what would ‘suit me’ even enough that I could be successful in it – and now, after all of my failures, I am too afraid and exhausted to try.

After this I went on to dream that my son and I were in a cave with several other people sorting and categorizing turtles, and even naming them. This dream was definitely also connected to our walk the day before in which my son told me that the German word for turtle translates to ‘shielded frog.’ (My son has been studying German through the site Duolingo for several years now.)

 

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Autism: Poor Time Management

While I was working I fully believed that I was good at time management. I would arrive at worked 15-30 minutes before my shift… one time I was only 10 minutes early, and my coworkers were worried that something happened to me as I was never that ‘late’ (even though pretty much everyone I worked with would get there the minute they started, and one was nearly always 5 minutes late.)

I would panic before work, and that panic would grow as the time drew near, so I would go early. Besides, I needed that time to calm down before I had to start. I needed that time to transition.

I would get to work with a list in my head of things that I would like to accomplish on my shift. When I got there, I would add in anything extra that still might have to be done (like if there were rooms that hadn’t yet been cleaned, or a lot of laundry still to be done – I worked at a motel; front desk, but we did it all.)

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Unless there was something unusual – like a snowstorm or an accident that closed the highway in both directions thereby requiring me to be at the front desk helping guests the entire shift – I would get my work done. I knew just when the wash would be done and needed to be switched over, and the exact time I should check the hot tub, add chemicals… I knew how long everything took, and most of the time would be exact in getting it done. That was unusual among my coworkers.

In my life I only ever forgot one appointment – a speech therapy appointment that I had made for my middle ‘foster’ daughter that occurred within days of getting back from a week long trip to the children’s hospital in Vancouver BC for assessments on my youngest ‘foster’ daughter (a week where I was alone with my four children, taking buses in a city I didn’t know well, and wasn’t sleeping as my middle two couldn’t sleep in strange environments…) I felt horrible. I was sleep deprived, and not thinking well, and not functioning well, and…

It wasn’t at all like me.

However, the older I get the more I realize how much that level of time management is bad for my mental health. It causes extreme anxiety to focus for such long periods of time. It causes exhaustion and burnout to live at such a pace (even though I was only working part time.) I can’t hold on for very long.

And perhaps that is a lot of the reason I have not been able to hold on to a job, or continue with school, or do anything lasting any real length of time without it ending in failure.

Time moves too fast for me.

One short activity in a day takes all of my energy and focus and leaves me exhausted for days after. I require a LOT of breaks (which is not something freely offered, or which I would feel comfortable asking for at a job – they are paying me for that time after all.)

Without a lot of breaks and time for thinking, my mental health and functioning declines very quickly.

On a good day an hour or two of work or activity is about all I can handle. That is a full day for me, and even then I need days (DAYS!) off in between to rest. If I do more than that and I crash – often for months after. And that is when I am doing well – which in itself is a rare thing.

Looking at these facts I would then have to admit either that I am not in fact good at time management or that at the very least being good at time management is too hard on me.

 

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Autism: Much As I Can Handle

For anyone who would have seen me the past few weeks, I believe the general opinion was that I was healthy enough to work. Day after day from early in the morning until later in the afternoon, I was out in the garden, with my girls. I was turning the soil, and pulling the weeds, grass, rocks, and lots of June bugs out of the ground, trying to get the gardens ready for planting.

The work was steady, and repetitive, and took a lot of work – though not a huge amount of focus.

At the end of each day, I was dirty, sore, and exhausted. Yet each morning, as long as the weather cooperated (and to a smaller degree when it didn’t) there I was. Working.

There was this time pressure to complete, as spring was coming fast. Well… it was spring, but… the last frost date, or whatever. We have a short growing season, and this year even shorter as it was a longer winter than normal. So things need to be planted ‘on time’, or so I have read.

Though I study the material, and try every year, I really don’t know what I am doing in the garden. But this task was pretty simple. Dig and flip the soil, crumble it in my hands, remove all weeds, grass, rocks, and bugs that look like they might eat my plants, throw the soil, worms, and ground beetles into the ‘good’ pile.

People walked by and commented, as they do. I tried to reply appropriately, and went back to work.

My ‘girls’ chased anyone passing, and ran through the garden, and very much enjoyed themselves. I gave them the attention they needed, watched for eagles (that live just down the road), fed them on their schedules, ate on mine, and went back to work.

July 13 008

Unusual to me, I was somewhat thankful for the rainy days, for then we had to stay inside. Perhaps I should have rested then, but there was so much to do inside in preparation for my mother’s arrival, that I was nearly as busy inside as out.

For three weeks I worked hard, and anyone who saw me would likely think I was well enough to get an actual job.

Though it was something I really wanted to do, however, I started to crash at about the 1.5 week mark. By 2.5 weeks, I was really pushing myself. Those last two days I almost didn’t make it through – and had it needed more work, I couldn’t have done it.

Three weeks for a job I liked, that I could do at home with my girls, and where I was mostly alone doing something for myself. Three weeks, and I crashed.

And there lies the problem of seeking another job at this point in my life. I would go into the interview having to prove to the manager that I was the best person for the job (and in the beginning, I just might be.) I would take the job with everyone hoping, and even expecting, that this would last. It would almost be like I was telling them they could count on me – for what else are we really saying when we agree to take on a job?

Yet I would know it was a lie. I would give that job everything, because I can’t give less (for I am always concerned about what people think of me) and I would try really hard to keep going. But, as has been true pretty much my entire life, and certainly from the start of high school at not quite 14 years old, the crash would come.

If it was a particularly good time in my life, and the job was one that suited me well, I might (if not asked for too much change, or too much time, or too much…) last 5 or 6 months before I fell apart. And then, if it was still something I was enjoying, and I was getting along with the people I worked with and for, I might be able to hide the fact that I was crashing from the people at work for a few months more.

At that point, no amount of effort on my part – or incentive from outside – would prevent me from falling apart even there. Meanwhile, the effort would have taken a strong toll on my marriage, my home, and my emotional state.

And that is for a good job, that I want to succeed at.

If it were any less, I would still give my all (for I can’t give less) but I would likely not last a week before I was really struggling, and in less than a month, everyone else would know it.

So here I am, doing the very best I can to take care of my home (which is of top importance for me) and after three weeks of working hard, I am crashing. Thankfully I am at home. This is my work right now. Thankfully, though I could lose the work, and have everything come crashing down around me (it happens) a few days, or even a few months of ‘crashing’ won’t be viewed as a public failure. And that is about as much as I can handle.

Yet I always feel pressure from outside that I should/could be doing more.

 

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Autism: If Only

I watched a movie the other night.

It was an Adam Sandler movie, which was listed on Netflix. Typically, I don’t like Adam Sandler movies. I have nothing against him, it is just that comedy is not my thing. Mostly I don’t get it. I know it is supposed to be funny, but it just leaves me feeling nauseous. It isn’t him – it is comedy in general that I struggle with.

I do have a sense of humour. I do laugh when I find things funny. It is just… I don’t find most things funny that other people seem to. I have a different humour, I guess. Anyway, I tend to choose sad movies most of the time.

There were two movies of his that I liked though: One was ‘Bedtime Stories,’ and this one – “The Cobbler” was the other.

I enjoyed the movie very much, but… okay. My favourite movies I tend to like because I like the story, and the people, and the place, and they make me cry, and… basically I like everything about the movie. A lot of movies I like, however, it may be just one detail that I like about the show.

There are several shows I have liked because I liked the house it was shot in. Houses are a big one for me, and I love Victorians. In fact, I watch a lot of Paranormal shows because they are based in Victorian houses (apparently they are often thought to be haunted?!?) I love the houses, so while I may have some idea of what is going on in the movie, my focus is completely on the house.

“Did you like the movie?”

“Absolutely! I would love to live in that house!” (Forget the fact that it was haunted, or that someone was murdered there, or… I might not be able to sleep after, but… “What a great house!”)

A lot of things I watch are for ideas. Futuristic films, or Sci-Fi, or even post apocalyptic movies (those are some of my favourites!) Time travel, or fallout shelters, or sunflower farms… there is a lot of variety to what I watch because mostly I am in it for the details.

sunflower-garden

That was the case with this movie. The first few times I saw it advertised on Netflix, I ignored it. Adam Sandler = comedy = not something I would like. But then I was going through the recently added section, and without seeing the picture, I read the description of the movie: (something like: A cobbler is able to become his clients by wearing their shoes.) Perfect!

So I put the movie on, and for the idea I really enjoyed it. Fourth generation cobbler – what a thought! Imagine a world where we were raised knowing, and being trained, for the exact occupation we would spend our lives doing.

Maybe most people like the excitement of choosing their own careers, picking their own direction, being responsible for their own future… I don’t know. For me, however, I found a lot of peace in that idea. How wonderful it might have been to know exactly who I was, and where I was expected to go, and what I was expected to do, from childhood.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have succeeded there, either – but I imagine I would have been far less anxious about where I was supposed to be going, had I known at 5 what was expected of me. Now I am 40, and I still don’t know what I am supposed to be doing… if only.

 

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Autism: When I Crash

When I am doing something, though I am filled with apprehension that I will ‘get it wrong again,’ frequently I enjoy myself. This is especially true when I am accomplishing something, learning something, or doing something that I feel is worthwhile.

It was true most of the time I was running my daycare – and bye the way, the children and parents were nearly always happy with the care that I provided. With the exception of the times when I was overwhelmed, and so tended to repeat what I was doing for days on end, without changing to something new (such as when I was still running the daycare during our adoption placement visits – too stressful!) I really liked what I did.

I especially liked circle time (stories and action songs,) craft/science/baking time, and the times when the children just wanted to sit with me – even though for the most part, I don’t like people in my space.

When I took my construction courses, my fellow students believed that I was ‘smart’ and would come to me for help. I would explain – especially the theory – in ways that they could understand, when what the instructor had told them confused them. I could do that.

While I learn Spanish, or write stories, or spend time knitting, or… While I am doing these things, I often feel good. It is when I stop that I quickly start to believe I could never do it in the first place.

When I am outside, spending hours working on my garden, with my pets weaving around me, I almost feel like I am in Heaven. It is such a wonderful feeling to be out there doing.

back garden

During the time I was working at the motel, I pretty much believed I was good at what I was doing – and this was confirmed by those I worked with and for.

Though the anxiety is extremely high, even while I am doing the activities, my hope, and even my confidence is such that “I can do this” – until I get overwhelmed, that is. And then no amount of ‘positive thinking’ or ‘pushing myself through’ is going to help.

I crash. And when I crash, the exhaustion is all encompassing. It fills my life, and creates a fog in my brain, and tells me “nothing is possible.”

Since in work, and school, and parenting, and… everything else in life we are expected to be consistent, and to keep going, and to “always do our best,” the longer I spend doing something, the more likely I will crash, and the more often I will be seen (and see myself) as a failure.

I might be able to hold it together for a week, a month, a year… and then it is lost. I crash, and everyone who was watching seems disappointed. I think… I think they want me to succeed, and they are watching with hope that I will be able to do this well – but they don’t understand how very exhausting it is for me to ‘hold it together’ for any length of time. And the crash – which always comes – lasts so much longer than any activity that I was trying in the first place.

That is just a fact. Not something I have ever been able to overcome – and in fact, the harder I try to ‘hold it together,’ the less time I actually can, and the longer the crash will be.

And when I crash, I forget. I remember the anxiety, and I remember being overwhelmed, and I remember the crash – but I forget how good it felt to be doing something. I forget that I ever believed I could do anything. I forget that there was ever anything more to me than the crash that brought me to failure, and the disappointment that I see in the eyes of those who were watching; and I am so afraid to try again.

 

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Autism: Thoughtful Interactions

A few days ago I went shopping with my husband. As we approached the one mall, in the rain and sleet, I saw a sign that he had missed. “Event today,” at the pet store, it said. It didn’t stand out much, though, as their balloons weren’t floating due to the rain. “Event at the pet store!” I said to him as we walked towards the mall doors. “What?” he responded, and I pointed to the sign.

We walked through the doors, and I was in Heaven! Dogs everywhere! I guess people had brought their purebred dogs to the event to show about the different breeds. They were all in the center of the hallway in exercise pens (except the largest, who were just being held on their leashes.) Of course I had to visit them all (I am very social when it comes to dogs, though I ignored all but one person.)

Thankfully my husband understood this about me, and allowed me to go up and down the hallway saying hello to each individual dog. What a great event!

The one person I did talk to had been the interpreter for a deaf student in my Women in Trades program. Of course, I pet her dogs before, and during the time I talked to her. That made it much easier to talk. “I should have taken the RV Tech course,” I told her.

During our gateway program, the three of us had attended a ‘Shadow day’ together at the main college 1.5 hours drive from home. We spent half the day shadowing the RV Tech course, and all of us were impressed. Afterwards, the interpreter said that if I took that course, she would too – only it was in a different city, and I couldn’t get there every day. I couldn’t afford to commute, even if I could make myself drive it every day, and I couldn’t afford to live apart from my family for ten months. So I declined, much as I thought I would enjoy the course.

The interpreter told me that (the deaf student) said the same thing. She hadn’t done so well in the course she took (which completely surprised me as she was super smart – we thought she would excel at it – apparently the instructor didn’t believe in ‘women in trades,’ which I believe as she was really smart, as I mentioned.)

Too bad.

I ended up taking Residential Construction, and helped build a house as part of the course, since that was offered in my city. I did very well in the course, but… the yelling, and swearing, and weight of the material, and pace – all were far too exhausting for me, and I only worked in that field about 4 weeks total (in two different jobs) after finishing (with honours, no less.) It was too much, and I couldn’t do it any more. In fact, for all of those 4 weeks with the exception of the first day on each job, I was seriously praying to get into an accident, or fall of the truss table, or something to provide an excuse that I wouldn’t have to go back – it was that bad.

ResCon

The thing that impressed all of us about the RV tech course, was how calm everyone was. The pace was much slower, yet they learned so much more (plumbing, electrical, carpentry, even some welding.) Several of the people in the class were even being retrained after they had bad back injuries at their previous jobs in construction – so the weight, pace, and even back issues did not stop them from being able to do the job.

Plus I love small spaces. In my last job at the motel, my favourite place in the entire building was about the size of a small walk in closet. On one side it had a stacking washer and dryer, and the laundry tub. On the other side were all the clean, folded towels for the rooms, and cleaning rags for housekeeping. In the center were two doors – one leading to the guest laundry, and through to the back rooms; the other leading to the motel kitchenette (we provided continental breakfast) and the office.

On my breaks, I would bring in a chair, and sit in that closet with both doors closed – until they took out one door for the sake of ‘efficiency’ and I felt exposed in there.

My point is, had I been able to do it , I really believe I would have really enjoyed the RV Tech course, and I likely would have even very much enjoyed working in that field afterwards. At the very least, I would have learned all the skills I wanted for my home, though on a smaller scale. But I couldn’t get there. Plus my husband liked the idea that as a carpenter, I would have started at the pay scale that a typical journeyman RV Tech would have expected at the end of their apprenticeship.

Well, now I am unable to do either – and as I have said in the past, my dreams nearly always exceed my abilities, so I guess it is just as well. But it would have been nice to have a job I could do, and enjoyed doing.

 

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Autism: Real Desires of my Heart

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon taking multiple career quizzes on a job site. I do this a lot! Although the responses have never matched with who I am (I have no idea what I am doing wrong, as I always answer the questions with complete honesty) I still have hope that one day something will be listed that gives me an “aha!” moment.

True, that has not happened yet, despite the many years I have been taking these quizzes, but maybe someday I will find the quiz that does work for me.

The multiple quizzes I took yesterday were all on the same site – a work site for Alberta, Canada. I don’t live in Alberta (though not far away, either) but I will take anything I can get.

When I got my results, it came up with things like accountant, or statistician, or tax auditor, and other jobs that require strong attention to detail and a lot of time staring at a screen. It isn’t that I am bad with numbers or anything, but that level of detail and focus on a screen leaves me both severely anxious, and exhausted – which leads to depression. Above that, focusing on numbers that long leaves my eyes stinging, and my brain fuzzy – so the focus I enjoy much of the time would still not help me maintain the level of accuracy required for such jobs.

No good.

Just like other quizzes I have taken in the past, which tend to list things like physical therapist, acupuncturist, or such things (when I can’t touch people I don’t know, and hardly touch people I do know, and am unable to work with other people in such a capacity) the list doesn’t in fact reflect who I am.

I suppose that is because there are so many facets to my ability, or disability, that the standard questions don’t take them all into account – which is completely necessary for me. For instance, I have a lot of trouble with pain in my feet, which radiates up my legs and causes back trouble. That and the fact that I am so often exhausted excludes any physical type of work for me.

Then there is the Autism, which includes severe sensory issues (food, touch, smell, loud or repetitive sounds… all out!) My anxiety grows to panic when dealing with people at all – and that includes one on one. Although I can focus, I tend again towards panic and depression when I am expected to maintain a high level of accuracy, or spend a long time focused on something outside of my current interest. I might be able to maintain an accuracy sufficient enough for my employer, but the cost to my mental health is very high for me.

After taking several quizzes and questionnaires, I came to a part of the site which asked me to imagine several scenarios: Imagine money is not an object; or, imagine you had a magic wand, and could make your life anything you wanted… there were several similar ideas followed by the questions: Where are you living? What are you doing? Who is with you?

Of course, I can imagine things – especially if a magic wand is included (which, being a Christian, is not likely a good thing – but I feel so very powerless in life, the longing is hard to shake.)

So I answered:

I am living in a small cabin by a lake and far away from people. I am living with my husband, son, and many pets. We have really good internet service, but in many ways are self sufficient – wood stove, large food garden and fruit trees, well water, etc. I spend my time writing, taking care of my pets and garden, and swimming and kayaking on the lake.

sunflower-garden

I like the idea of that life, for in my mind it feels so calm and quiet, and the very thought leaves my entire body and mind sighing in relief. I want the lifestyle, but… it wouldn’t pay the bills. Writing for income is another recommendation that doesn’t fit me well, for I can’t handle criticism at all! It destroys me. And writing is one of those professions that gets a lot of criticism – which is the reason I have not shown the book I did write (though I do like it) to anyone else.

Also, despite the fact that I try every year, I haven’t got the skills or the energy to grow much food even where I am. Nothing but my imagination can bring me to a place where I consider I might be able to do this – and then, in my mind, I have some type of magic that makes it easier for me. Bad.

So while the exercise was a lot of fun, and for a while in my mind brought me to a place where I found peace and contentment (the real desires of my heart) it didn’t actually help me to live within the reality I have been given.

 

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Autism: Searching For Talent

This morning I took a 485 question job quiz, hoping to get some idea of what it is I could do. Everyone has to be good at something, right? When I read the free report at the end, however, even their suggested careers were in the “low” category for compatible matches with who I am. Top of that list was motel clerk – which is the job I had last before being put on disability for the severe anxiety I experienced trying to do that job.

I answered all of the questions honestly. I don’t know what went wrong. Perhaps it is my extreme discomfort working with, meeting with, or talking to other people. Maybe it is the fact that I am very emotional, prone to tears, and can’t handle criticism in any degree. Could it be that my vivid imagination is not matched with any creative talent? Or perhaps that while I both see and feel other people’s pain deeply, I am neither able to respond well or help them in any meaningful way.

Whatever the failure of this test, and the multitude I have taken over the years, I am no closer to finding ‘my place’ in this world than when I began. I simply cannot see what I am good at.

Following this test, I went through a list of quizzes to find my ‘hidden talent.’ Though the questions seemed somewhat ridiculous, I was hoping for an “aha” moment that left me with the thought that “I could do that.” Instead the answers all revolved around creativity – painting and knitting (neither of which I am good at.)

Casting aside the knowledge that I have no talent in creative areas save for my imagination (which for the life of me I cannot extract from my mind in any practical way) a creative job, open to criticism, would leave me severely incapacitated for the shear panic such a job would bring. I would be paralyzed. This is possibly the reason I have never been able to get further in creative pursuits: to improve, you must accept criticism of your work, and I can’t. I do know when my work doesn’t meet expectations, but all I hear from the words that should help is, “failure.” I shut down. I just can’t.

On the opposite end are jobs that require precision, accuracy, detail. While I would find comfort in knowing exactly what was expected of me at all moments, my brain is often… scattered, imprecise, unfocused. I know I would make mistakes, and I would always fear them. I beat myself up over mistakes since I am such a perfectionist, and feel shame over them for years after. Such a job, again, would not be suitable due to my anxiety issues.

Taking their idea of motel clerk, at least I have some experience in that. The thing is, though, that I am very awkward. Not at all good at small talk, or dealing with comments or requests outside of the script I wrote for myself in order to do the job, there are limited options to the places where I would get hired in this area. Namely the places where a motel clerk was also required to be a breakfast attendant, housekeeper, pool attendant, and laundry worker all on the same shift. I didn’t have the energy to keep it up, and it quickly burnt me out. Besides, working with the public is not the best position for one easily scared or hurt.

I did enjoy doing the laundry on that job, and even the housekeeping for the rooms where people had checked out without leaving too much of a mess – but with my back pain, feet and legs prone to severe pain, and low energy, it was not something I could keep up long term (or even continue on the demanding pace required in such places.)

While I love spending time with my pets, and they all like me, most jobs involving animals are not real options for me. Pet sitting is out (though I have done and enjoyed it in the past) because I have too many animals in my home to bring others around, and am not at all comfortable in other people’s houses. Kennel attendants, much like motel clerks, require too much interaction with the public, and too much energy in cleaning the kennels. I am not good at training animals, and not at all able to take biology in order to be a vet or assistant (in fact, I failed grade 9 science not being able to go into the room after the biology students due to the strong smell of formaldehyde.

Then there is the fact that I like plants, and trees, and all growing things. But I have never been one of those people who could keep things growing (some things, okay – like my accidental sunflower garden, or the avocado trees that have been growing in my living room from grocery store seeds, but mostly no.) Add to that the energy and physical issues, and the fact that I have bad allergies throughout the growing season, and I really don’t know how I could use that interest for good.

So once again, though I started out with hope that this time some idea would shine forth as true, I am left once more thinking there is nothing I could do. Sad.

sunflower-garden

 
 

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Autism: Future Plans

It has always been a struggle for me: planning for the future. Though it is something I think about often, it is not something I am able to see.

As a child, I prayed every night (I wasn’t raised Christian, but at that time we did say the Lord’s Prayer at school each morning, so I followed that example) that whoever ‘abandoned me’ to this world would come and take me home. When every night you go to sleep fully expecting to be ‘taken’ in your sleep, it is difficult to plan for tomorrow. It wasn’t a fear, but a hope; one that dulled over the years, but has still stayed with me to some degree ever since.

When I was a teenager, I was struggling so bad with post traumatic stress disorder that the majority of my time was spent trying to survive the moment, and to block out visions of the past that came every time I closed my eyes even for a moment. ‘Calm’ only meant I was able to block out the past to remain in the present for a while. During those years, there was no future (though my hope to remain was in having a child – not likely the best goal for one struggling so very much, but I am thankful for the child I was able to have.)

Then I entered my adulthood during the time of Y2K, and the movies “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact.” There was talk that the world’s end was imminent, with dates set any time from 2000 to 2014. Since I had a young son, I didn’t feel ready (he was to graduate in 2014 – which seemed far off since he hadn’t started Kindergarten at the time, but I wanted to see him grow up.) Most of my decisions – including where I would relocate to were based on this fear and surety. I would live to see the world end, and that was my future.

During those years, I was surrounded by a lot of death. Two of my cousins, my grandfather, and my father died so close together that though it was not planned, their graves are all together at the cemetery where they were buried.

The year 2000 didn’t bring forth the end of the world, but my cousin and my maternal grandmother both died shortly after, so the danger for me never really seemed to pass. That was also the year that I moved away from my family and across the country to a place I had never even visited before.

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It may seem to others that I was forward thinking to move across the country for work, but in reality I was running away. I was running from pain, and from fear, from failure, and from trauma. I ran from a large city in very close proximity to a major city, to a small town most people had never heard of where I was from. My options for work included Vancouver and Victoria – and those places are beautiful, but… tsunamis, and earthquakes, and terrorist attacks, and people. The place I chose was far from all of these, and not even close to a medium size city. Perhaps the ‘safest’ I could find – yet in all the years I have been here (nearly 17 now) I have never really gotten past the thought that the world could end at any moment, or that I might be ‘taken’ in the night, and not wake up here the next day.

So you see, before I even get into my Autistic struggles of seeing tiny details, but never seeing the big picture, thoughts on where to go from here are nearly impossible for me – and the thought that I might be here for a long time scares me more than the idea that the world might end tonight. So instead of making plans for the future, I surround myself with anchors that will tie me to the present, and make it easier to stay for another day, or another year, or…

But when the question comes to what I will do, or be, or become… to what job I could do, or where I see myself in a year, or in five years… There is nothing but fear. Nothing. And when I do get into a position that something might change (going to school, or getting a new job, for instance) the fear is so intense that I find comfort in the thought that the world might end tonight, and I might not have to go back

 

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Autism: Inspirational Day

A couple of days ago while I was on the Realtor website (I go on there a lot) I got… bored looking at the same few houses that might be in our price range where I live. As I mentioned, I go on there a lot, and I keep the search pretty much the same: Freehold property, 2+ bedrooms, 1+ bathrooms, priced up to $275,000.

When we bought our house thirteen years ago, it was the most expensive house we looked at, and over our budget by about $5,000. We put our offer in at a few houses before this one, but they were selling fast at the time. Our house: 3+1 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, fireplace, carport, deck, view, full finished basement, freehold property. We paid about $160,000 and within months had a call from a Realtor asking us to sell as people wanted this neighbourhood specifically. The price then (less than six months later)? $250,000. We didn’t sell, obviously.

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Now, however, I might have six properties come up with my search, and none of them are anywhere near what our house is: 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 750 square feet, half our yard size, no basement, no carport, most have no fireplace or wood stove, maybe built in the late 40s or early 50s (ours is 1980 and 1149 square feet on each level.)

So the same few houses come up, and the cost is high (we wouldn’t be saving much after Realtor fees, transfer taxes, and all other expenses included in moving) and none of them are quite what I am looking for… not that we are planning on selling, but if we were, I like to be prepared.

I expanded my search. I do that sometimes. The thing is, though, that housing in BC is expensive, and in the entire province there isn’t much available in our price range (pretty bad considering, as I said, our house was the best of all we looked at when we were buying, and we looked at many.) Often if BC doesn’t work, I turn to Ontario – that is where my family lives. Only the hydro prices in Ontario are astronomical, and I know we couldn’t afford to live there, even if (in some areas, not really close to my family) houses might be cheaper.

I would say, “I spent the day…” but I didn’t really, for it was cleaning day, and I was quite busy around this activity – but I was interested, and so did spend a fair bit of time on the activity.

My search was Canada wide. Not that we could move, really – for my husbands family, friends, and life are here. He needs that support, even if I don’t have it so much (that isn’t his fault; I moved here before I met him.) In order to not be overwhelmed with the results, I tightened my search: Freehold (always – I have too many pets to live in a strata, plus the fees are too much) 3+ bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, garage, fireplace (I would say wood stove, but that isn’t an option), acreage.

I was surprised to see 89 results in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but some of those houses were beautiful! Not that I ever considered living in the maritime, but my sister in law has family there (so they have gone there to visit, though in the nearly 17 years I have lived here, they have never come here – even for my wedding.) My younger brother has a friend there, that he (and my mom) have gone to visit a few times. And the housing is cheap… mostly because there isn’t much work there, I assume.

The houses though! All day I kept going back to them. Such inspiration! You see, I really did like my job at the motel, only it was overwhelming, and I couldn’t deal with… the ‘difficult’ people. They would put me into a full panic attack, as would the amount of work I always had to do.

Several of these houses said they would be suitable for a Bed and Breakfast. I couldn’t run a bed and breakfast; I haven’t the personality – but perhaps I would do well with some long term rentals, or something like a very small motel, or… something. There are things I could do, that are even related to work I have done – if only I had the opportunity. But I would have to live where I worked. That is an essential for me.

I really did love the character of many of those houses. I loved the properties, and the space, and some had spectacular views of the ocean.

The entire day, I never made it past $150,000 in price, there were so many houses for less. We could buy there and have a lot left over… of course, we couldn’t move there… there is my husband with his supports, and there is my son, who would lose his disability if he left BC… I couldn’t go, but I can dream, and it really was inspiring to look at those houses.

 

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