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Autism: Driven By Compulsion

This morning I have such a strong desire to research floor plans for houses (for no reason other than it is an obsession of mine) that even coming to write my blog is extremely difficult. Yet I am two posts behind – for my posts that are scheduled three weeks in advance in order to reduce my anxiety – and I must write. For every word, however, I ache to pull out a pad of paper to draw, or to open up my internet browser and search.

My sleep has been broken lately, and that really doesn’t help with my functioning level. It is my own fault, really, for I will continue to eat the gluten that causes it. It is just too hard to change the foods I eat long-term, for the change always leaves me feeling sick.

It also doesn’t help that everything keeps me awake: my husband snoring, my cat purring, wrinkles in the sheets, not enough room to stretch out (which causes me pretty bad back pain every night), static… my house is so dry right now that every time I move at night I see flashes of light like fireflies flying off of me in all directions. I worry sometimes that the sparks will start a fire!

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It isn’t only at night, either. During the day, my dogs come to give me kisses, and get shocks instead. The zapping loudly breaks the silence. I am not sure what to do about it. I do use fabric softener in my laundry – but then I like wearing fleece, and fleece on fleece seems to increase the static.

I am tired. I am not thinking well. I am not functioning well. My nose is irritated, and often bleeding from the dryness in my house… I suppose I could get a humidifier, but they scare me. Once, when my son was about 6 weeks old, we got a bad cold. I put on a humidifier (as the baby books suggested) and my cold dropped to my lungs so I could hardly breathe. I thought I was going to die – I really did. Ever since, the very idea of using humidifiers has caused me strong fear.

When things are going like this for me, it is my fixations that drive me. When my functioning is low, all I can do is give in to my obsessions and compulsions. For this week that means playing Sims 2 Pets on the PC, watching ‘Angel’ on Netflix, and drawing and searching for house plans. Not at all productive, but I haven’t the strength or energy to fight it.

Besides, I have spent several hours cleaning this week. I did visit with a friend, and talked on the phone to my mom. I have taken care of my dogs, visited with my cats and son, and made supper when it was my night to do it. I might be spending nearly all of my time right now on my fixations – and that isn’t great – but I also need to remember all of those times when I did overcome the compulsion, and took care of all of those things that really needed to be done.

So rather than focus on where I was stuck this week, I think I should really be thankful for where I succeeded… I wonder if that might be a better way to respond to all people – after all, every one of us struggles with something.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Poetry: My Creative Outlet

 

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Autism: Under the Surface

Though I tried very hard, still I could not think. I read my devotional without an issue – but then it was mostly reading. I was able to get through penmanship, but then that is just copying. I did my grammar, but it was just answering simple questions, which I learned in grade school to do. Then I got to Latin.

It was a review lesson, and the work up until this point has not been difficult. Still I was unable to think. I couldn’t even translate one simple word, my anxiety was so bad. Not one. Not difficult stuff, but I couldn’t do it.

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The reason? I had to go out that night.

Not an unusual place. Not with new people. It was a potluck dinner, but I had already planned to eat ahead of time. I did have to bring a dessert, but it was not something new, or difficult. Just so, so anxious. It is always hard on me when I have to go somewhere, but this was a bit much even for me… at least for an evening that is pretty much routine through the year. True, we took a break for about four months, but I still saw them in church most weeks. It shouldn’t have been so hard, but it was.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t do any cleaning. Even the very things that calm me became impossible at that level of anxiety.

So maybe it wasn’t just that I had to go out that night.

Think again. Analyze again. Take it apart, and make the picture bigger. Look at it in context. Of course I would have been anxious about that night:

  • First time in months.
  • Potluck dinner.
  • Not eating with the group (eating would have been worse, but still.)
  • Bringing a dessert.
  • Visiting.
  • Leaving my house.

Each of those things individually cause me anxiety. Together, of course they would cause high anxiety. Even still, there must have been more. Look bigger.

  • First time leaving my dog since her spay 10 days prior.
  • One day after the anniversary of the day ‘my children’ were taken.
  • Dark, rainy days.
  • Frequent upset stomach in the days leading up to this (struggling with food again!)
  • Frequent headaches (mostly from the weather.)

Okay. So all of these things, for me, are huge. Together? Too much. The moment is beginning to make sense, but might there be anything more?

  • I have been completely fixated… perseverating… overwhelmed by my house, and the needed renovations.
  • My mind feels like it is about to snap as I try to make sense of all the losses in recent years.
  • My mom was planning to phone the next day (a good thing, as it is years between visits, and I like to talk to her, but… phones!)
  • My upcoming birthday tomorrow (September 25) which is always a time of reflection.

And now I pretty much understand why I couldn’t understand my simple Latin lesson. Autism: There is always so much going on under the surface. So much more than what is actually seen.

 

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Autism: This Week Broken

This is the week. The most difficult week in all the year, and I am feeling it. By the time I post this, it will be over – but that makes it no less difficult to get through. I can feel it coming, like some dreaded experience, though the experience of it happened seven years ago. Seven. Such a Biblical number, don’t you think?

Seven years should bring rest. While my body pretty much is at rest (my dog is still recovering from her surgery, and I don’t like to move from her, for she wants to follow) my heart and mind are not. I am full of anxiety, irritation, and depression. I feel anything but restful. Not grateful. Not content. Not calm. I know I am supposed to be, but I am not, and that only makes me feel worse.

Seven years of “after.” Seven years of “since.” It happened so long ago, that I should have healed. But I haven’t. In moment I think I have, but so many things are triggers, that so quickly I realize that I haven’t really healed at all. I should have healed. I haven’t. Another failure to add to my list. I begin to think that I was never resilient to begin with – that word that they like to throw around to help them feel better for the things they feel they have to do. “People are resilient,” they say. “Children are resilient.” Whatever helps them to sleep better at night, I guess, but not all of us are. Not all of us. Probably in their line of work, the majority of the people (adults and children – who are not that different, really) are likely not resilient.

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So maybe I shouldn’t have tried to adopt in the first place – being one of the not resilient ones. Maybe they shouldn’t have approved me. Only I was taught (as if it were fact) that if I tried hard enough, I could… and if I worked hard enough, I could succeed. Never was it even suggested that this might not be true. Those who fail are those who don’t try hard enough, or work hard enough.

Besides, I was feeling pretty good at that point in my life, and fully believed I was healed of those issues in my past (at least in the moment… perhaps if they had asked me on a different day…) and I was already (successfully) working with children.

I had the desire. I had the education. I had the empathy, and the mercy, and the love. I had the time. I had the space. And most important of all, I tried hard. I worked hard. Every day I worked to succeed at this. I tried enough. I worked enough. But somewhere along the way someone was flawed in their thinking.

Maybe if some people work hard, and try hard, they can succeed. Some. Not all. Not all.

So I failed, seven years ago – and above the trauma, and above the loss and the pain, and my own shame over not being able to succeed at something that so many others manage to succeed at (for I compare myself with all parents, and not just those who try to adopt through the foster care system – I can’t help it) but I also still feel the judgment of so many others who seem to believe if I had only tried hard enough, or worked hard enough, I could have adopted those children. I want to shout out, “I did!” Though I know it wouldn’t make a difference.

Seven years. And what is more, I am also turning forty this week. Another biblical number. Forty days and forty nights of rain. Forty days in the dessert. Forty years in the wilderness. Forty. Another number promising an end to suffering and pain, and the beginning of hope. Seven years and forty years, both in the same week. Will things get easier after this?

I am trying. Trying not to think of it – though my days are filled with fear, pain, sadness, hopelessness… My nights are filled with tears, and insomnia. I am struggling through with headaches and exhaustion. This week. Trying, trying, always trying… yet though I try so hard to think of other things, and find positive ways to spend my time, it does no good. This week, I am broken.

 

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Autism: Food Obsession

I am not even a “food person.” Most of the time, I don’t even like it. Okay, I do like chocolate, and pop, and… sometimes that is about it. But I get sick fast when I don’t eat well, so it isn’t like I can survive on that.

My relationship with food is so bad, that if I didn’t need it to survive, I would probably… I would probably get a divorce from it. Food. Bad. I have always struggled with food. It was likely worse as a child when I had to eat what I was given (typical Canadian kids meals – hamburgers, Kraft dinner, hot dogs, sausage, spaghetti) and I still can’t eat like that. I complained of an upset stomach a lot of the time (little surprise, my stomach still hurts a lot of the time) and wasn’t able to speak enough to explain any further. They didn’t believe me. It wasn’t “normal.”

However, I still have a lot of trouble with food. Though I can choose my own now most of the time, and though more people understand about allergies, sensitivities, intolerance… I am now an adult – and expected to behave as such (meaning not hiding in a corner crying because they are having hot dogs for lunch, and I have eaten so much wheat I can no longer think to find something of my own.) Being an adult makes it hard in a different sort of way.

So no. I am not a “food person,” and yet I spend so much of my time obsessed with food. This is likely not because I like it, but… you would think that by 40 (which I will be on September 25th) that a person would have learned what foods they can eat, and what makes them sick, and what they really, really like. I don’t, though.

I know wheat makes me sick, and dairy makes me sick, and if I eat eggs, I will likely stop breathing. And meat leaves me feeling sad, anxious, guilty, and disgusted. Those are important things to know. Still I don’t know what I like – and if I like it today, I don’t know that I will like it tomorrow – and if I like it at home, I don’t know that I will like it when I am camping – and…

You see where the problem comes in?

I just can’t seem to figure this very basic thing out. How do I eat? And that one question becomes an obsession, and a fixation, that though I am most definitely not a food person (I won’t even try new things unless I choose them – and if I go to a restaurant, no way will I try something other than that one thing I know I can eat – and if I go to a new restaurant… I will likely look at the menu until I am near tears, and then leave if I can, or eat nothing but fries if I have to)

So I write about food a lot – not because I like it, but because at nearly 40 years old, I still haven’t learned how to eat. And that is a problem. A big problem – and one that affects nearly every decision that I make.

Today for lunch I ate gluten free tempura battered fried tempeh with fried onions and kosher pickles. Why kosher? Because I sent my husband out for pickles, and he doesn’t eat them, and I guess that is what he thinks of the sort of foods I am willing to eat. (I like them by the way.)

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Why did I do the tempeh that way (and why do I eat tempeh anyway?) Because the last and only time I have eaten tempeh (which I heard several vegans say they really liked) I was camping, and didn’t like it at all – but it was expensive (nearly $5 for 14 slices) and I couldn’t throw it away. So I battered and fried it like chicken strips – and other than the smoky flavour it came with, I liked it fine. But that doesn’t mean I will ever try it again. After all, it isn’t something I usually eat, and lentils are less than $1 a can.

When I was a kid and I couldn’t eat (most of the time) and my dad was away (because he believed children should eat what was on their plate) my mom would give me baby food in the form of jars of pureed berries, or pablum mixed with sugar and milk. That worked for me until my 20’s when I thought I should probably find real food to eat. But when I went back, baby food had changed so much I didn’t even recognize it – and change? Is never good.

So the question remains: What do I eat? And this is why I am obsessed with food.

 

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Autism: Compulsive List Writer

It is very rare that I write grocery lists. Even when I do, I often forget it at home, or forget that I have put it in my pocket. Then, if I do write the list, remember to bring it, and remember to look at it, I still often don’t buy everything on the list (usually because the prices are too high – as I have mentioned in the past, I struggle with inflation. As far as I am concerned, once I am used to a product and a price, I don’t want it to be changed. Ever!) Grocery lists rarely work for me.

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To do lists are frequently overwhelming to me. If I take the time to write them, that is about all I have the energy for. I will then, being overwhelmed and exhausted, look at the list and do nothing! To do lists tend to leave me crashing and perseverating (often on the internet.) When I worked, I often had to use to do lists in order to get everything done – but then, I was nearly always overwhelmed at work, so I still wouldn’t say they were successful.

When I am going away, I will write packing lists. But then I more often than not forget to use them (or pack them away!) when I am trying to pack. It isn’t that I mind writing the list, just… it is enough to pack let alone to follow a list, and try to keep things in order in my head. Packing lists might help in that the writing itself helps me to remember what I need to bring, but I don’t exactly use them properly.

If I come to a list that I have to read (especially out loud) I get frustrated, stumble over the words, accidentally skip parts of it, and will often shut down. I hate lists that other people have written Complicated recipes or instructions are hard (give me pictures, please!) and if other people give me a list of things to do, I fall apart. It doesn’t help that in such situations I already have lists repeating in my head for what I am supposed to be doing to such a degree that having one more thing added will make it quite impossible for me to follow through on any of it.

Despite all of the above I write a lot of lists. I always have. But they aren’t the sort of lists that other people use – to remind them of what to do, or what to buy. In fact, these lists that I write often don’t seem to serve any purpose at all. Yet write them I do, and must. It is another compulsion.

Take this morning for instance. I brought out my clipboard, paper, and pen as I often do when I plan to sit outside with my dog for a while (she became barky, and we had to come in, but that is beside the point.) I had nothing really in mind for what I wanted to write, but this is what came out:

  1. I have autism.
  2. I miss my mom.
  3. I wish my mom could see her grandchildren as much as she wanted.
  4. I wish my mom’s rental place was in good condition (I talked to her yesterday, so she is on my mind.)
  5. I wish I could get my dog spayed and vaccinated inexpensively (they quoted me one price when I got her, and then when I called to book, it was $150 more than the vet had said.)
  6. I wish my dog’s surgery was over, and she was well (I am afraid, as the last two animals I took to the vet for help, died, and it has become traumatic for me to even think of going there again.)
  7. I wish I had a wood stove for the winter. (I don’t handle the cold as well as I used to, but I also can’t breathe well if natural gas or electric heat is much higher than 60 F, or about 15 Celsius, so I really want wood heat.)
  8. I wish all the renovations on my home were done so I could relax here (I see everything that is wrong, and can’t block out any of it – yet also can’t fix it. It is a huge weight for me.)
  9. I wish my yards were professionally landscaped so I didn’t worry about the neighbours (it does no good to say not to care. I do.)
  10. I wish our back deck was covered and screened so I could use it.
  11. I wish we didn’t have spiders. (they are really bad this year, and I can’t go out without having to duck through webs – plus they have taken over one room in the basement, and that entry for the house.)
  12. I wish I had planted the large cherry tree in the front yard.

… as you can see, there really is no use for this list. It doesn’t help anything. I just have a compulsion to write things out like this (and yes, I write them complete with numbers.)

Not only do I write lists like this frequently, but I will also walk around, counting on my fingers, while thinking things such as this. Other than for my blog post, this is not something I usually share. While I may say it out loud, I never do if there are people nearby.

All of my life I have been writing lists, lists, lists of nothing – and I suppose I will spend much of the rest of my life doing much the same.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Letters to God

This is not something I often share. In fact, it is one of those things that I would be ashamed if someone came across and read on their own. It is something I have been doing for many years in one form or another. A compulsion of mine that is difficult to explain. A habit that I have, many times, tried to break, without success.

I write to God.

More I should say, I turn to God seeking answers to questions that I have. I write out my prayers. I write out my questions. And then I write whatever comes to mind in response. Since I am much more of a writer than a speaker, this is only natural that I write to God. The habit I am trying to break is in… forcing?? the answers.

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While I do believe that people can hear from God, I admit that most of the time, these answers come from myself. At even more difficult times, the answers come as an attack I can only imagine must be from outside of myself – but not from God. However, every once in a while (maybe a couple of times a year, or less) the answers are so filled with love and understanding (and this is not how I reflect on myself most of the time) that I feel they must in some part come from God.

Two nights ago, I had another compulsion to write. This one I had been fighting for about a week. It got so… loud!… that I finally gave in and allowed it. Unlike most other times, I came without questions, or ideas, or… all those other things that flood my mind.

I prayed that God would speak to me, and then quietly listened. This is what I wrote in response:

“Daughter. God has known you from the foundation of the world. All of your hopes, dreams, fears, and failures. He knows where you are going, and all of where you have been. There is no part of you that is hidden from God.

“Broken. Stupid. Idiot. Failure. Evil. Worthless… These are words you use to describe yourself, and words others have used to label you. These are not how God sees you. You are a child of God. ‘Forgiven. Redeemed. Saved. Beloved.’

“God chose you. Remember this when you are being attacked by the enemy. God chose you. Of all the people that ever lived before you, and all those who live now until the end of the age, God looked over all of them, and claimed you for his own.

“Therefore you can be certain that God has a plan for you, and that God… yes, God himself, will carry you safely home.

“Go in peace and confidence, therefore, for every moment of every day for all of eternity you belong to him: The creator and sustainer of the world. A beloved daughter of the King of kings and LORD of lords – and you are worth so very much to him.”

The words so full of love, and peace, and comfort, that I feel they only could have come from God. And so I share them, for I am certain these words are not for me alone, in the hopes that others may feel the wonderful love and acceptance of my Father in Heaven.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Faith Walk

 

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Autism: These Days

The days come upon me suddenly and unexpectedly. There is often no warning the night before that anything might be different when I wake up. It just happens. And if I have obligations that take me away from home, or people around who interrupt, it becomes more frustrating than I can express. It doesn’t even happen often, maybe only a couple of times a year; more if I am lucky. If I don’t, or can’t take advantage of it, the moment passes, and may not come again for months.

It happened this week. When I went to bed, I was extremely anxious and depressed. That is pretty common for me, but that night was worse than the few days on either side of it. It took me a while to cry myself to sleep, and even then, my rest was fitful.

I woke up at my normal time (well, normal now that my new dog chooses to wake me up to get outside, and have breakfast, where Gryff would wake my husband and let me sleep) and as I woke, I had a sudden desire to move things. That desire was so strong that before 9am, I was already in the basement trying to carry a dresser upstairs on my own – despite the fact that my son was still sleeping, and I knew he wouldn’t be pleased.

It wasn’t that I wanted to annoy him, but that I needed to move this dresser. The compulsion was so strong, that it drowned out all other thoughts. So I pulled out the drawers, emptied them, and carried them upstairs. Then I lifted the dresser to the stairs, where I slid it up the first flight, flipped it over, and slid it up the second. Of course, at that point, I had nowhere to put it, so I left it in the hallway.

The dresser was to go in ‘Finn’s’ room (the room my Siamese cat refused to leave for the first year after we got her.) But that room was being used for storage, and had the litter box, which had to go. What is the point in having a bedroom that can’t be used for guests due to a litter box? It didn’t make sense. It never really did, except when Finn lived in there. She has since migrated to the living room (of which, I am very pleased) and only went in there for that one reason.

That room was a mess, however, so I decided to start somewhere else. My husband didn’t like my dolls being displayed in our bedroom. He never said anything, but kind of hinted at it once about a year ago after I moved them in. They were on a set of cube shelves sitting on top of a vanity dresser with a mirror. So all of them were going out.

Down came all of the dolls, dusted and comforted (for being left on uncomfortable shelves… are they really happy there?) and put on my bed. But then, if they were going in the pink room, the entertainment shelf had to be moved. Out came all of the movies and DVD s, and piled on the bed and floor. The keyboard, chair, and stand also needed to be moved. Off they went to the side of the bed. The entertainment shelf wouldn’t move still, so out came more. I had to be able to lift it – why did I have to put carpet under it anyway?

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Finally I got that out, but the mirrored vanity was even heavier, and wouldn’t go over the carpet. This I knew. So I flipped the carpet around while still under the queen sized bed, so there would be more room to move in the vanity without running over the rug. The entertainment unit was stored in my bedroom, at the end of my bed, as I moved the vanity into the pink room, and put the cube shelves back on top.

Of course, then I had to work at putting everything away again (while talking to my dolls – ‘do you want to sit with him?’ ‘did you like Winnie the Pooh, or did you prefer Mickey Mouse?’ ‘I am sorry, Moose, you have to go on the top shelf. I know, but you will have the Reindeer to keep you company.’…)

My son came up while everything was all over the place, as if an explosion had gone off. “What are you doing now?” he asked me (as if he were the parent, and I was the child.)

“I am cleaning,” I said.

“You are making a mess,” he replied. (What does he know, anyway? He doesn’t even like my dog…)

Well, those rooms got put back together again, with several hours of work, and I still had that overwhelming determination to clean out ‘Finn’s’ room and move the litter box

Poor Clara was stressed out, and peed on the carpet in front of me. Poor girl. I moved all the storage downstairs to the ‘playroom’ (which is now really where we keep the good TV that mostly my son uses – he wasn’t too pleased about the mess in there, either.) I moved the litter box to the main bathroom, where there is a large open area under the counter, and then I washed the rugs in both that room, and the ‘Pink’ room.

After cleaning the bathroom, I finally sat down. It was 4pm, and I had started at 8:45 that morning. That may not seem much to many people, but as I said it rarely happens for me. Not only don’t I have the energy most of the time, but I almost always shut down for being overwhelmed shortly after starting. Then these things bother me, and I carry them like a weight, until I get to days like these, and can finally relieve the burden. I am so thankful to have the freedom to plan my own time that I was able to get this done the very moment I was inspired to – for otherwise, it might never have been done at all.

 

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Autism: Productive Procrastination

When I wake up in the morning, I have the best of intentions – I really do – and I start well. The list is in my mind, and what is on the list does need to get done. So I must. I will. I am so sure that although I will be busy and overwhelmed, I will get it all done, that in the beginning there is no room to think of anything else.

And some days I can. Some days. Like when I decided that I was going to paint my kitchen. The first day went exceptionally well. The second day even was good. By the third I was crashing, and there was still so much more to do. I did finish what I had set out to do. Then I crashed. Bad.

That was back in November 2015. It is now August 2016, and I haven’t had a day like that since, let alone a week. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to, just… I am still so exhausted thinking of it. And while I do like the colours, it has already started to chip away, and it leaves me wondering why I tried so hard to begin with.

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It isn’t like I have the skills, or the right materials, or the right tools, or even the patience to get through the entire process and ensure it is done well. It is just that it needs to be done. No one else is going to do it. We can’t afford professionals. And try as I do to ignore it as my husband does (I am beginning to realize that it is more likely that he doesn’t notice in the first place than that he ignores, but I can’t imagine this!) These things – each and every detail of them – are so loud and overwhelming to me that it doesn’t even compute that other people may not see it…

Anyway… what I had planned to do today wasn’t even close to that. Just a small amount of re-organizing (very small – I found out our guests only need the one bed, and we do have a guest room. I just needed to pull the bed away from the wall to make it easier for two people to use it.) I had to move a few things into the closet, and some others down to the storage room. Then I needed to clean.

Well, I started well! I cleaned out the pink room (guest room), moved stuff to storage, vacuumed the house, and washed the floors downstairs, and did some laundry. But then…

Fabric.

All I did was slide my fabric bin to a new location. It isn’t even like this is something I do on a regular basis, or something I am particularly good at. Still. Fabric.

I had this idea that since the dog sling I had ordered somehow got lost in the mail (I got a refund) that I would make one instead. I found the instructions I planned on using a couple of days ago – but I still have nearly 3 weeks before I need the sling, and my guests are coming tomorrow!

Didn’t matter. I saw the fabric bin, and had to stop everything to make that sling! So I went through the bin to find a suitable material of the right size. I took out my iron and ironing board, and ironed the hems. Then I pulled out my sewing machine, and went to it.

It was kind of enjoyable. Okay, I really liked it! Then I tried it out, and it seemed to work as it was supposed to. So back to work, right? No.

There was also Clara’s life jacket Well, it wasn’t bought for Clara. I ordered it for Gryff back in April. Only it didn’t come in. Then he died in June, and I was glad it didn’t come in. I got a refund. But Clara came, and I would need a life jacket for her – but there wasn’t time to order one. And wouldn’t you know – the life jacket came in – in July! I cried. Poor, poor Gryff. How I wished he could come camping with me. How I wish it still.

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I paid them for it. Only it wasn’t bought for Clara. It was bought for Gryff, who was a few pounds, and a much thicker coat larger than her. It was too big. She couldn’t even walk in it, as the belly strap went from her front legs to past her back. I mean, Gryff was only 10 lbs – and Clara is maybe 6. Not a lot of difference, but…

So I shortened the belly strap by nearly half. It still covers most of her belly. But the neck was too big, and she could just step out of it. It isn’t like I could send it back. So of course, I had to work on that, too. I shortened the neck straps, took out some foam, moved the buckle, and sewed it all back together again. It is solid, and it definitely fits better.

It is just – I had three weeks before I needed that, too, and our guests are coming tomorrow.

So it was a productive day, but the things that were supposed to get done, didn’t. It is as if I have no control. But I sure did enjoy it!

 

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Autism: Colouring

Though we aren’t leaving for another four days, true to who I am, I have pretty much packed what I am planning on bringing on my camping trip… except food, of course. In fact, Clara and I are lying on a foamie in the tent I have set up in our front yard. I am an anxious person, and do all I can to be prepared. Plus, she hasn’t been camping before, and I think it is best to do a trial run.

It is raining. She doesn’t like the rain, but the tent is dry and comfortable, and she seems to be doing okay. I suppose I should have checked the forecast before I set up the tent – it is supposed to rain now until we leave. I said I like to prepare, but I didn’t say there weren’t flaws in my thinking!

Most… okay all of what I pack for entertainment are solitary activities. The only electricity where we go are the solar panels which provide light in one spot at night, and just enough power to charge a few small devices. There is no internet, no TV, no Netflix. So I bring:

  • paper, pens, pencils, rulers, eraser, sharpener… I am convinced that if I had a constant supply of these materials, I would never be bored.
  • Books… well, I might bring my tablet with e-books to save space. There is enough power to charge that.
  • Colouring books and crayons.

It seems strange to me that only now are ‘they’ starting to promote colouring for adults. For me, I always found it calming to colour, and one of my favourite Christmas gifts was a large set of crayola crayons in a plastic case with a built in sharpener. I think I was sixteen or seventeen when my brother bought that for me. It was well used in the following years.

I will never claim to be an artist – my older brother had that gift, but as in most things, I never really moved beyond a primary skill level. I did love colouring, however, and took pride in keeping my colouring books tidy.

Unfortunately, that never happened. No matter how I tried to hide it, or keep it from him, somehow my younger brother always managed to get a hold of my colouring books… and he scribbled.

Once that happened, the book was ruined for me. No one else seemed to understand. “It’s only a page,” they would tell me. He destroyed it! I thought – though it came out only in tears of anger and frustration as I ran to my room and slammed the door.

They would try tearing the page out, but then the book wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. How could they not understand? The book was ruined.

Perhaps that is where my fixation on colouring came from. Eventually he would be old enough to stop taking my colouring books, and I could finally finish my book the way it was supposed to be.

Well, I am now nearly forty, and am relatively confident that no one will scribble in my colouring books anymore. I am thankful for that, for it really is a very calming activity for me.

Vacation July 2016 002

 

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Autism: A Brain Like Mine

The thing about a brain like mine is that it doesn’t let go. Whatever I am fixated on – be it housing, food, a show I am binge watching, the loss of a pet, the loss of a child – will remain, locked in, set on repeat, until something else comes in to take its place. Even then, it is only gone for a while. For a while, until that thought, that pain, those pictures come back, and the process is repeated again.

The thing about a brain like mine, is that so much comes at me in pictures, and my memories are the strongest, clearest pictures of all. So I step outside, and for a moment – just a moment – I see my dog at the door waiting for me. In the hallway, on my bedroom floor, wrapping himself in my blankets on my pillow. Just a moment, and then he is gone, and the pain washes over me.

I close my eyes, and see them. My dog. My cat. My children. Myself as a child, looking in a mirror. Or worse – myself as a child looking out. Memories. So full of longing. So full of pain. And when those pictures are gone, the sadness or the fear remain.

me at 7

The thing about a brain like mine is that nothing becomes ‘long ago.’ When I think it, or see it, remember it – it isn’t something that happened in some far off moment. I am there. I am there, yet I can’t reach out and pull those I’ve lost through the memory. So close, yet nothing I do will get me there, and it breaks me. It breaks me.

The thing about a brain like mine is that it isn’t easy to distract. If I am sad, if I am scared, if I feel lost, or ashamed, or broken… no amount of positive thinking, or breathing exercises, or… will take away the emotion. In fact, it is more like an attack, and that feeling, that thought fights back and becomes stronger.

The thing about a brain like mine is that it is standing on a fine line between fantasy and reality. And while many see reality as the goal – that to let go of a grasp on reality is to become unstable – the reality of this world fills me with such pain that it is hard to stand.

Reality is not a place I would choose to stay. Instead I spend much time reaching for this imagination, which will carry me away, and make it easier to endure. Would it be so bad, for instance, if I could see my lost animals, and lost children, and lost family with me along the way – rather than feel this pain and emptiness that will not let go?

The thing about a brain like mine is that I am more likely to cry out against these chains that bind me to the knowledge of life as it is, than to seek help for the moments of freedom where I can believe that even that is possible.

The thing about a brain like mine is that I see this world too clearly, and over and over again it breaks my heart to look out over this broken world. If I could let go a little. Even just a little. Maybe I, too, could find joy in a pain filled world. If only I didn’t see it.

As I was about to start writing this post, the phone rang. I knew that number, and I answered. “Is this Jennifer,” she asked. “I just wanted to let you know that Gryffindor’s ashes are ready to be picked up.”

Broken.

 

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