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Autism: People Watching

Last night my husband took me into town for a free music concert which happens every Wednesday throughout the summer. It was unexpected, as it was only the second time we went down this year (the first time was while my mom was visiting, and wanted to go before she left.)

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Since I wasn’t expecting it, I had prepared a large meal for my husband and son that night, and was holding off on my shower until just before bedtime as usual (when I am going out, I will have it in the afternoon.) As a result, I had 45 minutes after supper to have my shower and get all of the dishes done. For a while there, I was quite overwhelmed.

I did end up getting all of this done, and was only about 5 minutes later than I had hoped when I was ready to leave – but I also had a large wet spot on the clean shirt I had just put on, from doing the dishes. I can’t seem to wash dishes without some of the water getting on me. At least this was clean water – but it still made me quite self-conscious, and I didn’t really have time to pick out a new shirt.

Anyway the weather is still very hot and dry, and my shirt was dry by the time we got down there.

The band was… well, my husband described them as bluegrass. The music itself was fine, but I really didn’t like the lyrics. My husband thought they were ‘fun.’

There were a lot of people there, and I very much struggle in crowds. We did sit near the back, on a short ledge, with a garden behind us. We sat beside someone I went to school with for my building trades program at college a few years back. I didn’t talk much to her – I am not good with people – but I did enjoy visiting with her dog!

Most of my time there, at the music concert, was spent in ‘people watching.’

People really confuse me. This has been true my entire life – and I have spent just about my entire life, as I was last night, on the outside observing.

There were children dancing, and some adults too. Some people sat in place, tapping their feet to the music. Others were talking, visiting, hugging, laughing.

Some parents were playing with, laughing at, or dancing with their children.

People were… living.

Fully present in the moment, and (maybe it just appears that way to me, but) not even self-conscious about what they were doing, or how they were interacting, or how they were coming across to others, or…

The thing is, no matter how hard I try, I could never come across as being spontaneous, or… free. For no matter where I am, or what I am doing, every detail is being analyzed in my mind, and I am aware of… everything.

All I do is forced for it seems nothing comes naturally to me. And when I watch people – not just at the concert last night, or at church, or… but everywhere – I see that a lot of life for most people seems to be just that – natural. And maybe that is what people have been calling me on my entire life, while I believe that I am doing things the same as they are: they are natural, and for me, it is all forced.

So they don’t trust me for seeing that my responses are forced, they believe I have something to hide – when in truth the only thing I am trying to hide is that I don’t belong here. Not just in that place, or this city, or that church, or… but in the world.

Nothing is natural – except maybe, just maybe my interactions with dogs. Nothing is natural, and it makes me really sad – for I really do want to be free like them.

 

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Autism: Hindsight is 2o/2o

My son was looking for more pictures of China today, so I went through a couple of DVD s which had pictures taken off of old, dead computers several years ago. I found a couple of pictures and sent them to him (most of them were from our trip to Ontario in 2008 with the kids, and Christmas of 2008 and 2009, so didn’t have cat pictures in them as she wasn’t there.)

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Looking through the pictures left me once again wishing I could turn back time, and save the adoption before it failed. As I went through them, I stumbled upon a page of emails that I had copied from the months leading up to the first time the children were moved.

I was surprised by how much I have forgotten over the years regarding the children’s behaviours. I knew they did these things, yet with passing time forgot the frequency and intensity through which we experienced them.

There was just so much struggle with all of them, and while I did remember it wasn’t easy, I really did forget how hard it could get.

As I read those emails I realized a few of things that I didn’t notice before:

  1. I should have journaled rather than share our challenges through email during that time – for had I been reading these things about another family I would have thought the children were way too challenging for any family (I also forgot that upon placement we were told the social workers had thought our middle girl was unadoptable) and that the situation was hopeless.
  2. Looking through the pictures doesn’t tell the entire story; so while I knew by looking at the pictures when the children had been struggling just before they were taken (by the pure exhaustion on everyone’s face) and I remembered the struggle they were having, the intensity wasn’t accurately portrayed in the photograph.
  3. If I could turn back time, and do all the social workers told me were essential to a successful adoption with these particular children, and did everything `right,`we would still have been at severe risk of adoption disruption – for the emails, though I know every fact was true in them, tell of a family who was doing all they could to `hold it together,`and couldn’t possibly hold on much longer.
  4. Unless I kept all of those facts presented in the emails to myself, I would have found myself one day standing before the ministry and having them tell me it wasn’t going to work – and it likely wouldn’t have been much longer than we had with them.
  5. If I did everything `right` and never emailed or spoke much on any of our struggles, we might have succeeded in adopting these three children, but I still would have been completely burnt out, and I still would have isolated myself from other people, who would have always judged me, and who I could never please with the children I had. I was doomed to feel I had failed in some way.

I wanted my children more than I can express. I loved my children more than I can say. Losing them was a huge trauma I have yet to overcome. But I think now that even if I had done everything `right`, the adoption was still doomed to failure.

I hate that that is true, for I put all of myself into succeeding with them, and it still breaks my heart that I couldn’t do it. It breaks my heart that they are gone. And I miss them so very much.

 

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Autism: Mea Culpa

On Christmas day my son and I opened our presents from my husband, and were pleased with the chocolates and Thomas Kinkade puzzles he had got us. There is very little that we all have in common other than being introverts who enjoy spending time on our own things. Puzzles are something that we all love to do, and can do together. It was a good gift.

My puzzle was a ten-in-one, with the largest puzzles containing 500 pieces. My son’s was a 1000 piece puzzle of a cottage, lighthouse, and water. We started on that one, for the only way we would get it done was to work on it over the Christmas holidays.

We started it Christmas day, and worked on it at times throughout the next five days. We were doing pretty good – it was a hard puzzle after all. My son was getting the sky done (he often chooses the harder parts, for he is amazingly good at puzzles; always has been.) My husband and I were working on the house and trees, for it was easier for us to find the pieces.

As I said, things were going well.

For a bit of background information, a little while before Christmas we had bought cat grass to stop my cats from eating my avocado trees. When it sprouted, we put it on the table by the dining room window, since the one cat especially had been spending a lot of time there. They liked the cat grass, although the tiny plastic container that was provided, along with the peat moss, did not actually make a good place for the grass to grow – the cats would chew the grass, the peat moss would lift up, and the container would fall over.

I put it in a ceramic container, and it was better, but then I went over to the table to find Finn, our Siamese, had peed on the table. She had never done that before (she did have a preference for rugs as a protest whenever the weather got to bad to go outside, but the rugs had been removed.) My guess was that the grass on the table confused her to thinking it was ‘just like’ being outside (despite the fact that the container of grass was smaller than a tub of margarine.)

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I cleaned it up, and moved the grass to another spot off the table, and the problem didn’t repeat itself.

Enter in day five of puzzle making. My son had been working on it in the morning, and things were dry then. I went over closer to lunch time, and the box with the sky pieces in it were all wet. Finn! Sure enough, the cat grass was right next to the box of sky pieces (my husband having placed it there to get into the freezer on top of which the grass had been moved, and he forgot to put it back after.)

My son’s Christmas present. Five days of work. Time with my family. All destroyed in one mistake.

My husband was out when this happened. My son was in the basement on his computer. I was the one who found it. I was the one who had to tell them. I was the one who had to figure out what to do (not that there really was an option, but in my feelings of guilt and shame, I could not think straight.)

Logically, I know this wasn’t my fault. Logically, I can see that in most things it is not my fault; not fully my fault, or at least not only my fault. The thing is, though, I do not often function from a logical standpoint. All things stem from my heart, and my heart condemns me for everything that goes wrong in everyone’s life – even if I had nothing at all to do with it, or wasn’t even around when it happened.

Mea Culpa: I am at fault. Always. In everything. As if my very existence means ruin for the rest of the world. Such shame… such a heavy weight of shame I have carried since early childhood.

And people respond to this look of guilt in me as if I must be truly guilty. I understand that. I do. But I wish they would understand that just because I look guilty, feel guilty, seem guilty… doesn’t mean I actually am. It is hard to defend myself when my heart condemns me for everything.

 

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Autism: Stressed at the Movies

Though I had few plans for the day (basically have a slightly earlier supper and go to the movies) I was extremely anxious the entire day. This happens sometimes; I get anxious… really anxious, and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it. I wanted to go to this movie especially: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The anxiety, however, didn’t make it an easy thing for this.

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It was great that my husband was able to get off early. He usually doesn’t get home until 6pm despite getting off work at 5:30 with a 7 minute drive home, but he was home at 5:15. The movie started at 6:30, and supper was ready at 5:45. Plenty of time for him to shower, eat, and be ready to go for 6pm I thought. Yet he is a slow eater, made slower by the book he reads as he eats…

At 6:04 my son and I were at the door putting our shoes on, after having brushed teeth and all else to prepare to go. My husband was just getting up to put the leftovers for his lunch away. We went out to the van to find that the back seat was not installed properly (they remove, and we usually don’t all go places together.) Apparently it was loose the last time all three of us went out together, but my son didn’t say anything. Danger!

I was working on that, but it was really dark in the back of the van, even with the interior lights on. I couldn’t seem to get it in right, and the time was ticking by. It was 6:13 before all was set and we could leave for the theater.

As usual, I was stressed about being late. Sure, we would have gotten down there by 6:30, but we still had tickets to buy, and I am particular about where I am able to sit. At the movies, it means near the back of the theater, where there is quite a height difference between one row and the next. Everywhere else I tend to choose the very front.

Knowing I was stressed out about timing, my husband drove faster than usual – but the road from our house to the theater is full of twists and turns, all of which he took too fast, which added quite bad motion sickness to my strong anxiety and stress levels.

We got our tickets fast enough – only because for whatever reason people were confused that night and lined up all in one line leaving the other empty. Even so, when we got into the theater, there were no back seats available, and we had to sit in the older section closer to the screen.

We walked past a few people to get to our seats, even though I had indicated to my husband that I would sit on the end three seats one row down – but he was already going through, and I couldn’t get his attention. Walking past the people, I bumped into one – and of course started beating myself up over my clumsiness. Not a great way emotionally to enjoy what we had gone there for.

Sitting in the seat, I looked up at the advertisements on the screen, and was overcome by dizziness. The screen was too big from that spot. Then, a couple of advertisements in, the sound suddenly seemed to double. It hurt my ears, bad, and I covered them with my hands.

“Do you need earplugs?” my husband asked me.

“I am really hoping this was a mistake, and they will turn it down,” I replied.

The sound remained at that level for the rest of the advertisements, and the first couple of trailers, but it did (thankfully) work itself out. By that point, I was in really bad sensory overload, and was heading fast toward a meltdown.

The movie started, and the first couple of minutes had a lot of motion, and a lot of changing scenes. I was feeling really sick, and had to make a tunnel out of my hands to block out some of it. I didn’t want to miss the movie, and taking off my 3-D glasses (on a side note, I get less dizziness from the new 3-D than I used to from the 2-D movies) didn’t help as it made the picture really fuzzy.

Anyway, things slowed down after that, and I very, very much enjoyed watching that movie. There are times, however, when I strongly wish this sensory aspect of Autism were removed from me. Until then, we will have to ensure that we get to the theater on time, in the future, to get the good seats.

 

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