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Autism: This I Don’t Understand

People look at me funny, but it works for us.

Not everything I do fits in with the ‘norm.’ In fact, a lot of things I do look strange to other people.

Why is it that society says they value individualism, while (at best) giving people strange looks for doing things different?

That is at best. Some people get angry, look at you (me) in disapproval, even react in negative ways over things that have no effect on them personally at all (and don’t cause harm to anyone else.) Why is that?

What does it matter to them if I wear a toque in an arena when most people aren’t that cold?

What does it matter to them if I am working on my garden in April when it is too cold to plant?

What does it matter to them if I put shirts on my dogs?

What does it matter to them if I ‘walk’ my girls in a stroller?

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I wore the toque because I was feeling chilled.

I worked on my garden early because there was much to do before I could plant.

My dogs wear shirts to confuse the eagles that live a few houses down the street and want to eat my dogs.

My girls don’t like walking on the street – they are afraid of other people, and other dogs, and don’t like the feel of the pavement on their feet.

When I walked them without a stroller, we rarely got out of our yard before they refused to walk any more, and needed to be carried. They still got bored being at home all the time. And then as is true now, they got their exercise running around our yard.

So I walk them in a stroller, and we often get 1-2km every walk, twice a day. It is good for us. We get out of the house for a while, without a lot of the pressures of going somewhere.

It works for us.

These things work for us.

And some people think it is cute. But other people get angry.

This I don’t understand.

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Ode To A Dog

I came across this poem in a book I have been reading (Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) and it really resonated with me. I thought I would share it, and hope this is allowed.

“Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog”

by Lord Byron

When some proud son of man returns to earth,

Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,

The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,

And storied urns record who rests below;

When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,

Not what he was, but what he should have been:

But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,

The first to welcome, foremost to defend,

Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,

Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,

Unhonour’d falls, unnoticed all his worth,

Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth:

While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,

And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,

Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power,

Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,

Degraded mass of animated dust!

Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,

Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!

By nature vile, ennobled but by name,

Each kindred brute might bid thee blush

disgust, for shame.

Ye! who perchance behold this simple urn,

Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise,

I never knew but one, and here he lies.

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Autism: Learning to Hygge

One thing goes in, and several more go out. It has always been the same for me. While other people seem to get used to their routine, and can slowly add other things to it, I just can’t. I am 41 years old (as I write this) and somehow I still keep trying to convince myself I can do this. Get used to my routine, add something else in.

But it never works. I might hold together for a day or two, and then it all falls apart, and I struggle even to keep up with the routine I had previously had no issues with. In fact, I don’t just struggle, I can’t do it. It takes a long time to build myself up to that place again.

It has always been the same.

However this month (January 2018) I took something out of my routine (the pressure to write this blog on a schedule) and then was able to add to my schedule without falling apart. This, I find, is amazing!

Two weeks ago my husband tuned his second guitar for me to use. He showed me a couple of things, and the next day I started practising to a YouTube video. My fingers hurt A LOT!!! but it sure felt good.

For several days, due to the pain in my fingers, I put topical pain relief on my fingertips in order to endure the practise. It worked. It still hurt, but not so much I couldn’t play through it.

About the fourth day I stopped needing the pain cream, and slightly more than a week in I felt more numb than pain. I like practising the guitar. I learned two cords in that first lesson, and have been practising going back and forth in those two chords ever since. It is very relaxing.

I like the repetition. I like the sound. I like that my mind can wander while I am playing, and it doesn’t mess me up right away. I like how happy it makes me feel.

It really does make me happy!

This year, as many years before, I have been praying, “Lord teach me to live well.” I don’t live well. I struggle hugely with depression and anxiety – which is part of the reason I decided not to write so regularly (spread the joy, not the sadness -right?)

A friend of mine got me into researching “Hygge;” a Danish term that doesn’t directly translate into English, but means: coziness, comfort, a ‘homey’ feeling… a good way to live.

Reading about “Hygge” makes me happy.

My Mom has been sending me e-books. Many of them are either books I love to read and re-read, or books on ‘Hygge.” Seeing those books on my e-reader makes me happy.

Waking up to three little faces and wriggling bodies (my girls) makes me happy. Sometimes I have a purring, kneading cat added to that mix. He makes me happy, too.

Walking my girls (or pulling them through the snow in their sleigh) makes me happy.

Practising my guitar, practising my keyboard, researching my special interests (plants, zero waste living, vegan foods, interior design, gardens…) looking through Pinterest… all of these things make me happy.

One thing out, several things in… Some things can change.

I am learning to Hygge, and this month (for the first January in years) I am happy!

 

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Autism: December 2017 part 1

December of 2017 was a really tough month for me. A month filled with panic, hopelessness, and despair – and I really can’t even say why that was. It was just hard.

It didn’t help that time seems to be speeding up for me, making it even harder (and it has always been hard) to align my perceptions with reality. It also doesn’t help that there is so much pressure around Christmas – gifts and such – whether real or perceived.

And even if people say not to worry about it, worry I will – for excusing myself from what I feel that others expect of me leaves me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Even if it doesn’t matter much to them I will still carry that guilt with me… forever (at least it seems like that, since I still feel guilty for every time I disappointed anyone, or said ‘no’ to a request, or…)

So it was a hard month. A sad month. A month where most days I could barely move, and it was all I could do not to cry most of the time. It was only a week before Christmas when I was able to gather up the motivation to even decorate – when often I have things up by the beginning of the month (for I do like the lights!)

Christmas Eve was busy. I made a turkey dinner (because it is cheaper than chicken) for my husband and son and dogs and cats – I don’t eat meat – and we went to church for the 2pm service instead of at 10:45am as we usually do (it was a strange Sunday.)

That might seem normal for most people, but it is a lot for me. So overwhelming that I dreaded it for more than a week before – and I was only cooking for my family. It wasn’t like I was cooking for a large group, or even for friends and extended family (that I can’t do, it is just too much pressure.)

It isn’t even like making food for my dogs (I have 3) and cats (we have 2 upstairs – my son feeds his own cat) is unusual. I do it every 3-4 weeks. But it is something I do on days when my son is cooking usually for it is very time consuming. You see, I make a large batch for them, and then freeze the food in silicone baking cups; enough for a month. The meat has to be cut into small pieces, no bones, and the vegetables, broth and such get blended up and divided after. It is quite a bit of work on the day I do it, so I don’t like to do anything else that day.

But I couldn’t help it for Christmas since the turkey was large and for everyone (but me.)

Anyway, I got through it. Once it was done I could relax a bit.

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Autism: Dead or Alive

I woke up coughing at 5:30am. This was not related to the smoke in the house that I mentioned on my last post – though it probably had something to do with it, my house was not smoky on this particular night.

I felt like I was choking, and my first thought (which lasted for several minutes) was that there had been a fire and I died of smoke inhalation. For about 5 minutes, even though I could dimly see my room around me, felt and heard ‘my girls’ beside me, and was aware of one of my cats on the bed as well (I have a very full bed these days!) I completely believed this to be true.

When I told people at my Life Group (Bible Study) about this, one of them asked if I was in Heaven. When I said, “No, I was looking at my clock, and into the faces of my dogs,” she mentioned something about the possibility that I wouldn’t make it there; to heaven, that is…

Panic!

If I dream I have died (though this wasn’t a dream) and don’t find myself in heaven – does that mean I am not saved?

Thankfully my husband responded that he believes there will be animals in heaven, and gave his reasons – so in a few seconds I was calmed by his words (thank you, dear husband!) I need my dogs. I don’t think that will change when I am dead.

So there I was, lying awake in bed, fully convinced that this was the beginning of the afterlife and I would be trapped in this place (at least I had my babies with me!) when I realized I must be alive.

How disorienting that was!

It was then that I felt a deep longing for my youngest (foster) daughter who was taken from me 8 years ago, and remembered that I had been dreaming of her – though the dream escapes me now – when I was awakened by the choking.

Perhaps in those last moments of my dream there was a fire, and I was dying in it.

What a strange experience that was, and I wonder if there are other people in the world who are fully alive, and believe they are dead. So weird.

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Autism: Created to Be

When I left, I felt really good. I was decently calm (I never am fully calm when I have anything to do) and even wanted to be out visiting; which is very unusual for me. I talked to people, and smiled, and then…

It wasn’t part of what he had planned to say, but he made a comment about ‘human people,’ which lead him to start talking about ‘dog people.’ You know, like “human people… I don’t know why I said that. What other kind of people are there… unless they are dog people…”

So then he went to mention that they were not people – dogs that is – or your babies, or…

He made it sound like a joke, and lots of people were laughing. Some were even clapping, which doesn’t happen frequently.

Then he said he thought it was a gospel problem, and he could write a whole sermon about it. Then he went back to what he had been talking about before he got distracted.

The whole thing maybe lasted 2-3 minutes – but it caused me struggle for the entire day. Not even a little bit, I was fully triggered into severe anxiety and depression, which were very difficult to overcome.

My babies are my source of joy. A level of joy I have rarely experienced in my life. They are… if not healing my loss (which isn’t likely to happen this side of heaven – the pain and trauma and triggers are all to much) they are at least helping me to go forward.

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They are an answer to my ache for children, for family, even for friends – which people took from me over and over again.

They are my tie to sanity, though I have to let go of some to keep the rest.

They are not people – and I am so thankful for that! But their place in my life as my ‘babies’ is essential for so much of my life it would take all day, and maybe even more, to explain it (and even then most people wouldn’t understand it.)

It was a joke, but still I worry that people are coming to take even this away from me. And why not? They’ve taken pretty much everything else. And it makes me want to hide again, and not go to church, or write, or go out, or be seen, or share myself with anyone ever again – much as I felt when my children were taken.

And it was only my dog, who was given to me for that very reason, who could pull me through that. Then he died, and I was back there again. So I was given Clara, and a few months later Molly, and several months later Misty-Grace. They are my babies…

I went in happy, and left in pain. I am pretty sure he didn’t mean for that to happen – and while it may sound like I am venting about ‘those’ people who don’t understand, this is a man I both like and respect. Perhaps if it weren’t so, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

It is just another thing wrong with me.

I was upset for a long time after until… the sermon series we have been on is titled ‘God Still Speaks.’ And this I believe. I was upset until God reminded me through thoughts that He gave me my dogs, and He gave them to me for this very purpose. He gave me this heart for animals, and it is a gift – not a gospel issue.

This love I have for my babies is a strength, not a weakness, and this is an essential part of who I was created to be.

 

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Autism: Horrible Stinky Food

My husband made hamburgers for himself in the toaster for supper. I did notice he was going to do that, but he doesn’t like me to comment on these things, and… what was I supposed to do?

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On the nights that he cooks, I frequently have to wait until supper is finished for him and my son before I can start to make my own – and that in itself is very hard on my system. That isn’t his fault – I just can’t function well with anyone around, including my husband. I do okay with my son there, but my son has been there since he was a baby, and that is not true of anyone else in my life – which is maybe why my son is the only one who doesn’t have such an effect on me.

Oh – I guess I should mention that I am the only one in my house who doesn’t eat meat. I also have a lot… a LOT!!! of sensory issues around food, so what people typically eat (in Canada – but I imagine many foreign foods would be bad for me, too) is not only something I can’t eat, but something that causes me a lot of struggle when other people eat these foods around me.

Hamburgers are one of those foods.

If they are cooked on the barbeque, and the doors are closed, it isn’t so bad. The smell goes away pretty fast, and I can cover my nose while I wait.

Inside, however, is very different.

It stunk up the house so bad I couldn’t block it out with three layers of blankets. My husband, seeing my distress, sprayed room freshener (which made it worse) burned candles, and opened the windows. It still took more than 1.5 hours before I could take the blankets away from my nose.

Molly, (one of my Chihuahuas) stressed out by my struggle, barked at my husband (which she doesn’t do) until I brought her to me and calmed her down.

My functioning, reduced to nothing since I was unable to eat my supper due to my husband’s choice of his (and I begin crashing when my meals or snacks even are even a few minutes late – and this was getting close to 2 hours) left me unable to find food even when the smell had cleared, and my husband had cleaned the kitchen.

Knowing it was nearly time to get my girls ready for bed, and I had to do something, I walked into the kitchen – but I ended up rocking on the floor unable to think. Clara (one of my dogs) and Ditch (one of my cats) came to help comfort me.

I couldn’t deal with my needs, but they needed me, so I got up and got them through their bedtime routine.

I ended up eating a granola bar (which hurt my tongue) two pieces of dried mango, and the tea that my husband brought to me. It wasn’t nearly enough. Not nearly. But it was close to 10pm, and was too late for me to eat – besides, I still couldn’t think of food.

For me, it isn’t true that I “will eat when (I’m) hungry enough.” The truth is, the hungrier I am, the harder it is for me to eat. Even foods that usually work for me are rejected (in my thoughts as well as my mouth, throat, and stomach) when I am too hungry. Foods that are often okay for me frequently cause a very bad reaction if I eat them in those moments.

So I went to bed feeling hungry and weak. I woke up the next morning (having only made it through the night by medicating myself) feeling hungry, nauseous, and weak. In fact, though I did eat that day, it still took me until after I had eaten supper and dessert – a full 24 hours after the issue began – before my body was regulated and felt okay again.

It is really hard on both me and those who live with me when normal things that they do has such a bad effect on me – and what am I supposed to do with that?

 

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