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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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Autism: Winter

Contrary to what seems ‘normal’ in society, I don’t often like to talk about the weather. It seems unimportant and pointless for the most part. But it snowed the other day, and…

First it was really light. My friend, who had planned to come over for a visit that day, cancelled. There wasn’t much snow here at the time, but where she lives (maybe about 10 minutes away from my house, or a little more) is in a bit of a snow belt. They didn’t want to chance the drive.

I had woken up early that morning – as I had been doing since the time change in early November. And when I say ‘early’ I don’t mean an hour or so. For about a week I was waking up every morning between 3:30 and 5am, and was not able to get back to sleep – not good when it was after midnight before I finally fell asleep. I wouldn’t get out of bed until 7am, but still…

Anyway, since I was up early, and since I was expecting company, I started cleaning early. By the time the visit was cancelled, I had most everything done, and was feeling good about the state of my home.

The snow picked up after that, and pretty soon, the entire world outside my window was covered in white. The roads quickly got bad, and I could see the cars sliding around as they were trying to drive (very slowly) up the street. I couldn’t take ‘my girls’ for their walk because without sidewalks, and with the vehicles sliding around as they were, it was just too dangerous to be out on the road.

With all of these changes to my expectations of how the day would go due to the weather, I could have been… deregulated, is the word I want to use here. It could have ruined my entire day. It wasn’t even a choice or an effort not to struggle however.

I was sitting in my (quite clean) living room, with my girls contentedly lying in their bed beside me, and was looking out of my window at the world of white outside, and I felt thankful to be in that moment. No disappointment. No feelings of being overwhelmed, or hurt, or irritated, or… I was happy.

I am not happy all that often. I struggle a lot with anxiety and depression, irritation, sensory issues, pain over the world… but that afternoon I felt really good.

When I went on the internet, I was presented with a question: “Does anyone honestly even like winter?”

And in that moment, my answer was, “Yes!”

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Autism: Uncontrollable Laughter

We were sitting at a friend’s house for Life Group (Bible study) and were going around talking about how our week had been. Typically I really struggle with this – partly because I don’t speak well in groups to begin with, but also because I have been taught not to think of what I am going to say while listening to someone else talk.

That is a really hard rule for me. It isn’t because I am a bad listener. If I knew I wouldn’t have to say anything for a while after, or if silence were acceptable between speakers to give me time to think, I would be able to listen quite well, but… as long as I know my turn is coming and I will be expected to speak, too, I go into panic and my mind shuts down.

When it comes time for me to talk, my mind is blank, and I pretty much can’t remember anything that happened in the week, or think of anything to say.

“How was your week?” someone asks me.

“I don’t remember,” I respond – and they all laugh. But in that moment, that is the truth. It isn’t that I am generally unable to remember what happened in a week, but in that situation, I really can’t think at all.

That night, however, was a good night for me. I was functioning pretty well, and answered several questions. I talked a LOT about my dogs. We had just been given “Grace” six days before, so I had lots to say.

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We were talking about the importance of community, and how that is hard for some of us. My husband had mentioned that when he is home, he is tired, and just wants to read or go on the computer. I said that if I wasn’t pushed to go out and visit (Life Group, Church, etc.) that I would spend just about all of my time with my dogs – because I like dogs more than people.

They all laughed at me. I went on to say that I know I am not supposed to say things like that, but it is true. Dogs are easier than people. Thankfully they know me. They have known me for a long time. While still laughing, they told me that they have known this about me for a long time, and it is okay (they love me anyway.) It is nice to be accepted.

The thing that really defined the evening for me though was when my husband was talking about one of his brothers who had been in the hospital for a while. He couldn’t think of the word, and came up with that his brother had been ‘ejected’ from the hospital.

Well… that was it for me for the rest of the night!

I am a very visual person, and suddenly I have this visual in my mind of people being flung off the top of the hospital. Cannons, sling-shots, catapults… it didn’t matter how it was done, all these poor people were now flying through the air as I tried vainly to get parachutes on them all before they started coming down.

It has been a long time since I laughed so hard in public – not just because my sense of humour is different from other people’s, but also because I feel very self conscious about laughing like that in public. I worry about how ridiculous I look – and I did in that moment, too, but I just couldn’t stop.

Everyone else went on to talk about other (serious) things, and there I was with tears running down my face because I was laughing so hard. All those poor, poor people flying through the air. Thankfully I never saw any of them come back down.

“And that is how we keep healthcare in Canada free,” I said.

 

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Autism: Introducing Grace

As predicted, the snow fell today. The first of the year. I woke up to a winter wonderland and it left me feeling… content.

Though his alarm woke us, it takes me a long time to get up (often about an hour,) and my husband had the fire going and the tea made before we even got down the hallway… ‘we’ being my girls and I.

The girls don’t like the snow. They sat in the doorway shivering before two went out running after someone on the street (they can’t actually make it there as we have a fence in the way.) Immediately they regretted their decision and came running back.

“Take us in please, mom,” they pleaded, looking as miserable as they could though they had been out less than two minutes, and the temperature was hovering around zero. They jumped in my lap as soon as I sat down, and buried themselves in the blankets.

The next few times I went out for more wood they wouldn’t even come to the door. I came in to find Clara trembling. No way was she going out there again. “Please don’t make me,” she begged. Thankfully I didn’t have to – they have their indoor pads, though I worried that my youngest wouldn’t know to use it.

We only got her 6 days ago, after all.

She is learning from the others, but she is still not quite sure – and until now she was able to get enough time outside to go there.

It is true that I didn’t need another dog. I didn’t even feel I needed the second until she got here. In fact I was quite sure in the beginning that we were okay as we were. Clara loved having me all to myself. She is my ‘baby’ and let me know rather quickly that she wanted to be treated as such – carried around, showered with love, talked to, sung to… I needed her. She wanted me.

We were doing great, and any thoughts of ever getting a second dog disappeared as I watched her lunge at every other dog that passed us. She didn’t like one of them – and she was so tiny and cute (before she started growling) that people and dogs were all drawn to her… in the beginning.

I was okay with ‘just’ Clara. But then they asked me to take her mother, too. I was sure they would back out, or find someone else, or… it took me a long time to give them an answer, and I was afraid all along. But the moment Molly came into my home I knew she was a good fit. Such a sweet, cuddly, trusting girl – and Clara? From the beginning the two have been inseparable, like twins. And Clara is so happy Molly is here that she can hardly stop licking her.

But did I really need a third?

The girls have been doing so well, I certainly didn’t feel another could possibly be a good choice, but… she was Molly’s baby, too. She was Clara’s younger sister. Most importantly, knowing my girls, I knew the other interested homes would not be a good fit for her – and their ‘owner’ knew that, too. Those families worked full time, and were away a lot, and there she would be (after being raised in a home with at least 10 other dogs around all the time, and people home constantly) alone for more than 8 hours a day.

My girls cry when I leave the room a lot of the time, and become stressed out if I go out even a couple of days in a row. It wouldn’t have been great. They offered us some incentives to take her and I fearfully agreed… and then she came. My girls accepted her right away, and right away she became another of ‘my babies,’ who bring me more joy and contentment than just about anything else in my life.

So did I need a third dog? Absolutely!

I think I will call her ‘Grace,’ for God has blessed me so much more abundantly than I deserve, and I am so thankful for her.

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