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Autism: What Could I Be?

It was early in the visit, I think, and it took me a long time to try to figure out which words I should use. The words are always important, for I have found that if I choose wrong, or say it in the wrong way, or… people seem to think I am attacking them.

Not that my mom responds in that way, but enough people do that it has become a major concern every time I want to ask or say anything of any importance to me.

Was I good at anything as a child?

What was I good at when I was young?

Was there ever anything I was especially good at?

Who was I as a child?

Was there anything you thought I could be when I was a child?

Was I always this broken?

If I had the experience, do you think there is anything I could do?

Did you think I had potential to be anything when I was young? Or something? Or more than this?

Did you see anything I might have missed?

I don’t even know how it came out when I did ask her, for all the time I spent thinking about it. I do know that I was really anxious, and my heart was pounding, and my mind was trying to build walls and block things out, and my hands were shaking.

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I do know it wasn’t easy for me to ask. What if she thought I thought that she didn’t do enough to encourage me when I was young? That certainly wasn’t what I was trying to express. I just… wanted to know if there was maybe something I had missed.

Something I could be. Something I could do. Anything I might be able to succeed at – for this string of failures that has been my life since at least my teens (though the feeling was there long before that) has devastated my confidence until I am blinded in fear from trying again.

I was glad to have my mom there. For years sometimes, between visits, she is not there – and some things are hard to ask on the phone, or even in emails. This was one of them.

Was there anything I was especially interested in?

“Writing,” she said. “You were always writing.”

“You never wanted to play sports, or work in teams, or do things with other people. You just always had paper and pens, and I don’t even know what you were writing most of the time. You just loved to write.”

Well… there you have it. What I am, I’ve always been. There is nothing I love to do more than write.

 

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Autism: Searching For Talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sunflower-garden

 
 

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