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Autism: Halloween Again

Well… this is attempt #2 at this topic, as I lost the first draft when my computer froze up. So frustrating! I almost feel irate (a word I never used before studying Latin, but they use often in the Derivatives section.)

It is that time of year again, when I have to turn off all our lights and hide away in our own house. At least it was last night. It isn’t that I don’t like Halloween; when my children were young, I took them out, and enjoyed watching their excitement. When I was a child, I also went out, and enjoyed it. For years we gave out candy. I think, for children, it is a fun tradition – but we don’t celebrate it anymore.

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For one thing, we were getting over 100 children at our house most years. This because:

  1. In a town full of hills and mountains, our neighbourhood (and especially our home) are rather level.
  2. We live in a rich neighbourhood. We aren’t rich, but many in our area are – so the kids are brought here expecting better candy. I do understand this: it is what we did as kids, too. (Only the middle class neighbours usually gave out more and better candy than the rich ones.)
  3. It was too expensive to buy the “good” candy (chocolate and chips) and the kids complained at suckers.

So we just gave up, and started hiding every year.

On top of that, there were my Autism related issues to consider:

  • My anxiety and sensory issues seem to be getting worse as I get older, meaning…
  • getting stressed out with kids knocking at the door over and over for hours,
  • fear of being judged (for giving the wrong candy)
  • fear of saying or doing something wrong (like dropping things)
  • my own dog who would bark continuously
  • fear of the unexpected (like people saying or doing something ‘off script’)

There are lots of reasons why Halloween is no longer celebrated in this house, but I really do hope the kids enjoyed themselves.

All day I was anxious about the evening to come:

  • What if the kids came before my husband got home?
  • What if they knocked on the door despite the lights being off?
  • What if they noticed we were in the bedroom watching a movie, and got upset with us?
  • What if my dog still barked all night?
  • What if…

As a result of the darkness, however, my husband and I did three things which we have done extremely rarely since our (foster) kids were moved:

  • We ate supper together at the table (which became too hard, too quiet after they were gone)
  • Because we were together at the table, we actually had a conversation (about or wedding, since our anniversary is November 1)
  • We watched a movie together – “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Despite all of my fears and concerns, I ended up having an amazing night – and felt it was a wonderful way to ‘salvage’ our anniversary since in all other ways it would have been as disappointing as my birthday.

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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Dreams of Home

Last night I dreamed that I was moving back to my hometown. I have dreams about that a lot! I guess it has to do with my regret for moving so far away from home, and my constant longing to see my mother. It isn’t that I don’t like the place that I now live. If it weren’t for family, there would be no comparison.

I love the town I have lived in for the past sixteen years. It is beautiful – lakes, mountains, hills, trees… no comparison. Where I am from has a lake as well, but that lake is surrounded by factories, where this one is surrounded by nature. My hometown is crowded, and busy, and dirty. Where I now live only has about 20,000 people, and is nowhere near a big city.

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Here I have my church – the only one I have ever called my own. I have been attending that church for sixteen years, and just about everyone that I know goes there. Here I met my husband, raised my son, learned to drive… Here I had my first job, owned my first house, grew my first garden… Here I grew in faith, and here I learned of my Autism.

Yet so many nights I dream of moving ‘home.’ For years and years I have dreamed of moving back, and in all of those dreams, despite the large size of the city, I am almost always wandering along the same street, on the same city block. There, where I spent most of my highschool years. There where I lived when my son was born. There where my grandmother had moved the last time I had visited her before she died.

I walk along the street, searching for my new home. It has to be there. It cannot be anywhere else. One road, one block, within a huge city – and that is where I need to be. I spent seven years of my life on or near that part of the city. Seven years that encompassed the time from the beginning of highschool until just after my son’s second birthday. I guess those years meant a lot to me, for it is always where I return.

Last night, as I was walking along that road in my dreams, I met with a couple from my church. They were there, on the parking lot of a plaza on the corner, as part of their vacation. When I said, “Hello,” they asked me what I was doing there. “This is where I am from,” I told them. “I am looking for a place to live.” Then I continued on my way.

Often in these dreams, I have ended up in the city impulsively. I suddenly found myself on an airplane, flying ‘home’ despite the fact that I had to work the next day, or had someone to meet. I am there thinking, “I am not supposed to be here,” and it causes me to panic. Still I am there to find a place to live, and find that place I must.

Always I have it in my mind that once I have found a place to live, I will go to visit with my mom. Sometimes I get that far in the dream, and hop on a bus, and go for those visits (with my mom, and my brother, and my niece and nephews) but mostly I just know that is what I am going to do.

In these dreams, my husband doesn’t come with me. He usually doesn’t even know I have gone. It isn’t that I intended to leave him behind, just… suddenly I was on a plane going home. There was no time to think of him. So while I am searching for a home, and noting that I will visit with my mom after, my anxiety grows. Sometime I will have to call my husband, and let him know that I am almost the full width of the country away from him, and I wonder… will he come to live here, too?

 

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Autism: Knowing Myself

I am a person who struggles a lot with discontent. Whatever I have, I dream of something different. I am working on this. I am praying about this. Still I struggle.

I wonder if this has to do with a lifetime of trying, and failing, to meet other people’s expectations. A lifetime of thinking that this lifestyle, or that job, or some ability is the definition of success. Here I am 40 years old, and I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I might be good at, and spend so much energy fighting against those things that I am definitely not good at – because I feel I should be able to do them.

Take, for instance, my strong desire towards, and fixation on, homesteading. So often I long to be able: to grow food, to harvest food, to have a wood stove, to gather, and store, and know that if I want to eat I have to work for it. I want to be able to knit, and sew, and make crafts to display around my house. I want to have many animals (and not have to eat them) and a large piece of land far away from people.

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Only I have no energy, and am not gifted in any of these areas. None. Okay, I am good with animals, but I am not good with death. I’d like to have them, but to what purpose? I don’t have the physical strength to keep up the work of caring for them day after day, and I really need my time for sleep, which having a large farm to care for would not allow.

It doesn’t make sense, yet I feel so strongly that I should be able to do this, that I am completely denying the truth of whether I actually could. Maybe it has more to do with my lack of trust in the economy, or my dislike of being dependent on other people – but there is so much about that lifestyle that I cannot do, and rather than accept that fact, I become discontent with my lack of ability.

Then there is the idea that a good life includes a huge family, which brings on the desire for many children. Only I couldn’t have more than one child, and even trying to adopt didn’t work out. All of my life this was something I wanted, and I could not understand why some people didn’t want that. In these later years, however, as I pick and pull at these desires that have driven my life, I begin to question: Why? Why do I want children? Why do I believe having a lot of children is the definition of success?

I was so upset by my failures in this area, that I was constantly feeling driven to try harder, and beg for more that I never stopped to question whether I should. I loved being a mom, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much about being a parent that is beyond my ability or comfort level, that the knowledge my son has grown beyond those years should bring me peace rather than a longing to return.

Being judged by other people, for instance, is a huge struggle for me. Yet parents are being judged constantly, and it seems nothing can be done ‘right.’ The more children a person has, the more room to be judged. On top of that, I am completely awkward around other people. Playdates, schools, teachers, playgrounds, other parents, birthday parties… having children demands interaction, and all of this was way beyond my comfort level.

Then there is the idea of being responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of another person. The very idea of that level of… power – it terrifies me. And with children, all of my sensory issues are tested to the limits each and every day, and my attention (which automatically turns inward, and is quickly exhausted when pulled out of myself) is demanded at all times.

Above all of this, there is the constant terror of all that could go wrong, and I see it all. Someone said that having children means to forever have your heart go walking around outside of your body – and this is both completely true, and overwhelmingly terrifying for me: anything could happen. Anything.

I like my quiet. I like having a lot of time to sit, and think, and analyze. I like having a lot of alone time, without demands being placed on me to get things done. There is so much involved in both of these areas which I am not good at, that even the desire to live in such ways leaves me feeling like a failure.

So I believe I have been given this time to review and rewrite my idea of what success means, and to understand what drives this discontent in my life, and figure out how to let it go.

 

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Autism: Battles From Good

The moment, though unexpected, was a good experience. Such things do not happen for me often, especially when I am around other people. I can even see how I was being prepared ahead of time for this particular moment, so that I would be open and receptive to it.

Here is was, smack dab in the middle of Rosh Hashanah. Okay, so it is a Jewish holiday, and I am not Jewish, nor do I exactly celebrate their holidays. I do make note of them, however. I feel the times and seasons are important to some degree. Not that I need to celebrate, but more to be aware of when they are, and what they mean.

Each day in my inbox I receive probably about 20 emails that I delete without even opening them up: companies trying to sell me something, survey invitations, food recipes, craft ideas, plans for going off grid… in short all items that were a fixation at one point or another. Then there are the emails that I pretty much always open: daily devotional, prophecy news, posts from blogs that I am following, emails from family, friends, and health care professionals…

Included in this list are emails with news and information about Israel, and Jewish people (also a recurring fixation at different times in my life.) Typically I don’t read these. It isn’t that I am not interested; like many of the others, I just have to choose how to prioritize my time. Despite not having a job, I still feel busy, and still try to use the time I have well.

Only I chose to look at that email, and more, I watched the video linked to it. Basically it talked about Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, when the Jewish people are taught that the souls of every person on Earth go before God, and he decides what will happen to them in the year ahead. So, lots of information, but what I got out of it came down to this: Rosh Hashanah: Anything is possible.

And so I started praying. It goes in hand with what I was saying about being 7 years from losing my kids, and turning 40 the same week. A week after that? Rosh Hashanah. How I long for change. Not just any change, but something good. Something wonderful. A complete turn around from what my life has been so far. I not only long for it, I need it. As you might have noticed from my fifteen months of posting – I am not doing great. I can’t pull out of it on my own (do you read how hard I try?)

I don’t even know what I need, but I know I need something. So I pray.

That day, I had just come back from a walk with my dog. I was standing in the yard, when a neighbour (from ‘my’ church) came by. We started talking about some very personal things, when another neighbour (also from church) came by. We talked, and then ‘we’ prayed (okay, I didn’t exactly pray out loud, but I did explain to them why I couldn’t, and I did pray in my head within the silences.) When it came to praying over me, and they were praying for healing over traumas in my past – which I hadn’t spoken about, we had been talking about general traumas including health issues – they both were overwhelmed, and there was a loud silence before they carried on.

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Anyway, it might seem strange – and for me, it was. Yet because I had been praying so hard for change, and for healing, and for really good things to happen, I was highly encouraged by that moment.

I felt really good as I walked back into my house – yet within minutes the attacks began. “What were you thinking?” “How could you share like that?” “They are going to hate you.” “Nothing good is going to come of this.” “Nothing good ever happens to you.” And on and on the attack came, worse and worse as the minutes ticked by. The anxiety was so severe that night I could hardly sleep. I woke up sick, and full of fear.

Later that day, my son got upset about my dog, and actually swore at me (he has never done that before, despite being 20 years old) and told me he wanted to leave home. It has been three days, and he hasn’t talked to me since. After that, my pain grew. It grew and grew until the tears were a river running down my face.

If I hadn’t lost my dog… If I hadn’t lost my kids… If I hadn’t moved so far from home… If I had been more patient with my son growing up, maybe he would be more patient with my dog… If he leaves, I will never see him… If he goes, what will I do?…

For hours I was in such pain I was hyperventilating, and my headache grew and grew.

That is the thing. When good things happen in my life, I get attacked. Every time. And it often hurts even more… well, no – it just returns me to the pain of all the bad things. So it gets to where if something good is happening, I immediately start panicking, because this is my experience afterwards.

The thing about my fears, that seems to stump the counselors, is that they very frequently come true. And do they hurt as much as I feared they would? Absolutely, and much more. I guess that isn’t true of most people – seeing as that is a tactic counselors use to try to calm anxious people. (“Think of your worst fear.” “Has it ever happened?” yes “Was it as bad as you feared?” worse!)

So yes, I am afraid of the good, and I am afraid of the bad – and this means I am pretty much afraid all of the time!

 

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The Abused

In this world

Mistakes are made

A child

A victim of society’s cruel ways

Is sitting in a corner

Hope

Banished from his mind

Dissatisfaction

Dreams of death

Thinking as a failure

He will never succeed

Tears

To never be shown

A fist

The pain comes

The hatred builds

Another normal day

 
 

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