Autism

Behind My Big Brown Aspie Eyes

I wish I could paint… then I could paint you an image of my mind.  A black and white masterpiece that at first observation would appear to be chaotic, a painting of a mad woman.  It would appear hastily done.  Then, after careful observation, it would reveal symmetry, shapes, patterns, and depth.

Would you see how deep it goes before it’s explained to you?  Look deeper….

How much of this painting could you align with me?  The black and white would symbolize the colors of my life and choices, with no room for gray areas.  Straight lines, and perfect shapes.  A craving for space, order and organization.  Each paint smear, although appearing to have been painted in anger with a heavy hand, will reveal the artist to be purposeful, meticulous and the strokes themselves carefully done.  All a perfect reflection of attention (or obsession with) detail.

All of this coated with a hazy overlay you first have to find your way through.  You’d feel a little lost while trying to uncover what lies beneath.  Everything appearing one dimensional, but when you dare to take a few steps back, the depth of this masterpiece would reveal itself.  This chaos… this chaotic artistic mess, reflects my mind.

me

If I think long and hard about some of my earliest memories I can remember feeling as if the people around me were just merely shapes.  These shapes moved, made sound, came in all sorts of sizes and colors… oh! they were so beautiful!… but they made no sense.  That was okay though, because I was in my own world – I was happy.  This world was my stage… until somebody turned the house lights on, thus effectively slamming me into a new reality where I was placed under the scrutinizing eye of a cruel, judgmental world.

“Different” was the nice term that the adults used to describe me when I was within earshot.

“Mrs. Smith… we’re concerned about how different your daughter is.”

“Mrs. Smith, your daughter just isn’t fitting in.”

“Mrs. Smith, your daughter isn’t socializing.”

“Mrs. Smith, Jessica is an excellent reader!  But, we’d like for her to engage more with the children around her.”

“Mrs. Smith, your daughter is not speaking when asked to.”

“Mrs. Smith, why doesn’t your daughter respond when spoken to?”

“Mrs. Smith… your daughter is very different.  We think she might benefit from some one-on-one assistance.”

I believe the politically correct term now is “special needs.”  Doesn’t that just sound disgusting?  “Your child has special needs.”  It makes my skin crawl… but that’s besides the point.

For the first 16 years of my life, my mother tried, on many occasions, to find a way to get through to me.  That involved needing to first understand what was happening within me.  I remember countless doctor visits, therapists, counselors at schools – each and every one of them with an opinion they believed was absolute.  Their ‘absolute’ opinions made me feel small, and broken.
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“What’s wrong with you?  Speak up!”

“Use your words!”

“Can’t you act like a normal child?!”

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

“Stop moving!  Stop flinching when I touch you!  Stand still!”

“Stop crying!  Grow up!”

“Quit throwing a tantrum!”

“Come out from that hiding hole!”

“Go play with the kids and act like them!”

“Don’t you do anything other than read?!”

“Why are you so obsessed with playing that wretched violin?!”

“She’s just acting out, this is typical.”

“She has attention deficit disorder, we have a pill for that.”

“We believe your daughter is suffering from severe anxiety disorder.”

“Obsessive compulsive disorder.”

“There’s nothing wrong with her.”

“She might be a hypochondriac.”

“She’ll grow out of it.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the ever popular (and my personal favorite) catch all:
“Your daughter is severely depressed.  We recommend hospitalization.”

Everything came to a head my senior year of high school when I was seventeen.  During this time of my life, I spoke very little.  My entire world evolved around playing the violin, reading, and my one friend.  Most of my peers ignored me, called me a freak behind my back.  Usually I tuned them out.  They were just shapes.  Blurry shapes moving through a world I didn’t connect to yet.

One afternoon, while completely minding my own business, a group of 4 girls decided that day was the day I was to be publicly ridiculed.  My hair was grabbed, and I was yanked back against a girl who snaked her arms around my waist while she yelled hate words into my left ear.  Then, the three other girls commenced to spraying me down with their overwhelming perfumes while also shouting profanity and names.  I can’t say I remember how long it went on for, but it felt like forever.  I can recall every single feeling, and detail.

This I will not delve into.  But, the short explanation behind this attack was because I was “different” and “different” was not welcome.

When the surreal scene ended and they ran off, I felt what I can only describe as my mind and my body so overwhelmed it err’d out.  I shut down, and I remember only black.

Not black in the ‘I passed out’ kinda way but black in the ‘the body was moving, but the mind was was switched off’ way.  The next morning, I was admitted to a mental health institute for none other than “severe depression.”

Okay, the sad moment is over!  Phew!  You made it this far.  I’ve told you all that so that you can feel the joy of what was to happen next….

It was there, at the mental institute, that I would finally receive a real explanation that would forever change my life.

Betcha I can guess what you’re doing right now.  You’re jumping up and down in your seat, waving your hand in the air, going “Oh!  OOOOH!  I know!  I KNOW!!!!”  And you would be right, if you guessed that this is where I was fully and finally evaluated, and diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

redA lot of you have asked what it was like when I first heard that I was autistic and, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t fully remember.   I was, at that point, totally withdrawn from the world.   Although I was hearing and seeing, I was so disassociated that I wasn’t thinking – or feeling – anything.

This first time I was admitted, I was plugged into some behavior therapy programs, and I saw a counselor to whom I slowly began to open up.  But, life happened, and I was determined that I was not going to be the “freak” that I had been called by my peers for years… so, in my glorious stage of denial, I quit it all.

I was later on reevaluated, and this second time I remember feeling oddly relieved.  My whole life I felt outcast, misunderstood, disconnected, anxious and broken…  old habits, BAD habits, were forming again, and admittedly, I was terrified of myself.  So, by my second evaluation, I was looking for answers as well as help, and I wasn’t running any longer from what I was told, and now believed, to be absolutely true.

Each and every diagnosis response is different, and I’m grateful that my friend Evan (who writes under the King Baby Duck alias for ElectricSistaHood & Boston Bastard Brigade) has offered to share his experience with us:

“Honestly, I was a wreck the day I found out.  I was in third grade, and at the time I was curious about why my parents had so many books about Autism.  So I asked, and — back then — I didn’t like the answer I got.  I felt like a total outcast, a freak, and thrown out of the realm of society.  At the time I was taking Ritalin and Prozac, (and) had a one-on-one aide. I never second-guessed why I had them, I thought it was just part of the average daily routine.

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Follow Evan on Twitter @King_Baby_Duck

I remember coming into school the next day (after I’d) found out. Needless to say I was freaking out, to the point where I started sobbing like crazy in the middle of class. It got to a point where I needed to be excused and brought down to the office until I calmed down. When I returned, I (got to eat) my lunch early, (and) the other kids were getting pissed that they couldn’t eat (early) like I was. So I opened my mouth, told them I was Autistic, and was greeted with silence & stares.

A couple days later, my mom came into my class to give a lecture on Autism, and how it affects me and why it shouldn’t change their opinion of who I was. Fortunately, everyone was cool with it, and life went on. However, finding out you’re a bit different from the rest of the norm is never a good thing to realize. I think anyone — be it those who are Autistic, gay, trans-gendered, or even have some sort of physical abnormality — can vouch for that.”

If you’re asking about how the diagnosis feels because you want to better understand what someone might experience, then you should know, you can’t have expectations.  This is no different from any other time when you receive news that would at first feel like a kick to your gut.  You take the blow, and then you get back up and come up with a plan.

For many of us along the spectrum, we are unable to make those plans for ourselves.  So we fully depend upon the help around us.  For myself, the plan wasn’t nearly as drastic as I’ve seen with others along the spectrum.

I’ve never identified myself as high- or low- functioning, although society has a desire to place me somewhere on a definable scale.

You’ve asked me what I did after I received my diagnosis.  Well, I started with behavior therapy and that continues even until today.  It’s important that there’s someone in my life who can explain to me the rules of behavior in a way that I can understand, and follow.  We discuss how to act, how to socialize, what to say and what not to say.  We’ve identified triggers, reactions, and how to work through the anxiety and/or disassociation.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, I’m not taught to fit inside a box.  I’m coached on how to be me, but in a functional and safe manner.  This allows me to work, form relationships, and live my life on a daily basis.

377808_408257929222786_220849070_nAfter some time, I began to see a speech therapist (I did this as a girl, and even now as an adult when needed).  A speech therapist teaches me how to enunciate, form my words before speaking them, and to actually communicate myself.  There are many periods in my life where I have lost the ability to speak because I disconnect so deeply.  Because I live alone, fully independently, it’s vital that this doesn’t happen.  Losing the ability to communicate could put me in danger.

As an added bonus, I tested a theory relating to singing lessons and autism.  Someone once told me that singing lessons are beneficial for Autistic’s who struggle with public speaking.  Well, I wasn’t doing terrible by the time I heard this, but I remember thinking to myself “Why the hell not?”

So, I signed up for lessons, and before long my ability to communicate effectively and clearly reached an all-time best.  My voice was louder, my words were clearer, I was being understood more and I felt more confident in my ability to talk to people everyday.  Plus, I love singing!

Now, years later from where I started, I have the unique ability as an Autistic to communicate myself.  Maybe I don’t communicate perfectly, but I do it very well.  After much encouragement over the past few years, I decided to begin this passion project of giving those without Autism, a chance to see behind the veil.

So… you’ve asked questions.  71 of them to be exact, BUT I condensed this list down significantly.  And now I’m ready to answer the good, the crazy and the bad.



HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN AUTISTIC?

From conception, to birth.  To now.  And until the day that I die.



IS THERE A CURE?

To Autism?  Not that I’m aware of…  There’s help.  A lot of it.  I’ve had speech therapy, behavioral therapy, animal assisted therapy, life coaching and a lot of exposure to the world as we know it.

I’m a fully independent and functional member of society.  So, I’d call that win.



IS AUTISM A FORM OF MENTAL RETARDATION?

Uhhhh, no!  No, it most definitely is not.  I haven’t met a single person with autism who wasn’t completely brilliant in some capacity.

I was speaking french before I spoke English.  In second grade I was reading and comprehending literature that college students were studying.

I’ve met a 4-year-old girl who can create acrylic masterpieces inspired by the colors she would see when listening to music.

A boy at 11, who graduated college with a masters degree in mathematics.

I know people with Autism who are exceptionally creative, and incredibly gifted.  We don’t often communicate with words, yet we understand each other perfectly.

This isn’t retardation.

My friend Shawn said it perfectly when he said “Autism doesn’t mean stupid.  Autism is a focused gift.”

jessicaI can hear you when you think I’m ignoring you.  I see you most clearly when I look past you.   I don’t want you to touch me because there’s too much input.  I don’t speak because I have nothing to add, not because I’m bored, and not because I don’t care.   My mind is probably 10 topics ahead in our conversation and I might be lost, so… I’m just along for the ride.

But I’m smart.  I learn fast, and I’ve developed a method of keeping myself organized, and focused.  Maybe I can’t hold a candle to you when it comes to socializing, but ask me about my job, about music, and about gaming.  You’ll learn just how intelligent I am.



I DIDN’T THINK AUTISTICS COULD BELIEVE IN GOD.

Well I believe in God.  So, myth debunked.



HOW DO PEOPLE WITH AUTISM REFER TO PEOPLE WITH AUTISM?

Easy!

“Hey, I’d like you to meet someone.  Bob, meet Bill.  Bill, meet Bob.”
Or … “Hey Evan! How are you doing?”



IS AUTISM WHO I AM OR WHAT I AM?

I’d say neither.  I am woman who just so happens to have a form of Autism.  But I’m not defined by Asperger’s any more than you are being defined by what you ate for dinner three years ago.  Autism is a fact of my life.  I would ask that you recognize me first as a woman.  I’m not a Autistic woman.  I am a woman with Aspergers.

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HOW DO I HAVE THE CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE THAT I’M AUTISTIC?

Erm… that’s kind of a case by case situation.  The way I tell my friend may be different than the way that I would tell my boyfriend.  Also, the way that I tell my boyfriend may be different than the way I’d tell my employer.

It’s never something I include in my introduction.  I mean, c’mon… how awkward would that be?  “Hey!  I’m Autistic Jess!  I have Asperger’s and I may say or do things that offend you or make you feel uncomfortable as well as make you question if I’m cray-cray or not but that’s okay because Asperger’s!!! No biggy!”

Don’t be ridiculous.

Recently, I informed my employer of my condition so that an accommodation could be made.  Nothing serious, but I need to be forewarned about fire drills in our building.  Alarms tend to lead to a high amount of anxiety, and I’d rather not have a sensory breakdown (or fight to avoid one) in an important moment.

Should a real fire alarm happen, then someone would need to make sure I get out safe, and that I’m not curled up in a ball in a corner somewhere.  With that said, my behavior therapist and I ran through the scenario on several occasions so I could learn how to act appropriately.

My boyfriend and I had the conversation very early in our relationship.  We were having some trouble with communication (surprise, surprise)….  I’m glad to say we figured it out, and he has made me a better communicator, and listener, as a result!

With a friend… well, it really just depends on the environment.  I play it by ear, and speak about it only when I think it’s necessary.  For example, a firetruck drives by while we’re talking and I go into my mind and curl up into a psychological ball of anxiety while my body shuts down and I become unresponsive.  Telling them at that point, is usually the appropriate thing, so that they can be assured I’m not broken, this is normal, and I’m fine.



DOES AUTISM MAKE MY BOYFRIEND UNCOMFORTABLE?

I asked my boyfriend how my autism makes him feel.  He replied with “Fine.”



CAN I GET MARRIED EVEN IF I HAVE AUTISM?

Yes.  Married.  Divorced.  Hopefully remarried someday.



DO THOSE WITH AUTISM SUFFER MORE ABUSE?

I really can’t speak on this.  Everyone suffers abuse at some point in their life.  Autistic or not, we need to all be making sure we equip ourselves and those we love with the tools necessary to overcome the downfalls of abuse.

Yes, I’ve had a lot of bullying in my life because I was different.  My behavior, my speech, my activities – everything – was different.  Like I said, the children I grew up saw different  as a target.  Sadly, that happens a lot.

I’ve invested a lot of time working one on one with children and teenagers who have Autism so that we could address things like this.  Some, don’t get and don’t care too.  Others, who want desperately to fit in and feel normal, suffer more greatly because they feel more strongly about all things.

My message to them is simple, know who you are.  That will save you in your darkest of times.



HOW WOULD I WANT SOMEONE TO APPROACH ME ABOUT AUTISM?

Honestly, and genuinely.  I’d prefer that you be straightforward, and don’t beat around the bush.  If you fit a message between the lines, I won’t see it.  Everything to me is black and white.  Yes, and no.  Do, or don’t.  Be straight up.

A lot of people message me privately, and comment about how we connect somewhere.  They have Autism, their kid has autism, their friend has autism, etc… they usually have questions, and hope that I may be able to provide some personal insight.

Don’t approach me with “So, your Autistic huh? I’d never know… you must be high functioning!”  THIS is a kick in the gut.  And it’s a bit condescending, regardless of your good intentions.

Don’t approach me with comments about how you’re “sorry.”

And no, I don’t need you to play ‘therapist.’  I pay someone who is highly trained, and skilled for that.

I’m not disabled, and I don’t need your help.  If I need it, I’ll ask.

I’m not your pet project.  Or your charity friend.

Treat me like you would anyone else.

I love that.



IS AUTISM A LACK OF FEELING, OR FEELING TOO MUCH?

For me, I experienced both throughout my many seasons.  More-so feeling too much than not feeling at all.

Everything that I feel (emotionally, physically, mentally, psychologically, etc….) whether good or bad, I feel to the utmost extreme.

Think about this….

When I got an A on my report card in school, I’d be overjoyed.  Not just happy, but overjoyed.  When I was offered the job of a lifetime, I was overjoyed.  When I conquered my fear of water and learned to surf, I was overjoyed.  The donuts I ate this morning were so delicious, that I cried because I was overwhelmed with joy.

To any other person there were would be a list of which one of these made them feel greater than the other.  For example, receiving an A is great, but not as exciting as receiving a life-changing job offer.  Donuts are delicious, but, not so delicious that I should be weeping for joy.

For me, during all of these moments, I can’t honestly say which one made me feel more or less excited than another.  My system was flooded in such a way that the feelings I felt for each were exactly equal.

But in my mind, I know which is the greater achievement, but in the moment I felt so much that I can’t compare by feeling alone.

Everything is amplified.  High and low.  Happy and sad.  All responses are uncontrollably, and unintentionally, exaggerated.

Through the years, I’ve learned how to properly balance my extreme feelings so that I’m not overwhelming myself in a way that is unhealthy.  If I don’t keep myself in check, I run the risk of feeling too overwhelmed that I might have an anxiety attack, become hysteric, or disassociate.

All three of those, suck.

Sensory overload is real.  And it can be scary, because you’re feeling and processing too much, too fast, all at once.



IN WHAT WAYS DO I SEE AUTISM MANIFEST ITSELF IN MY BEHAVIORS, ATTITUDE, ETC?

I don’t understand body language.

Or sarcasm.

I can’t tell what you’re thinking, or that you’re bored.  You have to tell me.

I always over empathize, but I actually have no idea what you’re feeling.

When I’m confused, I have anxiety.  Gray area is not my safe area.

People often tell me that I’m bouncing my foot.  That I am tapping my fingers too much.

Did I lock the door?  Yes, but I’m going to unlock it and lock it again, and do it again (a half dozen more times) so that I remember I locked it.  [5 minutes later]  Did I lock the door?

13416790_1038895996195316_7988571261195323954_oA genealogist once showed me that I have common physical markers of a person with Autism.  Although Autism isn’t a physical disorder, some of us have certain facial characteristics.  Now when I look in the mirror I notice my big, wide eyes.  I see my wide lips, small nose and cheeks.  People lovingly tease me about my “baby face.”

I didn’t begin speaking until I was almost 4 years old.

I have a hard time putting my thoughts to words.

My interests are fairly unique.  Playing the violin.  Organizing my hard drives for fun.  Turning on the Sims 3 and building an entire world from scratch.

People tell me that when I focus, I’m intense, and that I’m overly obsessed.

Self care is very difficult for me.  I become so obsessed with one thing, that I forget everything else.  Not because I mean to… but despite my best intentions it just doesn’t happen.  My behavioral therapist called it “executive functions.”  I set alarms for my executive functions.  For example: at 1:25 every day at the end of my lunch an alarm goes off so I remember to brush my hair, brush my teeth, and wash my face.

11825719_868315486586702_5272897226493447810_nIf I’m overwhelmed, I lose my ability to speak.

I overreact to a lot of stimuli.  For example:  saran wrap, blueberries, bright lights… just to name a few.

Rocking is my comfort mechanism.  But, people have made me feel insecure about it, so now I have a rock that I carry with me at all times.  I rub it in my hands when I need something to calm me down.

One unexpected change can ruin my entire day.
But, I have learned how to “go with the flow” until I can process it in a safe space later on if need be.  Note* this doesn’t always work.

#thestruggleisreal




IF AUTISM IS A SOCIAL DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER, HOW DO I SOCIALIZE SO WELL?

bestYears of proper behavior therapy, speech therapy and even singing lessons.  All of those have helped significantly.  I’m surrounded by incredible people who recognize that socializing properly is healthy for the spirit and mind, and they have been gracious in helping me to navigate both the personal and professional waters.

Also, trial and error by exposing myself to the sharks.  I mean… to society.

And thinking about what I want to say before I speak.  (Rather, I try too).

 

 



WHAT WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS TO LEARN?

There were two.

First, slowing down and thinking things through.

Sure, this might seem simple to you.  However, my mind is constantly racing, constantly processing, and constantly moving on to the next stimuli.  I’m fixed in a permanent state of ‘fight-or-flight.

I can’t hear myself think.  Partially because it’s too loud, and partially because I’m constantly in a state of heightened awareness.
It’s similar to being tuned out during a conversation, and someone says something you just barely hear.  Yet, you say something without thinking it.  It’s a reaction in the raw.  No filter.

Even when I’m tuned in, I’m slightly tuned out.  All the time.

Second, reality vs imagination.  My mind operates on a different frequency from my peers.  I often find my frequency set to channels that are hard for me to turn off.  On this frequency, people transform into moving shapes.  Blurred, and beautiful.  In this world, the written word become imagery, music is language, and colors turn to black and white.  It’s simple, safe, and it’s exciting.

Learning to change my focus of reality was the equivalent of focusing a camera lens.  It’s the difference of focusing on the bowl of fruit in the foreground, or focusing on something just past it, that the bowl becomes blurred.

You my friends, are the bowl.  My world, is the empty space just past the fruit, where everything else is out of focus.



WHY ARE PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SO ATTACHED TO GAMING AND MEDIA?

For me, I can turn all of my senses into the game, or movie.  It disengages me from the world, and for however long I’m engaged, the world around me fades to black.  It’s wonderful.  My mind empties, my body relaxes, and everything becomes reaction.

My friend Evan had this to say:

“I wouldn’t say we’re attached to movies and gaming; rather, like your average regular joes, we’re entranced by visual and audible media. This also includes the likes of anime, music, and television. However, from my personal experience, I can say that I am influenced greatly by these forms of media from both a critic’s point-of-view and one of that of a creator.

As a critic, I have to pay close attention to every pixel, every action, and even the way actors and voice actors enunciate their words. Because of my Autism, I can do this far easier than most critics, and quickly write up my thoughts on what I experienced. (Time-wise, it takes me roughly 1-2 hours to write up a review, depending on the media I’m covering. Video games & music tend to take less time, whereas anime review pieces can take longer due to more aspects I need to cover of it.)

As a creator, we can build vast worlds and stories just by plucking up a tiny tidbit from something we like. (Case in point, back in college, I wrote a 120-page screenplay solely based on listening to the Radiohead song “Go To Sleep,” and imagining what sort of film trailer would go with it.):



WHAT’S BEEN MOST DIFFICULT ABOUT BEING AUTISTIC?

The disconnect between my reality and yours.61776_1425306232444_1481707_n

I wish I had an easier time connecting to people, but with that said I’m so thankful for the friends that I have.

Social settings, one-on-one, are the most difficult.  In a group, I can blend in and just listen.  One on one is different.  I find myself wanting to avoid conversations because I don’t trust my ability to form coherent sentences that remotely resemble what I actually mean.  Usually there are a lot of long awkward pauses, and as much as I want to say something intelligent, funny, or witty, it just doesn’t happen.

But when I do, it’s quite the rush of excitement.



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WHAT TOOLS HELPED ME BECOME MORE SOCIAL?

Playing the violin.  Event Photography.  Gaming.  Online gaming.  Great friends.  Pushy friends who force me to socialize.  Medical insurance that pays for great therapists and counselors.



WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M EXPERIENCING SENSORY OVERLOAD?

Sensory overload is also called Sensory Processing Disorder, and a lot of Autistics have this.  Overload happens when our brain overreacts to stimuli.  Our brains can also under-react to stimuli.

Currently I’m sitting at my desk typing away on my computer.  While I type, I’m still processing every sound, every feeling, every movement.

A helicopter flying overhead.  The train as it passes by off in the distance.  Rain beating upon the 3 windows on the first floor of my loft.  The weather has turned the wood floor under my feet cool.  The wood floor… I feel the creases and bumps under my bare toes.  It tickles when I run my feet across it.

The AC has a quiet humming sound, as well as the fridge.  They blend together in a pleasant way.  If I focus hard on it, it’s calming.

The light on my computer screen is bright, but I am still seeing the light illuminating from the lamp in the left side of my peripheral vision.  I feel the cloth against my skin, the way it moves and rubs gently as I type and my hands move.  I feel the shape of the chair against my butt and my back.

Mostly, I am entranced by the sound of clicking on my keyboard as I type.

Now, imagine, processing this all in one single moment.  Heightened, and overwhelming.  Add an extreme emotional response, and cue the worst anxiety attack of your life.

My head would pound, my body would shake and shiver painfully.  The lights would be too bright.  The sounds would be too loud.  Everything I touch would feel like the worst feeling in the world.  I’m crying, hysterical and in the back of my mind I’m aware that this is happening and I want it to stop but in the front of my mind… everything is just too must, too fast, and I need it all to stop.  I want it all to stop.  I’m desperate for it to stop.

It’s chaos.  Uncontrollable mental chaos.  And there isn’t anything you can do to help me.  Don’t talk, don’t move. Don’t touch me, or ask me if I’m okay.

Does that answer your question?



WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT ASPERGERS?

I’m not sure what brought you here today.  Whether you’re looking for insight, or encouragement, I’m glad you’re here.  If there is one single takeaway I wish for you to know about being an Aspie, it’s that my life is not a burden.  Being on the Autism Spectrum does not crush my soul.

I’m not here telling you all of these truths about the way I am because I want to make excuses for my behavior.  I’m here telling you my truth because the world needs an explanation if it is to change and have a greater awareness of Autism.

Should I have a child one day who is diagnosed with a form of Autism, I never want my child to be bullied because he/she is, in a word, different.  I refuse to allow my child, or anyone, be made to feel insignificant or broken, by doctors, or teachers, their peers, or strangers.  I would hope, that by the time my children begin growing up, the world has a greater understanding of the challenges individuals on the spectrum face.

And no matter what the challenges are, if we lack the ability to see for ourselves, we need to trust that you can show us.

I need you to show me.

Just as: my mother showed me how to be strong and fight for answers.

Just as: my behavioral therapist showed me that I can learn the things that don’t come naturally.

Just as: my childhood best friend showed me that friendships are beautiful, healthy and necessary.

Just as: an incredible man showed me that I am capable of remarkable works of creativity, and now I have an incredible career because of him.

Just as: a woman who coached me through a half marathon, has also coached me on how to navigate what was the most complicated and emotionally crippling period of my life.

Just as: the man I love showed me that real love is not selfish, manipulative or destructive.  It is forgiving, patient, ever evolving.  Just like me.

Just as… just as.

I needed to be shown.

Other needs to be shown.

But first you need to understand.

And I pray, that now you do.

Jess, out!



A special thank you to:

Debbie – for editing my article during its early stages while you were driving across the freaking country!

Bethany – for also helping to make sure that I am grammatically correct.

Evan – for sharing your story all those years ago, and providing an extra perspective.

Shawn – for your continuous support of me, and my passion to raise awareness.

Bonnie – My momma, who didn’t settle and trusted her instincts.  You made sure I got all the proper care.  I love you.

Chandler – Thank you for spending countless hours on the phone with me during the process of writing and finalizing this article.  You probably have this article memorized by now from all the times I read, and reread, it to you.  Your support and love means the world.

6 thoughts on “Behind My Big Brown Aspie Eyes

  1. Wow! Really at a loss of words. I want you to know that if I was was those kids mama that harassed you as a child, I’d have beat their butts. But maybe they were bullied as well and didn’t know better. No excuses for their behavior. Thank you for explaining to me and helping me to learn. We are all different in our own way. Is there any normal? Don’t think so. You may have different challenges but we all have burdens to bear, some may be a mental challenge, some may be a physical challenge, you just don’t know. Just be kind and patient with everyone and the world will be a great place. Thanks for your gift of being a friend to me, and my daughters. I wish you success, happiness and good health.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. DeeDee, thank you so much! I don’t think there really is a set “normal” as normal is subjective to our own experiences. But the world does paint an interesting image of what “normal” should look like in their opinion. I miss you very much! ❤

      Like

  2. This was a very deep and soul searching within your self and emotional story of who you are. I was so moved by it and I do understand where your coming from. I had experience some of my own level of dysfunction as a kid. I want to thank your momma for sharing you to me and the great gift of being able to know you. You and I use to talk some times and I saw you as a wonder young lady who had this huge love for Jesus and how you prayed. I respect who you are and yes we are brother and sister from GOD we are his children. Your story will always be with me for I value your friendship. I wish you all the best and want you to be very successful in what ever you do. I know you will be a great mom some day. Your friend always. kimo

    Liked by 2 people

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