Autistic People and Imagination

When they say autistic people don’t have imagination and don’t engage in imaginative play, what do they mean? I knew I had imagination, and that was one of the biggest things holding me back from thinking I could be autistic, because that was something always stated and listed and formalized. Autistic people don’t have imagination.

I never really was into playing school or house, like other kids were (why would you be a grown-up when you could be a HORSE?). But I would play all sorts of imaginative games with my cousins and my sister and myself.

I played Orphan Kittens. We played all sorts of games with our stuffed animals and model horses. Admittedly, we often wrote out the scripts before and they were usually similar patterns that happened… but that is a trait common to children. (You notice it when you babysit or have younger siblings or really just encounter things like that).

We played Lord of the Rings and went on quests where grapefruits or a pomegranate were palantir. There was a game where we were princesses that also involved horses and we would switch roles between them back and forth. We also played a lot of complicated games involving chickens and occasionally my cousin’s goat which we were all afraid of, but those were not always imaginative games–I don’t really remember the point of them, so they are a bit irrelevant.

In 4th grade, I made snail houses and fairy houses and for one brief moment, I was a trendsetter when everyone else in 4th grade also made “fairy friends”. (Although I was a bit upset that they treated it as a game, because I at least half–probably more–believed in it). I played games where the swings were the way to outer space and the only way back was to go down the slides. I was good at coming up with games and stories, so as long as everyone else was still young enough to play stories and pretend at lunch, I had company. They grew out of it earlier, so I switched to books.

And I lived in stories and books (and still do) despite the best efforts of literature analysis to beat that love out of me. And I still half-live in a world of stories, although I read much less than my high school minimum of a book a day. (I have a lot more reading to do of other materials than I did in high school.) (Also, I don’t like going new places myself which is why I haven’t been yet to the [non-campus] library even though I love libraries.)

Anyway, on any given day, I’m about 80% sure I’m autistic and I’ve had official professional people agree with me, so I just wanted to summarize this to say that autistic people can be creative too and that is a silly requirement to say they can’t.

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hows and whys

I have to choose a lab and that is no fun because they don’t really tell
you the hows or the whats or the whys and whenever I go to try and talk to
people, they just ask be questions. When what I am asking for isn’t the
questions but the process. What is the process for choosing a rotation. For
choosing a lab to work in. I would like a protocol. I would like some
directions other than “find a lab”. How do we find one? Once we have
identified one that we think we would like to join, how do we go about it.

They say go and talk to the faculty, but they don’t say what to talk about.
So I go in and talk and end up just as confused at the end with no specific
progress.

When I ask how to choose a lab, how to join a lab, they do not tell me.
They ask me questions that lead down a different path. I want to know how
to contact people. I want to know the how about it.

Even if I get the strength and spend days and days making the words and
walking around outside the building to prep before going in with explictly
said words “I would like to join your lab” it does not work. It doesn’t
come out… the words don’t want to listen at all. So I just sort of go
there and nod and murmur along and agree to all the things and say
everything is doing great and run quickly quickly quickly through the
little bit of the script I can still remember. And we end up more confused.
Both of us.

Once I tried to write it down on a post-it note I brought in.

Sometimes they ask me questions I haven’t prepared for and I have no answer
for and I scramble for them in bits and pieces and try to make words out of
things that aren’t words.

I know it is because there are multiple of us trying for the same lab and
there is so much that depends on it on funding and who to choose and what
to do but I do not know how to do it. I do not know the how.

And I’m terrified I’m too slow. I sort of already had one person tell me no
because I didn’t express interest and I don’t know how to show I can
express interest in a clear and obvious way. I know how to do it in the
ways my interest and happiness works. Although the lab I want to join was
the first, when I was less skilled at digging into the problems and hiding
in the data and building a home out of it. I’m afraid the other person or
people trying for this lab will win. Because they know the words and the
procedures and don’t seem to have to prep with words on a post-it note or
walk around and lie down in the grass afterwards to process and figure out.
And they know the words and the ways of people and all I have is the
long-ago memories of the brownies and blondies and other treats I brought
into lab in October November December.

Processing is not my strong point.
People is not my strong point.
Choosing is not my strong point.
Fighting is not my strong point.

Processing processing processing.

Why do I want to join your lab?

I know in the patterns. I know from the part of my brain that doesn’t think
in words. With the following of patterns. Where all the things come from
patterns. I can tell somehow. I know I was happy. I know I liked the work.
I don’t know the how the why the reasons, at least not in words. The part
of me that knows things like this doesn’t know in words, not always, and
there aren’t words or translations leftover.

But that’s not an adequate answer. That’s not a coherent explanation.
That’s not a convincing reason to choose me over someone else. If I can’t
articulate *why* I know, just that I know, it isn’t particularly helpful.

The hows and the whys and the words and the work and the reasons.

Running Away

A while ago, I ran away from home. True, I am an adult. An independently living adult. So you might not strictly call what I did running away. You could call it “taking a walk to clear my head.”

But it was really running away.

It was a panic, that resulted in a pretty much nonverbal me running out barefoot into the neighborhood. After about half an hour, I was able to talk myself into going back to my apartment for shoes, a coat, and my phone.

Shoes, coat, phone.
Shoes, coat, phone.
Shoes, coat, phone.

Then I was off again.

I know to walk if I am able to walk instead of run. I know the ways to walk so no one asks you questions or if you are lost or asks for directions. I know how to wander aimlessly while looking like I am walking purposely. Because walking purposely protects you from the people that would stop and ask you questions that I would be unable to answer. (Admittedly, now that I live in a city, I suppose I am less likely to run into random people I know, or just nice other people who ask if you are ok, but that was a threat in undergrad.)

I knew to walk east and north. Always walk east and north. (This is a purely safety reason, because the neighborhoods south or west are not as nice of neighborhoods.)

So I walked east and north, aimlessly but with purpose, to get away, to escape my mind.

Eventually, I had calmed down enough to sit down on some steps and send a help message.

“Ran away but went back for shoes and phone so ok walking campus now not safe (physically ok) but cant go back home again tried once help maybe”

And boyfriend called and talked me through, even when I wasn’t talking, and talked to me about little things about the week until I had words back and was able to walk back home past the motorcycle crash and the angry people and the police back to my apartment back to my room and be safe again. And he stayed and talked me through to safety.

And that is why I love him.

If he hadn’t called back, I’m sure I would have eventually calmed down enough to get my words back. I am not sure where I would have been able to go, or hide. I would have kept walking east and north, until I hit the lake. And kept walking. Not into the lake, but somewhere. Eventually the cold might have reminded me to go home, but I’ve walked for hours while it was snowing before because of similar panic. (I usually loop around a relatively small area, though. So I won’t walk one direction for hours, but I would walk the same paths around campus for hours in the snow.)

When things get to be completely overwhelming, I hide or run. Hiding usually comes first. If there is nowhere to hide, then I will run. I’ve been in a hallway before for a professor-networking-dinner-event, then the next thing I know I am literally halfway across campus, running. At a certain point, it becomes something out of my control. That is why it is good I spent my first adventures into living alone in undergrad on a campus without a lot of streets criss-crossing it.

I am afraid that one day I will panic and run out of lab in the middle of an experiment. Or run out of a meeting or run out of my (in the far indefinite future) thesis defense. Most of all, I am afraid I will run out into the street.

So I look for hiding places, for safe places, for places that I can go in a panic. Ways to hide instead of run. I’ve found several of them. There are quiet rooms full of rarely used equipment. There are the wells under the desk (although people could find me there, but it is a small space). There are always bathrooms.

I wish that I could say definitively that one day I will grow out of the running. That I will be able to just stop it. That I will be able to manage things so that they are in control and so that it never happens. I’m afraid one day I might be watching my (potential far-distant) children and get so overwhelmed I run away, leaving them who knows where. I don’t think I will. I tend to prefer to hide, if at all possible. I want to be able to manage myself better, to know when I am close to overwhelming, to know when I can push myself and when I need to stop. I think I’m generally getting better. But these full-out-panic-don’t-remember-runnings didn’t happen all that frequently to begin with. (Possibly because usually I can hide.)

#AutismPositivity2014

I wanted to participate in the Autism Positivity Flash Blog this year, but of course, I figured out that it was happening when I started to see the earliest posts head up. So it may be a bit short. Or a bit list-like. But I like lists. So that is all good.

I am autistic. Of course, I find it difficult to separate what is awesome about me because of being autistic. And what is awesome about me because of just being me. They aren’t separate things, necessarily. So what follows will be a few things that I think about when I think about autism:

  • When I think about autism, I think about moving. I think about happiness. I get extremely, jumpy, flappy, excited over things like daffodils and GFP. Or the beautiful collie I saw walking the other day. I think about how lovely it is to fully express happiness, to have it bubble up through my whole body. When I am happy, it is obvious. I have never seen any point in hiding happy. When I am happy, I share it with the world.
  • When I think about autism, I think about brains. My brain is autistic and it can do amazing things. I mean, brains are pretty amazing to begin with. They do everything. Right now I am thinking about how the my brain is telling my hands to move to type these words which also means that my brain is responsible for me thinking about me thinking and on and on and on in an incredible loop.
  • When I think about autism, I think about the Amazing Autistic Community I have found and the amazing new friends I have made.
End of Story–but not really… the list goes on and on and on and on and on and will keep going, even if I don’t add on to it here. (But if you want to see more Expressions of PosAutivity, CLICK HERE!)

Just another reminder that autistic children grow into autistic adults

I’ve been seeing so many posts today about autistic children, so so so so many. And that is just from the brief facebook browsing breaks I have been taking when I am supposed to be designing primers at work. I (mostly) have not been actively seeking it out. And sure, children are adorable, and you can put up really cute pictures of them which you can’t really do for adults, but the story is incomplete. (Not to say that autistic children are not important and wonderful, as well.) Autistic children grow into autistic adults.

sleepwakehope 1 in 88 people. Autistic children grow into autistic adults.  TOM WILLIAMS. I thought their lifespans were significantly shorter. Labrynithia. Autistic people have normal lifespans. You may be thinking of something like Down Syndrome, that is associated with serious health concerns. Autism is (mostly) just associated with neurological differences. Nine to five workday. And even for people with Down syndroe, that has (and is) changing for the better. In 1929, most people with Down syndrome lived to be 9., maybe 10 years old 18 years later it jumped to 12-15 years old. Today, 44% will live to be 60.
This is from the comments on a NPR article Jump In Autism Cases May Not Mean It’s More Prevalent.
Admittedly, I should really know better than to read the comment sections of things like this (AND EVEN
MORE TO I SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO COMMENT WITHOUT TRIPLE CHECKING THE
NUMBER), but actually it wasn’t as bad as it could have been (and people didn’t even fuss about
 the number-typo).

And then I happened onto the NPR comments for this article and decided that maybe I will take an optimistic view that people honestly just don’t know that it is possible for autistic children to grow up (if you count lack of knowledge as the optimistic view). For people who don’t think about autism much, maybe it isn’t too much assumption that people with autism have significantly shorter lifespans. After all, it is compared to cancer and life threatening diseases so frequently. It is painted as a horrible horrible thing that tears families apart and it is full of doom and gloom and ominous signs. Maybe it makes sense then that people don’t realize that autistic children grow into autistic adults.

But they do.
Regularly and frequently.

And I think the world needs another quick reminder that autistic children grow into autistic adults. (And mostly, I want to tell everyone who posted something about autistic children today (well, I suppose they mostly posted about children with autism, technically) that autistic children grow into autistic adults. But I am not brave enough to do that, to publicly link my name with autism yet, with any sort of phrase or words where people who know me vaguely might hear and notice. I am not yet comfortable or confident enough in this new identity to tell people I know.

So I am going to tell the anonymous world of the internet, through a method not attached to my real name.

Autistic children grow into autistic adults.
Autistic children grow into autistic adults.
Autistic children grow into autistic adults.
Autistic children grow into autistic adults.

And here is just a brief smattering of some of the lovely autistic adults (well, blogs by autistic adults) that are out here on the internet. It is largely incomplete. I know there are so so so many more people that I have missed (and if you would like to be added to the list, or feel I have missed someone who should be on the list, just comment or email me and I can add you). (Or if you would like to be taken of the list, I can do that, too.)

(Some) Blogs by Autistic Adults

Some random updates

It’s time for a Friday night update on my life. Why? Because I am still testing the hypothesis that blogging makes me happy. So far it has been another fairly good set of weeks, but it is sort of difficult to tell if this is because of the blogging or the talking to people or what, because I don’t really want to do the sort of controlled experiments necessary where I try weeks without any of the coping mechanisms to use as a control, so I am really trying to go with the methods where I throw all the new coping techniques or correlations up at once and try to maintain all of them if at all possible. But mostly right now I am working on the blogging regularly part. So I’m going to give an update on my life in list form, because list-format makes sense and is good.

The good:

(1) Told my roommate I was autistic. Mostly happened in passing in a conversation we were having about how we were good at teaching. That was fairly uneventful. Pretty much she asked, “really” to see if it was a figure of speech or not and I said “yup. for reals.” and then we continued our conversation.

(2) Also finally told my roommate about how I prefer text-based communication a lot of the time. So that if I am seeming quiet or non-communicative (because she said she was worried that I don’t talk enough) that she should try g-chatting me or something. Because I looovvvee g-chat. I am very talkative and friendly through g-chat almost always, even when I am non communicative verbally. And that also went well, I think.

Yes, I will go play with animals all break.

(3) When this lease is up in August, I am moving. And I am getting a pet. Hopefully a dog (I just need to work out a few details about Christmas, but boyfriend and family live in Chicago, so hopefully they can watch it) so I can go on walks and cuddle and because I love dogs, but if not, at least something adorable and furry and lovely.

(4) It’s spring break so I am going home to California! And I am going to go see these beauties. And also the sun. And warmth.

(5) It’s also finally starting to get warm here again. I can go outside without my parka. (Still wearing a coat, but not my giant, knee-length puffy coat!) Spring is coming. And spring means daffodils and tulips, which are my favorite flowers.

The bad:

(1) My computer is dying, so that is no good. It decided to quit on me all night yesterday which is of course just what you want the day before the end-of-rotation presentation. So that presentation went not-all-that-great, as I hadn’t been able to practice it, but I didn’t actually cry during the presentation, and I bribed everyone with brownies that I made the night before, since I had a lot of time since I couldn’t work on my presentation with a nonfunctional computer… It hasn’t made funny noises since my presentation, though, so maybe it has decided to improve. I know they have limited life spans, and this one is 5 years old, almost, but I don’t want to have to replace it. Also computers are expensive.

Why yes, this happens every time I try to
put my curtains up or take them down.

(2) My curtains hate me. I swear that they have a conspiracy designed to drive me into a non-functional state of rage. (That hasn’t actually happened, but that is just because I am smarter than my curtains. It’s close, because they are pretty tricky, but I think I am winning just slightly.) So my curtains actually spend a lot of time on the floor.

I think they technically aren’t curtains, but are shades or something like that, but that is probably a mostly-irrelevant piece of data.

Also, they are luckily close to my bed, so I can climb on my bed and the window to put them up every night when I go to sleep. But it is still super frustrating and also I am climbing on windowsills while sleepy a lot, which is not the best idea.

(3) I’m 23 now, so I’m technically too old to be on my parents car insurance anymore, so I am going to have to either stop having a car (which I could do. I don’t really need a car, but it is nice having one) or pay for car insurance myself soon once the insurance company realizes that I am too old. And that adds even more costs onto having a car I don’t really need but that makes my life a lot easier to the point where I am almost not sure I can justify it.

(4) I have to do taxes soon… or have boyfriend do taxes soon, at least, and this year I have to pay taxes instead of getting a refund, because my graduate school stipend won’t take the taxes out directly like most jobs (and they also only pay us 4x a year, which is stressful because you have to manage money well throughout those three months because you don’t get paid all that frequently.) So I am going to have to write big checks to the government, and that is no fun.

The neither-good-nor-bad, but just things that have been happening:

(1) 2048 is the best and worst game ever. I want to play it all the time. But I discovered it during finals/presentation week.

(2) I am not tired because I took a 4 hour nap today (which was good). But now it is 1:30 and I am still awake (which is bad). But tomorrow is a Saturday so it doesn’t matter too much.
~~~

I’m getting through pretty well right now, overall. The goods outweigh the bads, generally, at this time. (Admittedly, at this moment, my computer has also decided that it is going to function and has been for a while, so that is a big plus. Probably currently the biggest factor in my happiness is my computer’s inconsistent behavior.)

Well, that’s all that’s really happening here.

Thoughts on food

Just a heads up, I will be talking about eating habits and food and various related topics in this post. I havent had any really big struggles with food as a whole, but there are definitely some issues that will pop up now and then. Sensory issues and executive function issues mostly. 

So I like food.

But, like really. I like food a lot.I spend a lot of time thinking about food. When I am happy, I like to bake and cook fancy things. A large portion of my time with my college friends was spent baking cookies and cakes and brownies and bars and cinnamon rolls. Probably a good 50% of my Facebook posts are recipes. I have an ongoing cheese commentary with one of my friends.

Sure, I’m a picky eater. I like very specific foods. It’s probably more accurate to say that I have very specific dis-likes.

Like tomatoes.
And food with green bits in it. (Unless they are green onions. I will eat those, now.)

Only recently did I learn that there is a difference between not-liking a food and gagging when you eat it. I thought when people didn’t like foods, that is what they meant. That the only way to eat it was to mask in in something else, whether it was eating the cooked spinach in a giant cup of milk so you couldn’t taste or feel it (as in taking a giant sip of milk immediately after to allow me to swallow the spinach.)

I thought that meant I did not like spinach. I assumed when other people said they hated certain foods it meant they also had physical difficulty swallowing it. Or that it made them actively gag.

Admittedly, I didn’t think too much about these differences. If I think about it closely, there is a difference for me between foods that I cannot will not eat unless I hide them in something so my mouth doesn’t have to feel or taste them, and foods that I find unpleasant. Probably.

There are certainly foods I prefer not to eat, but I will eat them if they are offered to me* or are part of the dinner made my my parents.

I think I have a high bar set for disliking food versus being indifferent to it.

I also like to store food. I’m afraid of running out. It is illogical. I have never had a significant food shortage in my life, other than all the food is at the store and I am not at the store.  (And even then, there has always been some food at my apartment, just not the food I want, so it is really more ‘all the food I want to eat is at the store’). So when I have good food, especially good, easy-to-make food, like Trader Joe’s potstickers and Trader Joe’s everything and costco stuff, I don’t want to eat it. Because maybe there will be a day later that I need it. So I should save it.

Of course, then when I am tired and hungry and need a quick meal, which is why my mom got me these TJ’s stuff, I still won’t eat it. Because I need to save it for an emergency. Which is quite silly because the food is replenish-able. Sure, TJ’s is a bit inconvenient to get to, but I have a car. I can do it. Also, I still have tons of it before I have to worry about a shortage and the need for a refill trip.

Maybe I am a little tiny bit possessive of my food. I maybe used to hide the good leftovers in the fridge so no-one else would eat them. (I knew I didn’t have a fair claim to them all, so I could only eat so much at a time, but I wanted them so if I hid them, people wouldn’t notice them as much and I would be safe.) Also, when we were sharing the dessert at our birthday dinner, I realized I was being possessive of it. But I shared, and I even let him have the last bite. It was difficult. (When I commented on my dessert-possesiveness, he told me my whole family is a bit dessert-possessive. Which I believe. We take dessert very seriously in my family.)

And also there is the issue of making food.

It is just so difficult.

It requires me to be out in the kitchen. The kitchen is not as safe as my room. My room is the safest place. Admittedly, I have been doing lovely recently, and even talking to my roommate, but I feel self-conscious about cooking when other people are there. Also, more importantly, I do not want to share. (I would be fine with sharing if we maybe both took turns making meals, or even if she sometimes occasionally made meals, but all she makes is soup.) Because, again, I am possessive of my food.

And then there are all the steps involved. Decide what the meal is. Prepare the ingredients. Cook them. Eat it. Clean the dishes. The first and last steps are usually the ones that I get stuck on. I won’t be able to decide what to make. Or I won’t want to clean dishes. Or all the pots will be dirty from my roommate making soup all week (or admittedly, they can be dirty from whatever I made last, too) and I won’t want to wash them. I guess this is maybe a little bit of the executive function fun coming into play here.

I need to make a menu. When I decide what I am eating for dinner before I head home, I actually make dinner that night. And sometimes it will even be healthy.

And I like eating vegetables, too. But there are just more steps involved in eating and making them, usually involving chopping, so if I don’t have that planned out in advance, if the kitchen isn’t empty, then I will not make them.

Or I will just end up eating yams. But yams are good for you. And also the most delicious thing in the world, so really, I am fine with eating lots and lots and lots of yams.

I like food.
I wish it would magically appear in meal form again, like it did at home.
But in a few weeks I am going home for a week, and then it will magically appear at dinnertime (and probably lunch and maybe even breakfast, because my parents spoil me) and then that will be just lovely and a nice break from being a real grown-up person.

~~~~~~~~~
*Although, honestly, I will try and eat everything that is offered to me if I am a guest, because that is The Rule If Food Is Served To You and refusing otherwise is Rude and Has Consequences, but my family does have weird hospitality/guest traditions that don’t seem to be common in the US at least, so I am probably ok not eating tomatoes at other people’s houses instead of very carefully destroying and hiding the offending items in other pieces of food, and thus destroying the good qualities of the good food in order to make the meal consumable and Avoid Rudeness. But that is another complicated issue that luckily doesn’t come up much, especially since boyfriend has told me that it is Not The Rule for his family, so I don’t have to eat food there that I do not like.

Correlation, Causation, Happiness and Imperfect Metaphors

I’ve been analyzing patterns of happiness, and trying to identify ways to stay happy (well, non-depressed, more precisely. I am fine with being unhappy, or not-happy, or bored, or things such as that because those are part of a range of human emotions, so they happen). 

All I have is correlative data, and so I cannot conclude any causation. But I’m going to hash out a couple things, and maybe make unfounded extrapolations, and use a bunch of probably-unclear-if-you-aren’t-me metaphors and say the same thing multiple ways until it makes sense to me.

The first thing

I know that when I am happy, I tend to spend time with people. When I am sad, I tend to hide in my room and stay away from people, except a very special few (boyfriend). The tricky thing to tease out, though, is if being around other people makes me happy, or if when I am happy, I have enough energy to spend time with other people.

So if we look at a simple correlation, we would see this.

So hey, you might say, this seems like a pretty good correlation. Maybe even causation, eh? When you are happy, you spend time with people. Maybe then, to be happier, you should spend more time with people.

But wait… the plot thickens.

This is not actually the complete graph. Anyone who knows me should know that I have an upper limit for time I can spend with people. The first graph I showed you was incomplete! It actually only included a small part of the scale! When you look at a larger range, you actually see this!

Was the first graph even necessary? Well, I do like drawing these graphs, so I am going to go with ABSOLUTELY YES.  But (shhh) these graphs are actually not assembled using any “real” data, just general observations I have gathered from my life. Don’t tell anyone!

Being with people all the time is not a good thing for me. I need alone-time-breaks, where I can just chill out quietly and read some books or watch Netflix or spin in circles or look at leaves or swim or other things. There is an ideal ratio of time that I can spend with people that will result in maximum happiness ability. It is also more complicated because the amount of time varies depending on who it is.

Also, there are other factors that do affect this. It is a self-perpetuating cycle, a positive feedback loop, in many ways.

When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to do daily things (like eat or brush my hair or things like that). Because being sad seems to use up energy by itself, somehow. When I am happy, I do have enough energy to do daily things AND I have a surplus of energy. I can then spend that extra energy on fun things that make me happy.

What I think the answer is…

(1) Spending time with other people makes me happy
(2) But it also uses up a lot of energy
(3) Running out of energy results in meltdown, results in sad me
(4) Being sad also means lack of energy (possibly caused by lack of energy, is tricky to determine the cause of that)
(5) When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to make myself happy.

And now for some Terry Pratchett

It is sort of like this. (But with happiness instead of money. And the spending money is instead effort. OK, well, it is a complicated metaphor, and I’m not sure I can completely explain it, but they are the same colors and flavors and feelings of arguments, and I can’t really explain better why they are the same, but they just are.)

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. 

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. 

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.  

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

(I have maybe possibly been on a Terry Pratchett spree recently… But this is from Men at Arms and it is wonderful just like all the other books.)

Happy people seem to have more energy to be happy.

Comparing happiness and showering and enzymatic reactions

It’s sort of like taking showers. I actually really love taking showers. I love water. I love the sound of it and the feel of it. Taking a shower will result in me feeling better, almost invariably. Because water is just that amazing. But the amount of effort it takes to initiate a shower is just not always there. So even though in the end I know I will feel better, I am not able to do it.
Thinking about it in another way, it is like I am lacking the activation energy. I am missing an enzyme to lower the activation energy. But somehow other people are able to do the thing. And because they have the enzyme, it works. It is easy, maybe. But it just doesn’t work for me.
It’s not perfect, I know. Like there is the increased energy of the state of the molecule/intermediates that is supposed to correspond to the level of energy I have. And then the lower-energy end-product (although that will vary depending on the reaction). People who are good at chemistry, I am sorry if there are other problems in this that make your head hurt.

Another warning about correlations and causation

And so this is the problem I face when I am going through a bad streak, when I am trying to regain lost happiness. I know what I do when I am happy. I tend to blog more. I hang out with people more. I bake. I sing to myself a lot. I’ll explore and take walks. I exercise. But this is all correlation. Are these things that make me happy? Will they lead me back to happiness when I have lost it? Sometimes they do. Sometimes I don’t have enough energy to try.
I only have correlational data available on my life, when I am looking for causations.

So I will muddle through the correlations. Run some experiments (try some new coping mechanisms). And honestly, the correlational data is important. Because not only does it give me some hints about what might be causal, it also helps me identify emotions. Because that’s also not something I’m the best at. It helps to be able to recognize that I’m not doing great before I am doing awful, because it’s a lot easier to stop things before I’m headed at high speed down to the land of sad-and-confused-and-upset-me. Because when I am doing not-great, I still have the energy to fix things.

Aquariums

I went to the aquarium! To the AQUARIUM! There are so many fish at the aquarium. It was my birthday present. A visit to the aquarium. All the fish. THE BEST PRESENT EVER!

There were so many fish. Everywhere! All the time.

We saw all the fish. And a giant anaconda. And so many pretty colored poison dart frogs. And then there were big frogs and salamanders. And a bit of a kelp exhibit to remind me of home. And there were whales, and they were so excited. They kept jumping and talking and saying hello. The dolphins were swimming around and upside-down and darting up and down. There were otters and they were somersaulting! It was adorable! And there were signs and words and reading all over. But we saw everything. We read every sign. Because that is how we do aquariums (or museums). Thoroughly. (Admittedly, some museums are so big that you can’t see the whole thing in one day, but you can take it section-by-section.)

There were lampreys which are barely vertebrates, phylogenetically. They are jawless, but still vertebrates. Moray eels! With their double sets of jaws. Electric eels, which are always cool. There was a sign about GFP by the jellyfish! I love GFP! It makes science so much much much easier and prettier.

See! GFP! (Although actually this picture is a really
 bad picture data-wise and I think the colors are all weird
 and this was me learning how to use imageJ
… and not completely succeeding with it) Oh undergrad.

Admittedly… the aquarium was loud. My voice got tired. So by the end, it was mostly me pointing and jumping and acting out the fish that I wanted to show boyfriend. I need to work on my sign because all I really remember is fish and big/little. Or at least for the ones related to the aquarium.

A bit overwhelmed at the end. (It was loud there, because there were a lot of small children, and they are loud.) But we took quiet breaks and snack breaks and then went to an early dinner, where we had some of the most amazing food ever. And boyfriend talked to me on the way back on the train, and talked to all the train people, while I just signed yes or no in response to him. Or napped. Napping is also good.

This morning, I was talking to him and he told me how autistic and cute I was in the aquarium. Flapping around and jumping and pointing and happy. My happy is very noticeable. It is certainly not hide-able. When I am happy, it is strong and bright and obvious and wonderful. I had forgotten the all-consuming, bubbling flavor and feel of happiness.

Point, Counterpoint, Actual Point

So Nattily at Notes on Crazy is doing this Point, Counterpoint, Actual Point series, which I think is a great idea. And I have had all these little thoughts sneaking at me telling me that I am lying about actually being autistic and all these things that point against it. And I’ve been making up this list of ideas and thoughts and reasons for a long time and wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but this seemed like a wonderful format. So I thought this would be a good idea. So here is my contribution.

Point:

I am autistic.

Counterpoint:

I can’t be autistic because…

  • I love holidays! Many many many people don’t seem to, for understandable reasons.
  • I hate videogames. I just find them non-interesting, loud, and loud, and loud. And also we were never allowed to play them/own them growing up, so maybe I just never started in by the necessary age. (All the socializations/meet-ups for autistic adults in my (home) area seemed to involve video games).
  • I am not always bothered by fluorescent lights. I live in a very environmentally friendly house and my father is obsessed with lighting. (We get some sort of light every year for Christmas) so my house has always had CFL’s. I thought that was just what lights were. (Although sometimes when the fluorescent lights are panels like in some classrooms, they flicker and hum. But not all the time, so I am not sure.
  • I love fireworks and lightning (such pretty patterns!)
  • I have a boyfriend and friends.
  • I was never horribly bullied (I was mildly bullied, but not frequently or really with all that much effort. I think I was usually just ignored.)
  • I care about my personal appearance when I go out in public (because it’s a rule). (Am I successful at actually being presentable… not always, probably. But I do CARE.)
  • I love grocery store shopping. (Usually. Although the actual process of getting to stores not so much.)
  • I wasn’t diagnosed until after I graduated college. Surely they would have caught it earlier in my life if I was really autistic. (And even now, I’m not really “officially diagnosed”, but no one even thought of it until I did as an adult.)

Actual point:

I have a habit of overgeneralizing. I read all these lovely people (there’s a whole list of them on the sidebar). And then if I see general trends, of anything, things people all seem to do that I don’t, or things that I do that they don’t, or hobbies or activities, I tend to worry.

And any time I perceive that anything I do is different, I feel a desperate need to justify it completely to everyone else around.

And it’s silly.

It’s something I shouldn’t do. (Because it makes me stressed and sad.)

There is nothing about being autistic that says I have to love videogames. There is nothing about being autistic that says I have to hate holidays.

And things like these are almost always little things.

Little, tiny, specific things that don’t matter much.

So I should stop worrying and just be.

(but it’s hard)

Sometimes I just need a friendly reminder to myself about this.

That it is ok to be different.

I’ve spent so much time worrying and trying so hard to fit in to a world that I don’t fit in to, that now that I think I may have found one, the old habits still kick in. Everyone else does x, so I should too. Or at least pretend. Normal people do x. Normal autistic people do y.

I can be different from the internet autistic people, and still be autistic. I can be different from the meet-in-person autistic people, and still be autistic. And I can certainly be different from stereotypes of autistic people and still be autistic. Because I am different. That’s why I am a different person than they are.

Conclusion: I am autistic, and that is ok. (Actually, that’s awesome.)