Individual development plans

Every year we write Individual Development Plans in grad school. It’s part of being on NIH grants or something. Classified into career goals and specific goals and annual goals and all different categories.

The thing I need to work on the most is fear
the thing I WANT to work on the most is fear
I am afraid
like legitimately afraid of so so many things
walking and talking to myself to write down on a sticky note a question to ask
preparation still took me probably an hour for a 5 minute task

this is why i can’t use my time efficiently
and that will improve my career the most
by allowing me to communicate
network
reach out to other scientists
talk to my PI

(Of course I did not write that on my IDP. I wrote things about professional goals and improving my writing ability and my ability to communicate my research as well as my ability to develop a project and other such reasonable goals.)

I wrote this first part months ago when I was actually filling out my IDP but it never turned into a full post.

Because I can plan experiments decently well, over short and mid-term ranges of time. I had a thesis proposal relatively well thought out, if not written yet. I had preliminary data. I can edit my scientific writing into something which is very consistent with how an early graduate student should be writing (there’s struggles with transitions, which all my writing and presentations have, but enough copies and those can be added). The hard part–where you pick a project–was already painfully done over a horrible few weeks of crying long long long ago.

But now that my thesis project–or at least what was to be my thesis project–has been apparently already done–I have to restart.

Which also wasn’t planned
not part of my plan
But that’s science
And at least I found out now only a year into it instead of in two or three years when it’s published and I’m halfway through a thesis that’s already been done
but…
still…

Restart the awful awful part of finding and choosing a project from the infinite possibilities of things that can be done in zebrafish development. I’m still in the same lab, but I have to switch my focus to something almost completely new, so that not even my months of reading will be all that helpful in writing up my thesis proposal.

All new
completely new

and absolutely terrifying

try not to panic
or to spend all day writing scripts to talk to my PI so that by the time I get to one where I am able to ask for help, he isn’t in his office anymore

Literally
can’t
ask for help

because I don’t know how to ask for help

instead I spent all day trying to write a script down to ask for it and by the time it finished I missed him and writing the word panic down in different shapes (as you can see at the top of the page)

And my apartment has unopened envelopes piling by table and dishes piling on the stove and counter and my dog gets walks and that is about it in things get managed. My fridge has milk and cheese in it and that’s it.

This is a norman rockwell puzzle. It took our lab about 2 weeks of lunches to finish.There are small pieces everywhere of my life. They all turned into bits and pieces.

We’ve been doing puzzles in lab in the break room. Little pieces slightly different shades of blue to sort through and put back together. That’s the sort of thing I know how to do. That’s the sort of thing I know how to sort through and rearrange and fix. You have all the time you need to sort and organize the pieces by color and shape and slowly put them back.

But real life has time limits. And you can’t lie out all the pieces on the ground in order until they match up. The pieces of real life don’t sit and wait there until I can sort out where they go. The longer real-life pieces wait, the farther they fall out of place and the harder they are to put back together.

I know this is jumbled and messy and doesn’t really make sense. But lots of everything is messy and jumbled and doesn’t make sense and full of fluff and stuff and mess so that’s the state of being anyway.

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Post-meds first thoughts

Right now, things are different. Partially because right now I have to deal with the politics part of science, which I am not a major fan of and which confuses me. But also, (and with what was probably not ending up as the best overall timing), we (doctor +me) discussed it and I got off my antidepressants. Oh, and also, as a heads up here, I am going to briefly mention various things that happened that lead to me being on antidepressants (mostly self-harm and suicidal thoughts).

***Oh, and also brains are weird and do strange things and I certainly don’t understnad them, and this is definitely just personal-me-rambling thoughts. Do whatever makes your brain happy and work. If antidepressants make your brain work, then by all means, keep taking them. I am not trying to say that you should stop taking them or try to stop taking them or that being on them is bad or only a phase or whatever. It is just that for me the side effects are starting to outweigh the benefits again.***

And it has been long enough that I have started to sort out the differences between the weird side effects that happen whenever I get on or off of medications and actually being off of medication. So I am sorting through my life and seeing what I have been up to now that I am *actually* off of meds. I want to stay off of them, if I can. I know they are good and useful and they helped me a lot. I know I needed them. I don’t think I still need them, but I am not positive. I’m sorting it out and working through it and discussing things with people and seeing the results and we are experimenting in how staying off of them is working, and then after a month, we will re-evaluate the decision.

Now that I am off them, everything seems realer. Things are less blunt and less dulled. Things were a lot flatter before. There’s more colors and layers to things. This is generally good. But it also means things can be sharper and things can hurt more. Because when I was on my meds, they were mostly sort of dulled off to the edge. My thoughts and senses and connections faded and separated out more. The world was more blurred, but that also made it softer and safer, and that was what I needed then.

But I like the world with the colors and the layers and the connections. I like how the world is now, how beautiful everything is. I had missed it, and I am glad it is back.

I haven’t noticed anything specifically or abnormally strange in things I am doing or thinking. I’m fine with the general things I know about related-to-depression things. I don’t want to hurt myself or kill myself. I don’t seem to be crying more than the normal amount or at unprompted things.

The only big thing I have noticed is that I think I was less stimmy before. And since I translate my emotions through what I am doing, it confuses me. I am not sure if I am happy or stressed or tired or frustrated. My movements are more and my movements are different. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. So I am a bit confused by this. I’m not sure why I am moving more or moving differently. So I can’t tell how this translates out. It isn’t always bad stimmy, but it certainly is more stimmy.

Stimmy stimmy stimmy stimmy stimmy.

I know I was more manageable on my meds.

But what does manageable mean? I’m not sure what I even mean by it, but I know the word I want is manageable. I don’t know if I meant more manageable for me or more manageable for other people. I just know that word belongs in this description. More manageable for me is good. More manageable for other people… not so good, necessarily.

I know I seemed more normal when I was on them, but I try not to have that be my goal. I try to have my goal to be to be happy and to make the world a slightly better place (or at least not a worse place) and to not hurt other people. And there are some career goals related to science thrown in there as well. But seeming normal is something I try not to have as a goal, because I don’t think it is something really attainable for a prolonged period of time, and I try not to have impossible or unattainable goals.

So that’s where I am at for now. We shall see how things go from here.

Sunglasses, I love you

I do not like the sun.

When I say this, after this ridiculously long Midwest winter, people look at me strangely.

“But you’re from California!”

That is very true. And I even like sunny weather. I like it being warm but not hot outside. I like it when it is not a ridiculous negative temperature. I lived a lovely life before I came here and learned all about wind chill and layers and that you can’t just look outside in the morning to figure out what the weather is going to be like that day and if you should bring a sweatshirt or not. I did enjoy living somewhere that it was never cold enough that closed-toed-shoes were necessary, where the warmest thing I owned was a sweatshirt. But that doesn’t mean I like sunlight.

You see, there is also shade in California. It is possible to enjoy the nice weather without being in the direct sun. For some reason, people seem to forget this fact.

For some reason, though, I did not discover how amazing sunglasses were earlier in life.

Despite what this picture may suggest, I did not wear sunglasses
particularly frequently. I was however, as you can tell, clearly a
very cool kid, as you can tell by both these sunglasses and
this lovely pose in front of the fireplace sometime in
 kindergarten-ish.

The reasons for this:
(1) My parents made us wear hats a lot if we were going to be outside for extended periods of times, like hiking.
(2) At the beach, most of the time I was underwater or in the process of going underwater. So the sunlight was a mere distraction. There were so many other things going on.
(3) The rest of the time, I would probably chill out in the shade.
(4) I wore glasses. I did not like contacts. It is sort of awkward to put sunglasses on over glasses.

(5) I did not own sunglasses anyway, and I was a relatively unobservant person. I also didn’t really hang out all that much with other people who wore sunglasses. Who does that, anyway? I guess if you are all outside? But most of my outside activities were either shade-capable-ones or too-active-for-sunglasses-ones.
(6) I thought sunglasses were something for adults.

I remember the sun bothering me earlier. I remember that I would close my eyes when we ran the mile in PE (which is really a bad move, especially when you are running around a block 4 times and not on a track, so there are impediments like palm trees and cracks in the sidewalks and people’s trashcans and sometimes people).

But then sometime late in college, I discovered I could wear sunglasses for things other than driving at sunrise and sunset. This happened because of free sunglasses. And because of lovely friends, who after hearing me complain about the sun being bright, suggested that I put on those free sunglasses. And it was pretty amazing. (Although I still have to carry my other glasses around, so sunglasses are still an awkward option). And that is how I started wearing sunglasses at the beach.

This year, I started experimenting with ways to avoid the sun when walking to work in the morning.

I have tested out sunglasses and a baseball hat. I think the winner will probably be BOTH, but I have not tested out that combination yet.

Baseball hats block the sun from the top and also keep my face from getting sunburnt, but they don’t block sun as well as sunglasses, but they block it differently. Also I can wear my normal glasses with them if I need to actually see for some reason (I don’t have very bad eyesight, but I like wearing my glasses.)

But sunglasses also have other advantages besides blocking the sun.
(1) They hide your eyes. They prevent people from using their magic eye-tracking powers to see exactly what you are looking at. I do not really understand how they can do this, but they do. So conversations with people outside are wonderful because you can look wherever you want to.
(2) They look super cool, right? All the cool kids are wearing sunglasses. (Sort of sarcasm…)
(3) They block things from blowing into your eyes (admittedly, my glasses do this too, especially since they are abnormally large, but my sunglasses are still slightly larger, so they do a slightly better job).

The only problem is that it requires taking stuff with me, which is something I would rather avoid. I like leaving all the stuff where it is safe and where it belongs in its spot. I do not like taking it out of its spot. But that is the point of stuff. To be used. So I will work on that, too.

Because sunglasses are pretty awesome. But they only work if they are on my face.

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.)

Some Easter Solutions

So for Thanksgiving, I went to Thanksgiving-holiday-celebrations with boyfriend’s family. And while it was fun, it was also overwhelming and completely drained and melted me down for much much longer than it should have been.

But, like I said before, boyfriend is important to me and his family is important to me. And they are physically close which is convenient for holidays (especially ones like Easter where I have to work the next day now that I am not at a Catholic school for the first time in my life). And I like them.

So I was glad when I was invited to Easter. And I was going to be prepared. I would handle the sound and take breaks and manage my overload-meltdown-awareness and everything would work out. And guess what? It actually did! There were mistakes and wrong turns and noises and surprises and I survived and enjoyed it.

Preperation

I was going to bring some sort of dessert, because I like baking and I was thoroughly trained to bring something whenever you visit. After musing over ideas for a while, I decided on carrot cake. But carrot cake was a no-go, when discussed with boyfriend. Apparently a large portion of his family is opposed to it. After some more thought, I remembered this beautiful Christmas dessert I made.

this is a plate of cream puffs covered in chocolate arranged in a tower on a wooden tableIt was not very difficult to make and very impressive looking. And also I really like cream puffs and chocolate and pastry cream, so it seemed like an all around good idea.  Of course, I had forgotten the fact that the old oven in my apartment is not nearly as reliable as the oven at my parents house. Even with the hanging thermometer I put inside so that I can roughly tell when things are finished preheating.

So I ended up with some very burnt cream puffs, from the first batch. (Like extremely burnt. Like they looked like charcoal briquettes. And sort of tasted like them, when I tried one in the vague hope that they had merely decided to darken without altering the flavor, or at least not in a way strong enough that I couldn’t hide it with chocolate. Alas, it was not to be.) And the second batch, which I took out in time, were not very puffy. So I didn’t bother making the cream, because it was only going to be for a few cream puffs, and that would be no good at all. Not enough dessert. Also, these cream puff adventures set the fire alarm off, and the windows in my apartment are very difficult to open (my roommate and I have to open them at the same time, because they either are very difficult to open or we are both very weak. It is probably a combination of both.)

So I went to my room and panicked a bit and was sad for a while. Then I got back to talking to some people (sadly not boyfriend, who was at Easter Vigil) and eventually one of my best friends, who is a baking machine (who makes all these wonderful delicious crazy dessert combinations that make me want to move to Colorado and be her general taste-tester) was kind enough to go through some basic easy things that I know how to make. So I settled on blondies, which are quick and delicious and reliable. 
One problem solved by asking for help.

The actual Easter dinner/family part

There were food and people. The same relatives I had met before/ enjoyed the company of. I actually preferred most of the food to Thanksgiving food. THERE WERE TWO TYPES OF MEAT! Also, boyfriend told me after Thanksgiving that I don’t have to eat everything and if I don’t like something it is ok not to finish it, so I didn’t have to spend any time trying to force myself to eat things that I strongly dislike AKA green beans while forcing my face to be a polite face (I’ve always assumed that I am able to decently maintain one, anyway.)
There were times where the conversations before lunch/dinner got too heated for me. There was an especially passionate discussion about college football players unionizing. I took breaks during those. I would go upstairs from the basement or out into the backyard. I spent a lot of time over this Easter sitting in the backyard or walking in circle around the house barefoot in the lawn. Spinning and flapping my arms. Watching the birds or the neighbor’s cat. It helped that it was deliciously warm outside and empty.
After a while, I would go back in (or I was called in when it was time to eat). I had milk with my dinner instead of wine like the adults, because I would much rather have milk. There were fun conversations with people I know well. After dinner we played board games. I really enjoy board games because they are a structured activity where you can still go outside them for conversations if you want, but they give you a structured starting point.
At several points, though, I was getting tired. Mostly of sitting in folding chairs. We spent a long time sitting around a table in chairs. After the meal, my family usually spreads out fairly quickly across the couches and the floors. I wanted to lie down or sit on the floor and that wasn’t happening. Other than that, things went well. I was tired, but mostly eaten-large-delicious-meal-tired not social-hangover-tired.
Problem solved by sensory and social breaks.

The drive home

So, I had already arranged to have boyfriend pick me up and drive me, even though it is a little out of his way, compared to him just going with his parents. I had reasoned that there was no way I would have been able to drive home safely after Thanksgiving. And certainly not with my roommate also there in the car. And boyfriend had offered to drive, so that was what we did.
Of course, there happened to be traffic. And boyfriend gets stressed by traffic (at least, I think he does). And so then I will pick up on it, or at least the Something Is Wrong part, and then be negatively affected. Especially after a long day, that can sometimes be enough to trigger meltdown. But I had managed myself well during the day, so I was able to deal with it. But then the road that we were going to take when we got off the highway was closed down by the police (because of a shooting). So we had to navigate a new way home. Luckily boyfriend has a smartphone, so we did have renaviagateable directions, but the part we had to navigate through was the not-safe part of the city between where I live and the highway. So it was a bit stressful. 
At the best of times, I am not good at giving directions. I get right and left mixed up a lot. Under pressure it gets much worse. And this wasn’t a particularly safe neighborhood (especially late at night), so we did want to minimize our wrong turns and circling-the-block-to-go-the-other-way type of navigation my family usually employs (which is assisted by our lack of navigational technology, admittedly). So that was a disaster.
BUT EVEN WITH ALL THAT, I WAS OK.
I was upset when we got out of the car, sure. And boyfriend walked me up to my apartment with my alcoholic root beer he bought me earlier in the week and we found a new way for him to get home (and researched why the police had blocked off that area, which was not reassuring at all) since the normal way he gets home was off-limits. But I calmed down enough for him to feel ok leaving, and then after half an hour of messing around on various electronic devices, I had pretty much calmed down completely. 
Problem solved by managing my resources during the rest of the day so I had enough left to deal with some unexpected problems.

The take-home message

I’m excited, guys! I used coping mechanisms today. And they worked so well. They made things so much more incredibly navigate-able and survivable. This is why it helps to know I am autistic. To know I need sensory breaks AND THAT THEY ARE OK. Because it lets me manage things I enjoy doing but that can be difficult.
Easter turned out so much better than Thanksgiving. 
Coping mechanisms can work!

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.

Bouncing off the walls again… If only I had a word (for this)

Bouncing off the walls. Mostly off the desk, actually, because my neighbors are asleep downstairs, or if they aren’t, it is 12:46 and they have the right to not hear bouncing and pounding on the ceiling (and I don’t mind bouncing off the desk.) Flapping my knees up and down while sitting crisscross.

This sort of movement means something is wrong. I don’t have a word for this feeling.

I check my flow chart and it tells me I am probably tired so I should go to sleep.
It doesn’t have a solution for when I don’t want to go to sleep.
I don’t particularly have one either.

Maybe I should go to sleep.
Sleep is a good thing.
I know how to go to sleep.

I can hear the world around me.

Can you hear the sounds of the world?
I haven’t quite figured out what they all  are.

There’s a constant faint hum/buzzing noise. Maybe it’s the freeway, but I think that’s a few miles away, so it shouldn’t be that. It sounds more like a generator. I hear hums and buzzes all over the world that no one else seems to hear.

I used to think I could hear the world breathing.

The humming noise has been joined by the sounds of my apartment. Stream of consciousness never worked well for me because I can only type one at once. I need a high-throughput thought machine, a next-gen sequencer that can sequence my thoughts in real time. Then lay them out. Fancy computer cores dedicated to analyzing them. To finding the patterns. Figure out what all the intergenic regions are in my thoughts. I think I am taking this analogy too far.

It’s 12:53. I should sleep.

Bad news bears.

sad sad sad sad.

jump leg jump

bounce and bounce and bounce

I can hear the lights and the heaters and thats ok. There’s so many sounds.

This doesn’t happen every night. But it happens often.

I do not like falling asleep.

I am bad at it.

But it is necessary.

(That sleep thing.)

And this isn’t just a sleep thing because this doesn’t just happen at night. I wrote half of this months ago,  during daytime, and it’s the same movement today.

I don’t have a word for this feeling. I don’t like it particularly. I have a tendency when I move like this to start googling solutions to my problems. Not in a helpful way. But more in a “I type my answers into the google search box and hit enter and weird things come up.” I know that’s not how google works. I know typing “oh hey autism words and stuff” will not probably tell me anything. Although the first link was Nattily’s post “Oh Right, It’s Not Just Autism” so that part was cool.

It did not tell me the words for what this is though.

Because I want a name because maybe then I could find a solution.

It is a general apathetic view on life, but not with the lack of motion that apathy is. Apathy looks different. It’s much floppier and tan. It’s wanting to go do everything but not being able to get up and start anything. It is uselessness. It feels like uselessness and the ideas of uselessness look. It’s the motions of uselessness. (Not of me being useless, but just the ideas of uselessness. It’s sort of confusing, but it makes sense to me. Admittedly, it’s also 1:30AM.) That’s not quite the right word, but it’s closer than apathetic. It’s disorganization and no way to solve it.

Maybe I just need to start reading again. Up through high school, I used to read at least one book a day. I’ve got lots of book here. All my books. Maybe I need to read a book every day. Maybe that will be the solution.

It’s frustrating.

I do not like this jittery bouncing-ness.

I should go to sleep.

 I tried googling what am I feeling when I am bouncing apathetic and uselessness.

Google does not really have good answers for this.

Just like when I google what should I have for dinner, google never tells me the answer.

(Because that’s not what google is for.)

I wish I had words for this or answers for this.

I should go to bed. Or at least go to my bed. I can pick out a book and read it in bed under all the covers with only the small light that I can turn off without getting out of bed. I have all my books here. My good safe books.

Pjs. Brush teeth. Retainer. Lights off. Get into bed. Under covers. Read.

That is what I will do.

I will publish this at 1:35 and get ready for bed and then go sit in my bed with a book I have read hundreds of times until I am still and until I can fall asleep. And in the morning I will find solutions. Or at least later in the day or year or some point in time.

~~~
P.S.

Also, I sort of want to make a note about things here. I feel like I’ve gotten really sloppy in all my writing on here. Lots of breaks with lines instead of writing much in whole paragraphs. Disjointed writing and disjointed words. I sort of feel weird putting up some of the sloppy, messy stuff, but really, I can put up whatever I want here about myself because it is my blog and I think it is still useful for me to write this stuff even if it is disjointed things that don’t become really coherent ever. I’m ok enough and I’ll figure things out sort of eventually and hopefully soon I’ll be able to write in paragraphs like a real adult again (slash I will have to be writing paper summaries and stuff, although usually science writing I’m pretty good at at any given time.) Anyway yeah…. Stuff and words and all that.

Cuddles and snuggles and hugs OH MY!!!

I like physical contact with people.

Wait–let me revise that. I like some kinds of physical contact with a select group of people. And then lots of snuggles and cuddles with animals.
I don’t like sudden touches. I don’t like when people sneak up behind me and put a hand on my back. Or on my shoulder. I would prefer to initiate the contact, or know it is coming.

It is grounding for me. I like to interact with other things that are alive. My plants are lovely, but they just aren’t very cuddly. I do like holding hands. Especially holding hands and swinging arms. I do this when I walk with my cousins. I like wedging myself into a warm pile of cousins to watch tv or a movie or talk.

I need regular physical contact with warm, living things to stay grounded and to keep me from flying away.
Physical contact helps keep me present.

When I got back to my apartment after a long day of traveling and delays (not too bad, luckily I managed to pick the only flight that day that was delayed for one hour (all the other ones between the city my parents live in and where I go to school were at least 4 hours late, and the flights the day before were often cancelled. And today is just horrible weather.) I was tired and a bit stressed. But I muddled through things and went to the store because I had no groceries. Then boyfriend came over and because I know I am safe when he is here, I stopped having to try to hold things together again.

So we cuddled and talked and I felt like I was flying away in a bad way. When that happens I flap and shake my hands and legs to try and keep me here and to feel like I am still here. Boyfriend knows my unhappy/stressed/flying away flaps. And he knows how to calm me down and hold me super tight so I stay here and don’t fly away.

When I’m feeling disconnected, physical contact, the right kind of physical contact, warm and lots of pressure can help me stay. It is important. If I’m alone, I’ll go under my heavy blankets and try to get some of it, but its not the same as a person.

I also love holding hands. I hold hands with boyfriend when we walk places. I will hold hands with most other people, too, if they will let me. (Most people don’t.) But my cousins and I often hold hands when we walk places together or are just hanging out together. I like knowing where the other person is and the warmth of their hands and the weight of their hands and swinging our arms together.

What more people will do with me is link arms and walk. A lot of my college friends would do this as we walked. It was quite nice (although a traffic impediment). I’m not sure why people seem more willing to do that than hold hands, but I don’t really understand people all that much anyway.

But I am not all that fond of hugging strangers. And to me, with my prosopagnosia and strangely large extended family, there are a lot of people that are “strangers” to me that I still have to hug.* But I was thoroughly trained into this when I was younger. So I can usually handle hugging strangers even if I do not like it. Especially when they are actually little old ladies who are related to me.

On that note, I am also rather annoyed by the fact that shaking hands seems to be coming less and less popular and common. I was at a work party for boyfriend, and as we were leaving and saying goodbye, several people insisted on goodbye hugs. At a formal work event (for a formal accounting company, too) and to me, too, who they had literally met at the beginning of the party. Admittedly, alcohol was involved, but I just don’t understand why shaking hands isn’t a thing in those circumstances. I can tolerate hugging the strangers that are actually family, because you do weird things for family. But why on earth would you want to hug one of your coworkers girlfriend who you met two hours ago? Anyway, people are strange.

I am autistic and I love physical contact.

I am just specific on the people and kinds.

Also related:
What hugs mean to one autistic person and Hugs from E. at the Third Glance

~~~

*Also, in college at Mass, everyone would hug during the sign of peace. That was a mixed bag. Because I didn’t like hugging strangers, but usually also people would hug me who weren’t strangers but that I would never ask for a hug and during my lonely time** freshman year it was sometimes the only time I got physical  contact the whole week so that was also important. But this sort of distracts from the organization. So I’m putting it down here.
**Although I did start dating boyfriend extremely early in college, I was really really shy and also a bit confused about what to do with a boyfriend, so it took a while before I really got even to the holding hands stage with him. Like several months. Eventually I figured out that boyfriends are good for hugs.

Panic Season

Boyfriend is an accountant in public accounting. In his first year. When I get back from Christmas, it will be busy season. This means I have to avoid having a crisis until the end of busy season. Because there will be several weeks with just me. Months. Where I will have to solve my problems by myself. Because maybe I will get conversations time or a phone call or two when he is on his train home. But it is seeming more and more unlikely that I will be able to. No physical interaction. No in-person interaction.

I hate that. I hate accounting. I hate him being busy. I hate his long commute the opposite direction that means there is no way what so ever to be able to drop by. I hate that he lives at home with his parents who won’t let anyone visit. I hate that we can’t live together unless we are married because of  family, people, etc reasons. And I work myself into a panic where the only possible outcome is that I will never see him again ever. And at the end of it I hate everything and everyone.

And eventually I remember to talk to him when I work myself into this panic. He reminds me gently that I will still be able to see him. And he reminds me that I am near the top of his priority list. And that he will be able to see me less frequently, but not never.

And things become better for a while.

I put myself near the bottom of my priority list unless I actively, consciously think about it and remind myself about it. So I assume that is where I go on other people’s lists. That my job is to stay quiet. To help people live their lives. To inconvenience myself in order to make their lives run smoother. To fit my activities around their lives. To not make a fuss. To fit myself into whatever spaces I need to fit in other people’s lives. To be a brilliant conversationalist when needed. To know when to sit quietly.

I need to be perfect (whatever that means) so that I can fit into other people’s lives perfectly. Because I assume they only have very precise spaces where there is room for me. I can’t expect them to drastically change to fit me. It has to be a perfect fit.  But then there are all the other multiple people whose lives I need to fit into perfectly and somehow it all has to happen.



















And yes, I know these look a lot like enzyme-substrate diagrams, where I am the substrate. And then other people act on me, alter me in some way, and then spit me out and go along their way, with their full enzymatic activity still intact, because while I am expected to change, and they need me, they are catalytic. And they retain their activity perfectly once separated from me. And there are so many more substrates present than enzymes usually. Even though I feel like a substrate and everyone else is an enzyme. They all have inherent biological activity. And I just sort of lurk until they change me.
 And… I’m starting to dig too deeply into this metaphor right now so I shall stop for several minutes. AND THEN there are so many people whose lives I need to fit into and I DON’T KNOW HOW TO!

And to do all that is overwhelming. And impossible.

There is not a perfectly fitting space for me in everyone else’s life. I don’t even know how to find what shape I need to be to fit into one person’s life. Because I don’t know what roles they need me to play. I don’t know how to how to start figuring that out. And then when you start considering that I want to interact with more than one person. How do I make myself the shape to fit into multiple people’s lies simultaneously?

I cannot be perfect for everyone.

If they are worth it, then they will rearrange their life a little bit, so that I fit in their life. And I can rearrange my life a little bit, too. But it doesn’t need to be all on one side. Both people can work on it.

I shouldn’t have to be a perfect fit.

No one is expecting me to be perfect.

I don’t need to be perfect.

People will still want me in their life if I am not perfect.

Boyfriend has specifically stated this. Other people have specifically stated this. I still don’t really believe it.

So the next couple months might be trickier than normal. It will be a new semester with a new lab and new classes. New and I don’t get along. And even though boyfriend will be around, it will be less than normal. And he will be tired and maybe a little more sleep deprived. And I will feel bad every time I tell him about anything wrong because he will be stressed from work.

And I tend to panic more when I know boyfriend won’t be available to help. It was pretty consistent throughout the last four years of school. When I know he’s busy or tired or at work, I don’t tell him about all the little things. But the problem for me is that everything is little things. When I don’t tell him about the little things, I start worrying about them. And then I’m having full fledged panic attacks about the possibility that he might die of a heart attack in 30 years because he doesn’t sleep enough. Or I have a meltdown over being unable to completely weigh the potential benefits of what size or type of pet I should have when my lease runs out and I can move to a pet-friendly apartment.

I will need to remember this. And remember to say small things before they get to big things. Because everyone prefers the question that takes 30 seconds or less to answer over the panic attack that takes an hour to diffuse and still ruins the day. That’s what text messaging is for. Small messages that can be answered at someone else’s leisure or on breaks. Text messages I’ve been told do not interrupt at work. Text messages are ok.

So after Christmas (break), we are on to busy season for him and panic season (hopefully not) for me.

But I think there are things I might postpone until after busy season, like the end of my antidepressants. Except I will run out of them during this time period and to renew them, I would have to make some sort of appointment and talk to people somewhere probably, and that is also stressful. So that will perhaps be a decision I discuss and figure out later at some point. (So decisive, me.)

So onto new adventures and stuff like that.

Roommate Rantings

Things I have only had moderate success with: getting along with roommates.

I’ve always lived with sisters, so I’m not quite sure the difference. I think because maybe you are allowed to yell at sisters and sometimes hit them and getting mad at them is okay. Because I certainly had problems with my sisters sometimes. But those were usually minor incidences. But this roommate issue isn’t because I am used to having my own room. Because I shared one for large portions of my life.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out well at all. Right now, it is ok. Not the worst roommate arrangement I have had, but not at all ideal.

I’ve lived with my best friend for a summer, and that worked out wonderfully. We each had our own rooms, and a nice big kitchen and baked lots of delicious things and watched a lot of cooking shows and House Hunters and Say Yes to The Dress together. She was an awesome roommate (I maybe not so much, admittedly, but we were still super good friends after, too.)

For one summer program, I lived in a quad in a dorm room with 3 other girls. My roommate was quiet and nice and very religious and gone a lot. That worked out pretty well. We sometimes hung out and she taught me how to make bread and nothing bad particularly happened. One of the other girls in the other room was especially awesome so I hung out with her more. (And then my friend who I lived with earlier was also on campus, so I spent a lot of time with her and that group of people.)

My freshman year of college roommate was also ok. We didn’t really talk much, because she had a long distance boyfriend, but we coexisted peacefully in the same space.

Sophomore and junior year roommate was bad. Same girl. I knew it would be bad and not work out but I couldn’t figure out how to say no because there wasn’t anyone else who would have lived with her probably. And junior year I had a high enough rank on the room-pick-list, I could have gotten a single, but she couldn’t have, so that would have also been mean. Sophomore year was ok, with drifting into bad. Like when she broke up with her boyfriend of less than a week and then ate all my birthday ice cream. And then it got absolutely horrible junior year. Part of it probably wasn’t her fault, admittedly. I think both of our lives were falling apart in different ways and two people who have lost control of their lives don’t really make good living partners.

Anyway, and now there is now.

Currently, I need to find a way to tell my roommate that sometimes I just want to not talk to anyone and it isn’t that I don’t like her, it is just that I am home and home is my quiet, not-talking-to-people place.

But I haven’t told her I’m autistic yet.
Because I’ve only told a handful of people.
Because it is sort of still a processing-thinking-secret.

And it’s tricky too, because she is one of my friends from college, I guess, so I think she wants to hang out. And her program is so much less aggressively social than mine is. Or really, social at all. So I get my social fill up at school and at work because everyone is very friendly and talks and chats a lot (about fun stuff, too! Like science and food! So I enjoy it.) And then I want home to be a quiet place. But she comes home from school lonely because the people in her program don’t really talk much and wants to talk and hang out.

And I don’t want to be mean but I just need to hide.
And also sometimes she is really annoying a lot but I feel mean and petty when I say that, but really yes basically it is true.

But sometimes I am fine.

But I also don’t want to be mean and tell her I don’t actually like hanging out with her because that is mean and what if my friends told me that and are actually only pretending to like me because they are being nice, so I should be nice also. (And also because this lease is through August.) Or tell her that she is boring and talks to her family too much and too loudly. Badbadbadbad.

As soon as this lease is up, I am getting a new apartment. One where it is just me.

So that I can go in the kitchen when I come home tired and hungry. Where I don’t have to hide in my room when I need to eat. But now, I hide until I know it is safe to leave. And I can’t make food that takes a long time, even though I like cooking, because the kitchen isn’t safe. I have no snacks because I can’t make any. So I’ve been making meals at 1:00 after she is asleep and baking things then, because that is when I know it is safe.

Because right now my room is the only safe place. Because people might talk to me everywhere else (And by people, I mean my single solitary roommate.)

And it is a bad day-week-time-period, so I am NOT okay with that. But you aren’t ALLOWED to yell at people to GO AWAY DON’T TALK TO ME when it is also their kitchen.

And she has an unpredictable schedule so I never know when I am coming home if she is going to be there or not. So when I plan my evening on my walk home based on the usual pattern of her being at home or not being at home, and then I walk in the door and she is there when I thought I would be alone, it breaks. I just sink and escape to my room as soon as I can and stay hidden as long as I can.

I can’t know until I have checked out the apartment and the rooms if it is safe to finally be sad if I am sad or tired if I am tired. Because that is only safe if I am alone (or with a very few specific people that absolutely does not include roommate).

Going home is stressful because I have to escape through the apartment to get to safety. 
Everything is bad.
Sometimes it is ok, but right now everything is bad.
Life is overwhelming right now.