Balloons

Growing up, we had a two-story-height roof in a mostly 1 story room, and balloons would escape and just float up to the roof, unreachable but still visible if you looked up. Even the adults couldn’t catch them, because even my parents didn’t have thirty-foot long arms. The balloons would just sit there for days, above our couch and our table and our living room. Eventually, they would float back down to the ground, but by then they would be sad-shriveled-not-floating balloons. The fun was in the floating and the bobbing and the magical-THIS-BALLOON-IS-FLYING.

That’s where all my thoughts and ideas are. I forgot to hold on to them or I miss the chance and they float away up to the ceiling. They are there, but by the time they come back to me, they are sad and are missing the parts that I was interested in. I miss posting things on here and figuring them out by writing about them. I figure so many more things out by writing them, but I keep missing the chance to grab them. There are tons of half-floating ideas that I think of when I am biking to school or walking to the bus or somewhere else. They are half-remembered ideas just out of reach and it’s frustrating.

  • I have ideas about sensory overload and spoons on crowded buses home, but then I am too tired to write them down, and they float back up to the ceiling.
  • I have a half-developed theory on my ideas and thoughts on Appropriate Social Behavior and eye contact and my semi-autistic family.
  • There’s something I remember on my bike half a mile into the trip about keeping Bad Thoughts Out.
  • There’s something about executive function and what bits and pieces I have and what bits and pieces are broken.
  • Some more bits about thinking in general.
  • There are other ideas there, too far away to work out what they were, but they are still there, hitting up against the top of the roof, bobbling around in my brain. 

I can tell they are there, but I can’t tell what they are. I want to be able to reach out and pull them down and figure them out. I want to classify  my thoughts and order them out so I can figure out how and what I’m thinking. And whenever I succeed in grabbing them, they are only half-there. It’s the sad old not-flying balloons. The essential part that made them good and interesting and desireable has diffused out.

I’m doing fine, generally, in life, but busy with TAing and actual lab work and grant writing and literature reviewing and wedding planning, and I just don’t have the tools available now to reach up and pull down those thoughts. I want to be able to figure out how to grab onto them right away so they can’t escape to the roof immediately, to take them and run to my normal-sized-roof room right away, where even 5 year old me can reach the string of the balloon if I stand on a chair. But I don’t have thirty-foot-long arms to reach the ones on the ceilings, and they always appear when I can’t grab onto them. It’s a minor annoyance. I don’t need balloons. I can get along fine without them. But they make life better and I want them.

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Creating my own standards

This is not relevant to this article, but it was one of the earliest images that popped up when I googled the title of this post looking for a good image. And I really do love xkcd, and I didn’t come up with a better image for this, and I prefer to have images in my posts, so I am sticking with it. Because it’s always good to have a bit of fun in there. 

 I’ve been struggling a lot lately, with prelims and lab choosing and moving and a million pieces of life (which is why I haven’t written much in August). Errands and jobs and tasks that require communication and planning and new skill sets. There is the constant low level anxiety about being in a new place right now, which uses up spoons just existing until I get adjusted into life here.

And I’ve been trying to keep up with graduate school and doing my best and trying to make a good impression so that people like me and let me into programs. And maybe I have been trying my hardest and maybe what I have been is good enough.

Or maybe it isn’t. I sort of think that I should be trying harder. Trying to improve myself and be better. There are always things I need to work on.

Today I read this (emphasis mine):

“I feel as though many of our autistic kids can never escape from this idea that they must always be being corrected; must always be being taught; must always be building on skills; must always be attending therapies and classes; must always be being “consistently disciplined”; must always remember every second of every day that they are autistic and that they have so much to learn, so far to go, so much more that they need to be.”

~“Are We Trying To Hard To Teach Our Autistic Children”, Suburban Autistics (Also read the rest of the article, it’s great!)

There are so many things I need to work on. I identify a new area where I struggle when talking with boyfriend and he says “ok, we can work on that”. But if we add up all the things that “we can work on” then I don’t know how I have any time in the day to actual get my work done*. I can’t always be working on not panicking or working on not hiding my face or working on one of the million other things I struggle with that are things that need to be done to be professional and successful and effective at communicating and get things done.

And then I get overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do and it is a horrible positive feedback loop that just spirals out of control.** And that is no help at all and does not lead to more things getting done.

I have to remember I am the one who is creating the standards for my behavior. I can make them reasonable.

As long as I get by, I am doing ok.

I need to eat. I need to do reasonably well in grad school so that I don’t get kicked out. I need to pay bills and pay rent. I should try and avoid going into debt. As long as I stick to that, I am doing ok. It is fine if I watch a lot of tv. Or if I hide in my room and don’t talk to people. Or if I do talk to people. Or if I don’t exercise. It is all ok. I am surviving.

On days I remember that, I am fine. I am more productive. I am happy. Of course, determining what “reasonably well” means is a whole issue on itself…

~~~~~~~
*They are usually things that I do need to work on, like being able to make appointments or go to the doctor or go to a meeting or such things.
**I really want to say a negative feedback loop, but that is wrong. A negative feedback loop will turn itself off or regulate levels, because it negatively effects itself. A positive feedback loop builds on itself and increases and increases. One biological example of a positive feedback loop is peeing.

telling autistic

Some more choosing-a-lab/grad-school-struggles randomly and when that happens I am not very good at writing at paragraphs or capitalizing or even really going back and editing it but also because I am still sort of mush on this topic and ideas right now. So sorry about that because I know lack of capitalization and even also inconsistent capitalization and punctuation can be distressing to read to me at least so here’s a heads up that it is all sorta meltymushy.

one problem i’ve found that I have with autism
and why i don’t want to tell people
or can’t

because for the longest time i would read stories of kids with autism–because its almost always kids in the stories
and i thought it couldn’t be real
because they sounded just like me–a bit younger often, and with a tendency to be boys—and I was not a boy no way who knows what boys were up to or how I could related to them
so i thought most of it was a new made-up craze
that things were overconcerned and overpathologized when it was just people being people

of course
eventually i realized that actually in these stories these kids who couldn’t really have something Named, couldn’t really all be that different
because it was things I did
things my family did
things I didn’t think at all were unusual because they were woven into my everyday life

that these things were not actual Things That Everyone Does
but rather, unusually unique to me and occasionally family members
and this group of autistic

I would keep reading the stories before I realized
because I recognized something similar
but also reading them trying to figure out what exactly it was that made these kids different

sometimes jealous of the more-overtly-things that meant they didn’t have to talk to people
or somehow were allowed to do things in public I knew that were not allowed but they were ok for them
not knowing how amazingly lucky and accepting my life had been–which is probably one big WHY that no one noticed things about me

and now i’m struggling with some things in school
contemplating telling people to see if that would help
—by people i mean official school people—
(although i don’t know who i would tell since i am not even in a lab)
but I’m afraid they won’t believe me

because just like my family was slow to believe when i told (some of) them
because it was just things that everyone did
i live in a world of science and scientists
and a lot a lot a lot of the things I do are not all that uncommon–at least compared to the general population
there is at least one professor who I am almost positive (upwards of 90%) is autistic too
and there are others with hints
and so i feel like it would be less believed
because the straits stand out less–which is sometimes good
but makes asking for help harder

—well, that and the fact that I don’t have any actual official paperwork of any sort saying i was autistic. probably a flaw at that time that i should have predicted coming up in the future

maybe when i get in a lab officially
i will eventually tell that PI
and help figure out solutions

In general, i’m not very good at telling people
i’ve told one person who asked directly
i have told 2 close friends
i told boyfriend

i wish people would ask directly
that is why i didn’t even tell the therapist/pysch person
because it didn’t come up in any of the questions she asked me

but i think it is very rare that people will do that
it has only happened once

so i probably shouldn’t hope for that

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.

Looking for a word

I was looking for the word to describe why I did so poorly on retreats, why they terrified me, why I was absolutely miserable on all of them. How they were just awful experiences for me, and the only thing I got out of them was how not to cry. How I spent them in rooms of strangers and waiting forever for figuring out how all the other people were doing things that were making sense to them.  How I wish I had known I could call my parents and have them bring me home, but I had no idea that was a possibility and no idea how to go around doing it. For a word for the explanation.
I know that word, or at least a summary of it.
But I won’t tell other people. I both desperately want to, and am simultaneously terrified to.
I don’t want to use it to explain away excuses and failures, to be a bad example, to give it a bad name.
I don’t want people to believe I don’t have a claim to it,either
There are so many times, when I am trying to explain a social thing, where I am trying to explain how my brain does not do the thing, or how I have complex work-arounds to allow my brain to do the thing, and I can’t find the word.
Or more accurately, won’t use the word.
Can’t
Won’t
Can’t
Won’t
Autism. Autistic.
It would make the explanation quicker, perhaps. But I can’t make myself use the word. Not in “real life” to physical people who actually know who I am.
It might not be the best thing, professionally, so I can understand on holding off on it there. But what about socially? When I am interacting with boyfriend’s priest friend, or his Jesuit-in-training-friend (yes, he knows a lot of priests/priests-to-be)… they are a social interaction that is not at all connected to my professional life (most of my social life is connected to my professional life, so I suppose it could be iffier there).
I am mad at myself for not using the word when I know it is there.
I am mad at myself for wanting to use the word when I am not sure if it applies to me, or if I have a real claim, or if people would think I don’t have a real claim.
I am confused and tired and stressed.
I know the word, why can’t I use it?
I know it is tied up in ideas of disability, and that I am afraid of the consequences of that. I would rather it be a personal failing of me, of me not trying hard enough, of laziness, in some ways, than being a thing I can’t do.
Shame, maybe.
I don’t want to admit I can’t do the thing.
Especially when I usually can do the thing, it just might require a lot of energy that I might not have at the time, so it is then laziness maybe.

ALSO:
After writing this, I read this and it is sort of related and similar and says sort of same-like-things. So it reminded me of it and I will link it here.
http://youneedacat.tumblr.com/post/90697898185/why-atypical-was-so-damn-important-to-me-as-a-kid

Clingy

I like things to stay the same.

I like when people stay the same.
I want to be a clingy clingy girlfriend, but I can’t even really do that because he isn’t physically here, and it is hard to be clingy when you don’t see people in person. Because I want to just curl up in a ball all day and have boyfriend hug me forever, but I can’t because he isn’t here. That’s a once-a-week-thing, if schedules coincide and work out well.

I want someone to direct my life again. It was so nice when I was home and I did not have to decide the structure of my life. When food was just automatically produced at the times to eat. Time to sleep and time to wake up was generally predicted. Activities were planned.

I want to cling to things that are the same.
I don’t want to be a new real adult person.

I don’t want things to change.
I’ve been watching Arthur because it reminds me of things staying the same.
Always the same intro. 
Always the same people.
Always the same age.
It’s comforting.
But that’s not real life.

I have no idea how I am going to get through the self-structured-self-ordered grad school life for the next undetermined-amount-of-time-that-is-probably-between-five-and-seven-years.

I want structure.
I want order.

I want someone to tell me what to do.
I try googling for answers. But google doesn’t answer “what should I do with my life” or “what should I eat for dinner” or “what is wrong with me” or “please help me” or “what should I do now” or “I am lonely” or “why is boyfriend still at work” or so many other things. 
Google is not at adequate support network.
And the worst part, is I know that I have one. But I don’t utilize it. I know I can call my parents and talk. They have told me that several times. But Sundays are the day I call my parents. That is the day that I call them. And I don’t—can’t—tell people about this blah-ness, this I’m-not-sure-what’s-wrong-but-I’m-lost, the something is wrong.
I can’t ask for help when I don’t even know what is wrong or what I need help with.
Clingy clingy clingy clingy clingy clingy clingy. I just want things to be right and not wrong, so when I find moments that are more right, I want to grab them and not let go.

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.

checking boxes and opening doors (appropriate public behavior)

I’ve spent a long time writing this. It will probably end up being months. It’s the first real post I started writing on here. It’s difficult to say. Not really emotionally or whatnot, but it is just hard to find the right words. It actually has been months and I think I am just going to publish it with the words maybe not just perfect, because I can always make a revised version if I come up with a clearer way to say this. And there is probably some sort of trigger on here, but I’m really not exactly sure what it is.

Also, this is a really long extended metaphor.

Sometimes I see people complain about fitting in
or about neurotypical rules
and the world.

(although they are people too so we really should respect them too)

and I just remember the rules about checking boxes

I’ve been very thoroughly trained on appropriate public behavior. Perhaps unintentionally more than my parents meant to (they didn’t realize how literal and rules-particular I was, I think.

And because I’m me, and bad at general social cues, I am not always certain what is actually non-acceptable, and what is just things I over extrapolated (see here or here). 
It is why I always wear real clothes in public when there are so so so many more comfortable clothes sometimes aka yoga pants the best thing ever created. Because real people wear real clothes in public and I am a real person.*

My mother always told us that most things in life are about checking boxes and opening doors.(She would often tell us this when we were complaining about silly rules that teachers made us do. In school, that’s what a syllabus is. They give you boxes that need to be checked. All you need to do is check them to get the good grade.

In life, there are things that you have to check the boxes, too, in order for things to happen.

And there are checking boxes to social activities too. To get people to do what you want them to do, you have to get them to like you. To do that you check boxes.

I took things more literally than my sisters (they call me Literal Girl), although not completely literally (I read enough that I have a pretty decent grasp on common metaphors if I am paying attention). So I made lists of things. Not always physical ones.
But I still sometimes think that if I do everything I am supposed to do, and check all the boxes I am supposed to, then things should happen. (And sometimes I think I probably do not know what all the boxes I need to check are. Because there isn’t really a syllabus or a rubric for life.)
And appropriate public behavior and public appearance is very important to that.

Because:

You need other people

Some things are opening doors.

For instance, college opens doors to getting a nice job. You still have to go through the door, maybe walk through a hallway (and who knows, it may be an Indiana-Jones hallway with booby traps and other dangerous, deathly things) and maybe go through some more doors. And it might not be the only door. There might be other ways in. Other doors, emergency exits, windows, fire escapes. Alternate routes.

The thing about doors is that there are other doors.

It’s the same with behavior and communication, I think.

Not ridiculous things like looking people in the eyes or staying still while you talk to them. (But actually probably things like that, too.) But talking and talking and talking. And face-to-face normal communication.

At this point, if I remember (and for important things like interviews, I remember), I can look people in the eyes. I can generally talk. (And most of my interviews were chats about my research or their research, so once that managed to happen, it was wonderful. It took a while to get to that point, and sometimes it just didn’t).

You have to check the boxes to open the doors, to be given a chance. And if you can’t check the right boxes, you’re going to have to go around a long way.

So I wonder if there is a way to change the boxes. Or to have different boxes for different people. Or maybe different doors. Because people shouldn’t have to climb through the windows. Because that is surely much more difficult than just checking the boxes and walking through a door. But sometimes, boxes can’t be checked.

And appropriate public behavior was important therefore because people judge you in public and you never know who is watching you.

Although come to think of this, this never applied in grocery stores and such

More like places where we had to be on our best behavior
Like events where we met our grandparents clients
Or teachers
Or coworkers

Because it didn’t matter what strangers thought.
(To a point. Safety matters.)

It mattered, though, what people you know and interact with think. What people who you need for things think. Because you need them to get your work done or finish school or do a project or get a job or keep a job. You need them to be there for networking.

(Gah, I hate networking. It’s the worst. Asking people to do things for you).

And in those cases, you do have to modulate your behavior. You need them to think of you what you want them to think of you.

(I think we were manipulative)

(my mother is the sneakiest person I know, in a good way. She can get almost anything she wants when she puts her mind to it, from almost anyone. She very rarely does, but when she does, it is amazing.)

You need them to check boxes for you and to open doors.

So then…. WHY and WHY I SHOULD FIT IN AND WHY STIMMING IN PUBLIC IS BAD AND STUFF

So even with this, I still think that stimming in public and all is not bad (although I have been trained out of it in some situations, probably, but I think that is more me being Literal Girl and my parents having several children so having to pay attention to the ones who are running away in the grocery store because they can is more important in that instant that realizing another child is trying too hard to behave appropriately.

Example: When I get excited, I jump up and down. I live in an apartment. If I get excited early in the morning or late at night, I try not to jump up and down for an extended period of time. Because there is someone living beneath me. And I would not like it if someone kept jumping up and down on my ceiling when I am trying to sleep. So I limit my stimming (or redirect it to a quieter one) (or go into the living room because then I’m not above their bedroom).

Another example: I can be loud in class, sometimes. Tapping my feet, clicking my pens. Hummng sometimes. When people point it out to me, I stop. Why? Because noise reduces my ability to concentrate. And other people have just as much right to have a need for quiet as I do. So I will switch to something quieter.

Admittedly, I can redirect these things usually. So it’s ok, for me. And I can usually redirect it to something that I enjoy almost as much or that works almost as much. And some people probably can’t redirect it, and that’s ok for them.

And I don’t see anything wrong (mostly) with sometimes flapping or fidgeting or bouncing or rocking in public. Or general stimming in life, pretty much whenever. Because if I am able to do something that lets me concentrate while also letting everyone around me concentrate, that is much better than doing something that lets me concentrate while

Because if we want people to be considerate of our needs and our requirements for learning, we shouldn’t be distracting to theirs.

Some things I’ve read by other people that have contributed to these ideas:
Mother tongues: orangutans and autistic education by Kitt at AutisticChick
Socially Inappropriate by Musings of an Aspie

~~~
*regarding this and other rules, these are rules for me. Not for other people. If you want to wear yoga pants in public, which I wouldn’t blame you for because they are the most comfortable things in the world, go for it.

More stories about school

TW: Bullying, or close-to-bullying mentions and descriptions. I hesitate to call it bullying because I’ve read what has happened to other people, and I feel like this is nowhere at all on the same order of magnitude. It also isn’t really about bullying, but there are probably bits of bully-like behavior discussed in it.

Also, this is basically what happens after my last post. All about high school this time. I suppose it is School part II.

High school was tricky, because it was so wonderful in so many ways. Compared to middle school, there were new people and so many other people who were interested in school. My high school had a good academic atmosphere and it wasn’t uncool to be smart. I had one good friend and several other people I ate lunch with. Most of the kids in my AP classes were pretty awesome, and even if I wasn’t friends with them and didn’t really hang out with them except in class, they would always tell me when we had tests that morning and about random fun things in life. And actually I am still friends with some of these people even though I wasn’t then (one of the other girls went to my college and we ended up being super good friends even though we didn’t really hang out in high school.)

There were also some strange, weird, bad parts though. There was change and long hours away from home. There were the required Peer Counseling group sessions and emotional retreat things where we were supposed to cry a lot. Or at least everyone else did. And while mostly everyone was nice to me, and talked to me, there were a few strange instances.

(I haven’t still figured out what I thought about high school enough to write all of it down in real sentences).

In high school, someone came and told me and my friend that she no longer wanted to be friends with us. That was just mostly confusing. It seemed a bit unnecessary… It was also awkward, since we carpooled.

Although I was told by my friend who was more aware of things than I was
(she told me sometime after freshman year of college)

that the other people we sat with
friends
lunch friends

social activities even

apparently they made fun of us too
to our faces no less
and I never noticed

and she did
but didn’t tell me because she thought I picked up on it
(it was obvious apparently)

I just thought I was funny
and that was why they were laughing

sometimes I was confused by why they were laughing
but sometimes people think of funny things in their mind and start laughing

apparently I didn’t know enough
about the world
about people
about boys
about sex
about parties
about drinking
about anything

(I knew enough about drinking. I knew that I have alcholism from every side of the family and so I bet iIam genetically predisposed to become addicted. There was no way I was drinking in high school.)

Not that I knew where these places that drinking went on were.

I did go to Prom senior year.

I took my friend’s younger brother.
He was one of 5 boys I talked to.
One of 3 I wasn’t related to.
The only one over the age of 10.
(It was loud and I stayed in the hallway most of the time that I could.)

I went to an all girls school and only talked about my classes.
But I had such lovely classes.

And now my friend is off to med school and I’m off to grad school.
And we have no more classes in common to talk about.
And she is still fun and I am still fun but I don’t know how to talk.

And people were nice to me in school.
Most people were nice to me in school.

Or friendly.

Why would people not be nice?

I was the “guardian angel of AP Biology.” I made 4 page double column typed study guides before every test and shared with everyone. I would always combine and compile whenever we needed class data…even, yes, if it involved phone calling. I would proofread and offer suggestions on any paper anyone wanted me to read. (I still do for some people I barely knew in high school, because they ask me to. And really, I love proofreading.) I was helpful.

I like being helpful.

I joined stage crew for school plays and helped run the lighting booth. That was a lot of fun (and the reason I know most of the words to Grease and Thoroughly Modern Millie).

I ran track senior year (but only because my sister did and I couldn’t go home anyway) and while I was absolutely horrendous, the coach was amazing.

I liked high school, overall.

It’s just a lot trickier to process because there were good bits and bad bits mixed in. And some things that I thought were good have been sneakily undermined. But I think I was generally happy while I was there. It was so much better than middle school.

And it was so much better than it could have been.

An autistic navigates large social events (graphs included!)

What is it like to talk in a crowd?

A big forced social gathering.
Sometimes these things happen. And sometimes they are unavoidable. Unavoidable mingling with strangers.
Interviews. Orientations. That sort of thing.
They are growing stress. Ever increasing over time. And once it reaches a certain point, it’s like a curtain has been drawn over the stage, and I am on the other side. Not a normal curtain, but the curtain they use for dream scenes and such. It is mostly transparent. You can see and hear through it. But there is a feeling of different ness. 
And once I reach curtains, it is only a matter of time until a meltdown. Until I panic and run out of the room( link on running away) or can’t run so I hide and cry.

To illustrate, here is a graph.

The stress level grows over time. Once it reaches curtain stage, it grows faster. Eventually, it reaches the meltdown threshold. And then I’m gone (the meltdown threshold is a blurry one. Sometimes, the meltdowns are slower to build up, where I can escape somewhere in a panic. Or I can run. Sometimes it’s not).
Of course, there are different factors that can change the rate at which stress builds up at. Sometimes,  under the curtain threshold, there are even things that can decrease the total amount of stress.
Above is a close-up of the graph. Dark blue is the normalized, normal level of stress. Sometimes things can make the stress increase at a greater rate (green line). For instance, I might be wearing uncomfortable clothes. I might not know where I am or what I am supposed to be doing. I might be hungry or it could be loud or crowded or weirdly lit. But there are also things that decrease the stress (orange). If I have someone i know with me, someone who can manage introductions, someone I can follow around and so I can have less decisions to make. Or if I am carrying something in my hands, or weighted down (I love my backpack). 
But what if I take a break? Find somewhere quiet to sneak away to for a while? What then would happen?
Well, THIS is what happens. See the breaks! Those squiggly black lines. If that happens, then, as you can see, stress decreases. BUT it decreases much slower than it had increased. (Part of this is because I feel bad for taking breaks, or there aren’t good places to take breaks, or I am worried people will ask me why I am wandering around or not at the event. And partly is just because I take a while to recover). And also, if you look carefully at my excellently drawn graph, you can see that AFTER my break (for a while at least) , the stress increases at a slower rate than it had before the break. So breaks are good. If I can find a way to make them happen.
So then, what would be an ideal (but realistic) graph of what would happen socially?

Generally, it looks like this, if the night goes relatively well. (If the night goes well, I don’t reach the curtains cut-off). My stress level goes up, throughout the night. It goes up when I am wandering about, looking for someone to talk to, something to do, unsure of what I am supposed to do. As I talk to people, it slows down. It almost plateaus out, barely increases. I have a purpose. But the conversations die down, or it’s time to mingle some more with other people. And then it’s stress. A lot of stress. More wandering aimlessly. Building back up. And then I talk to some people again and it levels off. It’s a regular pattern. 
It’s unrealistic to expect the tiredness and the stress to not be continually increasing throughout the night. But as long as it doesn’t get above a place where I can’t handle it, as long as it doesn’t reach curtains, then I am ok. I will be tired the next day. I probably won’t talk all that much when it is over. But it will be good and I might have even gotten something out of it or networked or learned new things or eaten good free food or managed to successfully spend my time at a required event.

And that’s all I really expect.

But also, being stressed is not the worst thing ever. Sometimes it is necessary. And sometimes good things or necessary things require it. And as long as it doesn’t cross the threshold, (and as long as it isn’t all the time, every day), I can deal with it. Which is good, because sometimes it is necessary.