Loud Places

I have very good hearing in general. I hear the buzz of the cable boxes when they are turned on and the tv is not, even several rooms away. I could hear the click in my old alarm clock before it turned on to the ratio set to the lowest volume static I could set it to and still hear if I sat up in my bed. I grew up in a quiet place and it took me a long time to get used to the city. It was much better once I moved away from the hospital. My new apartment still has noises, but it’s the quiet steady noise of the cars on a busy almost-highway. It’s consistent and easier to get used to. When I come home now, I can feel the silence in my ears as they expand without the noise to push them back in. I was used to the silence.

I generally can’t tune out things selectively. I can tune out the world when I’m reading or focusing, but I can’t tune into just the conversation I am listening to while not hearing all the other ones going around me. Buses and restaurants make conversations more difficult, but it can still be enjoyable. It takes effort to sift through all the words and assign them to the different conversations, but it is always how I have talked that way. It can be a problem when the group of new moms two tables down from us at a crowded restaurant are talking in more detail than I would like to hear about the processes by which they obtained their babies. I can tune them out, but not if I would also like to continue the conversation I am having with boyfriend. Boyfriend, on the other hand, has no idea of this conversation until I bring it up after dinner. Otherwise, I like going to restaurants and delicious food is often worth the effort of sifting conversations.

What does loud noise sound like? Does it sound like everything, just louder? Like the difference in talking volumes when you are trying to talk to someone in a library compared to talking to someone across a room? I want to know if other people can feel loudness, can hear it as a different sound. In crowded places, I can feel the conversations as they move around the room. It made sense to me, that you could feel sound, because sound is waves in the air. Even people with not-sensitive hearing can feel the very-loud-music of speakers from your inconsiderate neighbors. You can see it move sand in science experiments.

In loud places, even not-rock-concert-loud places (because I don’t go to places that loud!) but twenty-or-so-people-having-a-few-separate-conversations-in-a-room-loud places, the buzzing starts. It layers over the words and conversations that people are having. My ears will buzz and pop and bubble a little. It doesn’t hurt, but as it gets louder or as I am there for more time, the words will fade into the buzzing and I won’t be able to understand really much or most of what is going on. Even if I’m otherwise fine, and not overloaded or headed towards meltdowns, at some point, the buzzing gets loud enough that the conversations can’t be filtered and sorted out. This happens in family gatherings (we have large families) where I’m perfectly happy to keep sitting the night away while people chat around me. I might get out a book, or find a quiet corner for a while until the buzzing goes away if I want to come back and talk.

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Autistic Wedding Planning

Image is of an engagement ring with a blue stone. I have doodled around it and wrote the word plan underneath it.
Hi everyone! So there aren’t very many resources for planning a wedding if you are autistic. Like none. Google gives you pretty much nothing. And since I’m actively involved in this, it’s something I’m thinking about. And it was really becoming rather frustrating and leading to general panicky life issues. So I wrote a question/submission thing to a wedding planning website/other life things that I’m a big fan of just in general (like really, though, I like A Practical Wedding and actually was reading it for discussions of life stuff occasionally before I even started thinking about weddings… like years ago). And they also decided to print/answer it. (And also had helpful, specific answers to things I was individually concerned of.
So that’s pretty awesome. Anyway, if you want to read it…

Also, they were super cool in the editing process about changing things they wrote about “a person with autism” to “an autistic person” and also about changing the link for more general autism information from Autism Speaks to ASAN when I brought that up. So added points for that.

puns and scripts

I use tumblr for a few, very specific purposes. To look at pictures of baby animals and to find puns and other bad jokes. I maybe started it as an extension of this blog and definitely do have a bit of autistic people I like to read on there*, but quite honestly, it is mostly puppies. Today I found this piece of beauty.
one fifth two fifth red fifth blue fifth
So I was gallivanting along on tumblr and found this delightful little thing.
And I really truly love it.
Puns make my brain happy.  I don’t necessarily understand the puns all at once, but once I work it through, I love them. They are just so clever, how they can turn around the meaning of the words. Once the trick is all worked out, it is exciting. There is an answer, a definite answer. There is a reason why they are funny.

Sometimes I can’t figure out puns, and I hate that, because I haven’t found the answer.

And this puns was based off of one of my scripts. One of my conversation fillers. One of the things that I can repeat when I need a break or when I need words but I don’t have them yet. When I want to talk, but there aren’t really words yet or I don’t have anything specific to say. One of my ready-to-go, preformed, pre-made words.

And it had numbers in it, too.

So it was like the universe had combined to create this magical combination of all the things that make my brain happy and safe into one gigantic, perfect, inside joke.

Which is wonderful.

~~~
*Which is something I feel irrationally guilty, or at least I think irrationally guilty for, that I don’t use it more for that. That it isn’t a serious real thing where I write about issues and all that. But mostly I am ok with it. Because I really like bad jokes and pictures of puppies.

~~~

P.S. I am back to the Midwest now and have much recovered from the bit of a mess I was in when I left. So that is a good thing. Maybe I will make some more thoughtful-insightful/autism related posts soon. I have a lot of half formed ones floating around.

Blogging Belonging

Dear Autistic friends,

You are all wonderful.
Thank you so much for making a place I fit in.
I love the internet.

I’ve usually had some places where I’ve felt like I’ve fit in. I am from a very close extended family, where most of the cousins are within a five or so year age range. And there’s a fair number of us, and we’re pretty strange (#MySemiAutisticFamily is what boyfriend calls it to differentiate from the other very normal apparently side of the family). We all grouped together and played the strange games kids come up with when they have little adult supervision (or think they have, anyway. Our parents were pretty sneaky.) So I’ve always felt like I’ve belonged with these cousins.

But eventually you enter the real world, where you sometimes (or closer to almost-always) have to interact with people that you are not related to. And that is when I started to realize that things were different. And as my cousins have grown up, and dispersed to different jobs and countries and medical schools and places without reliable internet, and developed lives outside of family, it becomes more and more necessary to talk to people you are not related to.

But the great thing about cousins* is that even when you haven’t seen each other in months or years, once you put yourselves together again, it is just the same as the last time you spent a week straight together hiking and going to Trader Joe’s.

And as my life grew less and less structured, and I had to spend more and more time away from family, as I moved into high school and college, as I had more and more responsibilities and more and more interactions and more and more strangers, I got more and more alone. I started to realize that I was different. And that it wasn’t always the good different (I always knew I was better than a lot of people at math for instance). I started to realize that things that were incredibly difficult for me were sometimes things didn’t even realize they had to do.

I got more and more lost.

Even though I made some amazing friends, there was still something missing. My other friends seemed to like each other more, because they were always hanging out (eventually I learned the formula for initiating hanging out, unfortunately just in time for graduation).

And then I figured out (or started to figure out) this whole autism thing. And it’s like finding a whole new branch of cousins. People who understand me, who have the same stories and history. Even though there are so many ways and differences in life and life circumstances. There was still the sense of almost easy familiarity that I have with my cousins.

And it has made my life better. I still have struggles, but I have a place of belonging. I have a place with answers. A whole new place to turn for advice.

So,

Internet people, thank you.
Thank you for being here and being there and being so similar.

Blogs are weird things, where we share secrets with the whole world and make friends with strangers that we have never seen, who know things about us maybe even our closest friends don’t know. I was initially skeptical.

Thank you to E. at The Third Glance, where I first realized I could be autistic because I could see myself in almost everything she wrote. When I first realized that there might be a category for my different, that maybe it was an actual difference, not just a character flaw.Thank you to autisticook for adding me to her list of autistic bloggers. That was AMAZINGLY INCREDIBLE  Because it was belonging and sort of the first confirmation that other people acknowledged me as autistic. That I could join the internet community. Thank your Nattily at Notes on Crazy for all her helpful app knowledge and suggestions and helpful hints to make life better.

And there are so many other people.

So many amazing people.

And fitting in and talking and community and happiness.

Thank you, semi-strangers that I met on the internet.

You are amazing and you have made my life so much better.

Sincerely,
Alana

~~~
* I want to make it clear here that this is probably not actually a generalizeable statement. It is really refering specifically to my cousins, although I do know other people who also have this experience.

What do you want to do?

When people ask “what do you want to do,”I hear “what do I want to do? Guess. Then tell me.” Because you have to figure out what they want you to do. Or at least that is what I think when I hear that.

search and pick and think of what you know about them
come up with options that they are ok with
or that you think might be good
ask them and then try and see what their reactions are
then pick the one they seemed to react more positively to
give them options

never choose outright

always quiet
always waiting and watching

be quiet
don’t upset
don’t make people do things for you
don’t make people do things they don’t want

if someone is to be inconvenienced or unhappy, it should be me

I was talking with boyfriend. He asks me what I want to do rather frequently, since we spend a fair amount of time together. One day I finally got stressed enough about it that I told him this. Why did he keep asking me what I wanted to do? Wouldn’t it just be easier to tell me what he wants us to do, instead of making me guess something that would keep him happy?

Nope.

No.

When he asks me what do I want to do
it isn’t a trick
it isn’t a trap

It really, honestly 100% means what do I want to do.

I don’t have to guess what he wants to do.

I get to choose.

There is no good reason for me thinking it is a trick or a trap. Boyfriend doesn’t do that sort of thing. The only thing he ever tricks me into is saying “I love you more” so that he can say “I love you most” and win. (But that is ok.) Or at chess. But that is also sort of the point of chess, so that is more open deception, because you know people are trying to trick you.

Apparently, this is a relatively universal custom. “What do you want to do” often means just that. Literally. I am not sure where Miss Literal Girl me managed to pick up “What do you want to do?” meaning the opposite. (Although I suppose some people are awful passive-aggressive people, who actually do mean the opposite, but boyfriend isn’t and most of my family isn’t and my close friends aren’t.)

Part of this is guest-hospitality-customs. When people are over at my place, they are the guest, so they get to choose. Part of being the host is inconveniencing yourself for your guest.* But I don’t just do this with guests. I do this all the time. Anytime someone asks me what do I want to do, I try and figure out the answer. What is it that they want to do.

I think part of it is probably me being confused with specific versus general cases at some point that I don’t really remember. That tends to happen with me and my autistic brain. 
Part of it is me valuing other people’s happiness over my own. And my extremely strong aversion to disappointing people. I would rather do something I dislike doing than disappoint someone, because I am going to be unhappy either way, so they might as well be happy, is my reasoning. But I also think things will disappoint people far, far more than they do it real life. For example, me choosing to watch Princess Bride over some other movie probably wouldn’t be a big disappointment. (Of course that is a bad example, because Princess Bride is always the answer.)
Part of it is probably older-sister-stuff, where a lot of the time it was just easier to do what the other one wanted. So parts of me are just programmed into considering what other people want to do before I make decisions. (Which is totally unfortunate because somehow that missed my sisters, especially the youngest one.)

And then there is also a great big chunk of “this is the way I have always answered ‘what do you want to do questions’ and I certainly don’t know what I actually want to do” because there are so many possibilities it can be a bit overwhelming” and “often I don’t actually know what I want to do.”

Bleh.

Mess mess mess.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Although that is a whole different topic, where you have to invite people to stay with you and let them stay with you, but on the plus side, you can also invite yourself to stay with them at any time.  For instance, when I travelled through Europe this summer, I visited and stayed with several family members I had never met. I just emailed them when I would be in town and let them know. And the European ones do the same when they come to the US. Because that is what you are supposed to do. You will never hear the end of it if you DIDN’T let people stay with you, or went through part of the country and didn’t visit someone. My mom still has one [second-or-further] cousin upset that she didn’t visit him when she was only 2 hours away in Canada for a competition with my sister.)

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.

On Anonymity

I am about 80% certain that at least one of my family members has found this blog. I could be taking conversation hints the wrong way, but I have an idea (both from things people have said to me, and from my visitor profile) that maybe someone found it.

I have some pictures on here that family members will be able to pretty quickly recognize, even though I’ve hidden faces. (Or sometimes they aren’t pictures of humans at all. For instance, I have some pictures of my apartment in there. Also, I couldn’t resist pictures of most of my pets.)

If you know me well and you stumbled upon this blog, it would be pretty easy to figure out who I am.

That is ok. 

My goal in anonymity here is more for general internet protection. I would like to be able to keep my internet self as separate from my in-real-life-self as I can. I would like to have the freedom to figure out and explore and investigate without having to worry about any professional repercussions.

But also, I am able to write more on here because I know it is relatively secret and anonymous. Because I know most people in my lives do not know about it, and so I am free to not worry about what they will think on this one tiny part of the world.

And that is also important to me.

So, if you know me, and you have found this blog by chance or by effort, I would like it if you could not bring it up. If it is something I want you to know about, then I will let you know. I think it is ok with me if you read it. Because hopefully it will help you better understand me. But please don’t judge me for what you read here, because a lot of things on here are rough thoughts and ideas. They haven’t been hammered out into perfection. And they do not have to.

Because this is my space for thoughts and ideas. For thinking and discussing. For figuring out the autistic side of me in ways I can’t necessarily do in real life. For finding and talking and hearing from lovely new people.

And once again, please do not tell me in real life. Because if I knew that you read this, if I knew that people read this for certainty, people who know me in real life, then I would lose so much of the freedom that I need from this space.

Note: this does not apply to people I have met through this blog, or if I have specifically and explicitly mentioned it to you in real life.