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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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.

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.

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.

NOT home for the holidays

Note: Talking about food and eating and not eating

This year for Thanksgiving I did not go home (I haven’t for several years, because Thanksgiving weekend is short and I live several thousand miles away from home.) But usually I would meet up with some family that had been scattered around the area or eat with friends or something.

This year, I did not. (People moved around again, and I suppose I did too, now that I am in graduate school and in a different city and other people live in different places and different countries and such.)

But don’t worry I will definitely be home for Christmas, and for a good long time, too.

This year, I went to boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving.

Different families have different traditions.
Family traditions are really confusing if you don’t understand them.
Even things less formalized than traditions. Just family habits.

Like shoes.

We wore our shoes the whole time. In the house. All day. I carefully watched people, so I could tell if it was ok for me to take my shoes off. Usually I do that first thing when coming inside. My whole family does. We have shoe piles by all our doors and have to wander around to the various doors when leaving to try and find where our shoes are.

Boyfriend’s family wears shoes inside. (Later I discussed this, and was informed it would be ok for me to take me shoes off. So now I know that for the future.)

And food.

I have come to the conclusion that my family is overly attached to food. We have very specific dishes. And large numbers of them. Each family makes a few of the different ones to spread out the work. When you have a 30 person Thanksgiving*, you can have more dishes than a 13 person one. And then there are the desserts, which is a whole new meal that you wait several hours for so that you have enough room for it. And the rules about who does which clean-up chores. It is very carefully regimented.

This is the dessert table from the Thanksgiving that my family had that I did not go to. It was much smaller than normal because a lot of people are still in college or are off in various other parts of not-home doing things, like me. Usually there are more cheesecakes. And ice cream. And normal cakes. And whipped cream. And just about everything. But also usually there are 30-50 people, which there wasn’t this year. Also, it was rather cruel to send me this picture. 

These rules do not apply in other families.

Also, they have different food and apparently they make the mashed potatoes taste like water and the sweet potatoes not taste like delicious orange things that are my favorite food ever. (And so then I had a lot of food on my plate that there was no way I was going to eat because it lied about what it was. But it is against the rules not to finish your food when you are a guest. But I couldn’t eat it. So I got stuck there a while until boyfriend noticed and ate the various potatoes for me and then saved me and then I could go eat more turkey and stuffing [which was also wrong, but at least it was yummy, so it was ok].)

And that (mostly the food) makes me sad because it is probably an event I will be going to for years and it is not a potluck thing, so I guess I will have to just deal with it by making my own later after the event** because I do not know if there would be a way for me to offer to make the food without offending people. I will confer with boyfriend on this. But he probably doesn’t know because the food just appears. And also everyone else seems to like it. So I will pretend to like it and remember which ones I don’t like and serve carefully of the things I like so that I have enough food and no one questions me and finds out I don’t actually like most of the food.

And then there are other secret codes and languages. Hidden jokes and words and ideas. “I’ll explain later”s. Songs and dances. What is the order for getting the food? Is there rules to who can sit where?

Boyfriend is good and reviewed things with me before. Where we were going. What would happen. Who would be there. How loud it would be and when and where. But there are things you don’t think of explaining because that’s how you have always done it, so why does it need to be explained. But different families do things differently.

And most families don’t have quiet rooms that you can go to and take a break in and have it be perfectly ok and normal and expected. (And I don’t know them well enough to start exploring the house.)

But boyfriend is important to me. And so is his family. And I want to learn their traditions and get involved in them and be part of their family, too, because that is part of the end goal and in the five-year plan that we have made. And also my family is too far away to go home to for Thanksgiving, so this seems like a good starting place.

But also his family is weird (although I like them very much) and also has issues which are not mine to discuss here and those can be upsetting and confusing to me. Because I mostly know how to deal/cope with/ignore my family issues (because we have our deep dark hidden secrets, too, but I know how we approach them), but I am confused with these issues when I know what they are but I do not have a lifetime of dealing with them to have developed coping mechanisms or to have learned the rules regarding them.

Luckily, there were small children and dogs present. Those are my strongest groups of social interactions. I made new friends, even with the shy ones. We put together puzzles. Both of those classes of living things have a tendency to like me because I don’t mind sitting on the ground and acting embarrassingly. I also discussed farming and coyotes with someone else, which is another one of my strong points.

And his family that I know was very very nice, and most of the people I didn’t know were also nice.

So it was good. And then I came home and lost all my words and boyfriend came over for a bit until the meltdown-shutdown-crying-panic-overload went away and I was happy again.

And then I slept for 13 hours.

(Which threw off my sleep schedule which is why I am still up past 2:00 now…)

~~~
* Or a 50 person Christmas
**Definitely made one-person sweet potato pie the day after to make up for the fail.

Stopping Stims for safety

I work in a lab. There are lots of toxic chemicals.

I wear gloves a lot. (Which, by the way, I sort of really dislike A LOT because I have unusually shaped hands.  Small gloves have too short of fingers and medium gloves have too fat of fingers, so I get my eppendorf tubes stuck on them.) (But it is less of a sensory issue and more of I-keep-closing-the-fingers-of-my-gloves-in-my-Eppendorf-tubes issue.) But I can handle gloves and they are rather important, because I don’t want to die. Or get paraformaldehyde or ethidium bromide and such on myself because that stuff is nasty.

The thing I struggle the most with is not putting things in my mouth. If I bring my phone to lab (which I do, because, you know, knowing the time is nice) (and also being contacted and stuff) (and also I’m in lab all day), then I have to be very careful not to touch it with my gloves at all. Because I do put my phone in my mouth (well, to the edge of my lips a lot).

I have to remember to not put my hands in my mouth. Or my face when I am wearing gloves. And pens.

My new solution to this is just to really strictly segregate my chemical and non-chemical section of my desk. Take off gloves COMPLETELY when not doing lab work. (Which really I should be doing anyway for safety reasons.) (Gloves are a good reminder usually to not put my hands in my mouth, since I can always feel them on my hand.)

And then not to bring my phone with me to my bench, but keep it at my desk. Also, I got a timer, now, which was quite useful, since I don’t have to use my phone as a timer anymore.

And for my pens, I put a piece of lab tape on them near the end to keep myself from chewing on them.

I can do a lot of other stimming in lab. (I bounce and flap around lab all day, as long as I am not near chemicals or breakable things.) I have a brain-shaped stressball at my desk that is fun to play with. I have a string that I tie knots in. (For goodness sakes, the guy on the other side of the lab has tennis balls that he bounces off the wall where my desk is when I am not there, so moving around in lab really isn’t all that abnormal.)  I just really shouldn’t be putting things in my mouth, since I like to not ingest carcinogenic and toxic materials.

_____
P.S. I AM CHOOSING TO ALTER MY BEHAVIOR ON MY OWN. NO ONE ELSE IS TELLING ME TO DO IT. I JUST WOULD RATHER REPRESS STIMMING THAN EAT PARAFORMALDEHYDE ACCIDENTALLY. OR BREAK A MICROSCOPE THAT COSTS MORE THAN A HOUSE. BECAUSE CONFOCALS ARE EXPENSIVE, YOU GUYS.

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.

The sounds of lab

The hums of the -80 and the -20s and the 70 degree incubators all combine to create a beautiful white noise. There are different modulations and volumes, but they are all very consistent. It is the sound of lab and science. It is interrupted by the occasional door opening, the jingling of keys. Sometimes the quiet roar of the microcentrifuge like a very tiny airplane taking off and landing.

For me, it is overlaid by the sound of my typing, the sound of my tapping my desk. I can hear myself bouncing and spinning in my chair. I can hear when I spin my chair and knock my knees against the sides of the desk, back and forth, while I am thinking.

But the lab is safe (even if it is cold) and softens the noise. The quiet sounds of stimming don’t carry. And people don’t mind here, when I bounce and I flap at my desk (away from the delicate instruments and dangerous chemicals).*

Sometimes there are conversations. They can be quiet ones at people’s desks. They can be fun ones about dogs or food. They can be invitations to eat. I can join in them if I want to, by moving to the physical location of them. This lab is very welcoming. It is enough to fill my need for human interaction, and I can adjust it down on quiet days.

Most of the time it is silent, with just the sounds of the lab.

I come home from work not overloaded. I’ve been sitting in a room with other people from 9:30 to 6:00, usually, and I can come home from work without being overloaded. I can make dinner (usually). Sometimes I can go grocery shopping. I can study and do chores (not that I do them, but I usually am capable of doing them). I’ve started being able to bake again on weekdays sometime. To do enjoyable things that still require a bit of effort.

I think this works for me.

I think I’m almost adjusted in.

I think I can do this.

~~~
*As long as I am sitting on something seperate–in lecture halls, the seats are sometimes connected and when someone bounces, everyone moves. The rhythm of other people’s leg tapping and jiggling (usually felt and heard during tests) is something that I do no consistently handle. So when I remember, in the class where our seats are connected, I play with string instead of rock. I take notes and doodle, and try not to bounce when I can (I am usually pretty good at redirecting with no really cost, since I like class and it is in general not a stressful environment, so