My Precious Space

Image may contain: possible text that says ''I love to be left alone. I cope with life by withdrawing into my own head and thinking my own private thoughts Any interaction or disturbance to this private world is very upsetting.' Alis Rowe 6 a facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhair'

The above picture hits me right where I live!

I cherish my space!

Space became an issue when I moved in with my dear, sweet Mom after retiring from the federal workforce in Washington, D.C.  My precious space was reduced to the size of a bedroom.  The bedroom is also occupied by my Mom’s mega-sized computer desk.  I have a passion for computers, laptops, tablets, etc.  My Mom doesn’t share that passion and does not use her computer near as much.  She does make almost a half-dozen stops in my room throughout the day to see what her FACEBOOK friends are up to.  I’ll just say sharing my space does NOT come naturally to me.

I feel trapped sometimes when someone else is around while I am in my precious space. I prefer to do most things by myself such as computer tasks, working on crossword puzzles, video-gaming, and doing household chores.  I like doing things with NO witnesses. It’s like driving with a back seat driver behind you second-guessing your driving performance.

I’m mostly okay when my Mom comes in and checks in on her FACEBOOK.  I try to be patient if she’s in a conversation mood even when I am not.  But it’s a whole different story when my Mom plays a video accompanied by SOUND!

Logically speaking, I know she has every right to do so.  It is her computer and furthermore, it is her house!  But with having Autism, my reaction to the sound is way out of bounds.  What comes over me I cannot fully describe in words.  I have tried to stay in the room and try to get my mind off of it.  I have as much success at getting my mind off of it as I would have ignoring a sliver of glass stuck in my foot.   I don’t tell her to turn it off since I have no right to dictate such.  Telling her to turn it down doesn’t work because I can hear it at high, medium, and low volumes.  The only coping mechanism is to get off my rear and leave far enough that the sound isn’t within earshot which usually entails going outside weather permitting; if not, there is the garage.  When the sound is gone, my meltdown is over.

I am not bothered if the sound is coming from my computer.  Easy fix!  Just turn it off if I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t write this off as simply a control thing.  Yes, if I am playing the sound, there is no meltdown.  However, my turning into a wild animal when hearing sound around, above, or below me is something I truly wish I could control.  Autism is what it is.  I have coping mechanisms, but just when I think I’m in control, my Autism rises up and slaps me in the face.

On the bright side, and there is one, there’s no space like my space.  Space where I can pursue my strengths and passions.  Space where I can stim to my delight.  My bedroom isn’t much space since my electronic gadgets do take up a lot of room.  But what space of my own there is, I feel blessed to have it and cherish the time I am in it.

DO PEOPLE WITH ASPERGER’S LAUGH?

The short answer “YES!”

This was a question I came across on the “Quora” website. The question itself prompted this Aspie to laugh. I was compelled to answer it giving my 2 cents worth.

Someone told me long ago that if you can laugh at it, it hasn’t defeated you. I have kept that thought in the back of my mind ever since and I added another: if I can write about it, it hasn’t defeated me either. So that’s one reason since learning I had Asperger’s at the end of 2016 that I write about it. So with that in mind, writing about it with a dash of humor that might make you laugh with me, here’s some of the cast of characters I live within Aspieland for better or worse.

Ms. Stimfield

She is definitely a daily character in Aspieland. She is a quick change artist – a leg shaker, a rocker, floor pacer, jogger, etc. Good medicine for my anxiety. One of the friendliest characters in my Aspie world.

The Meltdowner

The “grinch” of Aspieland. The ogre arises sometimes over a small aggravation or for no apparent reason. It raises the tension in my body to where it feels like an erupting volcano. After its leaving, I am as drained as I would be after being caught in the midst of a noise-filled crowd with little elbow room.

The Escape Artist

This artist is the most mysterious member of the cast. If you came upon someone talking to their self, pacing the floor and/or performing gestures indicating they are off in another world, you might be leery of the person. I do this but I make every effort of doing it without witnesses. I know if I could see myself on the video camera, my escapism would look strange even to me. No matter, it is a necessity for me. It helps me cope in a world I don’t understand.

Ms. Solitaire

To put it simply, Aspieland is living alone surrounded by people. I’m most comfortable doing things on my own. I am the observer far more than the participant. Ms. Solitaire helps to keep The Meltdowner at bay, if possible. I thank Ms. Solitaire for recharging my batteries.

Ms. Perfection

This character makes me think of one word: annoyance. She is persistent in reminding me I have to finish whatever I start. Not only finish, but it is perfect enough that I can walk away from it with nothing left undone. She is exhausting, but without her, I might not have received as many “kudos” for doing a successfully completed job.

The Organizer

This is the most useful one of the cast. It prompts me to organize things by color, alphabet, age, genre, etc. It isn’t a chore to organize; it’s a TREAT! I am in a delightful place when the Organizer is at work. The other day I secretly organized my Mom’s kitchen pantry. I bet she had cans of food that she didn’t know she had on hand. Since she is neurotypical, I don’t think the pantry will stay in the order I put it in.

Ms. Sensitivity

Another annoying character but not to the degree as the Meltdowner. She is the reason I wear an eye mask at night to avoid the lights coming from my collection of digital lit-up gadgets. She is why I play white noise music to drown out my heartbeat or the snoring coming from another room. Ms. Sensitivity doesn’t kick up a storm when the music playing is my music. But when it is someone else’s music, she will bring on The Meltdowner!

There are characters wearing white hats and others wearing black. And, some are not entirely white or black just as Asperger’s itself. It isn’t entirely black or white either. Aspies do laugh and sometimes the source of the laughter is the characters in Aspieland.

A Square Peg

Unless one has Autism, one can’t understand it. Those of us who do can’t fully explain it. I can only give one a glimpse of what it is for me.

I am more comfortable in an environment where there are rules laid out and aren’t assumed that everyone knows them. I am aggravated by those who act as if rules are mere suggestions. I welcome and need rules. In an unstructured environment, I feel as uneasy as my dog would feel in a bird cage.

If a rule doesn’t make sense to me, well, that’s another story. I’m not usually defiant, but I have had my moments.

Routine is essential! It has to do with feeling safe and secure in the world. If someone else changes it, I am traumatized. If I change my routine as I occasionally do, no problem.

Sometimes the source of my meltdowns is background music. I don’t dare complain to the one playing the music, much less scream or cry because it would draw unwanted attention. The best option is to go some place beyond earshot. If not, I will be boiling inside like a tea kettle.

Conversation can be a struggle. That’s one reason I am most comfortable when I am by my self. It takes me seconds longer to respond to someone’s question. That’s why I often ask for someone to repeat what they said to give me a few more seconds even though I may have heard them the first time.

I enjoy one-on-one conversations with one I share a mutual interest. I wish such would happen more often than it does. I guess having limited interests has something to do with that. Such as politics being one of my interests but I am surrounded by those who are on the opposite side.

I dread being amidst a social chit-chat with no escape route. If there is no graceful exit, I drift into daydream land.

I prefer having a schedule as I go about my business of living each day. I thrive with a schedule with the consistent rhythm of one thing after another instead of things happening all at once or nothing happening at all.

I despise being pointed out in a group as the quiet one. I do not have to be told I am a quiet person. I’m over a half-century old and so it isn’t headlining news to me.

I have this thing about time literally speaking. If someone tells me they’ll arrive at noon, I expect to see them at noon or early; not at 12:55. I’d rather they say “noon-ish” if that’s what they really mean.

Highly sensitive! Just even a slight bit of criticism or correction will take me so long to get over if I ever do.

I lack empathy. I shy away from emotional scenarios. It is easier for me to show my affection with actions instead of words. Helping someone with doing tasks helps them and gives me something rewarding to do.

A word that is on my hate list is “group”. It doesn’t matter whether it is a group meeting or group outing. It doesn’t matter whether it is held at the workplace or home base. When more than two are gathered, my mute button comes on.

I am the square peg in a group of round pegs.

How Does One Know They Are Having an Autism Meltdown?

Of all the symptoms I deal with living on the Spectrum, the meltdowns are the toughest. They are the volcanoes. Sometimes they just produce a rumble; but oh, my goodness, there are those that spew out lava (aka tears).

I don’t always know what the trigger is. Before I learned I was on the Spectrum, I used to have peculiar and frightening meltdowns at night. This went on for many years and I didn’t know what was behind them. They would come on me suddenly and overwhelm me.  I know this sounds strange but it felt as if the bed pillows and sheets were conspiring against me. I would get up out of frustration and throw the pillow down as if it was my attacker.  I’d throw the sheet/bed cover on the floor as if it was my worst enemy. The picture that came to mind was behaving like a cat with its tail caught underneath a rocking chair.

After this happened enough times, I knew it was something I had no control over and I just had to “rock” my way through it. The rocking was “stimming” but I didn’t know what stimming was at the time. As surely as it came over me, it left me after minutes passed. The minutes, however, seemed much longer than that. Fortunately, I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years.  The last one was before I started taking my antidepressant medication which has tremendously helped me to the point that I don’t dread nighttime like I used to.

However, I do still have “daytime” meltdowns. Those haven’t stopped paying me visits. Sometimes they come upon me without any obvious trigger, but most of the time there is one. It can be a sound or smell that rises the tension in my body. It may be a pet peeve and my reaction is way out of bounds with it. If I can walk away from the annoyance, the odds improve of a lighter meltdown or not having one. If I can’t, it’ll be Mount St. Helens all over again.

My Friday the 13th Meltdown

My living on the Spectrum includes hearing some things more loudly, tasting some things differently, smelling some things more strongly, and feeling some things more strongly.

It was supposed to be an ordinary afternoon assignment subbing for a teacher’s aide in a special education pre-school class. It turned into an unordinary day with a few sentences. It is easy to remember the date because it was Friday, the 13th. I’m not superstitious or anything, but that Friday, the 13th, will go down as memorable because I spent the afternoon in meltdown country while trying to pretend I wasn’t in one.

While I was watching three of the seven students in the play section, I was told to put something away. I wasn’t yelled at, but it took me back in my mind to 1st grade when the teacher had me stand in a corner.  I imagine to a neurotypical, it would have been no big deal. Something that fell off one’s back.  I so wish it could have been that way for me, but living on the Spectrum includes feeling things strongly.

I felt a thrust of panic shoot through me landing in the pit of my stomach.  I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve lived through similar experiences and it’s just as painful as it was when I was a child. I immediately responded in a socially acceptable way without showing any sign of my panic button going off. I didn’t want anyone to know I was falling in meltdown country.  I had a job to do and had to keep what was going on in my inner being a secret somehow.

Shortly thereafter, I was assigned to assist one of the students who was severely autistic. Try to imagine this picture: A 58-year-old woman with autism trying to calm down a 5-year-old child with autism while she is fighting back tears as she is melting down inside. It is sort of like the blind helping the blind.

The thinking part of my brain was telling me, “All you need to do from now on is…  It is no big deal, stop thinking about it, etc.”  That was logic talking and there’s nothing logical about my hypersensitivity.  There were no shortcuts. I had to weather through all the stages of fear, shame, guilt, and anger before I would ever feel any peace about it.

Then, it came time for gym class. The activity was video dances and the lights were out while the kids danced. Thanks to the lights being out, I was relieved of having to fight back the tears. I let them stream down my face. I wanted so much to retreat to a corner, rock myself silly, and cry my heart out.

One thing that replayed over in my mind was the school day would end and I could make my escape back to my safe place at home.  I had been looking forward to the weekend but I knew a cloud would hang over it by reliving the afternoon episode of my Friday, the 13th.

The tears had dried up by the next morning but there was anger brewing. I went to the tennis range and hit the ball against the wall. My game of tennis was off because I took my frustration out on the ball. I was whacking that ball as if I was hitting what brought on my meltdown. If the ball could have talked, it might have said, “Hey, I didn’t do anything!!!”

Prayer without ceasing was a constant as I weathered the turbulence. The Lord’s Spirit spoke to my heart that it will pass and I knew it would. A verse that came to mind was:

2 Samuel 22:29
You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.

I didn’t lose my sense of humor. No meltdown has ever taken that; at least, not yet. I chuckled at my thought that come the next Friday the 13th, I should spend it in hibernation.

I’m one of those on the Spectrum who takes a long time to get over even a small slight. I predict I will have a conversation a decade from now if I should live so long in the shower about what I might have done or said differently on that Friday the 13th.

That is Just Billy

Since I was formally introduced to my never-sleeping constant companion, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I have researched it as if I was studying for a final exam. My Google search history is full of terms related to ASD. A couple of autistic forums I’ve joined have also given me volumes of information. Sometimes I think because I could give a long lecture on the subject, I should be able to control my emotions, symptoms, deficits. I should know that’s wishful thinking on my part.

I’ve since given ASD a name: Billy. That may be silly, but I have a peculiar sense of humor. No offense against the “Billy’s” in this world. I chose it because I like the name and it rolls off my tongue easy-like. It is therapeutic in an odd sort of way to give my ASD a name. After all, he is my constant companion. He can be naughty; he can be nice. He shows up in my dreams. Since I don’t have a choice about living with Billy, I can give it a name for humor sake. When I fix a sandwich in my own peculiar way, eat items on my plate in a specific order, or pace the floor when excited, or become extremely agitated from a sound I’m sensitive too, I think to myself, “Well, that’s just Billy.”

I spent a lot this past summer while off from my school job tending to my Mom’s yard. I got in the habit of when feeling a meltdown from Billy coming on and if it wasn’t pitch dark outside or pouring rain, I’d grab the clippers and give the hedge a haircut.  The hedge appears to have lost weight this summer since I didn’t lack for meltdowns this summer. The hedge is trimmer than I reckon it has ever been since it took root over a half-century ago. Thanks to Billy, I may have gone overboard with the clippers.

hedge

 

A Yard Toy to Me

Trimming the hedge has been added to my growing list of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) stimming methods to hopefully thwart meltdowns.  There is also the added benefit of exercise and being outdoors.  My backyard has become my ground to persevere by repeatedly picking up dead leaves, dead pecans, or giving the hedge a haircut.
Recently one of my brothers showed me how to operate the edger or weed eater.  It was a brand new one thanks to another brother who ordered it online.  He took the old one we had that was NOT user-friendly.  My brother sure knows how to pick ’em because the edger is easy to turn on, turn off, and operate.  There is a drawback.  I doubt there is an edge trimmer invented that doesn’t have this drawback.  It is not user-friendly to one’s ARMS.  Mine paid me back big time after I “played around” the sides of the yard with it.
My brother doesn’t care for edge trimming.  Me?  I took to it like a duck to water.  I used to think my attraction to gadgets, “gadgetitis”, was just quirky behavior.  After I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had a better understanding of what was behind my gadgetitis.
I don’t view the edger as a yard tool, but as a toy.  Give me a battery-operated or power-corded piece of work and just watch me go to work, no, rather, go play with it!

The Meltdown Mystery

I was on a date with my tennis racket and ball at a campus practice wall when another meltdown started brewing.  There are six practice wall cages and when I arrived, I was by my lonesome.  Then someone showed up with a DVD player and my opinion of their music was:  you call that music?

Seriously, the DVD was letting out a strong bass tone that felt like someone thumping at my ears.  I felt a meltdown coming on.  What does that feel like? A rumbling volcano comes to mind.

I knew if I remained in the cage, I would feel like a caged animal and so I walked out of the cage.  At least, I had the luxury of walking away from a meltdown trigger with a mile’s worth of walking trail out of earshot range.  The internal rumbling stopped somewhere along the trail. Eruption averted.  After walking the entire lap, the tennis player with the DVD player had left.  I didn’t return to the cage because the humidity and walk had done me in.

Of all the symptoms I deal with living on the Spectrum, the meltdowns are the toughest.  They are the volcanoes. Sometimes they just produce a rumble; but oh, my goodness, there are those that spew out lava (aka tears).

I usually know when I’m having one, but I don’t always know what the trigger is. Before I learned I was on the Spectrum, I used to have peculiar and frightening meltdowns at night. This went on for many years and I didn’t know what was behind them. They would come on me suddenly and would feel like my bed pillows and sheets were conspiring against me. I would get up out of frustration and throw the pillow down as if it was a bully.  I’d sling the sheet/bed cover on the floor as if it was my worst enemy.  The picture that came to mind was behaving like a cat with its tail caught underneath a rocking chair.

After this happened enough times, I knew it was something I had no control over and I just had to “rock” my way through it. The rocking was “stimming” but I didn’t know what stimming was at the time. As surely as it came over me, it left me after minutes passed. The minutes, however, seemed much longer than that. Fortunately, I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years.  I’m guessing that my antidepressant medication which has helped me sleep much better have something to do with that.

However, I do still have “daytime” meltdowns. Those haven’t stopped paying me visits.  Sometimes they come upon me without any obvious trigger, but most of the time there is one. It can be a sound or smell that rises the tension in my body. It may be a pet peeve and my reaction is way out of bounds with it. If I can walk away from the annoyance, the odds improve of a lighter meltdown or not having one. If I can’t, it’ll be Mount St. Helens all over again.

 

Three Against a King

There were three of them who lived about 600 years before Jesus was born.  They lived at the time King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon overtook Jerusalem and took captive many Israelites.  Among those who were forced to leave their home were the three young men and their friend and leader of the pack, Daniel, whose story is told in the Old Testament book of Daniel.  Their names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  After they were taken into Babylon, their names were changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel and his three co-captives excelled above their peers in wisdom and knowledge.  So much so that they got the attention and favor of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King engaged them to be his counselors. God blessed Daniel with the talent of interpreting dreams.  That talent won him a promotion when he was the only man in the kingdom capable of interpreting one of Nebuchadnezzar’s nightmares.  Daniel was in charge of Babylon and at Daniel’s request, the king appointed the three as administrators under Daniel.

The King had built a huge golden image and commanded all the people to fall down and worship it.  The routine was that whenever his musical Herald was played, the people were to bow down and worship the image.  There was no such thing as freedom of worship in the King’s realm.  The stiff penalty for anyone who refused to bow and worship the image was a blazing furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faced with a choice that was not of their own making.  They did not ask to be exiled to Babylon.  They probably would have traded all they had in Babylon, including their positions in the King’s administration, to be back at home in Jerusalem.  But it was what it was and they had to decide to follow the King’s command and avoid the furnace or worship the one true God only.  By faith, they stood up to the King and bowed to God’s wishes.  They left it in God’s hands as to the outcome of whether they lived or died.

According to Daniel 3:16-18:

16. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

17. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Their statements did not melt the King’s heart any.  Nebuchadnezzar got along well with those who did what he expected of them but had no tolerance for those who didn’t.  It didn’t matter to the King what the three’s reason was for not bowing to his order.  The King whose ego had been bruised was so angry that he commanded the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound and cast into the flames. The furnace was so hot that it even killed the soldiers who had escorted them.

But as King Nebuchadnezzar gave in to his curiosity and peeked into the furnace, he got an unexpected surprise.  The three he had put in the furnace were there, but their bodies were not charred.  They were walking around in the midst of the fire as pretty as they pleased.

If that wasn’t startling enough, there were four instead of three.  Who was the extra person?  The King noted the extra one looked different than the three.  The fourth had the appearance of the Son of God.  Upon seeing the seemingly impossible, the King called the three to come out of the furnace.  The three emerged without a single burn on them, with not even a strand of their hair singed or the smell of smoke on their person.

It was too incredible of a miracle for even King Nebuchadnezzar to deny.  He had a change of heart about the three and their God.  He admitted that God had sent His angel and delivered the three who had put their faith in God by worshipping only Him.   The three and the rest of the Israelite captives were granted freedom to worship and protection from harm by the king’s decree.  The actions of these three resulted in obtaining religious freedom for their fellow captives, but at the moment when they had to make a choice, it was their choice alone to make.

Who can relate to the story of the three?  I think most of us can.  Life affords us opportunities to sometimes make difficult choices.  I have never walked into a fiery furnace, physically speaking; but I have felt at times like I have, emotionally speaking.  A fiery furnace can be a literal one, or it can be the day-to-day grieving over the loss of a loved one.  It can be living with a debilitating illness or that of a loved one.  It can be the loss of a job and the ongoing, up-and-down roller coaster ride of finding another.  It can be living up to the conviction of one’s heart, such as heeding a call to go into the ministry or some other calling and receiving less than enthusiastic support from one’s inner or outer circle.

On the autism spectrum, a meltdown can feel like walking into a fiery furnace.  For most of my life, I didn’t know what they were.  I just knew they came like a storm cloud over me and then left.  I knew the cloud would visit again and again.  I’m thankful to the Lord for the diagnosis so I am no longer in the dark about this storm cloud.  I can’t keep it from coming, but I can pray my way through it instead of bowing down to it.

I don’t know how much control we have on a fiery furnace coming into our lives.  If it were up to me, there’d be no fires to put out but I know that’s not realistic.  I do have a lot of say of how I cope with them though.  I can lean on the Lord or myself.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego looked to the Lord as they faced the furnace and came away from it untouched.  It gained them the freedom to worship God and freedom not to bow down to any man-made image.  Oh, and by the way, they got a job promotion too.

A Crowded Nightmare

The nightmare happened on a day near the end of the school year for a 6th-grade boy with autism. There was something different going on at school that day. A break from their regular routine to attend a gym competition. For him, any change in routine, good or bad, can be another nightmare.

The competition was among the older grades. I was taking part by helping the coach take score. I noticed him coming in with panic written all over his face. He looked around as if he had stepped out of a car and found himself in a faraway place. His world had been thrown off kilter. I felt empathy because I had been in a similar boat many times.  Routine is essential to me too.  I just have coping skills he doesn’t have.  I don’t think it was just the crowd, but the hustle and bustle of basketball shooting, frisbee throwing, and relay racing. There were whistles blowing and kids roaring with boos and applause.

The teacher aide recognized he was in sensory overload. She had him sit down with some of his classmates who were taking all the commotion in stride.  In no less than a minute, he got up and stepped out on the gym floor spinning in circles. He made an indescribable sound but a familiar one to those in his inner circle. This is his own unique distress call when he is potentially in meltdown country.  When he almost ran into a student who wasn’t steady on her feet, the teacher brought him back to the sidelines. He sat there for maybe five minutes. That was as long as he could take before getting back up and spinning once again on the floor.

This time the aide brought him back but she sat down on the floor with him. She gently rubbed his arms and hands to soothe and reassure him it was okay. Her idea worked and he calmed down enough to remain seated.

Although he could pass for a high school football player, he is a gentle soul. Even in meltdowns if he physically hurts anybody, it is himself.  After the last contest, she had no problem whatsoever getting him to go back to the classroom. He was the first one in line as his class walked back.  He was more than ready to return to the familiar place and resume the routine. His crowded nightmare, at least the one that day, was over.