Thursday, July 27, 2017

7 Things I Like About Being Autistic

Being autistic isn't all misery and woe; we're just a little different. But like non-autistic people, we have strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the things I like about being autistic.
DISCLAIMER: While these apply to me, they may not necessarily reflect all autistic people. 




1. Feeling "high" all the time

Trippy, man.
Okay, maybe not 24/7, but definitely very often. I have a strong visual mind, vivid dreams and imagination, and an overall rich perception of life. While it makes me vulnerable to sensory overload, it also allows me to feel all sorts of euphoriaand without drugs. Music can be an spiritual experience, my emotions reacting like a VU meter (those little fluctuating volume bars on stereo systems). 

And just about anything I see with my eyes or visualize in my head can be beautiful, regardless of what it is. So anything visual and/or auditory that I enjoy can easily draw me in and mesmerize me.


2. My attention to detail
Just look at that grass. Look at it.
This can be both amazing and annoying. Amazing because it makes mindfulness techniques super easy: a single blade of grass can grab my attention and hold it. I can never ignore the rays of sunlight through the clouds, or forget a fire-hydrant painted like Van Gogh's "The Starry Night." Annoying because a single utensil out of place in the kitchen makes me irate 😠, and a bit of shine can distract me from a conversation and I'd have to ask the other person to repeat themselves.

Another benefit to this is my strict adherence to guidelines: I like to do things by the book 📖, every detail done correctly. This helps me in cooking / baking challenging recipes and make it good (or better) every time. And it certainly helps me in all my creative endeavors like writing and video editing, as I make sure everything is just right and meets expectations. It may annoy employers or professors who assign "normal" deadlines, but I can work thoroughly and skillfully when given the proper timeframe.


3. My unbreakable focus
Don't interrupt me.
I can focus intensely for long periods of time. Combining this with my attention to detail helps me memorize facts, imagery, and crucial information. When I get interested in something, my mind is hooked and I can't tear myself away. It's much easier to control this now that I'm an adult, but I do let off the reigns selectively when my hyperfocus has a reasonable purpose.

For instance, my "Mask of Normality" video was the result of my hyperfocus for two days straight, only taking breaks to eat and sleep. I don't typically do this long-term, but it's useful for projects big and small. One exception is my Asperger's documentary. My fiancé recalls me working on the film almost every night for many hours when I was in college, and he would often stay on a Skype call with me until he couldn't stay awake anymore. I would keep plugging away in the meantime, sometimes until sunrise. My focus seems to weirdly defy (or ignore) my human needs, so I'd gladly call it a superpower.


4. My connection to the earth
Everything is beautiful.
While I do like big cities as a site for social adventures, nothing beats wandering the forest on resting days. I seem to have a primal connection to nature, so being surrounded by it makes me feel at home. Too much of the city and I start to feel a strong urge to run off to the woods and away from people.

I also have an overall childlike fascination with the world and everything in it. So regardless of where I am (city, forest, Disneyland, parking lot, dumpster), I can always find something to amuse me. It's like mindfulness, taking in a scene or focus on a detail, and I hold onto that moment as if it is something miraculous.


5. Accepting others comes naturally
That's me taking the group selfie.
I find it easy to like anyone regardless of their differences. Since I myself have a disability, I understand from personal experience not to judge a book by its cover. This makes it easier for me to make friends 😊, and a very diverse mix of of them at that. The only downsides to this are some awkward social outings with mismatched friendsI can't always tell when people are uncomfortable with each otherand my vulnerability to toxic behavior / abuse thanks to my trusting nature. I'm more wary of the warning signs nowadays, though.


6. My deep self-awareness
Focus inwardly to improve outwardly.
My self-awareness makes me naturally insightful when it comes to things I experience, observe and internalize. This might seem odd for an aspie emotionally, considering the commonality of alexithymia among autistics (difficulty identifying / expressing one's own emotions). I DO have this problem, but I am quite good at psychoanalyzing myself in retrospect. This means I need to experience something first, live through the consequences (often many times), then recognize why it happened and how I should respond next time.

I've been told I am very self-aware and insightful, which surprised me at first since I assumed it to be normal, and then I felt sorry for those who lack the same ability (I guess that's why we have therapists!). At least I now know my anxiety triggers and how to avoid them in most cases, and have worked through some of them by delving into the psychology behind them. It's also helped my bodily awareness and planning a natural health regimen to further improve my well-being.


7. My constant need/drive for self-improvement
Truth.
It's easy to get lazy in your habits when you're well-adjusted and comfortable. But if you're the average autistic, you're probably not well-adjusted by nature. You're forced to adapt to the world around you on a daily basis, and because you lack instinctive social skills, you have to work pretty dang hard to learn them. This constant demand to fit in has always kept me on my toes, even in recent years when I do feel more well-adjusted (some people forget I am autistic).

Since self-improvement has been drilled into me socially, I apply this to other areas of my life like managing my emotions, healing my traumas, and replacing unhealthy habits with beneficial ones.

It also comes in handy in pushing myself to excel in my areas of interest and skill, like writing, video editing, cooking, naturopathy and (more recently) cultivating plants.

What do you like about being autistic? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I wish I could say more

I am very hesitant to write here often for many reasons. First, I question my own sanity as I often have conflicting thoughts and feelings. I have to think very carefully about what I really want to say.

I may be social in my everyday life, but on a deeper level I'm very reserved and hesitant to share anything personal at all... I think a lot of this is because I really don't want to deal with the emotional triggers associated with my deepest thoughts. It's anxiety-inducing talking about what's causing me anxiety!

Most of the time, I just don't have a ton to say. I only want to open my mouth if it benefits the world somehow. My documentary is probably my most extensive message, and it will take me many years to get that many organized words out again in any form, whether that be my fantasy novel or future films.

Deep down, I am always dealing with some kind of pain, but I'm so used to it by now and well-practiced in effective coping that I see no point in sharing everything. I sometimes feel old for thinking this way, since you sorta have to accept a lot of things you don't like as you get older.

But hey, I'm also blessed... I have a good life, great friends and family, a fiancé, and a bright future. Sure, I'll always have mental health problems, and while I can chip away at some of them, others may remain unresolved. That's okay. (It's taken me many years to be able to say that and truly believe it.)

If the closest I get to sharing some of my deeper mental health issues is to talk about them vaguely, I don't mind as long as it accomplishes something. Even if it's not particularly interesting to you guys as my readers, it's fine with me because I already feel better writing this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

DVD Discount to Celebrate 3,000 Subscribers!

I now have 3,000 subscribers on YouTube! I am super lucky to have you guys watching my videos and giving feedback. I'm also happy to see that my Asperger's documentary has spread so much awareness and helped promote acceptance of our species!

To celebrate, I applied a discount to my DVD copies of "Through Our Eyes: Living with Asperger's." This offer is only valid until August 9th, so if you don't already have a copy or want to pick up one for a friend, now is a great time!


Thank you all for your support! I love making videos on Asperger's and Autism and I hope to continue it for a while.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Autistic Gaming Initiative

Do you appreciate autistic people who love video games?
How about autism organizations that make an effort to support them?


If you haven't heard about the Autistic Gaming Initiative yet, you're in for a treat. Autistic gamers from all over the Internet are teaming up, playing games live once a month to raise money for the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and the Autism Women's Network. These charities are autistic-approved organizations that advocate for the interests of autistics, while providing them with much-needed resources.

EDIT: This specific stream is over, but there will be more since we have these once a month! Check out my Events page to participate in the next one.
Today begins the second Autistic Gaming Initiative live stream event, running from 3pm EST today to 3pm EST tomorrow.

This is the craziness that happened during the June 2017 streams:


           Steph Diorio                                         Alyssa Huber / Gingersnaspie
   
                                            kiotsukare                                                         Chaz

Each gamer has their own time slot before passing the baton to the next gamer. Check out the schedule to see who's streaming!

EDIT: This was for the June 2017 stream, please check AGI's Facebook page for the more recent schedules.
(ALL TIMES IN EST: Stream starts at 3:00 PM.)
3:00-5:24 EST: Sam: https://www.twitch.tv/maniacalchimera
5:24-7:48 EST: Sythra: https://www.twitch.tv/chibidragon007
7:48-10:12 EST: kiotsukare: https://www.twitch.tv/kiotsukare
10:12-12:36 EST: Tijawn: https://www.twitch.tv/tijawn
12:36-3:00 EST: Wolfesbrain: https://www.twitch.tv/wolfesbrain
3:00-5:24 EST: Joobles: https://www.twitch.tv/joobl
5:24-7:48 EST: Ell: https://www.twitch.tv/eldritchcadence
7:48-10:12 EST: Steph/1863_project: https://www.twitch.tv/1863_project
10:30-12:30 EST: Alyssa Huber / Gingersnaspie: https://www.twitch.tv/gingersnaspie
12:36-3:00 EST: Chaz: https://www.twitch.tv/chazserir

You can read their bios here.

EDIT: You can find Alyssa's next scheduled streaming time on the Events page.

To watch Alyssa's livestream, tune in tomorrow (Saturday) at 10:30am-12:30pm ESTthat's 9:30am-11:30am CST for local Chicagoans.


If you aren't already following Alyssa's blog on Asperger's Syndrome, check it out! This website (Alyssa Huber Films) is mainly for event updates, but her blog gives a more personal look at her experiences of being on the spectrum.

Thank you for your support, and see you then!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Social Limitations.

I'm what I call a "social introvert."
I like pretty much everyone, and find it easy to get along with diverse types of people. While solitude is my preference, I am also energized by certain people and activities. I'm up for all sorts of adventures as long as it's within my abilities, has an important purpose for me and fits into my schedule.

That being said, I might seem UNadventurous in many cases due to my limitations associated with Asperger's and introversion. Both severely limit how much adventure I can take in, regardless of my desire and determination to do it.

Let me give you an idea of my social capacity.
Every friend hangout, depending on the "difficulty level" can render me "disabled" for a day. It usually takes me 1-3 days to be restored to optimal functioning where I can keep up with most "typical" people. It doesn't matter how much I enjoyed it, or my "willpower" to recover. I also cannot "build up stamina" because my brain and body don't work like that. I have managed to increase my stamina/capacity with supplements, diet, sleep, and exercise, but even with that, overdoing it comes at a price. I still cannot push beyond my limits without crashing later.



The "difficulty level" of a social hangout is increased by things like:
  • Change of plans
  • New locations
  • New people
  • Sensory level of places / people (how loud, bright, etc.)
  • Information level of places / people (how much will be stuffed in my brain?)
  • Presence of anxiety triggers
  • Etc.

In this post, I am also taking into account other life stuff that uses my energy:
  • Being out in public, around people, noise, light, etc.
  • Shopping, errands, driving
  • Unpredictable events at home (family walking about/talking, guests, phone calls)
  • Work tasks, writing, research, filming, coordinating
  • Cooking, cleaning, watering plants, etc.
  • Managing my mental/physical health (exercise, meds, making herbal mixes, counseling, redirecting my scattered brain constantly, worrying about people, problem-solving)


HOW OFTEN CAN I SOCIALIZE?

How often I socialize really depends on the nature of the event, but it also depends on who I'm socializing with.

If I see a friend once a month or more, they are likely in my top 4 and I consider them a close friend. (#3-4 can rotate, but my top 1-2 stay the same.) I am not the typical person who hangs out with friends everyday at work and then again on the weekend. One friend per week (rotating friends so no one is left out) is quite enough for me. The only exceptions are for work and brief "stopping by" or "dropping things off" visits.

I also live with my family, which uses up a good bit of my energy as is.

If I see a friend more than once a year, it means they are probably in my top 20 and I value my relationship with them. No, I really do—that huge time gap for me is actually very small and I will feel like I just saw them yesterday.

For people who want to meet me, I am content to see them just once in my life.

I have a vivid memory, so I don't need many social hangouts to feel satisfied with relationships. In fact, too many can overload me and I'll end up resenting hangouts with the people draining my capacity. Of course, they'd never know because I can't be anything but polite to them.


WHAT ABOUT ONLINE FRIENDS?


Sometimes, people I have never met want to talk to me (like online friends and followers). And this is fine, I like talking some days, and I am flattered that others find something valuable in interacting with me. 

But I can't reply consistently, and I can't be everyone's best friend, so patience is pre-requisite for those who want to chat online with me.
I am happy to offer advice and encouragement, but I'm not an expert and cannot help resolve every problem that is presented to me (as much as I would like to). And I am so grateful to those giving me positive feedback and encouragement and would like to express that when I finally respond to them!


This is my email inbox. I promise I will answer you all, it will just take a while. T-T

It's not natural for anyone to have 100+ best friends; I'm sure you understand. I do really want the best for you guys, but I also want to be sane. :)


Friday, June 2, 2017

My Brain Exploded. | Delayed Overload

It's days like this that remind me of my limitations.

I've been doing really well lately, feeling like I can take on the world. That feeling flew far out of existence this morning when my overwhelm hit me like a ton of bricks.


And for no reason.

I take excellent care of my physical and mental health, so logically there shouldn't be any reason for this to happen if I was like most people. But I'm not like most people. I have Asperger's.

I know my ASD makes my brain neurodivergent and unique, and has helped shape who I am. So I don't hate me, I just hate the bad side of ASD! (And OCD, I have both)

My theory is that my recent bouts of exhaustion are due to "delayed overload." Since my lifestyle habits and supplements help increase my mental capacity, I can take in a lot more information than normal! I can do a lot more, too.

But every once in a while, that pile of sensory data and information explodes in my brain.



I go back to feeling like a failure as my body and mind feel sick. I suddenly can't control my thoughts, and I'm afraid of doing anything lest I add more fuel (information) to the flames (my broken brain).

I already feel bad about my social failures as is: like not hanging out often enough, or not being able to reply to all my emails and messages. I know part of it is that I know too many people, and part of it is my scattered attention...

I feel like no matter what I've done in life, I'm still a ditzy amateur and not meeting expectations.




The best I can do in these situations is wait it out, by myself. (Lest I vomit my insecurities on other people). I allow myself feel the pain, and let it pass. It helps to see it as a natural part of my system restoration process. Like running updated software on a system with outdated hardware, I sometimes gotta take a day to fix my system so I can continue to function at everyone else's level.

Sorry, everyone. I'll feel like myself again soon.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Diagnosis: A Basic Guide

One question I get a lot is how to seek diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (also Asperger's Syndrome, though that diagnosis was replaced by ASD in the DSM-V). The process is different for everyone and depends on which route you take, but here is a basic guide I put together to help you get started!

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Who Can Diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
- Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)
- Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
- Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs: also can diagnose teens)

Any psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, or developmental pediatrician can diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, it is recommended that you seek someone who specializes in autism, or at least one who has experience in diagnosing ASD. (For example, Dr. Wahlberg of the Prairie Clinic in Geneva, IL)














Which type of professional you should choose for diagnosis depends on your situation. For instance, in diagnosing a child, seek out professionals with much experience with children (i.e. a developmental pediatrician—though a child neurologist or psychologist may be just as good). Teens may also be diagnosed by pediatricians since they usually treat patients up to age 21.

Adults can be diagnosed by any psychologist, psychiatrist, and neurologist that aren't strictly pediatric professionals. If you are an adult and suspect you may be on the autism spectrum, don't be afraid to seek diagnosis. Despite the misconception that kids can "outgrow" autism, adults with ASD are still autistic—they may just look more "normal" due to coping mechanisms, and the pressure to fit in isn't as strong as it tends to be during school years.



How Do I Find a Nearby Professional?
A simple Google search is an easy way to get started. By typing "psychologists near me" or "neurologists in (your city, state)" it will find results based on your location.













Websites like Psychology Today's "Therapists" page, or other sites with similar lists, may be a good source if you want to look at individual professionals. Keep an eye out for someone with a PhD or PsyD if possible; they are definitely licensed to diagnose, though others types of professionals (like an LCSW) also can.













You can also find professionals on websites for counseling and therapy offices, usually under a tab like "About Us" or "Meet the Therapists."
























There may be cases where a psychologist is more accessible than a neurologist, or vise-versa, etc.—again, it really depends on the situation and what options are available to you. Use your best discernment in finding the right professional for your diagnosis.


How Much Does an ASD Diagnosis Cost?
It really depends. Your location is a major factor as well as your insurance. Some clients with insurance pay as little as $10-$80 for a basic diagnosis. Others without insurance or in specific locations might pay as much as $1000-$3000, especially if you get more extensive or high-quality testing. This Quora thread shows just how varied the cost can be: https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-typically-cost-to-get-a-formal-diagnosis-of-an-autism-spectrum-disorder

To check if a professional accepts your insurance, you can either find out on their website or by giving them a call. You can usually find out what insurance is accepted by a professional or office on pages like "Payment Options," "Insurance," or "About." If you cannot find the information, call or email them to ask.













If you have no insurance, some places will use a sliding scale to adjust their out-of-pocket price based on your income. Basically, the less money you have, the lower the price will be. Keep in mind it still may be pricey for you if the out-of-pocket expense is already very high. If there's no information on how to pay without insurance, contact the professional or office to find out.

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I hope this helps! If you still have unanswered questions, please comment below and I will do my best to find the answers!