The Evaluation

1_2069781i

Monday was a mentally exhausting day for me. I was scheduled for a neuro-psych evaluation that would last for four hours. I wasn’t that stressed about it because the testing would be things I could do easily and would be stimulating.

I was called back by a nice gentleman around 1:15, trying to weave my way around a very disruptive child having a bad session. The room was small and windowless. It was also quite warm¬†but I grew acclimated to it. He explained that there’d be three tests: the WAIS-IV (IQ), the MMPI (psychopathology) and a third one that was on the computer. I was allowed to have drinks and snacks during my break because I couldn’t sit there for four straight hours.

First, there was some block arrangement. Match the pattern in the book as fast as possible. Simple enough, up until the last problem where I ended up taking a bit longer than I’d like.

Next was some short-term memory recall. I struggled with some of the number sequences once they became longer. I tried to mimic the BBC Sherlock and visualize the numbers as they appeared but I wasn’t successful. Then I had to do the same thing backwards. As the sequences got longer, I noticed my ADHD kicking in despite taking my medication earlier that morning.

I was asked how two items were similar. This was to demonstrate the ability to think abstractly or something like that. He then showed me a list of words and asked me to define them. I got all but the final one; my etymology skills failed me in that moment.

After that, he asked me what kind of problems I was having. I gave him a CliffNotes version of the past four months, saying I had no clue what or why it was happening to me. He assured me that the doctors would eventually find an answer to what’s going on (apparently it’s not conversion disorder like I thought).

Next came some mental math questions. All those times in school I thought mental math would get me nowhere came back to bite me as I slipped up on an embarrassingly simple subtraction problem but then worked my way through the rest. It stung a bit because I couldn’t change my answer even though I usually come across as an intelligent man.

I was then asked some general knowledge questions. As he worked his way through the list, he paused and chuckled at one question: who was Martin Luther King Jr.? We both laughed because it was a coincidence that this would be asked on MLK Jr. Day. A few questions later, he asked what the importance of the freedom of speech was in a democracy and why it’s important to maintain good relations with other countries. We both smirked because we both knew why but some higher-ups clearly didn’t.

Then came some more recall, this time with stories. In grade school, my reading comprehension was terrible. I dreaded taking the computerized tests that asked for specific details that I didn’t think were important. I listened to the story and had to repeat as many details as I could remember. Some more tests came later and then he asked some long-term recall questions from those stories.

Towards the end, I was given survey after survey asking about my mood and desires. The MMPI in particular was exhausting because it was over 550 questions that asked me things ranging from whether or not I had a compulsion to steal, if I drink to feel better about myself (never had a drop), multiple questions on suicide that were phrased the same way, if I ever wished I were the opposite sex (clearly written with a gender binary in mind), and others.

After I finished all of that, he took me out of the office and told me it’d be another five to seven weeks before I heard back. At this point, I’m used to waiting. I left with a substantial hunger in my belly as I needed dinner. The testing gave me a glimpse into the future in terms of a career in psychology. With the cursory understanding of the abnormal, I was able to pick out what the questions were specifically asking. I knew I could mentally eliminate some diagnoses because I had no inclination towards them (alcoholism, kleptomania, pyromania). The rest, I’m not sure.

All I can do is wait.

Advertisements

And a Flappy New Year

I’m not the first one to say it but 2016 was awful. Between the numerous high-profile celebrity deaths, the turmoil from one of the ugliest elections in history, and having a freak illness take me away from work for a few months, I’m glad to see it go away. But what good came from it?
I’ve had a few good things but they’re rather small in scope. I saw some friends welcome their firstborn children. I saw a friend publish his autobiography that I helped edit. I was a guest on a podcast three times, tackling subjects like the state of Christian films to how well Rain Man holds up. I saw Zootopia with my best friend several times. I saw my youngest brother graduate high school and start college. I voted in my second election. I have two long-term projects I’m working on that I started this year. Finally, I found a purpose.
I’d be remiss without recounting some of the disappointing things. I had a friend move away. I attended the funeral for my high school principal at the start of the year. I internally panicked when I got pulled over for the first time. I’ve had to constantly train new people for my job because they kept quitting or were transferred elsewhere. A mix of bad medicine and the conversion disorder sidelined me. I tried applying for jobs and was turned down. I saw a nation become incredibly divided and revealed its ugliness.

I want 2017 to be a better year but “better” is a relative term. Each new year is unpredictable in its own way but this time it’s different. I’m going to enter a period that has only been described between the pages of history books and hardback fiction. I don’t know how the future will play out but I’m going to do my best to make it better.

For the longest time, I imagined myself as being in the movie business. Maybe I’d make it big and use my influence to bring positive representation of autism to the screens. Or be an independent filmmaker, having more control over my projects to make what I want and say what I want to say without compromising. I do have some projects on the side but I’m concentrating on going back to school.

I only have a vague idea of the path before me. I’ll be going well outside of my comfort zone. Hoping that I’ll make something of myself, I look toward the future despite its grim appearance.

Flappy New Year everyone.

An Autistic Christmas

Winter has definitely arrived in northeast Indiana. I look outside and the snow and a blown tire have sat for days in our front yard. I still have a few things to prep for Christmas Day but I’m torn in my loyalties toward family and friends. I also find myself a bit more distant even though I try not to be.

Growing up Catholic, my family always goes to church. As a kid, we went to the overcrowded 5:00 service on Christmas Eve just so that we wouldn’t have to get up early the next day and go then. It was a nightmare because I had to wear uncomfortable clothes and endure the noises: screaming kids, families who only appeared a few times out of the year, priests that rambled, the church organ and choir. I wanted to be in there as little as possible because of all of those factors. As I grew up, we went to the shorter midnight Mass at 10 pm (there has to be a better name).

Getting gifts for others was another challenge. For family, I knew what their interests were and what they owned so as to avoid duplicates. This was easy. All I had to do was hide their presents in my room until that day. Currently, I still can’t drive so I’ve had my parents take me shopping; not ideal but necessary. I know what emotions I can expect when they open their gifts. With friends, I also know their interests but I have to do some guesswork because I don’t generally know what they already own. I hope the end result is happiness but I can’t tell from year to year. However, exchanging gifts with friends feels more rewarding to me because I get there’s a sense of genuine unconditional care. With family, it’s expected and feels forced at times. 

On Christmas Day, it takes about an hour for everyone to open their gifts. After that, everyone goes their separate ways until lunch and dinner with some socialization inbetween. I take my spoils to my room and start to make a dent in the candy.

When I’m with friends, yeah, I know I have to socialize but it’s more relaxed because the way we socialize is different. I have more of a voice with them than with family. There’s more spontaneity because I don’t see them as often as I see my folks. I almost wish I’d spend the day with them but sometimes the closest I get is via text.

My mood is more or less calm during the day. After all, it’s a day of celebration; why should I worry? Why should I care? It really only changes if I’m asked to do something I don’t want to. At that point, I’m more or less annoyed until I return to whatever it was I was doing.

As I grow older, I find myself wishing to spend the holidays with other autistics. So far, I can only do this online. Just the idea of celebrating in our own way with no need for pretense is a grand idea; one that may be possible in the coming years. For now, I just do what I can.

The holidays can be stressful for any number of reasons but that shouldn’t mean going through it alone. I want you other autistics to know that I’m here for you. Merry Christmas and flappy holidays.

Not Throwing Away My Shot

Over the past few months, I’ve done quite a bit of soul-searching. Between being put on medical leave for conversion disorder and the recent election, I’ve noticed that I there’s a lot of work that I need to do if I want to make a difference in this world.

I had a serious medical episode at work back in September at my job, an insulated window factory. The best I can sum it up is that I had a dissociated state and couldn’t move or speak. I was transferred to a more secure and less stressful part of the factory. At the same time, my doctor gave me Lexapro which eventually proved to be extremely detrimental. This eventually led to me being placed on medical leave for a few months.

During that time, I had several appointments for new meds and an EEG because these episodes continued. Each day was a nightmare since there was no way of knowing how or when they’d happen. I even had a therapist involved that I still see because I had no idea what it could be (eventually concluded it was conversion disorder after meeting).

With the time I had spent recovering, I thought about going back to college but wasn’t sure what for. It was in the back of my mind for many months but I didn’t want to go for the sake of going. It wasn’t until after that fateful day in November that I needed to give it some serious thought.

I went to visit family for Thanksgiving, a move that I didn’t want to do but it the decision was out of my hands. In preparation, I borrowed the soundtrack for Hamilton from my library because I had never heard it. As I rode the Ohio landscape in the backseat, I let it wash over me. Then this lyric struck a chord with me:

I am not throwing away my shot. No, I’m not throwing away my shot. Yo, I’m just like my country: young, scrappy, and hungry. No, I’m not throwing away my shot.

In the back of my head, I was thinking about how I can be a better advocate for autism and LGBT rights. I knew I needed to help but wasn’t sure how. I found out that a local college had a certificate in LGBT Studies. I thought it could help me gain a better understanding and meet others involved the community. This became more apparent as the cabinet slowly filled up with more and more dangerous people. As for the autism side, I’m doing the best I can to stay up to date with the latest news. I would like to see what the scene is like in northeast Indiana, see if there are any support groups for people my age.

I’d say that’s all but there’s the fact that I’m still living in a home where my preferences will need to be made known and it won’t be easy. I was raised Catholic and my parents stand by their beliefs. I’ve had to hide my sexuality from them for years but will eventually come out in the coming weeks.

I can’t stand on the sidelines any longer. I still have a chance to do some good. I am young, scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwing away my shot.

The Fox Wakes Up

Greetings readers, although for me it’s a return to blogging.

I’m Thomas. I’m a twenty-something queer autistic guy. I used to have a film-centric blog a few years ago but abandoned it due to work and time. Since graduating college with a film degree a few years ago, I’m currently pursuing a return to college for a psychology/human services kind of thing so that I can become a therapist or a fighter for disability and LGBT rights. It’s kind of hard to explain but that’s the path I have in front of me.

This blog will be autism-centric. Most of it will be either personal experiences or on something in the news. I want this to be a safe space for other autistics. I’ll do the best I can.

(Why a fox? They’re my favorite animal, that’s all.)