Tag: Autism

Autistic Pride Day 2017

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Today is considered to be Autistic Pride Day. Yes, I should be happy because it’s one day out of the year where I’m supposed to be proud of who I am. And yet, I’m not exactly at that point because this year has been a roller coaster. If you were looking for a sugarcoated post for Autistic Pride Day, have some lemons instead.

If you recall, I was told that I wasn’t autistic to begin with. That was difficult to process and I am still trying to deal with it, though the intensity has died down considerably. My emotions for that are now tied with the impending moment of coming out to my folks, which is a bunch of “I don’t know what to expect”. After all, how can I be queer and autistic at the same time? (The results of this will be discussed in a later post)

There are days where I wake up and think “BOY AM I GAY TODAY! LIKE, THE GAYEST GAY EVER! I AM SO FABULOUS!” Then there are those where it’s “Why do I even bother?” It’s not all rainbows on flags and infinity ribbons every single day. Do I have any love for who I am? I can’t tell; I really can’t. I have felt that way for as long as I can remember. I just didn’t think too highly about myself because I let others come before me. I’ve internalized that when living with my family and figured if I wanted things done, I should do it myself. Sure, people have told me I’m brave or I’m being courageous but I’ve brushed those compliments aside because, in my head, it comes across as hollow. I just do things because of logic and common sense, not really for the figurative medals of valor or warm feels. Since I had to pass as someone normal in my formative years, it’s taking a while to undo all of that.

I do carry my stim tools with me. I do flap my hands to music, each a different pattern depending on the beat. I attend my monthly support group meetings, no matter what the attendance is. I keep in contact with my autistic friends that I’ve met over the years. I still want to help future generations of autistic kids as they grow up in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to all minorities. I do my best to show people a new way of discourse when talking to disabled people about how some representation is flawed or toxic (looking at you The Good Doctor). There are opportunities for me on the horizon but it all seems so far away.

It’s 2017 and there’s still a long way to go for pride. Sure, you have the newly canonized Blue Ranger from the mediocre Power Rangers reboot and the puppet form of Julia on Sesame Street. Personally, I headcanon Gregg from the video game Night in the Woods (pictured above) because that means he’s a queer autistic. On the flipside, “autistic” is still being used as an insult in the ugliest parts of the internet and as insinuation for being unfit to lead. Fidget spinners are all the rage but the majority fail to grasp who they’re supposed to help. It’s still difficult to get and remain employed because of numerous hurdles.

Most importantly, the post-Rain Man generation has grown up and are trying to claim their place at the table of humanity. But since we’re constantly told that we aren’t really autistic for any number of garbage reasons, we get criticized for even having a modicum of pride of who we are because “it’s such a burden and should not be taken lightly”. To those who have heard this sentiment time and time again, ignore them. Celebrate you for who you are on this day. Rupaul’s quote, even with the baggage he brings with him, still rings true. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love somebody else?”

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The Bombshell

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In January, I went in for some testing to see what exactly was wrong with me. Two weeks ago, I finally got the report and a whole lot more than what I bargained for. I’ve been trying to process all of it and I’m finally ready to talk about it.

The gist of the report says that what I was experiencing was adjustment disorder that stemmed from my youngest brother leaving for college on top of dealing with the bottled stress from my job. I’m not happy that I had to quit my job because I couldn’t handle him going away. I feel fine now but I just feel upset at myself for letting it happen this way.

The biggest bombshell that was detailed in the report was that I don’t meet the criteria to have been diagnosed with autism. Apparently my executive functioning skills are just too good to meet that criteria when I know for a fact that’s not the case. The report stated that I never had a language evaluation as a kid to back this up.  Curious, I asked my parents after that initial meeting about my diagnosis. They told me that when they took my younger brother in for testing so that he could get some services from school, the doctor interacted with me briefly and asked my parents some questions. My parents did some research after that and decided I was autistic (Asperger’s back then but still). There was nothing on paper, no professional evaluations. All of it was based on a guess.

You see the narrative of how someone who goes undiagnosed for so long and then when they learn about autism, everything clicks. I can’t find one that goes in reverse. I am floating inbetween zones because I’ve now hit another identity crisis. How can I be at terms with something I may have never had in the first place? Peers have tried comforting me of the fact that this isn’t a bad thing (as if it was to begin with) but it doesn’t help. And then to have my parents come clean about my quasi-diagnosis after all these years makes it worse.

Am I mad as hell? You bet. After all, autism is a serious topic, especially as my generation enters a world that is ill-equipped to accommodate us because the focus was all on the kids. Would it put my mind at rest if I sought out a professional diagnosis, just to say it’s on paper and it’s for real? Probably but is it really worth the effort? Do I self-diagnose, knowing full well of the baggage that it carries? Or do I do neither and just float about in a twilight zone of neurological confusion? This journey has gotten a lot harder, especially as I look at my feed the House passed the dangerous “health care” bill. If I do get the diagnosis, I’ll get charged for a pre-existing condition that was out of my control. If I don’t, I’ll save some money but at the cost of mental health issues.

I’ve tried to distract myself with Beat poetry and finding my muse in Burroughs and Ginsberg, drowning my ears with the sounds of Jocelyn Pook and The Orb. I’ve taken naps out of sheer boredom because it’s a cheap way to detach yourself from the world with little side effects. I’ve sought comfort with my boyfriend and he’s been very supportive of me and what I’m going through. But where do I go from here? This fox has no clue.

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.)