Sensory Blocking

As many others on the spectrum one thing I have long struggled with is my senses. I have hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste, smell and pain. Sometimes all of these things bombard me all at once and it can get too much to handle.I can start to feel sick or I can feel as though I am physically pained by my surroundings. Things get too bright, too loud, too much. Sometimes it takes a lot like a crowded shopping centre, or something small like touching velvet. I remain convinced velvet ,along with cotton wool, was created by God or Satan purely to freak the living hell out of those like me. As a high functioning aspie, you are unlikely to ever see me have a melt down over this, or even express my feelings outwardly at all. I am a pretty internal person with how I cope with my senses and even at their worst I can usually remove myself from the situation or try to block the senses out.

One way I cope with it is by blocking out my surroundings through fully giving all of my far too alert attention to one sense. Giving myself over to just one sense can be enough to block everything else out. This is different from distracting yourself with a stim, a stim can ground you and help make the senses easier, but any autistic will know a stim cannot block out everything. I would liken what I do more to meditation than a stim, I let go of seeing and feeling and being and just focus on listening to music from my headphones. I let the world fall away and the noise and bright lights of it all just fade. When I do this I can ignore the information that floods me, I can avoid all peoples stares and just pretend that I am normal for a few hours. For anyone who hasn’t tried it I really recommend it.

I am sure that when I do this on trains and let my eyes close I must look like I am sleeping, or pretty damn stupid but that doesn’t bother me. Shutting out the world can seem anti social and like I am giving up on trying to assimilate into normal social life, and in many ways that might be the case, but for me this can give me time to recharge and face everything new again.Its not too different from charging the XP on a video game character, when they tire and need to stop for a few seconds they can just recharge then be good as new.

Music is so important and I really respect those who can make it and are talented in that world. I have the musicality of a drunken cat, but I can still appreciate music and the passion in it.

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My coming out story

My coming out story isn’t what most people assume it is. For me I never really came out as bi sexual, it was just something I was always open with and didn’t need a name or to be explained to anyone, I felt I owed no one an explanation. But with my autism things were different. Despite my usual approach of being myself and not stopping to care what anyone else thinks about it, I was afraid. I was afraid that people would treat me differently because I am autistic. I had known for many years, identified but diagnosed because I was a girl and “too intelligent” according to a few of the doctors.  I had advocated and educated others and studied autism for years, working on my own symptoms trying to pass as, well, typical. I supported my severely autistic brother and helped to care for him for years, and I never once let anyone tell me he was any less for his autism, so once I was well into my teen years I decided I should do the same for myself. I wish I could say it went as well and as accepted as my sexuality but it did not.

With my openness about my sexuality few people turned a hair, those who did never got to me because someone who cared about that was not someone I wanted in my life anyway. But when it came to my autism, people were different and some still are. People suddenly were telling me they “spotted it” and “suspected it” for years, when in fact they did not. What they meant was that I was weird so of course autism made sense.  People I barely knew were lovely about it, they treated me no differently and just said ” ah yeah that’s just what she’s like” at my quirks, but some of my friends were unwilling to still see me as me.

I had some people talk down to me, treat me as a child and even bang things to get my attention instead of just talking to me. I have had people treat me like I am over emotional, as though I am completely unreasonable before they even see me react to something. Suddenly my being weird wasn’t just me being me anymore, where friends had celebrated my oddness before they suddenly were just tolerating it. It was polarising and for me it was confusing. Nothing about me or my behaviour had changed at all, all I had done was put one word to describe myself and suddenly no one could seem to see me the same way.

My best friend of 7 years even attempted to “fix me” by calling me out on any behaviour she deemed too autistic, shouting at me that it wasn’t realistic and that it was wrong. She believed by pointing it out, as though I was a naughty dog, would teach me not to do those things. Funnily enough we no longer speak.

These responses threw me but eventually I saw it the same way I see people who don’t like the way I look and dress, the same way I see people who don’t like my sexuality. Its a part of me and a part I have slowly learned to love. So what if I talk too much and don’t like large crowds and live to a strange routine. Nothing is wrong with me or any autistic person, if someone else has a problem with you then it is their problem. I have a wonderful family and a wonderful boyfriend who loves me just the way I am, autism and all. So this is me, hopefully for the final time, coming out. I am an aspie girl. I am autistic. I am an acquired taste, don’t like it? Go acquire some taste, I promise I will still be here, I will still be the same old me whether you like it or not.

Aspie’s have feelings

From the noisy red isles in supermarkets and the sudden lack in Facebook posts from those dramatic friends being rude to their boyfriends, its clear its almost valentines day. Honestly the hearts and flowers thing has never been my bag, my idea of a romantic film is Deadpool, Dracula,or my bloody valentine, but even my heart can thaw once a year and pretend I have those things called “emotions”.  I pride myself in finding thoughtful gifts for my better half and trying to maintain positive but there’s always someone out there ready and waiting to ruin this time of year for you.

For me its when people stereotype me as a classic Aspie girl. “oh autistic’s don’t feel love though?” ah, those wonderful people who don’t think adults on the spectrum are capable of romantic love ( you know who you are!). Any other adults out there on the spectrum reading this have most likely bumped into one of these people, note these also seem to be the same people who thing camels milk “cures” autism. At most other times of the year I honestly don’t give two minutes of my time to these people unless its to be sarcastic, but truth is when you are trying to figure out a way to be romantic it kinda sucks having people run around saying you are incapable of doing so. Or worse, acknowledging you as an individual have feelings but “you just aren’t that autistic”. Most people reading this will know just how often these get thrown about and just how annoying it is. Seriously how am I supposed to look pretty for my date if you are making my eyes roll so far back into my skull I honestly worry they won’t ever come back down?

For those who really struggle with the concept I am trying to portray here I will make it simple. Autistic adults are fucking adults. We go on dates, we fall in love, we have sex. I know, shocker right? But I have even met parents of autistic individuals who will debate this one with me. Being on the spectrum makes me no less capable of love. I have a heart damn it! It may be in a jar on my desk but its there. My personal lack of warmth is nothing to do with my illness, its because honestly as an individual just really don’t like mushy stuff. I prefer blood red to sweet cute red hearts and that comes from me as a person, not my autism. When it comes to romance it can be hard for some people to separate you from your illness. Everyone has something to say and everyone thinks they know autism, same way everyone thinks they’re funny.

Well there is an over used phrase which ,unlike the ones previously stated, is true and sadly still unheard by so many around us. When you have met one person with autism you have met one person with autism. Just because I am suddenly opening up to a softer side for the season doesn’t mean you need to comment on how I handle emotions. Those emotions are mine and I will express them anyway I damned well want.

I hope everyone out there has a great valentines day whatever you wind up doing, and to anyone who still thinks its okay to question whether or not autistic individuals have feelings based on how we express them, I suggest you keep it to yourself because seriously we have heard it all before.

Scars

Scars are usually a touchy subject for a lot of people, given that the majority of us have one or two. I remember when I was younger and I tried to talk to a friend about scars and she laughed and said “oh yeah! I think I have one of those”. Until that point I hadn’t quite realised how abnormal it was to have more than “just a few”. This talk had happened just before I turned 18 and at that point I was pretty damned pleased with myself that I would turn into an adult without a 3 figure number of scars. Sure 97 wasn’t that different to 100 but at the time it felt like it was a world of difference.Now my number is over 120, and at that point I relatively gave up on counting them. I keep a rough tab for no particular reason.

The main thing I have learned with talking to people about my scars when they have asked is that, well people seem to place a certain hierarchy on scars. “That’s tiny, that doesn’t count”, “That’s only a white one, I am sure that didn’t even hurt” or “You did that to yourself”, “oh god how did that happen to you”. People only want to take certain sizes, colours and causes seriously, they only have sympathy for something they deem to be worthy. If it was an accident, doesn’t count. If its self inflicted, its your own stupid fault. Surgery and animal related scars I have found tend to get the kindest reactions from people, but even then everyone has to put their own value on it.

The majority of my scars sit on my arms and hands, these ones are odd little shapes and most of them are white. I found out at the age of 12 a friend had avoided touching my hands because she thought I had a skin condition because of how they looked. These ones came from my brother mostly. He has severe autism and developmental delays and when he was younger it was hard for him to express his anger when upset so he lashed out. I have plenty of other scars on my legs from pure clumsiness and dyspraxia. Those ones are purple and bigger, mostly from falling over or slipping while shaving.Anyone with dyspraxia or hand tremors will know that shaving your legs quickly becomes a daunting task, getting through it without a single cut or graze becomes a huge personal success. After these I have my medium shaped scars, some on my arms one on my hand. Those are from my panic disorder. When I first had daily panic attacks I couldn’t cope, without noticing most of the time I would just start scratching myself until I calmed down. It was soothing weird as that sounds. Then there are my surgery scars, most people will never see those as they are pretty low on my pelvis.

All of these scars look different, feel different and have different stories behind them, and people will react differently to each of them. Some people will insult me, or pity me or completely misunderstand me based on these small coloured patches on my body. None of them are particularly big or noticeable but still people want to judge me by them sometimes, and that use to get to me. I use to wonder about which ones were valid, which ones aren’t, which ones should I be honest about or lie about and shouldn’t I just try to cover them? But what ever value other people put to a scar, or you put to it, its going to be there. Odds are it will fade with time but that can take years, so its much easier on yourself to learn to accept it rather than to fight it.

All scars have different meanings and stories behind them, and honestly there is nothing wrong with any scar.A scar means something bad happened and you made it, nothing more. There is nothing wrong with you just because your skin healed a slightly different colour, and that’s all it is, a different colour. If it has to mean anything let it mean you are interesting, that you have a story however big or small. Scars don’t have to have the huge negative connotations society and other people want to give them. My favourite reaction to any of my scars was my 4 year old cousin. When she was 3 she took my arm and twisted it around to look at them and after a while announced ” they are pinks?” and I just said “yes, pretty cool right?” Because that’s all they need to be, if you will let them. Pretty colours on skin, nothing more nothing less.