Recharging My Batteries

…is not something I did this weekend. In fact, I need a weekend after this weekend, but I’m not going to get one. At least I do have this Friday off (for Veterans Day), so it’ll be a short work week, but I expect it to feel long instead.

I visited family this weekend, including going to a wedding reception for my cousin. I hadn’t gone to any family functions in a while, so it was good to see people (although everyone’s kids had grown roughly six feet taller, so I didn’t recognize any of them) but it was also very loud, the food arrived late, and everyone was very huggy. Focusing on conversations against a background of loud music and lots of other conversations took a lot of energy.

Overall, though, it was a really good visit — I got to spend time with my parents and sister, and the dogs were really well behaved. I even got some study time in, so I’m not too far behind my usual weekly schedule. I’m just wiped out now, after the three-hour drive home in a rainy drizzle.

Last week I was actually very good about being aware of my energy and anxiety levels, and postponed starting on a new work project that could have started on Thursday, because I had a lot of things to get done before heading out for the weekend. Of course, that project was postponed until tomorrow, so I can’t really take the same steps this time, but at least I did get a lot of things wrapped up before the weekend so they won’t be hanging over my head this week. Just the usual load of work, school, and personal projects — but I’ve gotten used to managing that, and I can find little ways to recharge as I go.

And that starts right now, with a relaxing rest-of-my-Sunday. Hope you’re having a good one! 🙂

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Finding My Voice

Sometimes language eludes me.

It’s not usually the ability to speak that is a problem. I sometimes speak quite a lot. Writing is admittedly easier, and things like email are usually the best way to convey my thoughts and/or plans. But the ability to put together complex themes into a coherent whole — such as an essay, a story, or a blog post — seems to get blocked sometimes.

This has been happening more and more lately, and I find it distressing. I have self-published two novels and several short stories, and for a while there I intended to make writing at least a part-time career. But I have been finding it harder and harder both to start new projects and to maintain enough momentum to finish them.

Maybe it’s an executive function issue. I’m still learning how to identify those as they come up. Mostly I just end up feeling overwhelmed, and my head goes fuzzy instead of…whatever un-fuzzy thing it was supposed to be doing.

As a current case in point, there is this blog. I have always had difficulty keeping blogs going, despite many attempts. With this one, I promised myself I would impose no deadlines, no expectations on my own ability to produce words. But I did promise a follow-up to my last post, about telling my parents that I am Autistic, so this time it’s been weighing on me that it’s taking me so long to put something together.

The talk with my parents went remarkably well. I brought all my plans, my script and my articles…and then I didn’t use any of them. Instead I just launched into the topic shortly after arriving, and didn’t stop until I felt I had said enough to reach some initial level of understanding. They asked some questions, and made some observations that helped them put what I was saying into context, and while they seemed surprised at first I could sort of see it settling in.

That conversation was also meant to be a prelude to discussing the topic with my wider social networks of family and friends, primarily via Facebook. So after I got home, I spent the rest of the week crafting that initial announcement and choosing what information I wanted to share.

I posted it on Friday morning, then went for a walk. The rest of that day was nerve-wracking, as I waited for reactions and got very few. Even things I posted after that got very little reaction for a while, which is unusual. Chatting with other Autistic people on Twitter helped me keep things in perspective for a while, particularly with the suggestion that many people probably just didn’t know what to say, but I spent the better part of two days second-guessing everything I had said and generally feeling anxious about having said anything at all.

Then over the weekend I got a private message from a friend. This is someone I have known for a few years online but have never actually met, and we had had a private conversation a couple of weeks earlier about the autism spectrum and late diagnosis. She realized at that point that she was probably on the spectrum as well, and began pursuing more information. She was writing this time to thank me for my public post, and to tell me that that previous conversation had helped in ways she hadn’t foreseen at the time.

And that is exactly why I wanted to start talking about this. In the weeks since that initial post, however, I’ve been finding myself at a loss for what to say next. My family in particular has a tendency to just not talk about uncomfortable subjects, and I still don’t have much of a sense of how they feel about this whole revelation. In addition, I get very anxious about extended conversations on social media; I find a lot of people are more interested in exchanging sound bites rather than thoughtful comments. Conflict is always difficult for me, and I am even more reluctant to risk conflict centered on the matter of my still-new identity as Autistic, which feels increasingly important to me and is also frequently misunderstood.

So I am still wrestling with language as I consider how else to be my authentically Autistic self in various facets of my life. But for now, I have managed to pull together this blog post, and I will consider that a decent next step. 🙂

Time For A Talk

I am Autistic.

I AM AUTISTIC.

But it’s not quite that easy to explain to people, is it?

I feel like I’ve been going through a lengthy internal revision of my understanding of myself, and now I’m facing the challenge of having to translate that new understanding for a world that has its own…what? Preconceptions? Misconceptions? Bit of both, really, so…pre-misconceptions? Yes! Let’s say the world has a lot of pre-misconceptions about autism.

Of course, that’s exactly why I want to start speaking and writing more openly about autism. One thing I have realized over the past six months is that it has been primarily the words of other Autistic people that have contributed the most to my understanding of autism. I want to add my own words to theirs, and to help dispel some of the misinformation and stigma that surrounds this particular way of being. With that in mind, I first want to explain this to my immediate family, in particular to my parents.

But I am apprehensive. I don’t know what they know about autism, and I don’t know how they will react. They have been very open-minded when it comes to intellectual and developmental disabilities overall — my sister has Down syndrome, as have most of her friends all her life, and they have always fought for her right to have a good life and make her own choices. But as far as I know, their experience of autism has been limited to the, well, more limited diagnoses given in the 1980s, rather than the full-spectrum understanding that I would like them to have.

And also…I was always the “able” child in their eyes. How do I tell them, 43 years later, that they had not one disabled child, but two?

I will be visiting them tomorrow and staying for a couple of days. My intention is to bring this up at some point during my visit, and to provide them with some articles that they can read for information. (I’ll share links to the material I’m bringing at the end of this post.) I’ve also written up a short “script” that I can either use or not, depending on how well I am able to keep my thoughts focused in the moment. I might share that script in a future post, or I might not — but I will post again about this topic, to let you know how it goes. 🙂

As I go into this, I am trying to remain cognizant of two things: first, that my parents don’t necessarily have the same background information I do, and second, that it will take time to convey the information that I have to them. But perhaps a bigger thing to keep in mind is that I don’t need them to accept this right away; I am not asking their permission to be Autistic, after all. I am just informing them of something that is true, and letting them know that I plan to speak it about more openly in the future. If they need some time to take it in, then that is what they need.

Wish me luck?

———————

Here are some links to the articles I’m bringing:

What You See Is Not What You Get: Life as a Female Autistic

What Does It Mean to “Look Autistic?”

Dr. Tony Attwood’s foreword for Safety Skills for Asperger Women by Liane Holliday Willey

And two pages of information from the National Autistic Society in the UK:

What Is Autism?

What Is Asperger Syndrome?

And I’m also keeping this link handy for myself, just in case:

What To Do When Your Family Doesn’t Accept Autism