30: My Own Skybound Station

It’s been a rough 2 years of living in Victoria. I’ve been forced to move from place to place, existing everywhere from basements to hostels, to sketchy modified living rooms. I’ve been taken advantage of and screwed over by two sets of landlords, four roommates and many employers. I’ve had my possessions stolen, my faith in humanity shaken, lost all my savings, gotten them all back, lost them all again. I have picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again more times than I can count, I have endured continuing health and hearing difficulties. I’m worried someone has taken my hearing aid because I can’t find it anywhere, and it’s not the kind of thing I would lose. The man I love is issues of his own, and my worry over him is even more crippling than the stress that I feel over my own problems.

Once, when I was a child, I was at Long Beach with my parents, I went out into the surf wearing the life-jacket my mom insisted I could not be without. When my she looked away, a huge wave grabbed me and pulled me under, the life jacket tugged me incessantly up, and the current pushed me unrelentingly down, until I didn’t know which way was up, and as the I ran out of oxygen – for even my abonnormally large lung capacity has its limits – and as the colours blurred and the sounds became soft and I thought to myself “this is it, this is the end” I saw before me this beautiful light – it was the sun glimmering like a million diamonds through the green water – and all of a sudden, there was air, and I was still alive.

I heaved myself onto the shore and mom said “how was your swim?” I replied “oh, fine” and went on with my day, as though nothing had happened.

I feel like that now, like I’m still caught between the forces of the current and the buoyancy of the lifejacket, struggling between pull of the darkness and the optimism of hope. But it’s been two years now, I am still waiting for the sun and the air, and the chance to heave myself back onto the sand.

I have a job now, a good one, where people are kind to me, and they have pastries and popcorn, and a clean staff room. I get paid for my breaks and my lunch and I go home at five. No one expects me to lie or make small talk, they leave me alone, and are happy with my efforts. I work hard there, I do my best, and I feel like I belong somewhere, at least for eight hours of the odd day. My job helps people who need it, and is kind to the environment. It brings me some peace instead of adding to the burdens of my already exhausted conscience.

But these people and this job can’t keep me safe forever and I don’t have enough days, I barely manage to get by. Soon, they tell me, next month I will have more hours, but I don’t know how many, and the unpredictability scares me.

Every moment has been so difficult. Four more months, just four more and I will be living with my sweetheart, somewhere where my landlord won’t hurt me and I don’t have to have any roommates, four more months and I’ll be back at school with a part time job and professors that know me and like me. Four more months and I’ll have the only thing I want: a life.

Four more months. I keep that repeating that to myself in the dark, when I’m at my most alone and vulnerable, four more months…honestly though, I don’t know if I can last even that long. There are days when I decide I’m going to give everything up, everything last thing I have worked so hard for and just go home to my family who loves me and won’t take advantage of me, my family who I who I feel safe with and who will protect me. To my father who would stop a moving locomotive with his bare hands before he let it hit me, to my mother who would wrap herself around me to shield me from the world.  But then I think of what that would mean, and I stop packing my bags, and I turn on my computer and watch youtube until two in the morning so I don’t have to think about how terrified and alone I really am.

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a long time, between dealing with the government, the rental office, job searches, anxiety, having to move again so suddenly, I’ve not really been in the right state to think about blogs. I try to move forward a little every day, but even though I have the help and support of the people I love, I still feel trapped and alone. I always try to be honest when writing these articles, and sometimes that’s difficult, because I’m afraid of what people will think if me.

I guess what I’d like the reader to take away from this post is that people forget the results of their actions. They forget that one little unkindness may add up, and become part of one huge unkindness. I seem to be collecting everyone’s little unkindness’s. I don’t have enough room to keep them, I don’t have enough strength to carry them all.

If you’re a person out there, overwhelmed by life, please remember that it does stop somewhere. That every time you decide you’re not going to hold up your end because you’re having a bad day, you’re not going to do the right thing because you can’t be bothered, remember that someone who can’t say ‘No’ who doesn’t have a choice, either because of circumstance or a sense or moral obligation, will get stuck with your problem. I would ask you to do your very best to put your best foot forward every day no matter what problems you may be facing. Don’t leave them for someone else to fix. Your burdens do not become any lighter on another pair of shoulders.

I’m a tiny person, I have tiny shoulders. And yet, at this moment in time, and for the last two years, they have been forced to bear the entire weight of the world.

I am reminded of David Wiffen’s song ‘Skybound Station’ in it, he wonders:

“Is it just our imagination, the pictures in our minds like waiting at some skybound station for the train to bring us some peace we may never find…”

A very talented man, he ended up giving up his music entirely, moving to Winnipeg and becoming a limousine driver. No one has heard from him since.

I wonder if, at some point in his life, he too had hope that things would work out somehow, some way, despite all the odds against him.

29: The Human Equation

When I’m alone, its mostly fine. I might be a little lonely, but I can play the guitar, or pretend to be anyone I want, sometimes I’m even an immortal half-Vulcan, half human hybrid named Gretta Lee, who used to be entirely human and then got kidnapped by a mad scientist who performed excruciating illegal experiments on her and now she roams the galaxy with a full-Vulcan who was raised by humans, his name is Delvok and he has crazy intense mood swings, Gretta’s the only person he likes, but it works because she’s a lesbian and is emotionally constipated due to her lack of faith in humanity…anyway, as I was saying. I can entertain myself quite easily on my own. But when I get into a public situation, I immediately start sweating buckets, my hands get shaky. Even though I might not actually be scared, at least consciously, I seem riddled with the symptoms of terror.

Its always the worst at choir. On Monday nights I have to sit in a room full of only girls for about two hours without a break. I find girls very frightening, no matter what age they are. I know, maybe that’s a bit weird when I am one, but let me explain:

Other girls, for the most part, dress nice. They do their hair…they wear makeup. Me, I wear the same old sweater every day, and my hair is usually just in a ponytail. I don’t wear makeup, my underwear of choice is boxer briefs, and most of my clothes are men’s, even my jeans. I feel very baggy, and on the spot when surrounded by women in tights, wearing bright flowy shirts and dresses, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

They talk to each other about such simple little things, no aliens, no detectives. When they mention ‘Sherlock’ it’s to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch, a man I have no interest in outside of his role as my favorite fictional character ever. They know nothing of the original books, they don’t have an opinion on Superman and how his friendship with Batman correlates with the fact that the Caped Crusader was modeled off him in an attempt to equal the Man of Steel’s popularity, that’s why he’s always shorter than Soups, so that they can be different but have the same basic body type. They don’t know anything about the origins of Wonder Woman, and how she was based off a real person.  They have no opinion on whether or not the new Star Trek should have blown up the planet Vulcan, nor are they upset about Leonard Nimoy’s recent demise. Everything is so subtle, they lie all the time. Me, if I don’t like your shoes I’m either going to say nothing, or I’m going to just be blunt and tell you that I think they’re highly impractical.

I’m left standing there pondering over these strange alien beings who seem to draw so much identity from their gender, their day to day routines, me, I don’t particularly feel like a girl, or a boy, a man or a woman, I’m just me. I feel like myself.  When I told my fiancé that, I was scared that he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore, but he didn’t seem to mind. He just loves me for me.

I sometimes wonder why, why it is that I can’t just accept that no one is looking at me, and no one cares. I think it’s hard because, as dumb as this sounds, I’m always looking at everyone, all the time. I’m always thinking, deducing, I can’t help it, I’m constantly focused on every detail of everything and everyone around me, and I care quite deeply about the feelings and struggles of others. I can’t tune them out; I’m like a broken radio that can’t switch channels. I suppose it’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to just be able to think about your own self and not worry about the person sitting beside you, or perhaps they do worry like I do, just less consciously or less obviously.

Anyway, just some food for thought, perhaps. I’m really struggling with school right now, between everything and all the crap in my head I’ve started having panic attacks again, and have been trying to think of ways to avert these awful feelings. It’s a two edged sword, so many new things have been happening, so many exciting changes, I’m happy about that, I’m happy to be moving forward with my life, but I’m also scared of new things, and with more people come more dynamics, more uncontrollable elements. I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m just not built to keep up with life like others are. It seems like such an impossible obstacle. I am terrible at math, and all I see before me is an endless infinity of human equations.

I'm not going to say that Leonard Nimoy was special to me in a way he wasn't to anyone else, as that's probably impossible, but I will say that I loved him, and even though I thought his poetry was terrible, and was thinking of un-following him on twitter, I still think about him every day, and wonder what Spock would think of all these silly humans I seem to be so afraid of.
I’m not going to say that Leonard Nimoy was special to me in a way he wasn’t to anyone else, as that’s probably impossible, a lot of people loved him. But, I will say that even though I thought his poetry was terrible, and was considering un-following him on twitter because of it, I still think about him every single day, and wonder what the true Spock would think of all these silly humans I seem to be so needlessly afraid of.

28: A Proper Sherlock Holmes Occasion

Sometimes your day just goes right.

I woke up the other morning thinking that I would barely get through the day. I was tired, and not looking forward to sitting through another history class when my brain wasn’t working right, and then going to agonize through my English tutorial. I don’t get along well with my TA in that class, and basically leave feeling humiliated at the end of the hour no matter what.

I got to history class, sat down and talked with my busking buddy for a bit, we altered a few plans and then class started. It went on as normal for a while, small performance of one of the pieces, the usual introduction of the day’s topic…and then all of a sudden a woman burst dramatically into the room with what looked like a below average sized boarder collie.

I know, What…?!

My professor ran up to the invaders, relief evident in every line of her face “Thank you!” she proclaimed “did you find the keys?” and then turning to us – her loyal subjects – she explained “I accidentally locked my dog in the car.”

Everyone was smitten with little Chevy, but he wouldn’t sit still, and so I spent the great majority of the  remainder of the class holding his collar and stroking him in the front row, as I was the only student who had a note taker and therefore did not need my hands free.

I am Asperger’s, Hear me be Awesome…

I then had a nice little moment chatting with my professor, and headed over to the library where I could not find my brother, despite his telling me this was his usual hangout. Deflated, my English tutorial hanging over me, I went back to the music school to find a place to eat lunch.

As I approached the stairs, I saw a familiar figure sitting on one of the small chairs right before the basement music school entrance, a sort of chum of mine from choir who I often traded typed phone messages with when we were both bored during the two hour class. We got chatting and as we were both free for a bit, decided to head down and eat our respective lunches together.

Well, I ended up skipping my horrid tutorial (which I am allowed to do, don’t get all riled up) and this person and I spent a wonderful couple hours together. She showed me some new places on campus, and we talked about pretty much everything, even the dark things it’s not polite to discuss.

I just want to point out to everyone reading that Sherlock Holmes AND Watson would totally have approved of this rebel behaviour. Come on, you know you were thinking the same thing.

The weird thing was how easily everything came out of our mouths; there were no awkward pauses, no forced words. We both just said what was on our minds, so there was no need for the harsh societal rules of when to talk and when not to. Everything was so simple.

I dropped my companion off in the library, where she had to meet up with her tutor, and then headed home. When I got in the door, the running shoes I had ordered out of desperation from MEC were waiting for me, three days early.

A lot has been going wrong in my life recently, and a lot has been just plain going on, between school, organizing busking for the summer, and trying to keep up with general life, as well as all the drama caused by a legal battle concerning my roommates, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed and was feeling a little like my Aspergers was perhaps making my life harder than it had to be, my anxiety over not being ‘normal’ was beginning to catch up with me a bit. But today I had one of the most wonderful conversations in my life with a fellow Aspie. A conversation I don’t think I would have had if we hadn’t understood each other on a bit of an unusual level.

Sometimes having Asperger’s is just plain wonderful.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe its the ‘normal’ people who are missing out.

I wonder what Sherlock Holmes would have to say about this.

This is not Chevy, I met this dog years ago on Granville Island, but it's a pretty close match.
This is not Chevy, I met this dog years ago on Granville Island, but its a pretty close match.

P.S. Hey everyone! Please leave comments and all that stuff, it helps to show people that other earthlings actually read my blog and will help to increase my readership. Also, I am going to be an author at some point in the near future, my novel, a mystery adventure following the life of an autistic fifteen year old girl is going to begin its final editing process this year and will most likely end  up being published as an e-book. I will be reminding you guys about it from time to time, for I wish you to BUY IT eventually 😛 or to at least read it, it took a lot of work after all. Come on, you know you wanna…apparently it’s very, very funny. There’s lots of Sherlock Holmes jokes in it, how could you go wrong with that? You can’t, obviously.

27: Self Hate – A Difficult Confession

Since I was a small child, I have always struggled with anxiety. My mother tells me that as a baby, if my room was not perfectly quiet and the light dimmed to complete darkness, I would cry and shriek, obviously in a great deal of distress. For me, anything that worries me or causes me uncertainty actually makes me physically ill, rather like being car sick without the car.

When I was in my teens I read an article about how one’s face is not entirely symmetrical, and I cried for weeks at my deformity, obsessively checking my proportions over and over again and trying to adjust parts of my face by holding them in place with my fingers for extended periods of time. Any change to my body caused me to freak out, so you can imagine how wonderful the puberty years were for me and my parents.

To this day, I still struggle hourly with these problems, I believe there are things wrong with me that are not actually wrong, and obsess over the way I look. Hard to believe, I know.  I don’t wear makeup, or diet, or wear feminine clothes, hardly the type to be obsessed with personal perfection. But nonetheless, it is true. I am constantly worried about my weight and appearance, every detail of my body is under my obsessive and derogatory scrutiny. I am constantly caught between the realistic voice of my reason and the intense and desperate loathing of my paranoia.  I know I shouldn’t diet, I know logically that I look fine, so I maintain what I believe is the right way to be, but always in the back of my mind there is a voice chanting “you are ugly, you are fat, you are stupid and everyone secretly hates you, Katherine.”  The scary part is that the voice is mine, and on days when I haven’t slept enough, or I’m vulnerable in some other way, that voice takes over, and I don’t even notice, because it is so easily mistaken for fact, as opposed to a twisted fiction.

I was even considering having surgery on my ears for a while, to remove my piercings and restore myself to how I was before. I went to a plastic surgeon, and paid him $100 for a consultation, however this is the best $100 I have ever spent, and I will tell you why.

I have 12 piercings, 6 on each ear and six of these in total are in my cartilage. I love them. I love being able to wear earrings and to change the position and type every day, I always have. When I had more time I used to make my own earrings and to me this is a really important part of my self-expression, but I always managed to find something wrong with them, I was super worried that I had healed a couple badly because I used to wear braided string in my ears, and that everyone would know that I was damaged, that I was ugly and stupid and disgusting.  I was so ashamed of my piercings that I took out all my earrings, and swore I would save up to get surgery.

This is where things, thankfully, took an unexpected turn.

You see, when the plastic surgeon looked at my ears (he was lovely, and very kind) he told me that if he were to fix the holes the ones in my cartilage could not be changed. He could cover them up with skin, but they would always be there, part of my ears. He then went on to say that all the holes in my ears were so small and perfect that I probably would not even notice them underneath.

This is my ear. So you can see for yourself.
This is my ear. So you can see for yourself.

At first, I was very upset. I went home with a heavy heart and felt that I would never be beautiful, and why had I done this to myself? But after I got over the initial pain, I realized something very important:

I could not change my body back. The only thing I could change was my mental outlook. I realized that something would always be wrong with me if I chose to see myself as wrong, the power was mine entirely. The plastic surgeon could not fix me, only I could.

Well, I launched myself completely into the task of learning to love myself. I know that sounds really cheesy, but I went from never touching my ears and getting sick every time I tried, to – through slowly and gently nudging myself – every day touching them as often as I could, getting familiar with my body as a body, not as a punishment or something ugly. I then started really looking closely at my ears in the mirror with the idea that they were fine, instead of allowing the thought that they were ugly to take over.

I soon came to terms with the idea that there’s nothing wrong with my ears. Some of the holes feel a little more pronounced than others, just because they have cartilage under the skin, in the part of the lobe where it transitions from soft skin to cartilage. Of course there would be a little more scare tissue there. But you can’t see it, you can’t feel it unless you squeeze.

Is this what I was so upset about? A tiny bump that wasn’t even really there, and was totally natural to have? Why had it bothered me so much? Why does it still bother me? It’s a kind of insanity when you’re willing to cut your body up because of nothing.

It’s months later now, and I have put my earrings back in. I don’t wear them in every hole, because I don’t want to cover the holes up. It’s important to me to display myself to myself, so that I stay comfortable and familiar with my body.

I still worry all the time about my ears and my face and myself. There are days I feel like a piece of meat because I talk about my body parts like they are distant objects. I think “I like my leg, but only the lower half” or “My right eyelid is fine, but the other one droops,” or “my nose is nice, but my mouth is too small…” but I’m working hard to catch myself.

I’m working to show myself every day that being human does not make me undesirable, that I am me, and I am beautiful as a whole.  I catch myself in the act and I try to shut down these self-destructive thoughts. I am not a carcass; I should not auction myself off bit by bit to my self-doubt.

Any long-time friend on my Facebook page will notice that I have recently started posting selfies. I never, ever used to post selfies because I thought they were stupid (and most of them still are, sadly). But I’m doing it a lot now, and on purpose. I’m doing it because it’s one of the ways I tell myself that I am beautiful, and it helps me look at myself from the outside a bit better.

I'm not naked :P but this is me, and how I look untouched and tampered with.
I’m not naked 😛 but this is me, and how I look untouched and untampered with.

I know I’m not the only person in the world who struggles a lot with their body image. With the constant negative messages we receive from every quarter, it’s hard not to worry about how you look. But It’s okay to love yourself; in fact, it’s a skill we should practice. If I can do it, trust me, anyone can. I used to think it was impossible, but now I’m learning that I am braver than my worst impulses, and that I don’t have to be ashamed of who or what I am, because there’s nothing wrong with me.

I’m Katherine.

What could be better?

AN IMPORTANT NOTE:

I have never lacked for being told I was beautiful. My mom tells me, My dad, my sister. My Fiance tells me pretty constantly and I even get the occasional compliment at school. I used to think that the more compliments I got, the easier it would be to like myself, but honestly, it doesn’t help. I didn’t start to feel even a tiny bit better until I took things into my own hands. It’s really not about what others think, that means just as little when the opinion is good as bad, what matters is you, and your opinion of yourself.

This is me, trying to seem ‘normal’ and failing 😛

This is a poem I wrote a long time ago about my body and how much I hated it:

Until Your Spirit Breaks

The body’s made of darkness

It is underneath your skin

Your pupils crave the light

Because there’s none of it within

In the pathways of your brain

Each organ, every pore

It breeds within the emptiness

The little spaces store

This fact, it has been proven

First by error, then by trial

I watched the operation

With my Cheshire Cat-like smile

Your heart it is a muscle

Even though it pounds and aches

It bruises you from inside out

Until your spirit breaks

It gives you all your precious life

And beats it’s self to death

Both pains are just the same to you

Both catch your stabbing breath

Your lungs, they take your oxygen

Your grief, it steals your air

They wrench them far apart

Until there’s room for your despair

The sun can never light me up

No fire can make me warm

I’ll never find my safety

When I do myself such harm

This scientific study

Has a finding at the end

The results are documented

And the patents have been penned

Your mind is in your body

And your soul is in your mind

So all of you is trapped in darkness

Where there is no light to find

26: Invisible, Not Imaginary

One of my more embarrassing characters. I invented her when I was in my superhero obsession phase. Her name is Toby and she's bad-ass.
One of my more embarrassing characters. I invented her when I was in my superhero obsession phase. Her name is Toby and she’s bad-ass.

I have heard it said that to the Autistic mind the imaginary can often seem more real and tangible than the material. For me this is indisputably true. These 23 years of my life seem to have passed in a blur of cobblestone streets and sunny avenues of time that bend to my wishes, voices that swell inside my head like a tide, and ripping away quickly for the shore, tow me with them out into the great open sea.

It is a very odd place to be, this benchmark between the real and the mystically created. I am aware of the world outside, I feel it, smell it, but do not really feel part of it. It’s effects are exerted upon my physical self, like the bite of frost that dries and ages the face you show to the elements, the rest of me is warm and far away.

I spend a great deal of my time thinking, about everything, everything and anything. I can often be found talking to myself in a variety of voices and accents, often without even being aware of other people around me until they stare nervously at me, not quite sure what is wrong.

Nothing is wrong.

Nothing except that they are staring at me.

But I’m too far away to care for long, and though I may perhaps be standing upon a lawn of muddy green as far as you or they are able to see, under my feet I feel the hard stones of an uneven street ancient street.

This world is always on the periphery, and the people in it, always near. There is Thomas Rowley, Mikey (a woman), Boz, Abigail. There is poor Gretta who is always the victim of a wayward fate, and so many, many others.

They all have stories and lives and opinions. When I am confused or frightened, I have them act out my own circumstances on a different stage somewhere, and I look in from the outside and see a bigger picture.  Some of my creations are kind, others are more begrudging, like Edward. Patrick Mourgman is a funny little Irishman, and Lacey a very unorthodox Texan with a kind heart and corkscrew curls.

It is a common misconception that an introvert is not a social person.  The definition of an introvert is someone who derives energy from being alone, while an extrovert derives energy from socializing. I derive energy from being alone with my own people, of my own creation. They do not always like me, or agree with me, often they do not even know I am there, but they recharge me all the same.  What does that make me, then? Where do I fall on your scale of normality?

To be Autistic is not to be outside the world, it is to create another world entirely for yourself and to try to be happy in both at the exact same time.

25: Seeking Support – The Real-World Bias In University Problems

Well, Hi again, it’s been a while. I know I said I would write everyday, and then I think I mentioned somewhere that I would bring that down to a less regular amount and now I seem to have trundled off all together. That’s me for you, I tend to do things in lumps and bunches. I hear this is common with people who exhibit characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome.

In my defense though, it’s been a very difficult time for me. I’ve struggled with intense ups and down, finding a job, and dealing with social strangeness among other things. The good news is I have a lot of new material for you, The bad news is that this material is a result of fighting a battle that still rages on.

I know, I can be a bit dramatic, but let me explain:

For the past few months I have been trying desperately to find a job. I was committed to looking through the University as nowhere else seemed available to me. You may remember that I am unable to do jobs that involve a lot of counting or jobs that require a lot of social interaction.

I applied to about six different positions at the University of Victoria through their work study program and was assured that I would find something there if I was willing to take jobs I might not usually consider. They did not promise me employment, let me make that clear, but the difficulty and the social aspect of this job community were downplayed.

Anyway, long story short, over about five months I received turn-down after turn-down. Eventually, realizing something was at play other than normal the job finessing. My resume was good, my references sound. It was not until I applied for a job in the visual arts building that I was given face to face confirmation of what I suspected. I was told there by a professor that they had reserved the positions I was applying for this term, since last term, for students that they preferred.

With this in mind I went to an adviser who took me aside and explained that it was basically all social, and that jobs were reserved for students whom the professors recommended who had been picked out in advance.

This is of course, great for the student who gets the job, bad for the student with social struggles who can’t work anywhere else.  I sent out e-mails, and found much to my dismay that there is no support network for helping disabled students at the University of Victoria find jobs, There are not even any resources to help you find work in the community outside of the school. I was feeling pretty hopeless until I finally received a bit of private help, one of the women at the desk at Disability Services gave me a number for an agency downtown and they then directed me to yet another office.

Last week, on Thursday, I had my first meeting with an adviser who has been specifically assigned to me. She was kind and respectful and is helping me to find employment in Victoria where I can receive fair wages and equal treatment. This is a government program, though, and I had to find it on my own, not even Disability Services at the University had any formal knowledge of the specific program I am now enrolled in.

Summed up here my experience seems fairly simple and straight forward, but in reality, it was frightening, frustrating, embarrassing, and a ton of hard work. I am sure there are still many more difficulties to come.

However, what I have learned is not to apologize for being different or for needing extra help. I have learned to have more faith in myself, and I have learned never, ever to take no for an answer. I am more confident now, after my five month battle. I have learned a lot about my strengths and how to work the system to my advantage. I am able to learn faster, work less, and do better. I am the only person in my English class who can learn how to speak perfect middle English after only hearing the professor do it once in a lecture.

However, those are good things, The more tragic lesson of the experience is that no one, not even other autistic students who I spoke to, knew about these services. Some of these students were even worried about money and still had no idea how to find a job that would work for them. It takes a long time, even with the help of a case-worker, to find employment, it’s a process that needs to begin as soon as possible.

I really think that with everything we as a country and society do for those who have disabilities, we don’t do enough. Even if someone had just said to me “Katherine, this sounds really hard, let me see what I can find that might help.” but no one did, every e-mail I wrote to the school was rudely returned and it wasn’t until I went into the office and demanded help face to face that I found someone who was willing to offer it.

I am lucky, I have good communication skills and I can be imposing when I need to be, I can also make it up the stairs to the department I need to visit with no effort at all. Others who have a wheel chair or braces on their legs or who struggle with words will have a much harder time of it. We need to adopt a different attitude, an attitude of ‘what can I do?’ instead of ‘How can I brush you off?’

To end today’s article, let me just say that I am open to answering any questions anyone might have about employment or programs for a person with a disability. My twitter is KatherineSPR12, my facebook is Katherine Rowlands.

Please comment, subscribe, and all that good stuff. Thanks for reading.

Day 24: Understanding Understanding – The Associative Brain

Today I want to talk about Associative Thinking. This is a unique and often confusing way of viewing the world through emotional and cognitive impressions. It is also extremely common with people who exhibit Autistic characteristics.

In my life, associative thinking is what gives me my strong poetic ability. It is responsible for the ease I experience in matching one word with another, one feeling with an unexpected descriptor, but it is also incredibly difficult, stressful and hard on my self-esteem when I am in a social situation.

For my example I will use being home for the holidays.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I miss them when I’m gone. But I also struggle with feelings of very intense guilt concerning them. I am often just glad to know they are there in the house, but I don’t necessarily want to spend all my time with them. I probably would want to if I was more secure as a person, but right now if my sister is having a grumpy day or my brother is being annoying, Its too big and complicated for me to figure out.

My sister and I, for instance, often disagree about what may seem like very simple things. Everyone has an opinion and a perspective concerning how they feel about an argument, a reaction, or a badly placed comment. I often place comments badly, they tend to come out as the exact opposite of what I mean. This is where associative thinking can be a problem and often leads to feeling as though you are negotiating a verbal and mental minefield.

You see, I associate words with very specific feelings that might not necessarily have anything to do with what they actually mean, and it’s difficult to impossible for me to keep up with which words mean what to whom. I don’t always remember that I see the world differently than others. When something is normal to me, I forget that its new and confusing to others.

One day, my fiance, my sister, my mom and I were in the car together. We started talking about my brother and the kind of girl we would like him to be able to meet. We all had an opinion about the qualities this magical female should possess, except my fiance, he was staying out of it for obvious reasons. Anyway, I piped up and said “I think my brother will need someone who is very, very, very, very, very, very, very understanding.”

Now, for me ‘Understanding’ means ‘Someone who will appreciate and understand the unique and valuable person that my brother is, and notice all the wonderful things he is capable of doing.” it means ‘Insightful’, ‘Intelligent’, ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Loving’. So, in my head I was saying ‘My brother should have someone who is Intelligent, Insightful, Compassionate and Loving’. I thought of this as a compliment, because that is my ideal person, and my brother deserves the ideal, in my opinion. (this is why I put so many ‘Very’s’ in front of it. I was expressing my hopes for the ultimate in ‘Understanding-ness’. and the amount that I felt my brother deserved it.)

My sister became very upset, because she sees ‘Understanding’ as having its more common and negative connotation ‘Understanding’ implying that my brother has some fault to be ‘Understanding’ of, that’s he’s second rate and that he’s a challenge to deal with. My sister was angry at me for days, and there was nothing I could do to fix things, I tried to explain what I had meant, but in my sister’s opinion I was backtracking, or lying.

Another problem I have is with ‘Up’ and ‘Down’. This is something that confuses a lot of people I talk with, but especially my father.

When I say “My friend Violet is coming down to see me.” my dad, who is very like me, associates this with a map. He is thinking about my position relative to Texas, which is where Violet was flying from. This seems straight forward enough, the problem is that I associate ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ with it’s literal meaning.

If my friend Violet is in a plane, than she is coming ‘Down’ to see me, because the plane is ‘Up’ in the sky and I am ‘Down’ below it, on the ground. I can’t adjust my thoughts to deal with another person’s perspective of ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ just like my father can’t adjust his. I also can’t seem to anticipate when these miss-communications will occur.

If I say ‘I am coming down to Victoria’ my father only hears ‘Down’. ‘Victoria’ is secondary. He’s confused by the direction. Me, I hear ‘Victoria’ and I know that the person, one way or the other, is coming to Victoria. The direction makes very little difference to me unless the person is actually abouve or below me.

My relation to the world is based entirely on my feelings about it, and stepping outside of that is upsetting and impossible. When my father corrects me about my way of looking at things, or my sister tells me my perception of a situation is wrong, like when she tells me I’m backtracking when I’m not, (as well as being infuriating and humiliating) it sends the following message:

  1. The way you see the situation is WRONG (not different, but erroneous.)

  2. You are stupid.

  3. The entire way you think about everything is in error.

  4. You are a bad person.

  5. You need me, a smarter person and better person, to tell you what is going on in your own head.

Number 4 is another example of associative thinking. I associate ‘No’ with ‘Wrong’, ‘Wrong’ with ‘Bad’ and ‘Bad’ with ‘Feces’. So for me, being told that I did something wrong is truly devastating. Its not fun when you feel like every time someone tells you ‘No’ that they secretly hate you because you’re a horrible, disgusting person. You have no way to disprove this assessment, so you’re always left in doubt and uncertainty. Obviously, number 2 tells me that I’m stupid and number 5 indicates that I can’t trust myself to think for myself, so what’s a girl to do? I could ask them, but that would be embarrassing and how do I know they’re not lying to me to keep from hurting my feelings?

Now, I have never explained this to my parents, not in the way I would want to, nor have I told this to my sister. My family are ‘Insightful’, ‘Intelligent’, ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Loving’. This is not a criticism of them, like all families we have our miss-communications.

What I am trying to say with this post is that many people, in an effort to help me, correct me pretty constantly about some in-exactness or another in my language, and it doesn’t help. It just makes me feel badly about myself and the way my brain works.

If you know someone who is confusing you with their words, put yourself in their place, would you want to feel like everything you said was wrong? Or that it’s not safe to open your mouth because you never know what the reaction will be?

Just be nice, give the person you’re speaking to a break. If you know they have a different way of thinking (perhaps they have their struggles with being Autistic) let it go.

Does it really matter that they say up instead of down? By getting to know a person you can tell for the most part what they mean. After the ‘brother word confusion’ incident I asked my fiance what he thought, and he told me that he knew what I meant and that it was my sister’s reaction he had found confusing.

It’s all about perspective.

Please, don’t start telling someone you’re right and they’re wrong, because no one is. The airplane is in the sky, my brother will need an understanding person one way or the other, just like I do, because I’m hard to understand sometimes.

There is no wrong or right. It comes down to what kind of person you want to be. Me, I’m going with ‘Understanding’, the way I understand it to be.

Soil or dirt

Help or hurt

It’s nature won’t convert

It’s all the same

Nightmare or dream

Shout or scream

There’s no way to redeem

It by its name

You thought you spoke the truth in every word

But lies are the reflection of the truth I never heard

Inside my head my thoughts and feelings all seem so absurd

The answers are too incomplete, the questions are all blurred

Win or lose

Bleed or bruise

Not matter what you choose

Its going to ache

Stay or go

Yes or no

Its not what you owe

Its what they take

The smallest knife

Could take your life

Or heal you with a surgeons careful cut

Though your conscious thoughts are sleeping

Through the gushing and the seeping

The pain’s still real and raw inside your gut

And if you were awake

You surely would mistake

The good intentions for anything but

You thought you spoke the truth in every word

But lies are the reflection of the truth I never heard

Inside my head my thoughts and feelings all seem so absurd

The answers are too incomplete, the questions are all blurred

Speaking of  'Insightful', 'Intelligent', 'Compassionate' and 'Loving' this is Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's butler/father figure. when I think of Understanding I think of people like him and of course, Doctor John H. Watson.
Speaking of ‘Insightful’, ‘Intelligent’, ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Loving’ this is Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler/father figure. when I think of Understanding I think of people like him and of course, Doctor John H. Watson.