Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 2: My dilemma

If you read Part 1 of “The Big Reveal”, you know that I gave you my “In a Nutshell” story of how I got to this place in my life.  If you forgot already (or didn’t read the first part, in which case “shame on you”!  Just kidding!), I’ll “bottom line” it for you:  I spent about 45 years not knowing I had Asperger’s AND I am the very proud mother of a 10 year old boy, who also has autism.  Oh, plus, I am a dyed-in-the-wool crafter (now being called “maker”) and have been since I was a kid.  Plus I am a rabid fan of corgis!  <—“rabid”…heehee…get it?

So here is the dilemma: as someone who was diagnosed late in life, I don’t just naturally think about Asperger’s and autism.  Truth be told, I don’t think about it all that much until I run into a situation I can’t figure out and then I have an “Aha!” moment.

No, mostly I think about what I can make or do…or cook…or clean…or organize.

I suppose it might be a little bit “Aspie” of me that I have a need–a compulsion, really–to analyze things that grab my curiosity and figure them out.

Yeah.  I’m that person.

I’m the lady that looks up word origins for the fun of it.  The gal who sees something odd–like: “Hey! Why have all the Hess gas stations changed names? And: “Now where am I going to get my annual Hess Truck?”–and must research it and find out “why”!  (Here’s the why: Hess decided to get out of the retail business in New England, so you have to buy the annual truck online if you live around here.)

Thing is…I always thought everyone was like I was.  I mean, how can you just look at something and not think about it?!?   It is part of my very core to find out the “back story” of everything…and EVERYTHING has a back story.  Hardly anything is happens for NO reason at all.  Believe me…it doesn’t.  I researched it.  LOL!

And that’s one of the reasons why I simply ADORE my son, Master Owen (aka MO)!  He thinks just like me; he was blessed with this insane need to find out the “whys” and “hows” of life.  Because, honestly?  Having this drive of curiosity is the BEST way to live life, especially in the digital age when you can find out anything online.  It makes life a ginormous ADVENTURE.

Only…I now realize not everyone is “so blessed”. <big grin>  Some people are content with not knowing the history of the Patriots mascot.  (You are now dying to know, aren’t you?)

Some people can actually admire someone’s work without asking: “How did you do that?”

It was a shocking revelation to me and, quite frankly, something I still struggle with.

And–take it a step further–how am I suppose to maintain a blog simply about autism?  Won’t that get boring or whiny?  Seriously…autism is part of who I am…of course it is, but it is NOT all of me.  Of course not.   I am so much more! I am the mittens I knit.  The birthday banners I design.  The tote bags I sew up.  The lobster pie I make.  The dog poop I diligently collect and dispose of <gross, I know!>   I am all those things and more.  I can’t contain myself.  And, what’s more, I won’t contain myself.

And, so, the “Big Reveal” is I NEED to blog about, well, everything.

Corgis, LEGO sets, Cricut crafting, knitting, sewing, soap making, DIY…and, like I said, everything.  You name it and I’m giving myself permission to write about it.  I can’t be a one woman show.  It’s too restricting.  And I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to fit into everyone else’s ideas of who I am.

Is that all right with you, dear reader?  Will you come along on a journey with me?  Or at least tolerate it when I just want to gush about my latest project?  I do hope you will, because I want to share it all with you!

Let me know in the comments below, won’t you?

P.S. I write like I think, so I sometimes have run on sentences.  Plus I use a lot of exclamation points and ask a lot of questions.

P.P.S. I’m a HUGE fan of the “P.S.”

 

 

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Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 1

I’m sort of “new-ish” to blogging.

I say “new-ish”, because I used to have a blog when I ran my own business, but I’m finding out the Blogging World changed quite a bit when I was “on sabbatical”.  It seems everyone is about “monetizing” their blog; in other words, making money from their writing…turning it into a “cash cow”.  This has set me back some as I try to establish what I want to achieve here.

Please don’t get me wrong!  I am all about loving your work and making your passions be your career, but I didn’t re-start my blog to make money.  I started this blog to talk to everyone, or no one, or just myself about what brought me to this particular place in life.

So–in case you missed it–here is “my story” up until now in a nutshell:

Successful woman in her 30’s wakes up one day and finds out she can no longer live the life she created as an executive in a local company.  One day, when her new boss–who seems hellbent on destroying her– pushes her a little too hard, she cracks.  Into a million pieces.  She just couldn’t  “pull it together” anymore.  And, strangely enough, she doesn’t want to.  She has a weird life changing experience that affirms she can no longer continue faking everything.  And, to make things interesting, a few weeks later she finds out she is pregnant with her first child.  

She spends her pregnancy trying to figure out what went wrong and coming to the realization that her dysfunctional husband has become severely addicted to several substances and has no interest in changing himself.  After several scary episodes with her druggy husband, she realizes she must toss him out to save herself and her infant son.  Of course, the husband does not go willingly or without causing some major financial and emotional troubles.  

The woman spends nearly ten years of extreme lows (and a few highs) trying to reinvent her life, because she can’t go back to the old life.  By the age of 2, her son is diagnosed with autism.  So now she has to figure out how to take care of her autistic son, how to survive on her own, and how to figure out why this happened to her.  Along the way, she finds out she, herself, has been living with Asperger’s all her life, which only adds to the “hot mess” that her life has become.

Seriously…how do you “monetize” that?  How do I even blog about it?  I literally lived 80% of my life not knowing what autism was, and now I’m finding myself looking backwards and forwards at once; examining my past through this lens called Asperger’s so that I can figure out how to make my son’s future better than I had it.

When you spend almost 40 years not knowing you have a disorder, it can be a weird experience when you suddenly find out that you now have a reason WHY you do or say things.  Yes, I know, the horrific stuff should have been a clue…a BIG clue…a recurring clue.  But, most of the time, I just didn’t understand what I did to mess something up. To keep my sanity, I told myself I was good at some things and bad at other things, just like everyone else; I never claimed perfection.  Sure, I had some pretty remarkable gifts, but they got balanced out by my inability to relate to people.

How did I make it through college?

How did I land an awesome job, travel, develop some amazing talents and hobbies?

How did I survive all those horrific relationships and experiences?

-To Be Continued-

Autism

“Everything’s Broken”

This morning, as we were waiting for the school bus, Master Owen (MO) was looking sullen.  He does not like school, so this was not an unusual look for him at that hour, but it “felt” different to me.  Flipping through some conversation ideas, I started asking him questions about his upcoming birthday.  He is turning 10–double digits!–next week and I’ve been trying to come up with a plan for celebrating, which has been difficult due to his dislike of typical birthday celebrations (more on that another time).

Head hanging low, he barely replied to my question.  Something, indeed, was bothering him, so I tried to look busy while he figured out what he wanted to say.  I’m glad I did.  Eventually MO said: “I hate my life”.  Instead of negating his feelings, I inquired about why he felt this way.  His response: “Everything’s broken.”

Why–you might ask–would I be happy to hear him say this?  For one, because MO is autistic, he usually has difficulty putting his feelings into words, but not this morning.  In addition, because I am an Aspie, I knew exactly what he was feeling and it is something I have struggled with all my life: change.

Well before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I recognized how much I disliked change.  I have always desired sameness in my life and any changes that took place set me back tremendously; some changes–even things that have taken place years ago–I still cannot accept.

Yes, I know, change is life, change is growth.  But there has always been something in my brain that wants to keep everything static.  I secretly desire to live in one of those Twilight Zone episodes, where the main character goes about their life exactly the same way every day.  I want to live in a little miniature train set town.  I want to know everything is where I left it.  I don’t want anyone to die or move away or become something other than the role that they have established in my life–teacher, parent, friend, lover.

If something changes, I perceive it as broken.  I want it to be “fixed” and I simply cannot accept it.  I obsess over the change and remind people of how it “used to be”.  It’s never the same.  Sameness is important to me, which is why I completely understand MO’s thought pattern:  life is full of broken things that we cannot put back together.

The Hilltop Steak House–where I once celebrated my marriage–has been leveled and I will never again see the cement cows grazing on the front lawn.  Drugs and alcohol have forever changed MO’s dad from the father he once perceived him to be.  No matter how hard we wish for it, neither MO or I will ever be able to bring my father or our beautiful, loving dog, the Queen Bea, back to us.  These things are broken and unfixable and, yes, it is depressing.  Seriously…how do “normal” people adjust?

In a tiny way I’m happy, because I now have someone who feels the same as I do. (LOL…feels “the same”!)   Change stinks.  It’s awful.  It creates in us such extreme anxiety for what once was.  Yes, change is going to happen, but I don’t have to accept it.

I’m sure there’s some lesson in all this….I’m just not sure what it is.  Until I find out, I will continue on with my anxiety…only now I have someone who completely understands how I’ve felt my entire life.

Autism

Coming Around Again

I’m pretty new to this blog, so I must admit I was feeling a bit sheepish about my last post.  I didn’t want to be whiney, because no one likes complainers…but, then again, I had to get it out or I felt like I was going to have a major meltdown.

So coming back here to write took me a little time, because I wanted to be more upbeat and I wasn’t feeling it until about 20 minutes ago.  Let me explain.

After my rant on Thursday I did feel better, but there were still some things that hadn’t been resolved.  My son, Master Owen, and I were not seeing eye to eye on what to do with his angry feelings and our resident Soldier (with PTSD) wasn’t helping the situation either.  I had been trying to explain to MO about how feelings–such as anger–are important to recognize and work through, but that everyone has to find positive ways of acknowledging and expressing them.

Master Owen–a growing boy (he turns 10 in a few weeks) and also on the Spectrum–has trouble with all emotions, but in particular he struggles with angry feelings.  Lately he has been getting angry a lot.  Although I encourage him to talk about it, frankly his level of anger scares me sometimes.  Instead of being a “little irritated”, he seems to jump straight to full out rage mode.  I’m a very quiet person, who mostly has pretty happy thoughts, so angry outbursts are upsetting to me.  Although I try to divert him, I’m not always successful in defusing MO’s anger.

In the last couple of months I have noticed MO begin to hit things as a way to work through his feelings.  Unfortunately hitting things (not animals or people) isn’t always safe or free from damage.  Sure, hitting a pillow is fine, but MO has opted for a little more destructive means.  Last month it was a part of the decrepit picket fence that he destroyed.  A few months ago he dug a very deep hole behind the garage without telling anyone, which can be dangerous in thickly settled neighborhoods such as ours.  These are just a few examples of many.   And–while I am thankful he hasn’t acted out toward people or animals–I have always had that notion he could somehow spin out of control and become some crazy kid beyond my help.

This morning, at MO’s appointment with his developmental psychiatrist, I brought all of the issues about MO’s growing feelings about school, not seeing his father, kids who made him mad on the bus, and a bunch of other situations up.  I was happy that the doctor assured me I wasn’t raising a sociopath, but a “normal growing boy”.  I will also admit I felt a wee bit vindicated that he confirmed what I have been saying for months: even if another child hit him, MO should never hit back in “self defense”, but should seek out an adult in charge to handle the problem.  This did NOT make MO very happy…and, I suspect, it will make his father AND our resident Soldier just as unhappy.

So, as we traveled back from the clinic, I drove rather silently wondering what I should do.  To be honest, I didn’t feel that much better, because I didn’t have a solution to the problem.  So I said a little prayer asking for some help…just a little more insight or a possible solution.  (Now–for those who are just getting to know me–please don’t take me as one of those Bible thumpers that praises God for every open parking space or something; I do pray and I am a believer in the power of prayer, but I’m not pushy about it either.)

We drove nearly 45 minutes home and nothing happened, but as I took the turn up my street you could have blown me over with a feather with what I saw!  My neighbor at the bottom of the street had put out a nearly new professional punching bag set on the curb with a $50 price tag!  It was perfect!  Without being overly overjoyed so I could maintain a modicum of coolness, I asked MO what he thought.  He gave it careful consideration–as he always does–and replied:  “Yes.  I think I would like that very much.”

In a heartbeat, I turned around and went out to talk to the seller and, before we knew it, MO was the proud owner of a brand new punching bag with a full hanging contraption AND a pair of professional boxing gloves, too.  When I told the wife how it was a little answered prayer, I found out she is a AND the mother of three boys and completely agreed it would be an excellent option for young MO!

I also procured a 42″ 8 hp snowblower in awesome condition for next to nothing, because–yeah–we live just north of Boston and everyone’s is talking about how this year will be as bad as last year…which was pretty bad.

Isn’t it amazing how these things work out?

All the best–Ritamarie

P.S. So, hey, if you have any experience with anything I’ve written or just a little advice…or you just want to talk about the snow, I’d love to hear about it.   And, as always, thanks for listening.

Autism

The crummy week

This has been a crummy week so far.  I wish I could say differently, but I can’t.
Sometimes you just have crummy days no matter how you try to turn it around or “look on the bright side”.
To start off, it has been entirely too loud around here, mainly because my neighbor is having her in-ground pool filled in.  This process, I have found out, is not a very easy one…nor is it quiet.  All week long it’s been nothing but the sound of jack hammers and construction trucks for eight to ten hours a day.  I always thought my sensory sensitivity was more about bright lighting, but I’m learning from this experience and from the early summer demolition of my roof that I may indeed have issues with sound, too.  The machine noise is so jarring to my head, I hear it when it stops for the day.  It feels like it is in my bones!   It is definitely worse than the hammering of men working on your roof, too.
In addition to all the ridiculous noise, everyone here seems to be on edge.  Master Owen’s first week back to school has been fraught with weird sleep patterns, angry outbursts, some wild rages,  and plenty of tears.  Both his and my tears.
Master Owen is autistic, so OF COURSE he hates transitioning back to school.  He is filled with anxiety.  He won’t sleep.  He yells about how he hates school…he hates his teacher…he hates the bus…he hates homework (even though he hasn’t been assigned homework yet!)…he hates everything.  Of course, all this rage is directed at me and I just have to swallow it up.
On Wednesday morning, I found him on his knees, hands held in prayer, crying.  Of course it was heartbreaking, but I guess I’ve become somewhat numb to the behavior…or really good at solving short term problems.  Yay, me!
This morning he was complaining about his stomach (he suffers from bad constipation) and asking to stay home again.  It’s only the  fourth day of school!   I said I would drive him to school–again–and I promised him a playdate with his best friend in New Hampshire.  But ultimately what really worked was lying.

As an Aspie, fibbing does NOT come easy to me.  Anyone who knows me understands that and knows I am just not a good liar.  But it was the only thing that worked!  I told MO that the school had threatened to put me in jail if we didn’t improve his attendance this year.  It’s not THAT far from the truth; by third grade we have already received two letters from the principal about getting the truant officer involved.  Despite my horrible lying skills, my story seemed to work after I gave an elaborate explanation of what life would be like for MO if I were in the slammer.
Now.. add to this mayhem several doses of “bad puppy” behavior–why is it always MO’s new shoes?–and top it off with some seriously high anxiety from a combat veteran with PTSD as he navigates his way through the VA labyrinth trying to get approved for school (which, by the way, led to the destruction of my weed whacker).  And, for good measure, let’s add that I’m still aching from my fall in the parking lot on Tuesday and, well, I’m done with this week.

Seriously…one hundred percent DONE!
I’m throwing in the towel.
Sometimes you just have to do that, I suppose, to save your sanity.