Job interview advice – Grooming

This article was first published with permission on Invisible Autistic.

In my previous post, I discussed some of the unspoken rules around the clothes you wear to an interview.

This week, I want to focus on something that I still struggle with myself: personal grooming. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Apparently it’s fairly common for individuals (both children and adults) on the spectrum to have problems with personal hygiene and grooming habits. I seriously have no idea why this is so. It might be related to hyper- or hyposensitivity (not wishing to be covered in artificial scents like soap and shampoo and deodorant, or not being aware of your own body odour), or it could be something more cultural and social in nature. There’s a lot of social pressure to say that you shower every single day (and sometimes twice a day), but I know for a fact that not everyone does so. Yet people won’t ever admit that, because of the stigma attached to lack of personal hygiene. For myself, I feel perfectly comfortable showering every 3 or 4 days at most. I don’t think people have ever noticed.

Pig-tailed macaque at Khao Yai National Park

For a job interview, however, it’s important that you look and smell like other people.

Hair

Wash your hair the day of your interview. You don’t need to worry about styling, this is completely optional. As long as it doesn’t look greasy you’ll be fine. If you are worried about your appearance, you can go to a hairdresser a few days before your interview and get your hair cut and styled. DON’T under any circumstances get a haircut on the same day as the interview. The stray hairs will drive you absolutely bonkers and you will look like a crazy person constantly trying to pick hairs out of your neck. Trust me, I’ve done this.

Clothes

Make sure all your clothes are freshly washed, with no visible stains or tears. Bring one or two safety pins for emergencies. I usually only discover a hole in my jacket 5 minutes before the interview is about to start. Stains are harder. If you discover a stain right before the interview, one option is to go to the receptionist or office manager (if they have someone like that) and say “Excuse me, I’ve just discovered a stain on my jacket / trousers / skirt. Do you have a wet cloth or some wipes so I can try getting it out?” It may sound counter-intuitive but they won’t be at the actual interview and therefore won’t judge you on accidents or not being 100% prepared. In fact, if you thank them (about 3 or 4 times max) and apologise for the inconvenience, they will see you as an approachable, sociable human being with a normal amount of nervousness. Everyone is nervous before a job interview, right? So that’s a good tactic to get the office manager or receptionist on your side. And believe me, that helps.

Body odour

Put a small anti perspirant stick or roller in your bag or in your outer jacket. I know sticks may feel icky but sprays are usually too big to carry around with you. And you’re going to need anti perspirant, not deodorant – because deodorant is usually only perfume and nothing else. Sometimes, when I’m really nervous, I even dab some anti perspirant on my hands about 15 minutes before the interview so my hands won’t feel too sweaty when I’m shaking hands. Don’t do this too shortly before the interview though, because it might feel too dry. 15 minutes is a good time frame and will give you the opportunity to wash your hands if by accident you’ve used too much.

Fingernails

With many thanks to Ben Forshaw

This is something I was not aware of, even though I am a ferocious nail and nail bed biter. Your hands — and nails in particular — are likely to get noticed. I don’t know how the interview people do that if my attention-to-detail, notice-irrelevant-information autistic self doesn’t. But it’s probably one of those uncanny senses that neurotypical people have to immediately notice things that don’t conform to a certain standard.

So, here’s the advice. For men, nails should be short, neatly-trimmed and clean. For women they should be neat and clean, but can be short or long. What does neat mean? No ragged edges, no bleeding. If painted or false then they should have an even finish (I’m also a ferocious nail polish chipper, so I can attest to that one). Best to avoid nail decoration that’s too flashy or trendy, like very bright colours or patterns. If you habitually bite your nails so they appear untidy, Ben recommends getting a manicure close to the interview appointment: within a day if possible. I’ve never had a manicure but I can definitely see that working. My additional advice: avoid doing DIY or anything with sharp knives in the days leading up to the interview. Plasters and bruises are not an attractive look.

I hit my middle finger with a hammer about two months ago

I hit my middle finger with a hammer about two months ago. Don’t do this right before an interview.

Make-up

Here’s where there is a huge difference between men and women. As a man, you’re not supposed to wear any make-up at all, but women are regarded as social misfits when they don’t use any. I hardly ever use make-up myself, but I made an appointment with a make-up artist last year to explain to me how to apply all that stuff properly and what would work with my skin colouring and so on. Because I just couldn’t figure it out. When I wear make-up, I notice that people tend to take me more seriously. It’s silly but it works. So I would definitely advise any women reading this to invest in a (private) make-up tutorial and some products. You don’t have to slather your skin with crap, but some mascara and eyebrow pencil will already make a difference. Take your time to figure out what feels OK on your skin, I find that powders feel less sticky than creams. But even if you have sensory issues, a make-up artist can actually help you find products that don’t feel icky. Still, don’t worry if this is something that you simply don’t feel comfortable with. It helps with a job interview, but it’s not as important as clothes and hygiene.

Jewelry

Again, no jewelry for men. Watches and wedding rings are OK but if you have any other jewelry, take it off. For women, it’s again the exact opposite. I never used to wear jewelry but I have noticed that especially in job interviews with other women, this tends to set me apart as unfashionable and nonconformist. Even men to a certain degree prefer one or two pieces of discreet jewelry to none at all. The easiest option is to invest in a matching necklace and bracelet. You can even use a bracelet to unobtrusively stim a little bit when needed. Silver, gold, and wood coloured necklaces and bracelets work with nearly all outfits. Stay away from big chunky costume jewelry or jewelry with too many gemstones, however, unless you have pretty accurate fashion awareness.

If you have trouble operating a clasp, like I have sometimes, you can try very long necklaces like the white and the green/blue bead necklaces above. You can simply pop those over your head. They’re even fairly easy to make yourself if you don’t have a big budget. Just measure off a long piece of yarn (long enough to wrap around your head at least twice, just experiment a bit), string some beads together, and tie it off with a knot. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as long as you use interesting beads.

Shoes

This is a difficult one. If there’s any industry-specific footwear, like safety shoes for workshops or wellies/rubber boots for farm work, then that’s of course perfect. But overall, I would say leather shoes for men and (moderate) heels for women. However, a lot of autistic people have issues with uncomfortable shoes, especially autistic women and high heels. I personally like them because: toe walking! In public! Without comments! But not everyone does and that’s OK.

The most important thing is that you can walk on them and that your shoes don’t pinch your feet during the interview because that’s distracting. Leather shoes or brogues can be very stiff, especially if you don’t walk on them often. Suede is a bit more supple. Canvas sneakers, like Converse or Vans in a solid colour, are an acceptable alternative. I would advise against other sport shoes, especially white ones, unless you really can’t walk on anything else. A workaround is to wear your normal shoes to get to the interview and then change into your nice shoes just before. However, that definitely poses the risk of pinching or other uncomfortableness, so only do that if you’re sure the other shoes won’t drive you insane within an hour or less. Try it out while sitting on the sofa at home if you’re unsure.

Two last tips: make sure your shoes are absolutely clean (especially sneakers), and never ever wear open toed shoes or sandals, no matter how hot the weather is.

Too much?

That wraps up my advice on clothes, accessories and grooming. It all sounds very superficial, but it helps to not get rejected before the interviewers even hear what you’re capable of. I had a job once doing data entry at an HR department, and I’ve seriously seen interview reports where a candidate got rejected for wearing the wrong kind of shoes. I would love to hear if you’ve got any similar stories or tips to share!

In the next post, I’ll be looking at what to do when you’re early or late for the interview, how to greet everyone, and other situational pitfalls.

Strong currents sign

Job interview advice – Clothes

This article was first published with permission on Invisible Autistic.

For my first post on job interviews, I would like to tackle something that seems straightforward but actually has a lot of hidden social implications: what to wear to an interview.

There’s a lot of advice on the internet, but I always ended up feeling very frustrated because none of the articles would explain what I needed to wear to this particular interview. And their generalisations sort of seemed to hint at things that I was clueless about.

So I simply muddled along, trying to find what worked. And now, after countless job interviews (literally. I can’t count them anymore. I’ve had a lot) I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned. Autistic style!

Casual Friday?

First of all, there are certain levels of informality / formality that are implied in the clothes you wear. Casual and business attire simply doesn’t cover all the options. So I’ve made a little chart.

Level Men Women
1 Naked Naked
2 Underwear Underwear
3 Swimsuit Swimsuit
4 Shorts Shorts and tank top
5 T-shirt and jeans T-shirt and jeans
6 Shirt and jeans Blouse/top and jeans
7 Jacket and jeans Jacket and slacks/skirt
8 Suit without tie Trouser suit
9 Suit with tie Skirt suit
10 Tuxedo Gala dress

You’ll notice that it’s mostly the same for men and women, although men can get away with jeans for a bit longer and women have a few more styles to choose from. I’ll give you a few examples.

The level 9 guy is wearing the same suit as the level 8 guy, just with the addition of a tie. I thought it would be interesting to see the difference in close up.

A few things to keep in mind: it’s never ok to wear shorts, cut-offs, short skirts, tank tops, or crop tops to a job interview, no matter what the position. Well, unless you’re applying for a job serving drinks at the beach, maybe. But even then it’s not a bad idea to at least keep your thighs covered and most of your chest (a shirt can be open to about armpit level). And always wear something with sleeves. This goes for men as well as women.

Trick the company

For most interviews generally, you’ll want to be aiming for about a level 7-9. A lot depends on the company where you’re applying for a job. But don’t worry! There is actually a magic trick that hardly anybody tells you about.

You can simply ask the person you’re doing the interview what you should wear.

Not literally, of course. I’ll give you two scenarios. You can choose whichever one you feel comfortable with. Phone is quicker but scarier because there’s more interaction needed. Make sure to keep a pen and paper handy so you can make notes!

Phone

“Hi, this is Karen, I’m calling to say that I’m really looking forward to our interview on Monday. I’m doing a bit of prep work on the company and I was wondering if you could tell me what most people wear around the office.”
[Answer]
“Oh, that sounds fun / practical / very professional*. Is that for customer facing / non-customer facing positions** or just in general?”
[Answer]
“Thank you, that gives me a lot of valuable information about your company! Well, thanks for your time and if you have any questions for me, you can always reach me through e-mail or phone. See you on Monday!”

* Choose which of the three works best. Fun is shorts and flip flops. Professional is suits. Practical is everything in between. Yes, this will require some improvisation on your part.
** Choose which of the two YOU are applying for.

E-mail

“Hi,
Thank you again for scheduling an interview with me next Monday. In preparing for the interview it would help me immensely to get a copy of your company’s dress code, or a general idea of what other employees in a customer facing / non-customer facing position*** usually wear from day to day. Could you let me know before Friday? Thank you and I look forward to discussing other aspects of the job with you on Monday!”

*** Choose which of the two YOU are applying for.

The beauty of this setup is that you are being honest about what you need (instructions on what to wear), and they get the feeling that you are genuinely interested and want to get to know the people as well as the company. They LIKE it when you ask them what you should wear! Isn’t it awesome?

Uncertainty and colours

If you’re not sure where on the scale their answer falls (especially in IT this happens a lot – IT people don’t pay that much attention to clothes so they can’t or won’t give you a straight answer), err on the side of caution and overdress a little bit, or choose a similar outfit as what they describe other people wearing but with more conservative colours. For levels 5, 6 and 7 conservative basically means no patterns or prints, only solid colours with a preference for muted blues, reds, and greens. Purple is also an option for women. You can do blacks and greys but in those levels you run a risk of being seen as boring. So some colour is better than none. For levels 8 and 9, stick to dark to light blues or greys. Dark to light brown is possible but risky. Black makes you seem like an undertaker.

Comfort level

One important part that I haven’t mentioned so far is your own comfort level.

For a lot of autistic people, clothes can cause a major sensory overload. If this is the case with you, DON’T force yourself to wear something you’re uncomfortable in. It will do you more harm than good. If you think you can make it through an interview in uncomfortable clothing, then by all means do so, but test it out first. Put on your interview clothes inside your own home and do random stuff for an hour or so. If that’s already overloading you, then no way are you going to make it through a stressful interview.

Two options: turn down the interview and look for a job that expects a lower formality of clothing, or disclose to the people doing the interview that you have sensory issues. You don’t need to mention autism if you’re not comfortable doing so, but it’s better to tell people beforehand why you won’t be wearing appropriate clothing. Otherwise they will be surprised and they will hold that against you because interviewers don’t like to be taken by surprise, because that diminishes their power and control over the interview.

If you have some clothing that you feel comfortable in, that fits your body well (not too tight or too baggy), and that still conforms to the expected level of formality, then you’re all set. You won’t have to worry about sending the wrong messages and it will enable you to appear more confident and self-assured. And that’s what half the interview is about.

Final tip

If you feel up to it, ask a trusted and honest friend how you look. Or take a picture of you in your interview clothes and post it in an online community where you can expect honest feedback. I still do this for every interview I have. It really helps to have someone look at your clothes with a fresh eye, and it has nothing to do with being autistic or not! Everyone can make clothing mistakes sometimes.

In my next post, I’ll be talking about accessories, make-up, and grooming. Not the monkey kind.

Pig-tailed macaque at Khao Yai National Park

Lists are an autistic thing, but they’re not an impairment

So, after the success of my huge list of things that I think make me autistic, I figured I’d give it another go. My childhood interview was pretty much a fail (more about that later), so I knew I needed some way to show the diagnostic therapist the impact that the autistic stuff has on my life. Which goes against every instinct I have. Because I hide my vulnerabilities and I concentrate on my strengths. Which is a healthy thing to do. Except when a diagnosis is completely dependent on having a significant impairment. “Needing some acknowledgment and validation” is not a diagnostic criterion yet, unfortunately.

Writing this list took me countless drafts, different set-ups (Word or Excel document? Order by categories or severity?), innumerable tears, and 11 days. It was a really hard thing to do. But it was necessary. I also toyed with the idea of making it funnier by listing examples, but then decided against that because I need this to be as bleak and depressing as possible. I might have to cheer myself up with writing a list of things I’m awesome at. Anyway, without further ado, the list of things I suck at!

FINANCES

I have no overview of my bank account balance.
I don’t pay bills regularly.
I have no idea which bills have been paid and which haven’t.
I have difficulty prioritising payments.
I have no idea of the amount needed to cover my monthly expenses.
I have difficulty assigning budgets.
I sometimes buy things I can’t afford.
I’m unable to save up money for big expenses.
I forget to open letters and bills.
I have problems organising important documents.
I forget to do important things like apply for unemployment.
I forget to return important forms.
I have difficulty replying to important emails.
I have difficulty writing job application letters.
I get upset about making phone calls to companies and organisations.

PERSONAL CARE

I don’t take regular showers.
I don’t brush my teeth regularly.
I have difficulty remembering to put on deodorant.
I wear the same underwear for several days in a row.
I sometimes forget to shave my armpits even when I’m wearing something sleeveless.
I bite my nails and nail beds, sometimes until they bleed.
I pull out my hair.
I pick my nose even in public.
I sometimes forget to go to the toilet and end up wetting myself.
I forget to eat breakfast.
I usually have no energy to make dinner.
I postpone making appointments for the dentist, the doctor, and the hairdresser.

HOUSEHOLD

I don’t do my dishes regularly.
I don’t clean my kitchen work area regularly.
I don’t vacuum and clean my floors regularly.
I don’t clean my toilet and bathroom regularly.
I don’t do laundry regularly.
I don’t maintain my garden.
I don’t tidy up after myself.
I leave my dirty clothes in a pile on the floor.
I forget to throw food out when it’s gone bad.
I often use knives and plates from the day before.
I forget to bring empty bottles to the recycling bin.
I don’t change my sheets regularly.
I sometimes forget to take out the garbage.
I have problems keeping my clothes and shoes organised.
I forget to water my plants.
I don’t clean the cat’s litter box daily.
I have problems throwing away things I have no use for.

WORK

I’m often late.
I call in sick too often.
I don’t know how to pick my battles or agree on small things even when privately disagreeing.
I don’t know how to voice my opinion in an empathetic, non-confrontational way.
I get very upset when my own priority list gets changed by my manager.
I have difficulty handling criticism that I think is unfounded.
I don’t know how to handle tasks I have no knowledge of.
I have difficulty asking for help.
I try to postpone phone calls to customers as long as possible.
I have difficulty answering emails when I don’t have a real answer yet.
I always follow unimportant rules (like no private internet use at work, or wash up your own coffee cups).
I get upset when other people don’t follow those rules.
I get confused when there are implicit rules that nobody says out loud.
I have problems with lying to customers to protect the company’s interests.
I have difficulty handling unscheduled meetings.
I get upset when people are talking close by or when the radio is on while I’m trying to work.
I get upset when a ceiling light malfunctions.
I don’t like company outings that involve more than just having a couple of drinks.
I have difficulty joining coworkers for lunch unless explicitly invited.

FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS

I forget to congratulate people on their birthday.
I forget to plan a visit or send a card when someone has just had a baby.
I don’t often take initiative to meet up with family or friends.
I don’t call family or friends to ask how they are.
I forget to give small compliments.
I need to be explicitly told that information is private and not meant to be told to others.
I have difficulty not focusing on solutions when someone tells me about their problems.
I have problems in the early stages of a relationship because I get obsessed with the person.
I don’t know how to keep a conversation going when I’m not interested in the subject.
I rehearse conversations in advance.
I get upset when someone is late.
I don’t know how to talk to others about my own emotions.
I feel more connected to my cat and my books than to most people.
I often have trouble thinking about what someone else likes to do, unless they tell me.
I don’t know how to introduce myself to strangers.
I often say inappropriate things.
I often take things too seriously.
I have problems not interrupting people when I think of something interesting to say.
I get very upset when I think people are not listening to me.
I am too trusting of strangers.

FEELINGS

I have problems coping with changes in plans.
I always order the same things in fast food places.
I have irrational food dislikes that I disguise as allergies.
I get upset when I’m in a crowd.
I get very upset from loud or ongoing noise.
I get upset in brightly lit environments.
I don’t like having the TV on.
I have problems personalising my environment (like hanging up pictures).
I have problems disconnecting from dreams on waking up.
I have problems watching thriller or horror movies and knowing it’s not real.
I don’t get anything done when I’m sick or in pain.
I get angry when being complimented on something that I think is undeserved.
I get stuck on things needing to be perfect.
I hide in my bedroom for weeks when I feel unable to cope with things.
I hate myself when looking at this list.
I want to be perfect.
I don’t want to be normal.

Quick update

I haven’t posted in a while. The reason for this is that I’m stuck on two things, both related to the second phase of my diagnostic testing.

Last week I had my first interview, together with my mother, about my behaviour in childhood. I am still processing what happened during that interview, and I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I can write about it.

Update! I’ve finished my post on the childhood behaviour part of my diagnosis, in case you’re interested.

My second interview is next week, and I’m working like crazy on getting some sort of grip on my thoughts so I’ll be able to present a coherent picture of how autism is affecting me at the present moment.

It’s hard work, but I think I’m sort of coping. Well, apart from pretty much not having left my bedroom for the past two weeks. Which is OK. I’m not going to push myself out of my comfort zone, there are more important things to focus on right now.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write about everything at length soon! In the meantime, here is a link to an animated kitty who purrs if you rub her belly.

flash-kitty-screenshot

http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbx-files/maukie.swf

High and low

People, especially medical professionals, are very fond of saying that real autism is nothing at all like how it’s depicted in Rain Man, the famous 1988 film with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

Guess what? I disagree.

In this clip, Ray (Dustin Hoffman) is trying to explain to his brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) why he’s not comfortable wearing the pair of underwear his brother gave him. He always wears boxer shorts and these are Hanes. They’re too tight. They’re not comfortable. So he didn’t put them on. He tries to explain which kind of underwear he prefers, but gets stuck on saying which ones he always buys, the boxer shorts at K-Mart. And so Charlie ends up screaming at him that it doesn’t matter where he buys his underwear. “What difference does it make?! UNDERWEAR IS UNDERWEAR!”

No it isn’t. Even neurotypical people have their preferences. Some people can’t stand boxer shorts. Some people hate lacey knickers. Some people prefer cotton, others prefer synthetic fibers which have more stretch. Loose or tight, sexy or functional. We’ve all tried out different types and settled onto something we like to wear.

The difference between autistic people and non-autistic people is that deviating from our preferences is really hard for many of us. Either it’s because our routine gets interrupted, which means we need some time adapting to the new situation. Or our sensory processing difficulties make it impossible to think of anything but the unpleasantness of this strange fabric against our skins. It’s like having an itch you can’t scratch. There comes a point where you can’t think of anything else, let alone focus on what someone else is saying.

And when you’re speaking a different language, when you don’t know the “normal” way of explaining this, you get accused of making a big fuss about nothing, like Ray.

That’s why I actually recognise so much about this scene. This is a fairly spot-on example of what autistic people deal with every day, down to the anger and frustration of the neurotypical people around them. Of course it’s fictionalised and overcharged, because hey, it still has to be entertainment. But it’s not as inaccurate as the medical professionals often claim it is.

Maybe because Ray is visibly autistic. He’s what is often referred to as low functioning. And low functioning is bad. It gets you institutionalised and treated like a child, incapable of making rational decisions.

Guess what? I can be low functioning too.

Other people will say I’m not at all like Rain Man. I own my own house. I work 40 hours a week. I have a higher income than most people I know. I don’t receive any government assistance or disability benefits. I go to parties and socialise with coworkers and do my own grocery shopping and meet up with friends for drinks and even go on holiday by myself. That’s so high functioning that nobody believes me when I say I am autistic.

I will say that I am like Rain Man. That is why I posted a video of me being nearly non-verbal. That is why I showed how much trouble I have keeping my house clean. That is why I wrote an angry post about peeing myself in public.

Triplets eating lunch on a couch

We are alike © Msphotographic – Dreamstime.com

I am both. It depends on the activity (I’m crap at paying bills, I’m good with shopping on a budget). It depends on circumstances (I’m fine on the phone when it’s work related, I try to postpone personal phone calls as long as possible). It depends on how much I’ve forced myself to go beyond my comfort zone lately. Functioning on a neurotypical level takes a lot of effort for me, which means I run out of spoons faster than you’d expect.

So if I can be both, what exactly do high or low functioning labels mean? Have we really looked at a person’s strengths before labelling them low functioning? Or do we just look at the obvious symptoms that set them apart from neurotypical people?

Do we judge people only on either being visibly or invisibly autistic?

Guess what? I think the answer to that last question is yes. And that is why I reject functioning labels. Because it says nothing about my functioning. It only describes what others think of me.

If you know of any other insightful posts on this subject, please let me know in the comments! Shameless self-promotion is allowed as well!

Words are fucking difficult

Apologies for the NSFW language. But not really. My words have decided to go play hide and seek again tonight. Not as badly as the night of my first blog post, because I can still write, although it takes a bit more effort than usual.

But the talking?

Yeah, not so good.

The Salad Variations

Fried chicken salad

200 grams of chicken breast
75-100 grams of lettuce
4 cherry tomatoes
100 grams of cottage cheese or mozzarella
1 tablespoon of olive oil


This is how I clean chicken breast. I cut off a lot of weird bits, as shown on the left of the first pic. Then dice it into pieces of about one inch, as shown on the right. It’s hard to do this because it seems so wasteful, but part of my “Life As An Adult” motto is that it’s more wasteful to throw out food because I can’t eat it due to ickyness. So. I simply don’t buy meat everyday. And when I do, I’m allowed to cut off the weird bits.

Next, I put a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, just enough to cover the bottom, add chicken pieces, and put it on a medium to high heat. Basically just high enough to make spluttering noises but not so high that there’s oil flying everywhere.

Then I ignore the pan for a while and start sorting out the lettuce. See, the thing is that I really like this mixed bag, but they’ve started putting too much onion in it and that’s smelly and awful. So I pick out all the actual leaves. I can do that, I’m an adult now. Even if it takes 10 minutes.

Which, incidentally, is about the time needed for the chicken pieces to become nice and brown and crispy. Put the lettuce in a bowl and stir the chicken to get it to brown on the other side as well. Be careful of oil splatters.

Next, I want to add the cottage cheese to the salad, but as it turns out the best before date was about a week ago. Yay executive function! Disregarding that, I rely on my awesome autistic senses to taste if it’s gone off. Oh, actually it has. Yay autistic senses! So I use some mozzarella instead, diced into small bits.

Then I slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters. The chicken should be completely done by now so I add everything to the bowl, then add some extra virgin olive oil as a dressing. I don’t use store bought dressings, because vinegar and sugar and lots of crap. This salad doesn’t need it.

You can leave out ingredients or add others if you so wish (cucumber!). That’s the great thing about salads. You can add whatever you like. Except if you don’t like lettuce, then you might have a problem. But even then, fried chicken bits with tomatoes and cottage cheese is pretty yummy as well.

Endive and orange salad

4 endives
4 oranges, peeled and sliced
a small handful of walnuts
3 slices of blue cheese
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil


So, endives. Also called chicory sometimes. It’s a very popular vegetable in the Netherlands. I don’t really like it when it’s cooked. But raw? Yum. I have this thing for bitter tasting stuff. If bitter is your thing as well (there’s a reason chicory root is used as a coffee substitute), then you’ll probably like this salad.

Anyway. Clean the endives, remove any outer leaves that look shrivelled or brown. Slice into small strips, about half an inch wide. I cut off the tip here because it was green, basically the more green the more bitter, but there is a limit to what I can take. After I’ve sliced up the endives, I take out the inner core which is a bit tough and again, very bitter.

Then I cut the oranges into segments.

Once I’ve done that, I add some walnuts, about five of them broken into small pieces. Say a small handful.

For the blue cheese, I’ve chosen a Rochebaron this time, because it’s not extremely pungent and has a very creamy texture, a bit like brie. But sometimes I use a more pungent one like Danish Blue as well. I cut this into small cubes. Not too much or it will completely dominate the salad.

Finish with some extra virgin olive oil as a dressing, together with the juice from peeling and slicing the oranges. Same goes for this salad, play around with ingredients you like and leave out things you don’t like. It’s all good.

Oranges are not the only fruit

So I made an endive and orange salad for dinner yesterday, and I thought it would be a nice excuse to show you how to clean oranges the professional way, ending up with those pretty little segments without skins. I didn’t figure out how to do this until I was 32, and my mother still doesn’t get it. But it’s pretty awesome.

Orange peelThe type of orange doesn’t matter. I always buy what we call “juicing oranges”, because oranges that are meant to be held in the hand while eating them tend to be less juicy (because of messiness). And I like juicy.

So yeah, this is going to be messy. If you have sensory difficulties with dirty and/or sticky hands, keep the tap running so you can rinse your hands whenever you need to.

First sliceFirst, you need to cut away the white rind. It takes some getting used to, but if you start with cutting the “top” of the orange off, you can see exactly how thickly you need to peel this baby. I always peel the oranges over a bowl, so I can catch the juice as well. I did mention that this is going to get messy, right?

Once you have gotten all of the white rind off, you can hold the orange in one hand and take a sharp knife to slice close to the white “divider” thingie.
Second sliceThis is actually the skin of one of the segments. Don’t worry about slicing very closely to the “divider”, you’re going to end up with different size segments anyway because nature is chaotic like that. So just slice somewhere next to it and don’t worry about not getting it right the first time.

Third sliceNext, you’re going to do the exact same on the opposite side of the segment. So because I’m right-handed, first I slice on the right of the “divider”, then I move to the right and slice on the LEFT side of the next “divider”. (I’d really appreciate suggestions on how to call these, by the way. Divider sounds idiotic). If you’re left-handed, it’s probably easier to mirror this.

Once you’ve made those two slices, you can simply lift out your orange segment with a flick of your knife.

Then you can move on to the next segment, again making a slice right of the “divider”. You can see the thickness of the segment skin in the picture.

Orange leftoversKeep on working your way down through all the segments, and keep rinsing your hands if you need to, because they’re going to be covered in orange juice.

If you used the same trick as me, doing this above a big bowl, you’re going to end up with:

  1. About 7-9 pretty orange segments without skins
  2. A big bowl of juice
  3. A weird flowerlike orange leftover thing!

I will do a follow-up post for the endive salad, which is also pretty awesome but I know most people hate endives.

Just for the lol of it

It’s not only autistic people who have trouble reading body language cues or make really awkward social mistakes.

Making new friends on the underground

John Mayer and Kanye West failing the high five hug

Ryan Seacrest trying to high five a blind man

I don’t want Taylor Swift to hug me either

No comment needed

Lowfive fingerwiggle shakebump?

Ouch

Knee pads are a sensory nightmare

This is why I never high five anyone

Too many choices, so she goes back to clapping. Good girl.

Get out of my face!

Source: Buzzfeed

What Others Had to Say: Love, Overwhelm, Violence

OK this is pretty awesome. Also because I got quoted (whee!) but seriously, so many parents and autistic adults sharing their experiences with upset turning into violence. Make sure to read the original post and comments as well. There is support. It’s here, in our voices, in knowing what you’re going through. You’re not alone.

Emma's Hope Book

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled, When Upset Turns Violent.  I wrote it hoping for feedback from those who may have at one time, or currently have felt so overwhelmed they strike out and from parents who are on the receiving end of children who become violent.   I wanted to get a better idea of the kinds of support that might be beneficial to all involved.

As the comments came in, both here and through email, I realized a few things.  One was the shared feeling of shame so many felt. Tremendous shame was described by almost all the parents of kids who express themselves violently, as well as some who become so overwhelmed they become violent.  Exacerbating, or perhaps a part of the shame, was the feeling that this should not be spoken of for fear of ridicule, blame and judgment.   Many people remain silent, which…

View original post 1,898 more words

The stimlist needs your help

we-can-do-it-stamp
A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post about stimming and why I’d always thought I didn’t stim.

In that post, I added a survey so people could list their own stims. Autistic stims, but also ADHD stims, OCD stims, Tourette stims, manic stims, depressed stims, stressed stims, and any other stim you can think of.

The response has been overwhelming. Over 250 stims have been added so far, with more coming in every day.

Have a look at the responses so far.

So. This is big. And I want to make it even bigger. Because perfectionism, right?

But I can’t do it alone (argh!). I need your help.

Please post a link to the stimming survey on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ circle, Tumblr, or Pinterest. Or link to this post. Comment on other blogs. Spread the word.

We’re doing this for everyone who’s ever been judged for their stimming and for everyone who never knew that their “nervous habits” were stims. We’re doing this for awareness and acceptance. We’re doing this for all of us. Let’s see if we can get this to 1000 stims!

Direct link to the survey:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-eKrnAu29UFatFCS3FrJOs-ghAh436uZKewiWvBOO_A/viewform

Direct link to the survey results:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-eKrnAu29UFatFCS3FrJOs-ghAh436uZKewiWvBOO_A/viewanalytics

To embed the survey on your WordPress.com blog:
[googleapps domain="docs" dir="forms/d/1-eKrnAu29UFatFCS3FrJOs-ghAh436uZKewiWvBOO_A/viewform" query="embedded=true" width="760" height="600" /]

To embed the survey on another website:
<iframe src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1-eKrnAu29UFatFCS3FrJOs-ghAh436uZKewiWvBOO_A/viewform?embedded=true" width="760" height="600" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0">Loading...</iframe>

This really shouldn’t be hard

I needed to reblog this. Short and to the point.

ischemgeek

If you are overwhelmed, don’t kill someone else.

Even if they annoy you.

Even if they’re hard to deal with.

Even if you have to take care of them.

Even if you have to take care of them all the time.

Even if you don’t get a break.

Even if you’re upset at how they’re being treated.

Even if you’re their relative.

Even if you think they’d be better off dead.

Even if you need to stop and are scared of what will happen to them without you.

Because being overwhelmed = no justification for murder. Ever. 

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Twirling my brains out

Stimming. Probably one of the most controversial of all autistic behaviours.

Man, people get upset about it.

On the one hand there’s ABA therapy which (as far as I’m aware) aims to analyse stimming behaviours and tries to modify or eliminate the ones that are classified as “non-functional” or “inappropriate” as much as possible. People saying that stimming means the autistic person can’t concentrate, or is not paying attention. Or that it makes others uncomfortable around the autistic person because it’s so obviously different. That to be accepted as “normal”, the stimming needs to be as unnoticeable as possible. That stimming makes autistic people the target of bullies.

On the other hand, there’s Autistic Pride. Loud Hands. The joy of stimming. The fact that it is a very effective way to self-regulate, especially when dealing with sensory processing issues or overwhelming emotions. The emerging notion that it actually helps autistic people with learning and getting better results in school. That trying to take away the coping mechanisms of the autistic person, increases the chances of a new coping mechanism popping up, one that might actually be more harmful because the autistic person couldn’t use a less harmful one to cope sooner. And the anger and pain that despite what others have said and maybe hoped for their autistic child, hiding or eliminating more obvious stims doesn’t truly help in getting accepted and not getting bullied.

Despite all the controversy, there’s still a lot of confusion over what stimming actually is.

When I first read about autism, I started looking at things in a new light. Things in my life that seemed to fit the description. I looked at experiences that I’d never linked together and suddenly things made sense to me. I was sure I was autistic.

But I was convinced I didn’t stim. It actually rather worried me, because I was afraid that without stims I wouldn’t be autistic enough to get diagnosed. Well, alright, I did have a tendency to get very bouncy when I was excited about something. But that’s not really stimming is it? Stimming is the flapping and the rocking, right?

And then I read somewhere that playing with your hair is a stim. And I thought, “Hey, I do that. A lot. Actually a whole lot. In fact, my mum was always telling me to leave my hair alone.” And then I read that Alyssa of Yes, That Too strokes the satin binding on her blanket as a stim. And I thought, “Mmm satin binding, that feels nice, I need to buy more stuff wi… Hang on. That’s stimming too? I do that.”

So. After reading that Alana of Sleep wake hope and then thought she didn’t stim either (hey, it’s not just me), I had this idea that maybe we need to put together a resource. A list showing all our unique ways of coping with our environment. A list that might help others recognise the same things in themselves.

Autistic people. But also neurotypical people.

Because everyone stims. And it’s so much more than just rocking.

If you think this is a great idea, please add your stimming behaviours to the list by filling in the survey above! It doesn’t matter if you’re autistic or not. They can be as normal or as odd as you like. The only criterium is that YOU feel it’s a stim. After filling in the form you will see a link to the survey answers so far. Who knows, maybe you’ll recognise some extra ones! In that case, no worries, you can fill in the survey as many times as you like.

I’m not entirely sure yet how I’m going to make the results permanently accessible, but I hope this will at least be an interesting start!

Edit: I’ve figured out how to link to the stimming survey results!

Crying

There was this moment when I had job coaching. I started job coaching because I’d gotten fired a few months previously, from a job I loved. And it wasn’t the first time I’d lost my job. And I figured maybe I could use some help figuring out why it always went wrong.

My job coach asked me to describe my wishes and goals. And somewhere along the line, I can’t remember how, I mentioned that all I really wanted was for my employer to accept me the way I am.

And I felt tears starting in my eyes.

The horrible thing was, my job coach noticed too. And she asked the dreaded question, “How does that make you feel?”

Please. Don’t ask that question. Don’t remark on the fact that you see the tears in my eyes.
I cannot cry. I MUST NOT CRY.

Not where you can see me.

I don’t know why I feel such a near-instinctive aversion to letting others see my vulnerability. It’s not reasoned out. As soon as I start feeling a “bad” emotion, my reaction is to STOP. HIDE. I feel bad about crying in private too, bad to the point where I will slap myself to stop crying. But when someone else is there it feels far, far worse.

I can vividly remember the times I sobbed like a child in a public place in the last 20 years. At the funeral of the mother of a friend of mine, when I thought of how the rest of the family would miss her (I didn’t know the woman at all). When I was managing a store all by myself and I had my first angry customer (I was 17). When a boyfriend broke up with me completely unexpectedly. All through the second half of the film “Once Were Warriors” (seriously unstoppable sobbing). When the manager in one of my jobs told me she didn’t want me to come back to work the next day, even though the company had offered me a permanent contract and we were in the middle of negotiations. When I was told in my last job, the job that I loved, that my putting in overtime to get the job done wasn’t appreciated. When I admitted that I wasn’t able to keep track of my finances and that I’d probably get evicted from my house very soon because of all the letters that were lying unopened on my bed. I mean the kind of sobbing that makes you gasp for breath. Buckets of tears. Uncontrollable.

And every time I felt so angry and embarrassed and awful that someone would see me like this.

It’s probably normal. Nobody likes crying.

But I never got that sense of “release” that other people kept mentioning. That I could “let it all out”. Crying just made me feel worse. Even when I cried in private. I just felt tired afterwards. But not relieved. It was all still there. Crying didn’t solve a thing.

And yet.

In the past few months, while I’m working on getting diagnosed, I’ve cried. I’ve cried so many times. Reading other people’s experiences. Their feelings. Their hopes. Their fears. I cried and cried and cried every time I recognised something. Something that touched on that idea of being accepted the way I am. So much crying. It’s always in private, but it’s a lot of crying.

I’m crying as I write this.

And weirdly enough, it doesn’t feel all that angry and embarrassed and awful. I haven’t slapped myself to make it stop. It’s not my idea of fun, but still. It feels a bit like at least it’s OK to cry. It’s a sad cry but also a happy cry. A forgiving and compassionate cry.

I cannot believe how much I’ve been crying.

And it feels like it’s going to be OK.

What nobody tells you about cooking

When my mother taught me how to make pancakes at the age of 12, it was mostly because she hated making pancakes in summer when the evening sun was shining right into the kitchen. It would get incredibly hot in there with the sun and two heavy pancake pans constantly in use. And I wanted to learn. Especially how to do the bit with the two pans. Like how do you make sure that one doesn’t burn while you’re busy with the other? My mother is not very good at explaining but she is very good at showing how to do things. So I watched and paid attention and figured it out. (The trick was to keep the flame under the pan not too high, so you’d have more time before burning started to happen).

As I grew older I kept begging my mother to teach me how to cook other things, but she always replied “Read the package, dear.” But what about potatoes? Or green beans? They don’t have packages. “Everything that doesn’t have a package, boil for 20 minutes.” Oh. Right. Does that really work?

As it turns out, it doesn’t. My mum is a great cook but she hates cooking. I have never asked why. It’s probably to do with having three kids and a husband who was never home on time and not having a lot of money when we were growing up. So I had to figure things out on my own. And there was a lot of figuring out to do, because there’s a lot that nobody explains to you.

Salt

“Add salt and seasoning to taste.” How can I tell if it’s to taste when it’s not done yet? I can only taste it after it’s done and then it’ll be too late! And how much is “a pinch of salt”?

My solution: Screw that. I don’t add salt and seasoning until the food is on the plate and ready to be eaten.

White rice

I didn’t manage to properly cook rice until I was 28. It was always soggy or burnt. And I followed the instructions on the package!

The trick: add one fingertip of water on top of the rice. It doesn’t matter how much rice you have. Or how big the pot is. Or how big your fingers are. This does not make sense mathematically or physically. It just works. One fingertip up to the first joint, as long as it’s not a huge pot with only a scattering of rice at the bottom. In that case, find a smaller pot. Bring to a boil on a medium to high heat, then turn the heat low and put the lid on. If you lift the lid after 15 minutes of boiling, you shouldn’t see any water, at most bubbles coming up between the rice. Replace the lid and turn off the heat, then let it sit for at least 10 minutes. You can also let it sit longer (especially if you wrap it in a towel or blanket) and prepare the rest of the meal in the meantime. Perfectly dry white rice.

Risotto (short grain rice)

© Vít Luštinec – Wikipedia

This sounds like a lot of work. Glaze the rice, add a little bit of stock, stir until it’s soaked up, add a little bit more…

My solution: Risotto tastes exactly the same when you dump the entire amount of stock into the pot in one go. It’s simply rice that soaks up a lot of moisture so you add a lot of moisture to keep it moist and creamy. That’s it. How you add it is completely beside the point (although stirring does help). Follow the recipe with regards to glazing the rice in some olive oil, and adding the other ingredients, but ignore the whole “add and stir until soaked up” thing.

This is true for a lot of recipes, actually. Don’t be afraid to try out different ways of preparing things, as long as you’re not cooking for others. People get annoyed when they have to go hungry. For yourself, you can simply make a sandwich if it all goes wrong. And it will go wrong often. Very very often. That’s OK.

Fish and meat

How can you tell if it’s done? If you cut it open and it’s not done yet, you can’t put it back in the pan because then all the juices run out and the butter or oil starts sputtering.

The fish trick: you can simply fry on one side only. That saves the trouble of trying to turn it over without the fish falling apart, as well. Keep the heat low and wait until the topside doesn’t look raw anymore. Done!

The meat trick: this works best with beef and other red meats, but also with poultry and pork. Push slightly on the top of the meat and feel how springy it is. You can use either your finger or a fork.

Is it as springy as the meat of your thumb when you gently touch the tips of your thumb and index finger together? Then it’s still raw inside.
Is it as springy as the meat of your thumb when you gently touch the tips of your thumb and middle finger together? Still pink inside, but not bloody anymore.
Is it as springy as the meat of your thumb when you gently touch the tips of your thumb and ring finger together? Well done.

Veggies

I used to loathe – ABSOLUTELY LOATHE – nearly every cooked vegetable. Except fava beans and spinach, for some strange reason. But when I moved out I figured out something really shocking:

I don’t need to eat things I don’t like and still eat healthy meals.

In fact, there’s been some research done that shows that if you enjoy what you eat, you eat more slowly which helps digestion and enables your body to derive more nutrients from your food. Besides the obvious fact that enjoying stuff is pretty awesome in its own right.

I still detest boiled carrots

I still detest boiled carrots ( © Bill – Fotolia.com )

My solution: try out everything raw first. It turns out that a lot of vegetables don’t need to be cooked and have a FAR more pleasant texture when they’re raw. You need to be careful and only do this in small amounts, since some plants have toxins in their skins or leaves to keep away insects, like potatoes and beans. But you can usually find information on that online. Just make sure to check your sources. And remember: one bite won’t kill you. Plants that are that toxic are not for sale in supermarkets. So give it a try and see if you find something you like. Just because recipes say you need to prepare a vegetable a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

Cook the scientific way

In closing, check out the site below, Cooking for Engineers. It takes cooking to an entire new level and doesn’t assume anything is true until tested. For example the Kitchen Notes section, where he looks at how food actually becomes brown through different methods of adding heat, and the Cooking Tests section where he sees if the Beer Can Chicken idea actually works and tries out different ways of cooking bacon. The recipes in the Recipe File all have clear pictures of each step and very handy charts at the bottom with ingredients and preparation steps.

© Michael Chu - Cookingforengineers.com

© Michael Chu – Cookingforengineers.com

Absolutely brilliant.

Normal is a bitch

A couple of days ago, I got an email notification about a new comment on one of the blogs I follow, Feminist Aspie. Feminist Aspie has written an excellent rant about neurotypical privilege and the constant misconceptions and prejudice about autism that she has to do battle with. Being made to feel like she has to apologise just for being herself is not ever an OK thing.

Someone had found her rant by searching for the word neurotypical, and decided after reading to leave a comment outlining their thoughts.

There’s a lot in there that’s extremely problematic, which is why I’ve decided to re-post it in its entirety. Trigger warning for victim blaming, ableism, and minimisation. And probably some other shit too. I’m not very good at the terminology, I just know wrong when I see it.

Ah dear.. I googled neurotypical and found this blog. I love to complain about my lot, but am only a tiny bit on the spectrum if at all. Also used to scream after loud bangs, managed to get out of it. Then there is the elevated amount of effort required to have (fake) normal conversation and body language. Someone wrote somewhere about how if you’re tired and forget to maintain correct body language there’s nasty consequences.. There is a certain extra effort in things, have never had arm flapping quite but a few other strange body language maneuvers I have had to un-learn. For me it’s not that there’s nasty consequences, just that I will not make new friends/girlfriends or win respect if I’m not conscious and careful with my body language and conversation. With language in particular, I tend not to naturally adopt cool, trendy language. Naturally more formal, but have to consciously and deliberately use certain cooler words eg “wanna go somewhere?”.

Why are all you guys wanting “a diagnosis” ?

It’s a pain.. I think I have been living in the “normal” sphere for ages and not ever acknowledged that it takes me a generally higher effort to do so than those who are actually born normal rather than having to learn it.. Ah well it has its advantages and perks too 😉 faster learning of technical shit and foreign languages so shouldn’t complain too much.. Have to take the good with the bad.

A have a suspicion that these autistic conditions are partially curable, since at 19 you would say I was definitely on the spectrum, but at 35 I have become so normal, it only rarely crosses my mind.

Oh yes.. This anger at “neurotypical privilege”. I do get rather angry when I feel that one tiny body language slip-up and a girl can lose attraction for me, or an interview can go to shit. Thing is, you can turn it around in a sociopathic way and say “if I fake it up well, they fall for it..”. Some people worry about the “judging..” of neurotypicals, but trust me you can outsmart them some of the time 😉 I wish I could do it more often and even the score!

~ Felix – August 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

It’s taken me a couple of days to line up my thoughts about this. My first priority was to write a comment on Feminist Aspie’s blog because my sense of social justice won’t let me get away with ignoring things that have the potential to be extremely hurtful and harmful for so many people. So I wanted to take the responsibility to publicly point out the flaws in their comment and not wait around for someone else to hopefully do that job better than I could.

And I tried to be polite about it, because who knows. They might mean well and simply not realise how much they’ve internalised all the ableism in society, the pressure to fit in and conform. So I tried my hand at validating because validation is important and it’s something I often forget and that makes people angry and less inclined to listen.

If you want to take a minute to read the polite version, go ahead. I’ll wait.

Or you can stay here and read the rude version.

“Ah dear”. SERIOUSLY? You start off by being condescending? OK, you might not be from an English speaking country and not aware of the overtones of the word “dear”. But I’m not from an English speaking country either. And this sounds very condescending to me. People who start any conversation with “Oh dear…” or “Listen, my dear…” are usually about to engage in a heavy bout of ‘explaining of things that should be obvious even to someone who is brain dead’. I should know. I do that a LOT myself.

“Only a tiny bit on the spectrum if at all”. That doesn’t really sound like a professional diagnosis, although I could be wrong because some professionals don’t like using the word autistic and try to explain symptoms away just as much as lay people do. But even if it’s your own opinion and not a professional diagnosis, that’s OK. If you don’t feel autistic, then far be it from me to criticise that. Even though you are criticising the hell out of everyone with a diagnosis all throughout your comment.

This next one is REALLY problematic, though. “Managed to get out of it.” “At 35 I have become so normal.” And the worst one, “A [sic] have a suspicion that these autistic conditions are partially curable”.

Here’s the thing. Brain flash: we are adults. We are not children anymore. Of course we are going to be better at certain things than we were at the age of 4. EVERYONE is better at certain things as an adult than they were at the age of 4. Like holding a f**king spoon. Autism is a developmental delay, not a complete inability to learn. Sometimes the things we experience the most “delays” in are the things that don’t really interest us and so we’re not really motivated to learn. Whoa, another brain flash: being slow to learn something you’re not interested in is true for EVERYONE as well. If you’re not motivated in some way to learn how to fix your own car, you are never going to learn how to fix your car, and you’re certainly never going to be GOOD at it. Autistic or not autistic.

Yeah, I am yelling. That’s because people who think autism can be cured make me want to stab things.

Again, just because we’ve learned how to do things that other people like parents and teachers thought were important for us to learn, doesn’t mean we’re less autistic than the day we were born. It just means we’ve learned to do something despite not being intrinsically motivated, usually because we got punished for getting it wrong. Like forgetting to keep our hands still. Or not looking someone in the eye. Or forgetting to put on deodorant (I still don’t think body odour, mine or other people’s, smells anywhere near as bad as using too much aftershave or perfume. But I’ve learned that other people think it’s important).

Don’t think for one second that punishment always takes the form of corporal punishment or getting yelled at. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting told that an intelligent child like you should be getting it right. Over and over. Until you start believing you’re stupid. You must be. Because otherwise it would be easy, right? Everyone says so.

So yeah. I learned how to do things other people thought were important for me to learn. Most of the time it took me a lot longer. I never got as good at some of those things as the other kids. But I learned. Does that mean I got less autistic? No. I just got better at hiding “problematic” behaviours and better at coping with the demands of the world around me. I realise that a lot of parents will consider that a success for their autistic child, but please, I beg you: always be mindful of how much extra effort it takes us to appear “normal”. And maybe consider putting in at least some of that effort into things that actually help us become happier, less insecure adults.

OK, back to the comment. “I will not make new friends/girlfriends or win respect if I’m not conscious and careful with my body language and conversation.” And later on, “One tiny body language slip-up and a girl can lose attraction for me, or an interview can go to shit.” And you call that no nasty consequences? Are you f**king kidding me? You’re saying you’re not worth getting hired, being in a relationship with, or even getting RESPECT unless you constantly monitor your verbal and non-verbal communication. I’d call those pretty nasty consequences. Not getting a job? Pretty nasty. Not getting respect? Not being treated like a human being? I’d say that is pretty much the CORE of nasty. Everyone is worthy of respect whether they’re the queen of Denmark or a person in an irreversible coma. Maybe you didn’t mean it like that but it’s what you said and probably what you believe on some level. That if you don’t behave “normally”, people will be justified in treating you like crap.

Christ. I’m actually starting to feel sorry for you.

“Why are all you guys wanting ‘a diagnosis’?” OK, not feeling as sorry now, because back to the condescending tone. (What on earth is up with the quotes around diagnosis? Still haven’t figured that one out). From your story I can’t really tell if you’ve ever gotten diagnosed yourself. You are 35 and would have been an adult or nearly so by the time the DSM started including symptoms for Asperger’s Syndrome. You are obviously committed to learning enough social skills to live in the “normal sphere” so I’m assuming you have enough verbal skills and motor skills to not worry about those two areas, unlike some with “classic” autism. So that makes it highly unlikely that you were ever diagnosed as a child. “At 19 you would say I was definitely on the spectrum” would suggest that you did get diagnosed at 19, though. So I’m not sure.

However. Just because you feel adult diagnosis “is a pain” and wouldn’t give YOU any benefits, does that mean that this should be true for everyone? How about some validation that doing some things actually does cost a bit more effort, not because you’re stupid but because you’re autistic? (Those two words are not synonymous, by the way). You’re obviously not expecting any acknowledgment from others that you don’t have it as easy as others, but does that really mean you need to judge other people for wanting a little bit of acknowledgement? Those two things, validation and acknowledgment, are usually at the heart of anyone seeking an adult diagnosis, the feeling of “it’s not my fault”. You obviously think that’s a pain. Well, if your way so far has worked for you, good for you.

Except that it’s turned you into a wannabe sociopath who wishes they could turn the tables on neurotypical people and “outsmart them” more often, so you can “even the score” and get revenge for all the times they’ve judged you.

SERIOUSLY DUDE. THAT IS SO NOT COOL. Treating neurotypical people as the enemy? Talking about outsmarting them and making them fall for your manipulations? Basically treating someone badly just because someone else who you perceive to be from the same “group” has treated you badly in the past? Dude. Not OK. AT ALL.

If that’s the side effect of telling kids to try harder to “be normal” and “fit in” and hide their autistic traits and punishing them for mistakes in body language and other things by insinuating they’re stupid for getting it wrong… Then what are we aiming for when we teach all those things?

A well-adjusted, passing for normal, shiny aspie who dreams of getting even? Or a stimming, smiling, weirdo autistic who is just happy being themselves?

I know what I’d like to be when I grow up.

Highly verbal even when alone

“There was something I wanted to blog about today. I just can’t remember what it was,” I say to the kitchen tap as I’m filling the kettle. “I should have made some preliminary notes last night.”

I play with the cat a bit, until the water starts boiling. “Sorry sweetie, I have to make water now.” As I walk into the kitchen I tell the kettle, “Make water, silly, I meant make tea. Tea tea tea.”

Then as I’m rummaging around for the tea bags, I lift my head and say to my teacup, “Oh! I just remembered. I wanted to write about talking to myself out loud!”

I’ve lost my marbles… © Johnsroad7 – Dreamstime.com

I think everyone is familiar with the trope of the “town crazy”. We had one in the town where I grew up. An old woman swathed in several colourful coats, shawls, skirts, and other pieces of fabric, walking around town with a small grocery buggy and muttering to herself. Sometimes she’d yell things that nobody understood. The children were usually a bit scared of her but the adults said she was harmless, just out of her mind. The only thing everyone agreed on was to leave her alone and don’t engage her in conversation because… well, you never knew. After all, she talked to herself out loud.

As do I.

I also meep to myself, sing phrases to myself, ummm to myself, shhh to myself, berate myself and laugh at myself. I sometimes do this via my cat because it’s more acceptable to talk to a cat and say “Oh, owner was being a bit silly wasn’t she? Yes she was!” than to directly address myself and tell myself I’m being silly. Out loud.

“You’re silly.” Yes self, I know I’m silly. Now shut up.

It’s funny because I don’t think I’m crazy. It’s just easier to vocalise thoughts sometimes, to get them out of my head when it’s getting crowded in there. Or just random sounds. One of my coworkers was the first to point out that I constantly made small noises while concentrating on a task. I’d never noticed. And while I knew I liked the sounds of certain words, I never realised I would sing them to myself over and over if I went to do something associated with that word.

“Cuppa tea cuppa tea cuppa tea tea tea.”
“Ooooh! Books! Books books books books books.”

(Note: I am actually choosing examples here with words that sound fairly similar in Dutch and English. I can’t make myself use an example where the Dutch word is just completely different, because translating it to English simply sounds wrong. I can’t do it).

So now I’ve described three ways of talking to myself. One is just sounds, meeps, ummms, pompoms. One is probably echolalia, repeating words or phrases (even though I’m repeating myself, not repeating someone else or something I heard on TV, so I’m not sure if that counts). And the last one is fully formed sentences that are a logical representation of what is going on in my head. A one-sided conversation, if you will.

It sort of feels like they all serve the same function. A way of soothing myself, of making myself focus, or helping me think and make concepts more concrete. It doesn’t feel very different to just be pomming to myself or to speak in full sentences. Except that with the full sentences, I become gradually aware at that particular moment that I’m talking to myself out loud and that this is the sign of a crazy person and not socially acceptable. But I don’t really give a damn, to be honest.

I’m still struggling with wrapping this post up in a nice and tidy conclusion.

The thing is, it’s all new to me. Not the talking out loud or making sounds. But the awareness of it. The fact that these are all well-known autistic behaviours. I didn’t even include any of them in the list of symptoms I wrote for my therapist. So other than describing what I do and how it feels to me, I’m at a loss to interpret any of it and give it some meaning. At a loss to embed it in the autistic framework that I’m slowly building for myself.

Never mind the social implications.

Because that old lady talking to herself? She’s just like me.

My grandma

I have wanted to write something about my grandma for quite some time now, but I have no idea where to begin.

My gran even took me to Pere Lachaise. None of the other grandchildren had insisted on that. She thought it was a bit odd but she enjoyed the visit.

My grandma died in 2009, at the age of 95. So she’s been around a long time. When I was growing up, we lived about 40 km away. In the Netherlands, that’s not very close (although not extremely far away either). I can still recall every kilometre of that car ride. When I graduated from high school and started at university, I moved closer, but of course that didn’t mean I visited more often. That’s what happens.

I loved my gran a lot, though. When I was 15, she took me to Paris, like she’d done with her other two grandchildren as well. Just the two of us, doing touristy stuff. I had a lot of fun. I also got into a lot of arguments with her. I think that was the first time I realised that my gran and I were very much alike. Infuriatingly alike.

A couple of days back, there was a special guest post on Musingsofanaspie.com written by her daughter. The way she described her mother reminded me how parents nowadays are able to have much more open and affectionate relationships with their children than back in the 40s and 50s. Because my grandmother was never able to have that kind of relationship with her children – my father and my uncle.

Gran was born in 1913, just before the start of World War I. Her father was a dairy farmer in a small village (half the people still living there are my relatives in some way). She told me that when she was around 9 or 10, her father left the local church and decided to raise his children in the anthroposophical way, after the tenets of Rudolf Steiner. I do know that my gran wasn’t at all religious, which seems to fit that story.

oma-pothoedWhen she was older she was allowed to go to secondary school and get a diploma, which was not unheard of but certainly not common for a farmer’s daughter in those days. It enabled her to work at the fairly big flooring manufacturer just outside the village (and yeah, I’m pretty proud to say that that same local factory is now a global enterprise). I’m not entirely sure what she did there, she said she did lab work and after an accident with hydrochloric acid the director allowed her to work in his office as an assistant while she recuperated. She sounded very proud of having worked for this man.

The reason why I sound a bit careful when describing my gran’s stories is because sometimes she felt the need to appear of a higher social standing. For example, she always said her dad was a “gentleman farmer” or “landed” when I know he was nothing of the sort. My parents have discovered some things through genealogical research that don’t quite match up with her stories either. Since I’m not entirely sure which ones are fake and which ones aren’t, I’m simply going to describe things the way she told them to me. I do think most of them are true. She was a marvellous story teller though.

That’s my gran all caught up in a story she’s telling on my 4th birthday. The girl in this video isn’t me, by the way.

opa-oma-louwAnyway, when my grandparents met and got married in 1934, they started their own business. My grandad was a carpenter and upholsterer. It was hard at first, because of the depression, but business increased gradually and they were able to buy a big house with a store underneath after a few years. That’s where my dad was born just after World War II. Because someone had to manage the store while my grandad was out doing assignments, my gran became a businesswoman. She did the books and finances as well. My grandad was doing client acquisition and making social calls and being an all around nice guy with a gift for interior decoration. The business pretty much shifted from upholstery to interior design. They started becoming a household name in the upper classes of the area. I think that’s where my gran’s ideas of having to maintain a certain class came from – after all, you can’t have an ordinary farmer’s daughter advising you on which candlesticks to buy.

From the way my father tells it, the store was everything to her. After the store was handed over to the next generation, she took pride in her cooking and her garden and her quilts. She wasn’t very involved in the lives of her two children and didn’t show them much affection. When she did show interest in someone else, it was always with clients or acquaintances. With her children, she kept her distance. But then again, my grandad was fairly authoritarian and not very touchy feely either, which wasn’t considered abnormal in those days.

After she died, I was expecting to hear people describe my gran as “egocentric” or “tough”. However, hearing her described as “unemotional” and “loveless” on top of that shocked me to the core. My mother, her daughter-in-law, said my gran was incapable of showing love to those closest to her. But what about me then? Well, I was far younger than her first two grandchildren, so more distance meant more love. Apparently. I don’t want to discount the experiences of my mother and father in relating to her, but it’s just so different from how I saw her.

oma

My weird grandma. Opinionated, infuriating, stubborn gran. Emancipated, rigid, fairness-in-everything gran. My grandma who actually respected me for standing up to her. Gran who grilled every man I dated to make sure they were good dating material and wouldn’t let me squander my talent on housework and childbearing. My grandma who spent hours on the phone talking about her life and her interests and hardly ever stopping to ask how things were with me. Gran who yelled at me for not being able to boil an egg and loved explaining to me how to make meatballs after I begged her to show me (she complimented me afterwards by saying mine “were nearly as good as hers”). My gran who had the craziest sense of humour and who loved staying up until 4am with her weird opinionated infuriating granddaughter to drink lots of alcohol and talk about Life, the Universe, and Everything.

On my 7th birthday. She’s pointing and laughing because we’d built a huge heap of fallen leaves in the front garden and were diving into it. The little girl is me.

I still miss her.

I’ve been told I’m probably the only one.

Rainbow soup

20130825_202111
So I decided to make rainbow soup today.

It’s not actually called rainbow soup. I just like it and it’s got a lot of colours so that’s why.

I don’t really feel like doing an official recipe so I’m just going to show how I made it.

Starting with about two handfuls of green beans.

I hate green beans when they’re stringy or have big beans inside or are gigantically overcooked. Other than that I quite like them.

If you want to make sure they aren’t stringy, there’s a trick to cleaning them. If you sort of use the knife to pull the tip of the bean towards you while cutting, you can get the string to come with as well. I hope the picture sort of shows that.

It’s really hard to take a picture while holding a green bean in one hand and a knife in the other.

I cut the beans into small pieces, probably around 1-1.5cm. I guess that averages out around 0.5in. Does it matter? Not really.

Then there’s the big pot of chicken stock. Two litres. I’m lazy and I always use ready made stock from jars. It’s just so much easier.

I prefer jars to making stock from cubes because this way I can just put it in the pot without thinking about it. I do add plenty of water because I don’t usually like very salty food.

This is called a lombok. It’s a chili pepper used in Indonesian cooking. I’m not actually cooking Indonesian food this time but it’s the most common pepper available in the Netherlands. I think it’s a variation of the Cayenne pepper.

I like lomboks because they’re spicy but not insanely so. Plus they have an awesome red colour.

This one is about the size of my hand.

There’s a couple of ways to clean chili peppers. I prefer cutting them lengthwise and then scraping out the seeds and interior.

The more of the orangey interior (seed ribs) you remove, the milder the taste will be. Today I’m not interested in sniffles so I’m removing most of the insides.

After that I’m cutting them into small strips.

I’m mostly doing it for the colour.

Then it’s on to the tins.

Crispy mais. I don’t know what’s so crispy about it. It’s just maize kernels. Or corn kernels. You know what I mean. There’s a picture.

I always make sure to buy the kind without added sugar. Seriously. Maize is sweet enough already. Silly people.

I drain off the water in the tin before adding the contents to the chicken stock.

It’s starting to look pretty.

Green, yellow, and red.

I had to put in quite a bit of effort to get this picture. The maize kept sinking to the bottom of the pot. And as with the green bean and the knife, it’s a bit hard to take a picture while stirring soup with a really big ladle and making sure the pot stays in place.

The sacrifices I make for this blog.

Another tin!

Diced tomatoes. No idea why this tin is in English, since it’s actually a Dutch brand.

This step in the preparation might be a leftover from when I didn’t eat tomatoes. What I do is I take the diced tomatoes and rinse them about a thousand times till I only have the bits of tomato meat left and no juice.

Fresh tomatoes are not an option (even though I actually like those now) because the skins peel off in a nasty way and peeling them beforehand is a lot of effort.

I might try peeled tomatoes but I’d have to rinse those as well. And they feel icky when you’re cutting them up.

So rinsed diced tomatoes it is. Rinse rinse rinse. Not much left when I’m done rinsing.

Without the juice the soup doesn’t become a red cloudy mess either. We want rainbow soup, not tomato soup.

(Oh, on a side note: at my supermarket they have like half an aisle filled with different types of tomatoes. It is 100% impossible for me to pass it without starting to sing “Let’s call the whole thing off” softly to myself).

Time to clean and dice the chicken breast.

Yeah, I know you can get pre-diced chicken breast. But I’m very particular about icky bits in my chicken. I’ve learned how to eat (and love) other parts of grilled chickens, but breast definitely needs to be skin and tendon free. So usually I prefer buying a whole breast and cleaning it myself. I’m better at it than their machines.

You don’t want to know how often I find bits of bone.

Potatoes next. (Potayto! Potahto! Let’s call the whole thing off!)

I use a specific potato breed called “Eigenheimer” from Friesland. The Dutch have a thing about potatoes. But any fluffy, starchy potato will do.

What I want is for the bits of potato to become soft and crumbly when I eat them. But they shouldn’t be dissolving while still in the soup. I don’t want thick starchy potato soup.

So now we’ve got our pot of chicken stock, filled with green beans, chili pepper bits, maize kernels, diced and rinsed tomatoes, diced chicken breast, and diced potatoes.

Let’s go and bring that mother to a soft boil.

I usually aim for about 30 minutes. The chicken and potatoes need plenty of time to cook.

While the soup is softly bubbling to itself, I’ve got time for my favourite part.

Coriander. Cilantro.

I love it. A lot of people hate it.

That’s ok. Autistic people know everything about “irrational” dislikes of food so nobody here is going to force anyone to eat something they don’t like.

I’m just going to make you look at it.

Pretty green leaves. So pretty.

And now I’m going to take my big-ass knife and destroy the pretty green leaves.

Chop chop chop!

Well, I’m not that fast. This is a really sharp knife and I still can’t feel the tip of my left ring finger from where I cut into it with this same knife in January. So… proceed carefully. But thoroughly.

I need very finely chopped coriander.

Because I’m going to make meatballs! And my experience with not-so-finely chopped coriander is that it’ll end up everywhere (plate. frying pan. hands) except inside the meatballs.

Lean ground beef. Seasoned with some fresh black and white pepper and a pinch or two of salt (I use literal pinches. Like what I can pinch between my thumb and first two fingers). Again, I’m not that fond of salt but you can add more if you want.

Next, I add the coriander, a small egg, and some bread crumbs.

The egg and bread crumbs are purely optional, I only add it because the meatballs turn nice and brown when frying with a bit of egg in the mix, and it makes it a bit easier to roll the balls and not have them fall apart in your hands or while frying.

But it does make everything a lot ickier to touch. So I can understand if you skip this part.

Knead the meat until it starts feeling like bread dough. If it’s still really sticky and slippery, add some extra breadcrumbs. You literally want a bread dough feel. That’s the easiest for rolling the meatballs.

(This feeling is not applicable when not using egg and breadcrumbs. Then you’re on your own. I’m so mean).

Take a bit of meat about the size of your thumb and roll it between your palms in a circular motion until you get a ball.

I always try to minimise amount of washing up, so I usually put the meatballs directly into the frying pan. Not heated up yet. Just a little bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking to the pan and a small pat of butter (about thumb size) for the nice frying action later on.

Repeat lots of times until you run out of meat.

Then turn on the heat underneath the frying pan and fry the meatballs until they turn brown, on a high to medium heat. Depends on how much it’s splattering. I don’t like splatter, it always ends up on my hands and then I have burns and that hurts.

Turn off the heat under both pans (yes, the soup was still softly boiling, remember?) and add the meatballs to the soup. Again, try to avoid splatter. Boiling soup is hot.

What do you mean, accident prone? I only have cooking mishaps about once a month or so.

And it’s so worth it.

Look. RAINBOW SOUP!!!

Soundcaged

Waiting room at the mental health clinic. Walk in. Sit down.

© Arpad Nagy-Bagoly – Fotolia.com

The clock. Every second. Tock. The clock. The clock.
The window is open.
A car is getting closer. VrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAuuuuuughhhhhhhhhmmmm.
Music. Somewhere. Radio maybe? Too faint to hear which song.
Receptionist typing.
Someone LAUGHS. Outside? Softly fading away.
The clock. The clock.
Pouring coffee in a plastic cup.
Someone COUGHS.
The clock. The clock.
Music. Is it getting louder? Still too faint to hear which song.
The window is open.
Road works. Banging bricks together. Clink. Clink clink.
Sipping coffee from a plastic cup.
The clock.
Receptionist typing.
Air conditioning vent. Whrrrhrrrrrh.
Whrrrhrrrrrh.
Whrrrhrrrrrh.
A car is getting closer. VrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAuuuuuughhhhhhhhhmmmm.
The clock.
PHONE RINGS. Jump up.
Only once. Settle down.
Receptionist. Talking.
Music. Which song which song?
Road works. Bricks. Clink clink.
The clock. The clock. AC vent. Whrrrhrrrrrh. Whrrrhrrrrrh.
Someone SLAMS a door somewhere.
Receptionist typing.
Footsteps.
Sipping coffee from a plastic cup.
Sliding doors in the hallway. Whshshshhhhh.
Sliding open.
Sliding shut.
Sliding open. Sliding shut.
Receptionist typing.
Sliding open. Stuck? No rhythm.
Footsteps.
Someone COUGHS.
Someone opening a file cabinet down the hall.
Footsteps. HIGH HEELS.
The clock. AC vent. Whrrrhrrrrrh.
“MR. JONES? HI HOW ARE YOU?” Jump up.
Not for me. Settle down.
Receptionist typing.
Sipping coffee from a plastic cup.
Music definitely louder now. Can almost hear the song.
Footsteps. High heels. AC vent. Whrrrhrrrrrh.
Sliding doors. Sliding open. Whshshshhhhh.
Sliding shut.
The clock. The clock. The clock. The clock. THE CLOCK. THE CLOCK.

This description is based on the actual sounds I heard while waiting for one of my diagnostic appointments, last Thursday. This wasn’t a sensory overload, just the things I heard. The fluorescent lighting didn’t breach my threshold that day so I haven’t included them in the sound list. I also haven’t included the receptionist’s phone conversation because of possible privacy issues and the conversation the receptionist had with one of the therapists about one of their colleagues possibly having a burnout and not returning to work because by that time I was concentrating on my stim toy and besides it was really none of my business even though I could hear every word.

What is my face doing?

That dreaded moment has arrived again. Time to renew my passport. Of course my passport expired a couple of weeks ago already (yay executive function!) so I really need to get it done SOON. In the Netherlands you are required to have a valid ID document with you at all times, and that means a passport or an official ID card. Driving licenses aren’t always valid ID, and besides, I don’t have a driving license. So passport it is.

And that means getting my picture taken.

That’s what I hate about renewing my passport. The rest is fairly standard, scripted stuff, nothing much that might throw me off. But photos? Argh.

Because I have no idea what my face is doing.

With all the rules about “no smiling, no visible teeth, face has to be completely visible, neutral expression”, having my picture taken becomes a task of gigantic proportions. Especially the neutral expression bit. In my current passport picture I look like a particularly depressed heroin junkie. And that took about 25 minutes of non-stop instructions by the photographer. “Tilt your head a little bit to the left. No, LEFT, not right. Raise your chin. Don’t smile. Open your eyes wider. Stop tilting your head to the right. You’re smiling again. Don’t frown.” And so on and so on. It’s really stressful because I have no idea how I look. Am I smiling? Is this ok? WHAT IS MY FACE DOING?

I used to practice at home for hours, trying to see in the mirror what the “right” position is to put my face in, and trying to remember which muscles I’m tensing and which I’m relaxing and what facial configuration does that result in and can I reproduce it? But usually as soon as I get to the photographer, I forget everything I’ve practiced and simply adopt my standard “deer in headlights” look. Or inappropriate smiling.

But that was before I knew about autism and maybe it’s not just me who gets confused by all the facial expression stuff. So this time I was determined to do it differently.

I took a mirror with me.

At the photographer’s, I tried to explain that I have trouble knowing what expression I have on my face and would it be OK if I kept the mirror in my hand so I could check? He just looked at me and asked me why on earth did I need to do that for? OK, fail. He then started explaining all about the requirements which I KNOW BY HEART so really that’s not the problem here. Fail again. Just take the damn picture already.

And then I went to a second photographer.

Yes, it’s an expensive solution. But I figured, if I just get as many passport photos taken as possible, at least one should fit the requirements. I can’t deal with the stress of not knowing whether my photo will be accepted or not. And if it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll have to do the entire thing ALL OVER AGAIN. So I’d rather have some extra expenses than all that added stress. I’m learning to accommodate myself. Which rocks, by the way.

When I explained to the second photographer, he turned the computer screen so I could watch and see each picture he took and adjust my face in whatever way I felt comfortable doing. And he helped me get my errant left incisor under control as well (it has a tendency to slip over my lower lip). And it took about 15 tries but I didn’t feel as self-conscious as at the first photographer’s.

Maybe I should go to a third photographer as well, but I’m sort of out of spoons and I think the second set is probably going to fit the requirements. Although I look cuter in the first set, I think. Oh well. I’ll take both of them with me when I go to the passport office.

Got milk

So I was reading this really funny and insightful post on Notesoncrazy.com about trying to get milk from the hardware store. Where milk was supposed to be maternal care and nurturing and how you shouldn’t expect your mother to give you milk when she’s not a grocery store. Or something like that. It was insightful. I’m doing a really bad job at explaining this.

© Nicholas Watts - Fotolia.com

© Nicholas Watts – Fotolia.com

Anyway. I started to write a comment, thinking of making a joke about how I never liked milk anyway and maybe that would explain why I never go looking for milk. Or maybe why I don’t have any maternal feelings. I’ve always said I don’t have maternal feelings. I like taking care of people though. But no maternal feelings.

And then I suddenly got hit by lightning.

Well no, not literally. Just this bright flash of really painful light *inside my brain*. Thoughts connecting. Sparks flying. Maybe some short circuiting going on. It felt painful. It still does while I’m typing this, but for a different reason.

You see, other women always told me that at a certain age, I’d get over my disinterest in babies and suddenly I’d feel those maternal urges welling up. (Or like the men said, my ovaries would start rattling). And then I would be able to think of nothing else and end up having children and love them to bits. Happens to all of us, apparently. And I would be deliriously happy even though it would be the complete opposite of how I felt about babies now.

I turned 30 and those feelings didn’t happen. I turned 33 and thought I wanted to have babies with someone, but it seemed more like a feeling of sexuality and horniness, not maternal anything. And the guy turned out to be a jerk so that was a narrow escape. And then I turned 36 and I sort of felt like maybe I do want children? Because it’s kind of sad that maybe I will no longer be able to in a few years time. But not an urge or anything. I held my little nephew and even though he was the cutest baby I’d ever seen, it didn’t awaken any feelings in me. So I was right, I simply don’t have that maternal instinct. I don’t think puppies are all that cute either. Kitten are extremely cute, but just as cute to look at as adult cats. See? No maternal urges.

I even said of myself I must have faulty brain wiring for not going gooey over babies. Because that’s supposed to be biologically hardwired. Big eyes and big mouth = need to nurture. So I must be faulty.

I made jokes about having a faulty brain.

© MAK - Fotolia.com

© MAK – Fotolia.com

All that based on what other people were telling me I was supposed to be feeling.

And I never considered that maybe I feel things differently from others. Even when I started figuring out that maybe I’m autistic, I still didn’t think that this might mean I simply feel things differently from others. That it doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions. But that how others describe those emotions simply isn’t related to how I feel them.

Until I started making a joke about how I don’t like milk.

The thing is. I think I do have maternal feelings. They just feel different from what I’ve always been told they should feel like.

I want to keep a child safe inside me. I want to know what it feels like to be pregnant and grow and learn new things about my body. I want to feel a child’s first kick. I want to feel the pain of contractions.

I want to keep a child warm and safe and sheltered during those first confusing days and weeks in the big world outside, all the bright lights and loud sharp noises unfiltered and all coming at them at once. I know what that feels like. I want to help them learn how to cope with that.

© annems - Fotolia.com

© annems – Fotolia.com

I want to feed a child and learn what is yummy and what is yucky all over again. I want to see their personality develop in their likes and dislikes. I want to see if they like soft blankets and dancing in puddles as much as me. Or maybe they will like something else and I will discover that joy through them.

I want to support a child and teach them that it’s ok to be curious and enthousiastic and passionate. I will help them understand things without shaming them for not knowing things right away. We all have to learn new things. I want to learn new things as well through teaching and supporting a child in their journey of discovery. I want them to teach me as well.

I want to care and give love. Even if that love isn’t expressed the way some people say love ought to be expressed. I know my parents love me, even though they sometimes expressed it in odd ways. I’m sure a child will know I love them too. Just as much as I love kittens.

I have no idea what to call this feeling.

But I know how to describe the feeling that I’ve always believed myself to be cold and uncaring and not maternal, because I trusted that others knew more about emotions than me.

That feeling is sort of anger and grief mixed up. I think.

And too many tears to count.

Ch-ch-changes

A few years ago, when pizza delivery places here started preslicing pizzas more often, I was really annoyed because I wanted to determine the size of my own slices.

When my pizza arrived just now, it took me about 30 seconds of pulling on the edges to realise it wasn’t presliced. And then another 15 seconds or so to think of a solution (knife!). And then I felt so annoyed with the pizza delivery place for not preslicing my pizza.

Until I remembered that this was how I used to like it.

I’m pretty bad at handling small changes like that. I hadn’t even realised until now. It’s not that I get an emotional meltdown or get stuck and have no way out, but the annoyance is definitely there and it does take me somewhat longer to adapt.

And all because of pizza.

Further testing

Well. At least I am a little bit autistic enough.

With regards to the intake interview you have had with my colleague on August 13th, we would like to conduct an Autism Spectrum Disorder test with you. Our office manager will call you to set up several appointments, at least one of which will be with one of your parents (to get a heteroanamnesis on your past), and one to get an anamnesis on your current situation (for this appointment we will also invite someone close to you, this has to be someone who knows you well).

So all that effort was just to see whether I even deserve to be tested? Dear lord.

And the interview with someone close to me will be interesting. I’m single. I have a few close friends but I can’t really say if any of them know me well, because I tend to downplay or hide my weaknesses. Do my friends think I’m autistic enough? I could ask my ex, he definitely agrees on me being weird. 😛

But am I supposed to be present at both those interviews? The wording seems to say (“also”) that I’m only to be there for the second test, but not the one with my mother or father. So why one and not the other? CONFUSING.