Monthly Archives: August 2013

Zero Tolerance

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The funny thing about my Aspergers is that it blesses (curses?) me with extreme polarity. I can remember the tiniest minutiae of information, yet I can’t remember where I put my keys. I can deal with major levels of discomfort, but I can’t handle having an itchy tag on the collar of my shirt. And while it gives me the ability to tune out things that drive me crazy, it also makes me lose my shit at the smallest provocation.

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So that’s where my keys were.

My tolerance level is practically nil for certain EXTREMELY annoying things. Recently, my daughter has begun making this really strange noise with her mouth/throat that makes me nauseous. It sounds like a pig trying to stop itself from vomiting. In fact, you know what? I can’t even describe how gross it is, so I’m going to let you experience it for yourself:

My daughter’s disgusting throat noise.

I told you so.

Now, I don’t know if this is some sort of new stim/nervous tic she has developed, but I have told her over and over again to STOP MAKING THAT GOD DAMN NOISE. But she doesn’t stop. Most likely can’t stop, but that makes no difference to me. Last night she made the noise at least ten times while we were playing Life, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her if she kept doing it, I’d make sure she wouldn’t be able to play at Life anymore. And I wasn’t talking about the board game.

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She didn’t think it was funny, either.

And it’s even funnier that as I’m writing a blog post about not having any tolerance for anything, I have a difficult time making the post exactly how I want it to be and end up throwing a tantrum over it. I can usually problem solve pretty effectively, but sometimes the problem is just so frustrating that it makes me just up and say “fuck this shit” and give up. I had some other things to talk about in this post, but I’ve kinda lost the groove after my energy-draining frustration explosion.

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The Sensory Experience of Autism

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People on the Spectrum experience the world in a different way. The senses of someone with autism are wired in such a different way that it is almost like they are living in a different world than a neurotypical people. Different stimuli lead to different behaviors that are considered “abnormal” – imagine if everybody in the world was wearing sunglasses except for you. You would think that the sunlight was too bright, and everyone else would just think you are crazy.

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They would also be so much more cooler than you.

That’s what what autism is like… sort of. A child on the spectrum will react to loud noises that are not quite so loud to everyone else. A person with Aspergers will tune out everything in the room except for the smallest little thing that has grabbed his or her attention, simply because it is not so small to him or her. It’s not only that our reactions are different; our perceptions are altered, as well.

I went to the orthopedist the other day to address some pain issues I’ve been having in my elbows and wrists. The doctor begins examining me and asks me if it hurts if he does this, what pain level am I at if I do that. Now, I’m lucky to have been blessed with a high tolerance for pain (possibly due to my Aspergers). In order to answer his question to get the desired result  – him actually giving a fuck about my arm hurting and doing something about it – I need to do an “Aspie-to-NT Pain Conversion” calculation. Simply put, I lie and say my pain is worse than it really is.

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“… then we multiply by the indifference constant to overcome the “Who Gives a Shit” factor…”

But the skewing doesn’t just go one way. If the doctor asked me on a scale of 1 to 10 how big of an annoyance having a fold in my sock is, I’d answer “OH MY GOD, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HELL I’M LIVING IN AT THIS MOMENT!!!!” So it’s not like I’m completely numb in one direction or overly sensitive in the other; it swings both ways. My stimulus filter is tuned differently than most other people’s are. So I’m forced to adjust, and as I grow older I learn the ways to adjust the way I see and feel the world to fit closer to what would be considered”normal.”

Performance Enhancing Drugs

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I’m not a bad guy. Really, I’m not. I’m just under a ton of pressure. Most of you wouldn’t understand just how intense the pressure to perform can be. And everyone else is doing it, too. I just did it to level the playing field. If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t have been able to fit in. Yes, I am finally ready to admit it – I have used performance enhancing drugs.

Specifically, I took a Xanax in order to make a phone call.

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Ok, A-Rod. I admit it… I took two.

Yeah, talking on the phone is really that bad for me.

I had to make a phone call to schedule a school appointment. I was getting sick to my stomach because I was so nervous about it. I didn’t want to sound too casual, but I didn’t want to sound too stuffy either. I had no idea what to say or how to introduce myself. I was starting to panic. I almost backed out. But I HAD TO DO IT. So I looked myself in the mirror and told myself to get a grip and do what had to be done.

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Um… I don’t even know what to… let’s just move on, shall we?

 So I took some anti-anxiety meds in order to make my phone call. And it worked! I was able to calm myself down enough to get a grip and dial the phone. Of course, I got the guy’s voicemail, which seemed like a blessing until I realized that I’m probably going to have to call this guy again eventually.

At least then, I’ll know how to prevent a full blow panic attack before calling.

This Is My Aspergers

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I have written in previous posts a little bit about the history of my Aspergers and what it was like for me growing up, but I haven’t really gotten into it in great detail yet. Every aspie is different, comes from a different background, and has a different story to tell.

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This is my Aspergers. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I only became aware of my Asperger-ish tendencies a few years ago when my daughter was diagnosed, but the roots go back to when I was very young. When I was in preschool, I remember bouncing back and forth between friends, trying my best to connect with whoever was within proximity of me at the moment. I tried my best to mimic in order to be accepted; this works pretty well as a child, however I can remember not really having a sense of who I was. I would absorb the traits of those around me in order to blend in.

The defining moment in my young childhood came at age 6 when I was hospitalized for a severe kidney condition. I got sick on the first day of school, was rushed to the hospital, and nearly died. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks, subjected to blood draws and regular dialysis treatments. My family was devastated that I was so sick and scared of losing me.

The thing I remember most vividly is all the cool toys I had in my hospital room.

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Coming up next on Pimp My Pediatric ICU…

Granted, I was only six, so my memory of the experience shouldn’t really be picture perfect. But don’t you think it’s a little strange that I have absolutely NO memory of the horrible medical procedures that my mother tells me I had to endure, yet I can remember with great clarity the Lego kits my dad and I worked on and the inflatable Superman doll that hung in the corner during my entire stay? I think my brain decided that it wasn’t going to connect itself to what was going on, and I must have checked out and gone somewhere else mentally during the rough parts. I still use this skill to my advantage from time to time. I don’t know if the stress caused my brain to adopt an overall emotional disconnectedness – virtually “causing” my Aspergers – or if it was my aspie brain that allowed me to get through it. All I know is that the experience had a profound effect on me and my mental processes. It’s like my super hero origin story.

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Able to create soul-crushing social awkwardness in a single sentence! 

As I got older, I began to show more of what I realize now were classic autism/Aspergers traits. I memorized the bus route home from school, including street names; I even helped a substitute bus driver find the correct route on one occasion. I had a very rigid tv routine, watching my favorite cartoons every single day; I knew by heart when each was on and in which order. I would spend hours “racing” my Hotwheels cars, which actually meant lining up 30-40 of them one behind the other and moving them one at a time for a few seconds each. I would throw tantrums if I didn’t win while playing board games with my sisters. I would play ball in the living room by using a mini-bat to hit a foam ball aroud the house, completely oblvious to the risk of breaking things. I often played 2-player sports games by myself, switching between controllers to play both teams; I even kept stats and charted out seasons that I scheduled myself, long before games like Madden featured their own season modes.

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The list goes on…

I actually hid the social aspects of my Aspergers pretty well during school. With the benefit of hindsight, however, the cracks begin to show. Bullies were constantly trying to get to me, only I was so socially clueless that I didn’t even notice. Eventually, thye pretty much gave up and moved on. One of my best friends (even to this day) was with a group of kids who would brutally make fun of me on the bus. One day the other kids weren’t there, so he invited me to his house to hang out. Oblivious Aspie Me said, “Sure!” I continued with my “blending in” strategy, getting along with many types of people but never really connecting to any of them. I had a small group of close friends, but even they were distanced from me; I very rarely hung out with any of them one-on-one.

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“Thank God you guys are all here! I’m terrified of each of you individually!”

When I went to college, my isolation became official – I’m not exaggerating when I say I did not make one new friend during my four years in college. I tried a few times early on, but I just couldn’t make it work. In my mind, I had nothing in common with anybody at all. I had already figured myself as an outcast. Most of my social interaction came via the internet – where I could be whatever I wanted to be, take my time to measure my responses, and avoid the intensity of face-to-face contact. I actually met my wife over the internet during this time, and somehow she wasn’t completely turned off by my behavior when we met for the first time.

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It was slightly less awkward than this was.

At the time, it wasn’t so obvious to my parents that something was up with their son. Autism spectrum disorders weren’t featured as prominently in the news as they are nowadays. But looking back now, and with the benefit of the knowledge I gained while working to get my daughter diagnosed… it’s pretty clear. My childhood is no doubt different from the stories of other spectrum children, but I’m sure it also runs parallel to them in many ways. I worry about my daughter a lot – will she have friends? Will she be happ? Will she be successful? Looking back on my story gives me a sense of peace. If I made it this far in the face of this challenge, then the potential of my daughter is limitless.

Aspie Attachments

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A funny thing happened the other day. Our family is in the process of transitioning from our family van to a smaller, more fuel-savvy vehicle. My wife and I were talking about our plans for selling the van when my aspie daughter piped up from the backseat, asking if we were really going to get rid of the van. I turned to see her on the verge of tears.

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Incidentally, this is the same face she uses when she wants ice cream.

She was extremely upset. She didn’t want us to get rid of the van; she didn’t know how else we’d be able to drive around! “I don’t want to have to walk everywhere!” she cried. She was so attached to the van that she couldn’t even imagine having another car instead. And understandably so, I might add – we’ve had the van for pretty much three quarters of her lifetime. That would be the same as me getting rid of something I had for the last twenty five years.

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I can’t get rid of those. Those are my good pair!

I notice that I, too, often have strong attachments to inanimate objects. I’ve always felt compelled to say goodbye to every car I’ve traded in. I’ve named keychains of mine in the past… and present, actually. I get a little twinge of sadness when my click-pencil runs out of lead. The remarkable thing is that I feel so attached to these objects, yet I can’t get close to living, breathing people.

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Emphasis on “living” and “breathing.”

I’m pretty sure my Aspergers factors in here, big time. I’m simply more comfortable with objects over people. Interactions with objects don’t come with the same stresses that interactions with people do – social anxiety, fear of judgement, rejection, etc. It’s easier to deal with the simplicity of objects that the complexity of the person-to-person social exchange, And, perhaps, there lies the solution…

Treating people like objects.

I’m a genius!

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I absolutely love my new rain coat. It’s name is Todd.

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

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A conversation on Twitter earlier today brought up an interesting point about my aspie traits – my ability to handle bad news compared to my inability to not know what’s going on. Most people would rather not know about something bad that happened so they can go about their day without being affected by the events. Not me.

First of all, I’m hardly ever deeply affected by things that don’t directly involve me. It may seem callous and cold to say that, but seriously… have you read any of my other posts? It’s clear that Aspergers causes me to be somewhat self involved and gives me some emotional insulation from the rest of the world.

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Hey, what can I say? I’m the King of I Don’t Give a Shit.

Secondly, I can’t just not know what’s going on. In fact, once I’m alerted to something going on, I MUST know what’s up. It’s my thirst for knowledge – there can’t be something that somebody knows that I don’t know about. Or at least I have to be able to make a decision about whether it’s worth my time to investigate. Saying “nevermind” or “don’t worry about it” to me is the same as saying “you’re going to obsess over what I’m not telling you about for the next three days or until you find out exactly what it is I’m hiding from you.”