Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Emphatical Electrical Ear Extravaganza!

Along with my Asperger’s diagnosis came the awareness of my sensory issues. Although others consider them “issues”, I like to refer to them as “super-powers”. :0)

Since my sense of hearing is what is mostly affected at this moment, I will focus on that.

OK, so music played by others is often too loud for my taste. In fact, at times, depending on the type of music, it can actually hurt my ears. But maybe that is because as I type, I can hear the electrical current running through my MacBook power cord. At the same time I can hear crickets outside, an owl in the tree across the road, my dog breathing as she sleeps, another dog barking in the distance (probably 2 blocks away), my own heart beat, two tiny gnats flying around the room (one just flew past my right ear and became very loud . . . until I smashed it - oopsie), the refrigerator recharging 2 rooms away, and the slight buzzing of the light bulbs in this room (living room) and the adjoining one. All at the same time. 

Morris Arboretum,Philadelphia
getting a real ear-full.

I had no idea other's auditory functioning was not as “super-powered” as mine until I began doing research on what this whole “Asperger’s thing” is. When I’m alone, it does indeed feel like a super-power of sorts. I can hear a car from a long ways away which helps when I’m out for a walk to get to the opposite side of the road. I can hear if a raccoon or squirrel is in the yard – a warning not to let my dogs out. I can hear the slightest sound when I’m walking so as not to step on a tiny frog or lizard (which there are a lot of where I live!). I can hear a spider crawling on the wall or bug crawling on the floor. I can tell by the slightest “off” sound that there is something wrong with my car and can easily locate where in the engine the sound is coming from.

Where this super-ninja ability (OK, OK . . . I just took it too far) becomes an issue is when others are around. I sometimes have difficulty hearing a person talk when there are a lot of other sounds happening at once and have to ask (sometimes several times, embarrassingly) for the person to repeat what he/she just said. This can be quite annoying for someone and because I am aware of that I sometimes won’t ask and miss the opportunity to really hear that person (and feel REALLY stupid when I’m caught in the act of faking it).



Blah, blah, blah blah blah. And then I found blaaah, blah.

Aspie Girl

Oh! That’s funny.


What’s funny? The Herpes or the Hepatitis C?

Aspie Girl

Oh . . . no . . . I meant . . .

Aspie Girl, red-facedly dying a slow, painful death of shame, attempts to redeem herself with terribly un-witty, improvised retort.


I can become frustrated when I hear something alarming, such as a slight sound in the garage (possibly a wild creature) and when I am with another human, they tend to step loudly, whisper, and touch things around them as they move, skewing my ability to precisely pinpoint the sound. My dogs on the other hand, will know exactly what I am doing and will actually tip toe and “slink” to hear it alongside me. When I am in the car alone, I enjoy listening to NPR or my favorite music as loud as I want, but dislike having anything playing in the car when another person is with me because then, if they speak, it is difficult for me to focus and really hear them. I dislike working on my computer when it becomes hot and the fan goes on because then I feel it is taking away from hearing the sounds I want to hear, such as the birds outside or my own thoughts. Distracting.

This “issue” has caused me to avoid people. There are certain people who are just loud—in their movements, in their voice, the way they eat—even their cars and pets are loud! You know the type—they yell "hello" from across the street and continue in the same volume when three feet away. I have a neighbor who every time he takes his classic car out, he spins it out in the drive way, screeching so loud I feel I need to duck for cover. Why?!!! What’s the point?! I’ve seen parents in stores allowing their kids to scream and yell and stomp and throw and they just push the cart by as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. In electronic stores, they will have every television on, blaring, with different channels AND someone is testing a car audio system not too far from there AND there is “ambient” music playing in the background. Why?!

Which is why I’ve made a vow to be kind to myself. I can’t control the noise around me but I can certainly control the noise inside by utilizing that most amazing, brilliant invention - earplugs. What a gift!!!

All in all, natural sounds are fantastic – the wings of tiny hummingbirds flapping at 53 beats per second, crickets discussing the latest gossip in the insect world, the powerful ocean waves hitting the shore, the slight rustling of leaves with a passing breeze, trickling water finding pathways in which to run - which is why I choose carefully where I live and spend my time. I will never be able to completely contain the bothersome and sometimes piercing sounds, but I can be kind to me by being prepared. I may not always hear what someone is saying, but I can be kind to them and me by just being honest.  

I’m not sure where my hearing abilities, super-powers if you will, could be used to save the world, but I know I’m armed and ready to fire! (Where’s that red cape? I know it’s in here somewhere . . .)

Oh ya, and by the way, that time you farted and thought I couldn't hear it because you covered it up so well with the clearing of your throat . . . you'd better guess again.

My definition of Asperger’s today: I can hear clearly now the rain is gone. ;0)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Figuring It All Out—What brought about obtaining a diagnosis.

Hello folks. It’s been a while. Since I last wrote I’ve been married, started school for Holistic Animal Massage, was let go from a job for “lack of work,” learned how to take apart and fix a lawnmower and much, much more. Each of these items are, in my mind, “blog worthy,” however, I will save those topics for a later date . . . once I’m able to get my head wrapped around them.
It seems I’ve been approached with the following question from several people lately: “What made you look into a diagnosis at the age of 35?” It’s tough to answer that without going into a signature Aspie dialogue, but that’s what’s so great about blogging! I can write, you can read (or not), no awkward moments!
I always knew as a little girl that I didn’t quite fit in with others my age. I was never one to be attracted to groups or cliques, group sports, Chinese Jump Rope, or playing with baby dolls (I admired dollhouses, but really was only interested in the technical aspects, such as how they were able to so precisely scale a house down (the beginning of my fascination with movie set miniatures).
When not imitating a dog, I preferred to play on the swings where I could be alone and think—figure out the Universe as it were. There I would conjure up stories in my head about how I could be a hero—save the world, fight for the underdog. I would silently converse with myself about the facts I had read the night before in the Encyclopedia Britannica because I had learned the hard way that my classmates had no interest in the fact that Oxnard (the town I grew up in) was named after the Oxnard brothers who grew sugar beets or that the Potato Bug is actually a Jerusalem Cricket even though they don’t originate in Jerusalem, nor are they related to crickets.
I enjoyed playing in my head over and over again the images of Steve Martin (have I mentioned I was in madly in love with him?) doing his “King Tut” and “Wild and Crazy Guy” skits. After school I hung out with my grandfather, a computer engineer—to me the smartest man alive—or younger kids such as my brother and cousins, as I only felt comfortable in the student or teacher role, never the peer (wow, just realized that still applies . . . I’ve got some work to do!). I didn’t know anything about Autism back then—I just knew I was a little different. I believed I must have a special purpose, I must be linked in with some higher power . . . and maybe, just maybe, magic.

Dec. 1976. 1 1/2 years old, no doubt pondering
the aerodynamics of Santa's 8 tiny reindeer.

As I grew older things didn’t change much. I began at age seventeen locking myself in my bedroom after school so that I could read the entire bible and completely ‘figure it all out’. If that book was ‘the truth’, it was a must read. Seeing that the King James was the only version we somehow managed to have in the house, it wasn’t easy to translate (as intended). At age eighteen I completely involved myself in a church and became a celibate monk until hitting my late 20s. While others my age were dating, socializing with co-workers and learning to be “grown-ups” I was spending hours in prayer, fasting, and studying. It was never a challenge. I loved the discipline of it, the rules were easy for me to abide by and I felt I finally had a chance to be a “hero”. Until I stopped.

I attempted to “socialize” with others my age once I left the religious life behind. I went to a dance club with friends. A guy grabbed my arse. I instinctively punched him hard in the stomach, then realized how illogical it was for me to be at such a place. I wasn’t looking to know any of these people! So I left, never to return. I went to a bar with a friend. I took three sips of a Corona, then began to psychoanalyze everyone in the room (which is one reason I don't drink today): 

“He walks hunched over because he was criticized by his mother all of his life. He’s speaking to that older woman because he’s looking for a woman to be the mother he never had.”
“She is still trying to get her daddy’s attention she never received as a child so dresses provocatively,showing as much skin as she can get away with even though for California standards, it’s considered freezing outside.”

Terrible! My friend wanted to flirt with the guys. I thought one was attractive—in fact, a Television actor I’d had a silly crush on for years. He approached me. I began a conversation about my recent journey down the path of Tibetan Buddhism, studying Taoism and my most recent book purchase, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. That was the end of that.  I had no clue as to why I was so awkward. I would watch my friend act strangely —what I suppose you’d call “flirting”—and didn’t have the slightest idea on how to do it, nor did I feel inclined to. I figured if you want to get to know someone, you should be direct and just tell em’. Stop the game playing. There’s got to be somebody out there who doesn’t want to drink, get high on illegal substances, and intimately touch strangers. Is there a human in Los Angeles that knows anything about humanity, psychology, real spirituality, oneness with the Universe?! Conversations became increasingly difficult with women and men alike.

"I don’t need to buy shoes, I already have 2 pair. Let’s watch a documentary about blood diamonds instead!"

“No, I’d rather not go dirt-bike riding. Why would anyone want to take a boisterous, oily contraption such as that into the beauty of nature and scare all of the wildlife away? Makes no sense!”

I gave up on socializing with twenty-somethings and took a stab at stand-up comedy, something I had dreamed about since I was four years old, staring at the Steve Martin poster on my bedroom wall, watching "Saturday Night Live" and Eddie Murphy's "Delirious." Boy, this was good times. I’d write, get on stage, do my thing, then slip into a quiet corner in the back of the Comedy Store, just observing. All us comics were freaks so I finally sort of fit in somewhere, with some of the guys at least . . . until I did enough self-work to realize I no longer needed applause to be happy. Eight years later, on to the next special interest.

I began working in the feature film industry.  What I learned here was that there were two kinds of people on set:
a) those that spend their per diem drinking, getting high on illegal substances and intimately touching strangers

b) other freaky geeks like myself

I have met some of the smartest people working in the film industry. Some geniuses that had invented special cameras, some that could build anything in a matter of minutes, creativity at it’s best. Amazing. On some shows I thrived socially, mainly because I was able to do what I do best - learn. On some, I flopped. A few years prior, a friend suspected one of our crewmembers had something called “Asperger’s.” Wow. All I could think of was how funny “ass burgers” sounded. Terribly amusing, the name appealed to my earthy, childish sense of humor. She then wrote out by hand what Asperger’s was, at least did her best at listing the diagnostic criteria and what not, and though I laughed like a child at the name, I was humbled by the familiarity. It was as if she was writing about me! Since that time I researched and read books and asked questions and speculated. It was a situation that occurred during the last movie I worked on that led me to finally look into a diagnosis.

I discovered that eating lunch alone on this show really worked for me as I loved to read and just revive myself by getting away from the chaos for a bit and breathing. A few of the girls in the production office had asked several times if I would join them for lunch. One day I finally gave in and decided it would be a “good thing” to get to know these women. They were sweet enough to ask, why not? It won’t kill me to put down Autobiography of a Yogi for one lunch hour! We all sat down outside on a warm Philadelphia spring day. They each began sharing updates on their favorite reality TV shows – who cheated who, who slept with who, who was pissed at who . . . and on and on. I had no idea what they were referring to, as the only shows I would watch on Television (if I watched at all) were 'The Dog Whisperer', 'NOVA', and 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'. A few days before I had begun writing a research paper I was doing for myself on the affects of alcoholism on indigenous people, so when they asked me what I had been up to, I began to share with them my amazement on how entire countries have been taken over with alcohol being the force and weapon.  

"Aboriginals in Australia, Maoris In New Zealand, Native Americans, the Native Alaskans . . ."
silence hit the table, you could hear a pin drop. 

Until one of the girls looked at another and said, 

“Are we getting drinks tonight? Where do you want to go?” 

Then I realized, "You know, I just can’t seem to hold a 'normal' conversation it seems." So I found a psychologist in the Philadelphia area who began observing me, asking me questions and giving me tests. I wrapped the show, returned to California and was referred to an amazing doctor in Santa Monica who specializes in Autism. I then received my official diagnosis which helped me to get a grasp on the “whys” of my social quirks.

Though in my blogs I discuss the differences between myself and Neurotypicals (those not on the autism spectrum) I want to share that these stories are all a part of my journey toward understanding self, how my brain works and ultimately seeing that though my brain is wired differently than some, we are the same. I am finding more “sameness” each day in others and myself as I study more about my overactive amygdala and asking questions as I go along. All in all, acceptance is the goal—acceptance of differences, because I believe love is a child of acceptance as well as the wellspring of life. 

My definition of Asperger’s for today: A gift of leaving no stone unturned - ever. ;0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm OK, You're OK

I haven’t written for this blog in quite some time and I miss this outlet, the interaction, the going inside and finding little nuggets of interest others may or may not relate to. I questioned myself as to why I haven’t written in so long. The answer was simple – having “special interests” is a part of identifying with Asperger’s Syndrome. Putting this blog together and learning about having Asperger’s and all it entails had become a special interest.

Within three months I had purchased and read every AS book I could get my hands on, including Aspergirls and Asperger’s on the Job by Rudy Simone (my favorites!!), Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey, Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, Asperger’s and Girls and The Other Half of Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Atwood, Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, Parallel Play by Tim Page and more. I couldn’t seem to get enough of “figuring it all out”. (And now I believe the majority of people I know are on the Autism Spectrum. . . that’s a future blog in and of itself.)

I found so much peace in writing and sharing what I had learned, yet at a point just couldn’t drag myself back to my computer to enjoy that passion. Amazing how it happens so quickly (I wonder if other Aspies feel the same). I'm like a 'player', moving on to 'the next' at the drop of a hat. I realize I've hated myself for it.

I’m learning that what I once thought were limitations aren’t in fact ‘limitations’, but just aspects of me. Not the ‘me’ I’ve always wanted to be. Not the ‘me’ I have mimicked in the past in order to fit in. Not the ‘me’ I have believed others wanted me to be. Not the ‘me’ that feels the need to be accepted by everyone. Just ‘me’, now, and being OK. I can socialize sometimes and sometimes not. I can socialize then need a few days of ‘down time’ and that’s OK. I can wear a hat in bright places and that’s OK. I can wear earplugs when places are loud and that’s OK. I can take breaks throughout the day to clear my mind and that’s OK. I can wear my favorite pair of jeans and Uggs everyday and that’s OK. I can not look like a supermodel and that’s OK. I can write and enjoy my blog sometimes and sometimes not and that is OK. There is peace in that and that’s OK. 

My definition of Asperger's for today: Cramming for no test. :0)