Everyday Aspergers: The Book

My Middle Son Andrew who Has Aspergers (Age 3) He is now almost 17.
My Middle Son Andrew who has Aspergers (at age 3)

Dear Readers,

Much has changed in the last fourteen months. I have been gluten-free and dairy-free (two months) and I have noticed a difference in how I process information. My mind is quieter and my body feels lighter. I don’t know how this new way of eating will manifest itself in the future, but for now it seems to fit with me.

I have gone through the process of letting go of several former places I considered ‘home.’ Sold is my childhood gathering place where I would spend most holidays with my nana and my nono, two of the most prized people in my childhood. The house has gone with the passing of my dear aunt. Gone, too, is any sense of my mother’s home, as she is happily relocated quite far away in the country of Mexico. Sold is the California home where my boys were raised for over a decade. And gone, in most ways, is the place I called ‘home’ for the last four years.

I have been through three moves in one year—apartment, to apartment, and finally to my dream home. I am still experiencing the strong emotions involved in the transition of my marriage and all that goes along with the process of a change in a relationship of almost twenty years. I will be a ‘former’ wife but always a steadfast supporter and friend to my dear husband.

Even with so many dynamic changes in my life I have not found the need to process through writing. In fact, I have many moments of solace and peace wherein no processing of any type is needed. I still get triggered. I still panic. I still face a lot of the same challenges like those of us on the autism spectrum, but overall I am level, satisfied and hopeful.

This February will mark four years since I started my self-growth project: Everyday Aspergers. I initially set out to write an entry for each day of one year, 365 posts. Last time I checked I was approaching 550 posts. I am happy to report the project turned out to be a great success! I am also pleased to let you know that the (first-draft) manuscript for a book based on this blog, Everyday Aspergers, is complete.

One reason set upon this venture to turn the book into a blog is because I am no longer called to write here on this site. As you have likely noticed the posts are less and less frequent and more and more logical. (As opposed to heartfelt.) The connection and the drive for me to share in this venue is no longer present. Plus, I have already produced over 1,000 single-spaced pages!

Another reason I am creating a book is to provide this community with an end product. I imagine a book that others can keep close and bring to therapist and psychologist offices. And also a book that someone can point to and say, “See. Here! This is me! Right here!” I want individuals to feel seen, to feel understood and to know they are not alone. And I wish to, as always, be a source of support.

My hope is to keep costs of purchasing the book down and to use monies made from the sale of the book to donate a copy to individuals that cannot afford one and to give books to local libraries and organizations. This is further down the line, but oftentimes at the top of my mind. I want to give to give. Not to profit and not for fame.

This isn’t a goodbye. You can find our online community on Facebook. The link is to the right of this page. From there you can private message me anytime. And you can always skim through the pages here and comment. Also, if you are interested in joining our small group working to make the book a reality, let me know on Facebook and I can give you the link. I also have another blog called ‘Belly of a Star’ that you might enjoy. And I might even start another blog in the future: Everyday Human. And you can stay tuned here for updates.

As far as my future goes, I am enjoying my job. We hire remote-workers in the USA, many whom have Aspergers. In addition, I continue to appreciate and spend time with my three sons, with the oldest already 18! I am tinkering with a couple of ideas, maybe another Aspie book on relationships. Maybe becoming a foster parent. Or maybe a hospice worker. The future will tell. For now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor of self-discovery. And I have never been more satisfied in who I am.

Again and again, I thank you for your support and your presence, and for simply existing. I owe my newfound happiness to those who held the space here for me. And I will always be grateful for that opportunity. I wish you much love and much fortune in all your endeavors, and above all peace.

Your friend,

545: The Numbing Point

Somehow, I am a box, the box itself, opened and watching one after another of a torrential stormy land unfold and reveal itself.

Layer upon layer of history and mystery and truths and untruths, all intermingled and hung out to dry.

I stumble, some eyes-wide-open girl, pushing through the tangible thoughts.

Trudging in and out of random memories and formulations.

Much like a computer brought to life; only with raw emotion and temperament, and pain.

I am both the spectator, watching, and the participant, dreading.

Meandering through what has passed, what might be, and what is to come.

Entering a premonition-dimension all whitewashed across the interior of my reckoning.

An entity wrapped inside, opening with one quick stroke to the ‘what-of-me?’

I intake, reaching untimely conclusions at rapid speeds, left twirling in afterthought and apprehension.

And behind this beyond is yet another broken voice screaming my demise: some torn-out, abandoned demon attempting to sliver its way back in.

And still another, quite broken in its proclaimed ‘un-brokeness,’ quivers nearby, judging each string of thought.

At times I am that mirror facing that mirror, reaching into infinity, my limit of selflessness limitless.

Confusion brought upon confusion, interruption placating interruption, each theory and circumstance trying to predicate the next.

A judge. A jury. An entire assembly of multiple communes all gathered in a singular speck.

And all at once there is this nowhere, and I am lost, drowning in what seems to be logic and feasible steps to the opposite of entrance.

Only each way pulls further. Again, and again, fooling me into thinking it’s a truth, the accurate avenue of escape.

But what am I running from?

Am I so predisposition for analysis that I am predisposed to slipping beyond reality?

What are these propelling thoughts that seem as comforting friend set about as offered confidant, when in actuality they be but bitter tastes, gathered entities, scattered brain-firings awakening prospect after prospect after prospect?

I cannot untie myself from this pain; I am no escape artist.

I am but a trepid flame doused with fuel after fuel, in all forms, to arouse the dragon-centered-heart.

I am opened and set apart and made to bleed out, continually abandoned.

Help is nowhere and everywhere; and that is where the terror sets spindly claw in motion.

Straight out, in the thought that nowhere in the thought is a resolution.

In the thought that each inching perceived as somehow forward is indeed illusion of progress.

That in fact, I am no further now than before, only set upon differing landscape, created by yet another skewed view.

I am where I set out to look.

My angle determines my outlook; my perching point, the end result.

And yet, point after point, I still gather my self upon, to collect the data set forth, in hopes of knowing what is.

And point after point fails me.

Bending, misshapen forms retreating and becoming foundation no more.

The naught of everything evaporating before these wearied wandering eyes.

And so it is, full circle, this numbing point…

I am endless in this reasoning and there is no resolution where thought breathes.

I am but a buttered lady, slipping through the spokes of motion.

I am that honeydew drop immersed in the morning light and made as vapor for the taking.

Everywhere abounds insight and happenings.

Yet nothing ends.

Nothing begins.

And all is left as forgery revealed; mysterious markings of what would be masterpieces; only they are devalued in the discovery of falsehood.

544: Organized Aspie

You or your Aspie may or may not be a neat freak. But chances are you both will strive off of getting your place in order. Whether or not you or your loved one is like me (super structured in my home environment) or like a close friend of mine, (super unstructured with good intentions, whose living environment could be compared to a cross between a hamster and a puppy habitat), either way an orderly environment can prove beneficial.

Why? Because effectively employing any method that can even slightly eliminate chaos and triggers directly equates to less anxiety. Less anxiety means increased productivity, a happier Aspie, and more enjoyable moments. Period.

I have recently found since relocating homes and downsizing my clutter, and employing an ongoing keeping-things-in-order routine that my stress levels, in all areas, and especially upon waking, have been drastically reduced. Less stuff and less mess, means less headache, and less thinking. Anything that eliminates thinking is on the top of my list of things to employ!

Of course there are limitations to how much someone can organize based on several factors, such as: the space in question, resources, financial means, physical means, executive functioning, motor skills, and so on.

LABOR: But for the sake of this discussion let’s assume that there is someone available to at minimum do the physical work, and if not, then perhaps that can become top priority: finding someone who can assist.

• There are local agencies individuals can contact to help with chores, if one is disabled. And in many cases someone on the autistic spectrum is considered disabled under the loose definition. Also, oftentimes there are religious agencies, you do not have to belong to, that can provide services, such as Catholic workers.
• Also, one could consider a trade with a neighbor or acquaintance, perhaps for lessons of some sort, e.g., musical instrument, fine crafts, knitting, homemade meal, editing, tutoring, help with resume writing, transportation, house-, pet-, or babysitting, etc.
• Recently a friend of mine hired a couple teenage youngster boys to de-clutter his room. It took them hours, but the boys were more than pleased with the below minimum wage payment.
• If you are a social-network person, reaching out to your ‘friends group’ by posting a question about where you might find local resources, might prove beneficial. Even if someone doesn’t live near you, they can ‘Google’ your local area.
With the labor taken care of, it’s time to tackle the space, (or more ‘Zenny’-annoying phrase: embrace the space).

I had so much fun checking out books from the library and ordering books on healthy homes a few years back; it was my fixation to study healthy home environments. I learned them some basics, such as eliminating all cleaning products in the home that were toxic, reviewing my cosmetic and beauty products (shampoo, deodorant) and replacing ones with toxic ingredients (including cat urine!) with natural products. It can get pricy to do this all at once. So one idea I incorporated was when one thing ran out, I replaced it with a more natural alternative. And now a days, with the internet, natural doesn’t need to be more expensive; take coconut oil for instance. A little bit of research and you’ll have multiple uses for a common, buy-in-large-bulk item, like coconut oil. It’s a great alternative to expensive makeup remover! Also, while you are at it, you might consider studying into Feng Shui; there are multitudes of online resources, including blogs, news articles, and free online videos. Feng Shui is a great foundation for downsizing.

To downsize ask the following questions:
1. Have I used this in the last year?
2. Am I likely to use this in the next year?
3. Does the item make me feel good? (connected to happy memories/moments) If it’s connected to bad memories, toss it.
4. If it does make me feel good, is keeping it worth the potential work/hassle/stress keeping it might or does cause?
5. Is it an item I can part with or will I mourn or regret if I no longer have it?
6. Is it in working condition? Is it free of dirt and mold? Is it pleasing to the eyes? Does it smell good? Does it enhance my living space? Is it free of damage that affects the aesthetic appeal or functionality?
7. Does it serve a function (or is it just something else I have to fix, upkeep, and/or dust)?

I go through these questions automatically in my head when I go through my house, almost daily, as de-cluttering is often on my brain, as of late (fixation). I also consider how long I have had something and the joy it has brought me. And I consider if the main reason I am holding onto something is out of impractical thoughts, and then if it is an impractical thought I counter the thought with logic, e.g., “Well, one day I might need this key chain! …(Even as I have ten others!); “I cannot give it away because a special person gave it to me”… (it’s not practical, it is cluttering my life, someone else will appreciate it more).

If you have a large space, just focus on one closet, or one small closet, or one drawer. Start little. After you have decided what to keep and what not to keep consider options for where to putt the stuff. I like to recycle, give to charity, sell, or give to a friend/neighbor/child. I personally keep a bag or two in the house, one inside and one in the garage, and fill it up weekly with items for the charity shop. I make certain to get a receipt for tax write-off purposes. If I buy a new or gently used piece of clothing I give up a piece already in my closet. Usually something that doesn’t fit, something I have had for years and don’t wear, or some item that causes of discomfort (makes me itch, makes me feel self-conscious, hurts my skin, etc.) Of course I have to be careful or I would give away all my clothes away, because nothing is really comfortable except my sweats and cotton T-shirts.

For me, and this is personal preference, but likely arguably true for many, less stuff equates to less hassle and headache. Less to clean. Less to look at and think about cleaning. Less to wonder where to put it. One of my stimming rituals since I was three years of age is to rearrange things (small decorative pieces and furniture) around the house. It can be quite annoying and time-consuming, (and one time landed me an ambulance ride to the ER), as mostly nothing every seems to be in the right place.

I have found two things that help tremendously to keep me from resorting and reorganizing objects. The first is 1) Keeping small items such as books, collectibles, personal-treasures behind glass. Whether a glassed bookcase, curio cabinet or small cabinet, having items I like to look at and keep in view behind glass keeps me from wanting to move them around. Interestingly enough, having items behind glass is suggested in some Feng Shui readings, as the energy of a living space is better served (flows naturally without being bombarded with numerous objects) when items are behind glass. And the second is 2) Asking those questions listed above and downsizing.

As far as paperwork goes:
• I keep one basket with paperwork and go through it each Friday. If I skip a week, I catch up the following week.
• Junk mail and advertisements go automatically right into the paper recycle pile.
• I sit on the floor and spread out my papers into piles each Friday. It’s another form of stimming for me.
• Keep in mind that for some of us on the autistic spectrum the mere sorting of a basket of paper is a trigger and can cause huge amounts of anxiety. When I suffered a setback in health I was unable to even open my mail (forget about reading it) for a year and a half because my executive functioning abilities were taxed. One of the invisible disabilities associated with autism/Aspergers is lack of executive functioning in some area. For some of us that’s the process of reviewing bills and organizing bills. For others it’s how to put together a vacuum or even use the vacuum.
• For those that need help with organizing paperwork, again, see if you can find a resource in your local area, even if it means making a few phone calls to disability support agencies. Just remember, if you have ASD, you are likely disabled in some area.

I started a new organization system that works wonders. I keep one paper soft-backed journal. It has to be a certain type of paper and binding and has to open a certain way too, as of my sensory sensitivities, and can’t be an old or half-used journal as the dust mites bother me (just like in old books), but I have been able to find cheap journals/notebooks on clearance or special, particularly at back-to-school time. I keep a journal and inside keep notes of all my bill stuff. It makes it kind of fun, and another great way to stim… with numbers!

I keep my budget listed there in the journal. Sometimes I rewrite my budget five to ten times a month. Number-stimming is my number one standby for stress. I keep my to-do lists there and scratch off and rewrite and rework them. I keep important numbers, things I need to remember to tell someone, things that come up as ‘ah-ha’s!’ while sorting through mail/bills. People I need to call or write. Places I want to go. Projects I want to do. Chores, errands, you name it. My head is constantly busy with what I can and ‘should’ be doing, and the journal is ONE place (as opposed to various reminder sheets scattered around the house) where I can keep all my household-and activity-related thoughts!

It’s been a lifesaver, literally. Having one place to go has alleviated much stress. Also, if I panic about needing to remember something, I remind myself that I have a place to go for recording and reference. Also, having a set day (every Friday) means if anything comes up during the week that isn’t urgent, I write it in my journal, or on a post-it atop my journal, or loose piece of paper and toss it in my Friday basket. On Friday I gather all the notes and record them in my journal. And to reassure myself (and avoid panic) I can flip back in my journal and recall things I have forgotten. Also, during the week I don’t think: “I need to do this or that.” Instead, I simply toss it in my Friday basket and forget about it until then. Like I said, life-saving!

Back to Paperwork:
Many of us have piles and piles of paperwork. I have been there and have Aspie friends (and non-Aspie) that are ‘in that same boat.’ For those people I would suggest taking it slow and rewarding yourself for each little bit you do. Make a reward chart. (It’s the teacher in me.) Before you do anything go buy stickers, or pretty markers, or candy, or healthy treats, or whatever ‘rocks your boat’ and motivate yourself. Employ a relative or friend to help. Or turn on some great tunes on your electronic device and rock out and/or listen to healing music. I find doing more than one ‘purpose’ at a time helps me to do less favorable more mundane (seems to be a waste of time tasks.) For instance I like to meditate while painting, in the bath, taking a walk, or in the sauna. I see dual purpose, double-time progress. So you can do the same for meaningless, mundane paperwork sorting. Listen to a book-on-cd from the library, do leg lifts, get up every 5-minutes and run up and down the stairs/in and out the house. Just do something with the other, and you, like me, might find yourself more motivated. Sometimes for me the motivation might be the feel-good feeling when I am done (intrinsic reward), the ability to show some one and receive support/praise (extrinsic reward), a task/treat/outing I plan to do when I am done (in example after I am done with Friday basket maybe I will have some tea on the balcony). All these things help. From my perspective, in how I organize the world, all of life is much like a schematic game board. I am constantly organizing thoughts, ideas, movements, speech, words, numbers, and so on. Thusly, it’s natural that I find ways to make paperwork into a schematic goal-oriented, end-game venue as well.

Paperwork Strategy:
If I were to help someone with a lot of paperwork, I would start off by getting some large bags and/or cardboard boxes. Then I would mark paper as labels and place them on the floor in front of the bags/boxes. We would make piles together.
1. Recycle
2. Trash
3. Sort Later
4. Unsure Pile
5. Important Bills
6. Important Other

I would go through all of it first, before sorting beyond these six, and likely only do that for the first day (month/depending on task at hand). I’d open everything and minimize, putting envelopes and advertisements in recycle/trash and keeping the bare minimum. I wouldn’t stop to read anything or dissect or analyze, as that would get me off track. When I was done I would discard of the trash and recycle and return with two empty containers to start again.

The next step would be to go through (5) Important Bills and to chronologically order them. I like to write dates of when they are due on the top of the bill or return envelope (if not paying online). Then I would return to the (4) Unsure Pile and make sure there wasn’t anything important in there. Place important in (5) Bills or (6) Other. You get the idea.

Everyone will have their own sense of order and organizing, but that’s what works for me. I also have a place in the house that is just a drawer of manuals/warranties. Another drawer for passport, social security card, high school diploma, etc. I got rid of file folders and file cabinets as I found that kept me more cluttered and kept me from getting rid of things. I basically have very little paperwork left in my house. I keep a box of sentimental cards and such, but even those I try to sort through and de-clutter, yearly.

I’m thinking this blog was a good example of how my mind organizes, how stimming and sensory issues and planning come into play in my daily living, and how when I take Vitamin-B supplements in the morning, I have excess need to process and advice-give.

If you’d like me to fly out and organize your space I charge flight, accommodations at 5-star hotel, Gourmet eateries, and 10,000 dollars. Hehe. Joke! It’s a joke…

side note: Females on the spectrum sometimes are very organized, others have a very difficult time with the executive function of organizing. Neither is stereotypical, as each Aspie is uniquely herself. In my history of knowing Aspies, the males seem to have more challenges than females in bringing order to their environment, and the females tend to start young, in childhood, sorting, collecting, ordering their surroundings. Could be the nesting attribute of our genetics. Either way, extreme-order that leads to OCD, obsessive thoughts, inability to relax and/or extreme disorder, are both burdensome at times and may require assistance.