“The Big Bang Theory” Debate – is Sheldon Cooper autistic?

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(Please note I am just giving my opinion. I do not speak for the entire autistic community.)

Recently I’ve really gotten into watching the tv show “The Big Bang Theory”. I’ve been told for a long time that I should watch it since I love nerdy humor, but I am the kind of person that doesn’t get into things just because people tell me I should. In fact, I am often unlikely to get into something until the popularity of it has died down a bit.

Anyhow, as I watched an episode of the series for the very first time, I could understand right away why many people say Sheldon Cooper is autistic. If he is autistic, it is obviously a high-functioning autism since his IQ is so high and he is able to live a somewhat “normal” life. It is easy to see many Asperger’s or high-functioning autistic traits in Sheldon’s character (although they are obviously exaggerated for comedic affect). He has definite social issues (especially in understanding sarcasm, carrying on a conversation that isn’t within his personal interests, understanding rudeness, showing appropriate emotion, etc.). He has overtly OCD issues where he has to have things the same all the time and struggles to handle even small changes or errors. He is definitely uncomfortable with physical touch or physical intimacy and not entirely due to a germ phobia, although that obviously contributes to the problems.

On the plus side, he has many positive Asperger’s traits as well. An exceptionally high IQ, an amazing gift for his special interests (especially physics), an incredible memory, a unique sense of humor, loyalty to those he cares about and a sweet kind of innocence that is endearing. He is also undoubtedly honest (perhaps brutally so) and dependable. If he does in fact have Asperger’s Syndrome or some other form of high-functioning autism, he is a character that others with the condition may relate to. He may even seem inspirational since he is successful in his career, does have some close relationships and has found a way to not only survive in the real world but thrive to an extent. I find myself wondering if Amy (Sheldon’s girlfriend in the show) may have Asperger’s as well. In many ways she fits the characteristics of high-functioning autism in females (which tend to be a little different than male autism symptoms, typically with higher social abilities).

Interestingly, I noticed that in interviews, Jim Parsons (the actor who plays Sheldon) has said that Sheldon does not officially have Asperger’s Syndrome. The writers and producers of the show say the same thing, although they did explain that the reason they didn’t want to “label” the character was because then they may face accusations that they are making fun of the those with the same condition or not staying true to the condition as the character changes and grows over time. I can understand that, although to me personally it would be nice to be told for sure what Sheldon’s issues stem from.

I think it would be helpful in some ways for high-functioning autism to be represented more in media/entertainment in general (as long as it was done respectfully). I personally don’t find it offensive that Sheldon is thought to be funny because of some of his unique personality quirks. Sometimes those of us with autism can be unintentionally funny (even we see that in ourselves at times), but that doesn’t bother me so long as the humor towards us doesn’t turn cruel or mocking.

Either way, I will continue to watch and enjoy the tv show, feeling in my heart and mind that Sheldon is indeed one of us on the spectrum.

A short bit of creative advice

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After a few years of being a professional writer/artist, I have come to a sad yet seemingly true conclusion – in order to be a success in any creative field, you have to adopt somewhat of a f***-it attitude. In other words, you have to stop caring so much what people think. Yes, some people will hate your work no matter how great it is…but on the up side, some people will love your work even when it sucks. Hopefully in the end it evens out.

If you dare to create work dealing with important subjects, you are bound to eventually come under attack from people who disagree with you. Many times it won’t be your work they dislike but your point of view…unfortunately most people are unable to be objective about anything relating to subjects they are passionate about. Learn to shrug your shoulders at the oddities of human nature and let it go.

Remember that in the end it is yourself you must please as an artist. There is nothing wrong with making money from your creations or even becoming popular, but always make sure to stay true to yourself. Make what you love. Make a contribution that only you could make.

High-functioning autism and the struggle with feminine identity

John Collier's painting "Lady Godiva"

John Collier’s painting “Lady Godiva”

*Disclaimer – I want to make sure I state that this blog post was inspired by my own experiences. Not every person with Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism may feel the same way or experience the same issues, although from what I have read, these issues are not uncommon among females with autism.*

I have had a long, complex relationship with my own femininity. Growing up, I never noticed a huge difference between myself and other girls until I hit middle school. In elementary school I was just a “normal” little girl who was into books, Barbies and ponies. I did have some sensory and social issues, but they weren’t huge red flags back then and were easy to ignore. When I got to sixth grade it seemed like the whole world suddenly changed. Girls became obsessed with makeup, hair and clothing. They also read fashion and relationship magazines so they could learn to draw attention from the guys they liked. I was still into books, Nickelodeon, Disney movies and playing outside. I really couldn’t care less about my looks or guys. I didn’t care all that much about making friends either.

It was at this age I first experienced real bullying. I was made fun of because I didn’t start shaving as soon as the other girls did. I was picked on because I didn’t dress in style, wear makeup or have a “cool” hairstyle. I was picked on because I still liked many of the same things I liked as a little kid. I was called a lesbian or ‘butch” because I was a tomboy who was socially clueless in many ways and had no interest in guys yet. Middle school was hell for me in many ways. I was lucky to have a few friends who were outsiders in their own way, but I often felt very much alone. I was constantly told that I was unfeminine, so I started to believe it and wonder what was wrong with me.

Things got a bit better when I reached about 16 or 17. By then I had learned to “fake it” to fit in better. I still didn’t wear makeup or jewelry but I did try to look enough like everyone else to fly under the radar. I started wearing jeans and cute little t-shirts like everyone else (even though I really don’t like the feel of jeans). I adopted a hairstyle that was simple but not “weird”. However, flying under the radar didn’t always work and I started having different issues. As I matured, some guys started to find me attractive and hit on me. This made me want to run & hide. I was uncomfortable being an object of physical appreciation. I didn’t want to be called names like before, but I didn’t want to be seen as a sexual object either.

During this time I actually started to find it easier to relate to guys than girls…as long as the guys didn’t see me as more than a platonic friend. I did start to develop real feelings for certain guys around 17 but was still terribly shy and uncomfortable with the whole ‘dating’ thing. I never really dated until a couple years later when I met my husband, who I got to know online before we ever met in person. Even when we met in person we were friends for a while before we started anything romantic.

As an adult I have developed a better relationship with my femininity, but I still face judgment sometimes. When I got engaged I received real disdain from some women because I didn’t wear my engagement ring all the time (sensory issues). I often feel bored or left out when women talk endlessly about shopping, parties, clothes, weight, guys or gossip. I still don’t care that much about looks. My hairstyle is wash and dry, my clothes are simple and comfy and I haven’t worn makeup since my wedding day. Occasionally I still get a comment about how much I am “like a man” or something along those lines.

Because of these experiences, I somewhat look forward to growing older even though most women seem to dread it. I have hope that as we all age, looks and other superficial things will start to matter less and less to my peers. I don’t want to be invisible anymore like I once did, but I still don’t want to be judged by appearances. When others think of me I hope they think of intelligence and kindness. I hope they think of someone who is creative and passionate. To me, those qualities are what make someone a “real” woman anyway.

5 things I miss about the 90’s

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I was definitely a 90’s child. Being born in 1982, I don’t remember a whole lot about the 80’s. Some bits and pieces of those earliest years break through my memory bank, but the 90’s definitely became the defining decade of my childhood in many ways. Now I find myself more and more drawn to songs, movies and other things that bring back those childhood days. When I find myself in that nostalgic state, I find it hard to believe how old I am now and that it has been about two decades since those memories were made. Remembering can make me feel happy and sadly bittersweet all at the same time. Here are a few things I miss about those days…

1. The music. Ok, some of the music in the 90’s was cheesy and stupid. No doubt there. But at the time, it seemed so cool and new. Listening to the soundtrack of my childhood can still make me feel like “one of the cool kids” in a strange sort of way. The music also reminds me of hours spent watching MTV when my older sister had the remote control – back when MTV actually played music. It makes me remember how cool and rebellious I thought Nirvana was and how amazing Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson’s music videos seemed. I also remember how angry my mom got when she caught me listening to and singing along with my sister’s Salt-N-Pepa cd (she especially hated their song “None of Your Business”).

2. The magic of childhood friendship. Is it even possible to have adult friendships that are as meaningful as your childhood ones? I think I have found that magic with my husband, but it is hard to find that connection with my other adult peers. Don’t get me wrong, I was never popular, but I did have some great friends throughout the 90’s. I’ll never forget the hours I spent with a few special people I grew up with. I’ll always remember that feeling of belonging somewhere – even if it wasn’t with the “in crowd”. I’ll never forget the hours of gymnastics, skating and playing ball or sneaking around construction sites in the middle of the night and even getting picked up by the police (who luckily we knew well enough to get away with just about anything).

3. Believing I could do anything. I miss the naivete I had back then. How I thought the world was a big playground and that all options were open to me. I do have a good life now and have achieved many things I wanted, but I never realized back then how hard and cold the real world would be. I wish life were truly as easy as I thought it was back then.

4. The simplicity of 90’s technology. I know we have made huge leaps and bounds technologically as a society in the past two decades, but sometimes today’s technology just seems overwhelming. Now, things become outdated as soon as they hit the market. While today’s phones, video games and computers are sleek, portable and able to do more, they can also become a big pain in the butt. Figuring out how to use all the features on these things can become annoying and time-consuming. When electronics malfunction we almost don’t know what to do anymore, it can shut society down and cause panic. And to be honest, I wouldn’t mind not seeing everyone on a cell phone all the time either.

5. Progress. In the 90’s, it felt like we were making real progress in fighting prejudice, hate, sexism and ignorance. We tried to become more environmentally aware and actually valued science. I’m not sure what happened, but it feels to me like we have somehow regressed horribly. Some groups want us to regress even more and are actually gaining faithful followers instead of being told how freaking crazy they are. What has happened to us? Have we let the fear of terrorists and an economic recession cause us to lose our minds and turn on the very values we all cherished so much? I try to think of what else might have changed our collective goals and just can’t figure it out. I know I might have been naïve back then, but surely I didn’t imagine it all.

My New Year’s Intentions for 2015

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Happy soon-to-be New Year everyone! Around this time of year, I always like to pause and assess my life. I decide what is going good, what I need to leave behind and what I might want to work on. I don’t like to make “New Year’s resolutions” because that phrasing to me seems to have guilt built into it. When people make New Year’s resolutions, they tend to feel guilty if they fail or make a mistake and eventually just give up. I like the phrase “New Year’s intentions” better because it doesn’t have that stigma to it and to me, intentions are about trying to do the right thing. Sure, we all mess up and even epically fail sometimes, but as long as we keep getting up and trying, I don’t think we truly ever lose.

So here are my three New Year’s intentions for 2015 –

1. Focus on health. I have many health problems that I can’t do anything about, however, I do have control over some of my health and unfortunately, I often ignore the importance of taking care of myself. So for 2015 I plan to try to exercise at least 3-4 times a week (even if I can only do light exercise like walking and yoga). I will not push myself too hard or make myself do things that cause real pain, but I can try to work within my physical limitations. I will also try to eat better. I won’t force myself to give up things I love (like chocolate), but I will try to consciously pick out more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy grains at the grocery store (because if I buy healthier foods, I will eat healthier foods).

2. Be more social. A few years ago I had to be more social. But now that I work at home, have taken a break from fostering kids and my husband resigned from being a youth pastor, I don’t have to be social. I can hole up at home and be a hermit. To some extent I have done that. We still go to church, but now that my husband isn’t working for a church we get to pick and choose what to be involved in instead of having it decided for us – which is great, except that I have to remember to actively look for things to do and ways to serve. It is far too easy to ignore social activities because I feel that I am not socially proficient. Sometimes I get kind of depressed seeing how easy it is for others to connect with people and make friends. I just don’t have that kind of personality.

Having Asperger’s Syndrome can make socializing uncomfortable and awkward, but I still want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to care about others and have them care in return. The only way I can do that is to make myself reach out more. So this year I hope to reach out more to others, whether it be by saying a simple “hello” and learning someone’s name or by making myself go out a little more often, even when it is easier to stay home and veg out on the couch.

3. Stop letting people hurt me. In the past few years there have been a few people who hurt me deeply. They may not even realize they hurt me (in fact some of them think I deserve to be treated badly and have said so). In most cases, they were people who never really got to know me and then misinterpreted things I said or did. Instead of approaching me and clarifying what upset them, they either shut me out entirely or told other people a lot of bad stuff about me which isn’t actually true. By the time I knew there was really an issue, damage had already been done. I tried to work things out with some of them and find out what I did to upset them, but I was either ignored or told everything was my fault.

Maybe my lack of social skills in some areas caused the problems…or maybe they never really liked me to begin with. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve allowed these people to make me feel bad about myself and wonder if I am unlikable. It really dealt a blow to my self-esteem in some ways. At this point, I want to build my ability to trust others again. I want to not let a little meanness or misunderstanding hold me back anymore. I have already chosen to consciously forgive, now I want to let myself learn from any mistakes that were made and move on.

So there you have it, my list of intentions for the coming year. What would you like to change or work on this year?

My blog is growing! 2014 in review

Check out these cool facts about my blog stats! I had about 13,000 views in 2014 from 123 countries! Wow! Thanks to all who read and support this blog of mine! I hope you continue to enjoy it!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

All the world’s a stage and we are merely players

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Today I’ve been thinking about relationships and reminiscing about not only current relationships, but all the ones I can remember in my 32 years. As I considered the bonds between myself and a myriad of other sentient beings, I began to see my life as some kind of play or movie. Of course, I thought of myself as the central character (since I can only live in my mind) but I also decided which other people would be main characters right now (my husband, mom and cats were the first to come to mind). After that, I looked at supporting characters, which right now would be extended family, church friends, people I talk to frequently on Facebook and colleagues of the art/writing/autism community. Lastly, I thought of the minor characters or even “extras” – those people who aren’t a regular part of my life and may not even know my name but can still affect my mood and spirit by how they choose to treat me in the moments we share.

As I was busy drawing these influential connections in my mind, I found the list growing and growing. People who were once a big part of my life but now aren’t or those people who I have never met in person but either inspired or horrified me by the things they did or said. I thought of how certain musicians, authors and historical figures have had a huge impact on my thoughts, beliefs and values. As I kept thinking, I almost felt like the idea was getting too big for my head to hold. The sheer number of lives that have touched mine is amazing. I know I have impacted many of them as well – both for good and bad (but hopefully more good than bad). I even thought about how many people I may have greatly influenced without even realizing it. Since there are many people who may never know how much they meant to my life journey, I’m sure that I have probably been the same to others without knowing it.

So here I would like to take a moment to say thank you to EVERYONE who has had a part in my life. You have helped make me who I am and as imperfect as I still am, I like the person I’m growing into. I miss many of you who I don’t see or speak to regularly anymore. Never think I quit loving or caring about you. Some of you have filled me with hope in moments of despair and I thank you, even though you may never know what you meant to me and I may not even consciously remember who said and did what. Some of you I hope to grow to know better, because I feel that there is something in my soul that recognizes something in yours. Some I have walked away from intentionally, but that doesn’t mean our relationship wasn’t important to me, just that for one reason or another I needed to grow elsewhere for a while. In the end, I like to think that even over distance and time, our memories and souls keep us connected.