Newly Diagnosed with Bipolar 2

I think the title is pretty self-explanatory as to what the video below is about. Just wanted to share. It is a part of my life, a part of who I am.

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About People Who Self-Diagnose as Autistic

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Hello everyone! So today I’m going to talk about a subject that might tick off some people, especially those who tend to hang out on Tumblr a lot. I’ve noticed that it has almost become fashionable or a cause for pride for people to research mental health or psychological conditions (or in this case a neurological condition) and then decide for themselves that they suffer from said condition. This worries me for several reasons which I will discuss here.

#1 – What if you are wrong? Put simply, many psychological conditions share almost the exact same symptoms. Even among professionals, misdiagnosis is an enormous problem in many people getting the help they need. I have no issue with people saying that they suspect that they may have autism. I just wish people wouldn’t say they have it for sure unless they have been adequately evaluated and diagnosed. I do understand that in the US at least, it can be an issue getting diagnosed because health insurance is a crap-shoot, and many people don’t even have access to regular health care, let alone psychological healthcare, but if you don’t know for sure whether you have autism, bipolar, another mood disorder, borderline, sensory integration disorder, or one of the other many conditions often misdiagnosed as autism, please don’t make definite claims.

#2 – You can actually do damage to the Aspergers or autism community. You may not think of it that way, but if you DO NOT actually have autism and yet go around claiming you do, you are likely feeding into certain stereotypes about autism that are already a problem or you are inaccurately portraying what it is like to be autistic in this world. Some of us who live with autism every single day can tend to get a little annoyed about that. Although some in the community have no issue with self-diagnosis, we are ALL different and some of us don’t like the whole self-diagnosis phenomena.

#3 – People who self-diagnose sort of have a reputation for being attention seekers. I do not think this is the case all the time, like I said, I think some of it has to do with lack of adequate healthcare, but I do believe there are a few at least that are doing it for the attention and that is really irritating.

#4 – Unfortunately, some people already see high functioning autism as a BS diagnosis, and when they see people just randomly deciding they have it without any kind of actual medical oversight, it tends to feed that destructive belief. Yes, they are the assholes to feel that way in the first place, but we don’t want to feed the assholes any more than we want to feed the trolls.

As a final note, I want to reiterate that I do not condemn people thinking or suspecting they have autism, just claiming an actual diagnosis without one. If you do suspect you may be autistic, doctors that diagnose adults can be hard to find, but they CAN be found, so don’t give up. It took me quite a while to find one who would test adults, and I only found him by contacting a professor at a local college who specializes in autism research and asking him if he knew any doctors who diagnose adults, so that might be a way for you to seek out a diagnosis as well.

Also, there are self-assessments made by professionals that can be useful in deciding if you might have autism, but they are NOT meant to be diagnostic material in themselves. However, they can help a great deal in figuring out if you might be autistic and are often used by professional doctors to assist in diagnostic criteria, so using them can be helpful in narrowing down whether you display autistic symptoms or not.

New YouTube Video: Book Reviews: “Asperger’s on the Job” & “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone

Hi everyone! I wanted to take a moment to share my latest Asperger’s vlog video. This video reviews two books written by Rudy Simone entitled “Asperger’s on the Job” and “Aspergirls”. Either book is a great pick for anyone who has Asperger’s or who is close to someone that does. “Asperger’s on the Job” has been especially helpful to me lately since I recently started a new part-time job working at an emergency room in our local hospital. This is the first time I have really worked outside the home in five years, so it has been a huge transition for me and has caused a lot of stress, but I feel that it will be worth it in the end! I have always been fascinated by the medical field, especially emergency medicine, so I am eager to give it a try!

If you enjoyed this video, please comment on this post or on YouTube and let me know!

“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.

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.

Autistic meltdowns…adult style

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Probably any parent of a child with autism will tell you that meltdowns suck. I agree, even though I am coming from a different viewpoint, that of the person having the meltdown. If you met me and got to know me as a casual acquaintance or even a relatively close friend, you would probably think I am a fairly calm, low key, easy-going kind of person. And most of the time I am (although those who know me best can attest that there are a lot of emotions under the surface that most people just don’t see). However, even though I am not proud or eager to admit it, I do still have occasional autistic meltdowns.

The funny thing about autistic meltdowns is that they can occur over seemingly ridiculous things or over obvious stressors. For instance, I had a meltdown today. I know that it had actually been building for a couple days because of some major stressors going on this week. Yesterday I was a sobbing, depressed mess. I walked around like the living dead, wishing that I could just hole up somewhere and hibernate for a while. Today, things kind of came to a head when I was doing a puzzle to try to relax and couldn’t get the pieces to fit quite right. In my head I heard myself say, “you should get up and leave right now before you lose it”, but of course I didn’t listen to my wiser self. I kept trying to make the pieces fit, getting more frustrated by the moment. Eventually, I slammed my hand down on the table (which hurt like heck), tore the puzzle apart and then threw the pieces all over the room. Not exactly mature I know. Then I burst into tears when my husband heard the ruckus and came to see if I was ok. Of course, none of this really had anything to do with the puzzle.

When I was a kid, meltdowns were worse in many ways. I would sob so uncontrollably I would start to hyperventilate. No matter how hard I tried to calm myself down, I couldn’t until it was over. I would also often scream at people who made me mad and if they didn’t live with me, I would throw them off my property. Not the nicest I know and I’m sure glad at least I did outgrow that! By my teen years I had calmed down some and didn’t have as many meltdowns. The ones I remember most during those years were related to Algebra. I was not good at Algebra – in fact, I hated it. Partly because I saw absolutely no point in learning it (and still don’t honestly). When I would get really frustrated with my algebra homework I would often throw the textbook on the floor and stomp on it over and over or just throw it around the room. That kind of makes me laugh now, but back then it wasn’t funny, it was incredibly frustrating.

Luckily, as an adult, the meltdowns have become relatively rare. However, it does still happen if all of the stars align just right, bringing the wrong circumstances together at the wrong time. Luckily I never have been (and hope I never will be) physically violent. When I do have these occasional meltdowns, I can see why Asperger’s is often misdiagnosed as bipolar or some other kind of mood disorder. Having an older sister and a mother who are bipolar, I have seen that there can be many similarities between bipolar meltdowns and high-functioning autistic meltdowns. I consider myself lucky that I don’t have meltdowns as frequently as my bipolar relatives though.

Unfortunately, I think meltdowns will likely always be a part of the autistic life, but I do want to give both parents and high-functioning autistic kids some hope by saying they do sometimes get better and less frequent with age. Of course, it is important to remember that all autistic people are different and meltdowns can manifest in many different forms and can range from mild to severe. Often I don’t even know at first what is triggering a meltdown, but it is usually a lot more than what is happening on the surface. I know that my husband will probably never understand why I seem to have meltdowns over things like not being able to do a pilates exercise the right way or because I can’t figure out how to change the color of something on my laptop…but that is just me. It is a part of who I am rather I like it or not, so I guess I might as well accept it and learn to deal with it. Luckily, I receive a lot of love and understanding when dealing with these issues. I wish the same was true for every autistic person, because that support can make a world of difference.

Yes, I have autism and I am proud!

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Not too long ago, after a lengthy round of psychological testing and lots of other mind-probing activities, my psychologist broke the news to me that I do officially have autism. The autism I have is a high-functioning type called Asperger’s (or at least it used to be called that, now they are starting to just refer to it as “high-functioning autism”). So why did I even go at my age (30 years old) to be tested? Because of some of the issues I was having, especially with sensory problems and anxiety.

I have always had sensory problems. In fact, I still have to cut all of the tags out of my clothes, can’t stand the feel of many clothing materials against my skin, refuse to eat many foods due to texture and scent issues, cover my ears when I am around certain high-pitched noises and sometimes have mini panic attacks in large crowds due to the overwhelming amount of noise and movement around me. I have learned to control myself so that most people don’t notice in public, but believe me, if you lived with me, you would think I was crazy sometimes.

As for the anxiety, I always knew I had generalized anxiety and social anxiety, especially around “small talk” situations. I am fine talking at length about things that interest me and that I know a lot about. In fact, I have learned to limit how much I talk about my “obsessions” because it starts to bore others after a while. In the past, I just survived the anxiety by avoiding most social situations, but now that I am finally living my dream as an award-winning author, the last thing I want to do is give up that dream because I am afraid of discussing the weather with strangers.

So anyhow, ever since I have been diagnosed, some people seem to act like it is some big, shameful secret I should hide. Heck no. I am proud to be who I am, eccentricities and all. I do not consider myself “disabled”. At only 30, I am following my passion, have a wonderful marriage (to a very understanding husband) and have the true love and devotion of those closest to me. That is another thing, many people seem to thing being autistic means “unable to love”. Not at all. Sure, we can be harder to get to know and seem out of it and self-absorbed at times, but once we let you in and get close to you, we can be some of the most loyal people around.

So, yeah, we might rock back and forth or hum when we get nervous or get lost every time we venture more than five miles from home. We may stare off into space all the time or freak out over stuff you don’t understand. We might have weird eating habits and lots of OCD tendencies that raise eyebrows. We may collect nerdy stuff and want lots of alone time to recharge. But we have very good hearts underneath it all. And remember, just like so-called “normal people”, no two autistic people are exactly alike. Get to know us as individuals. If you take the time to do that, I truly believe that you won’t be disappointed.