I Have Autism, and I Yearn to Feel I Belong

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This may be a post that is hard for neurotypicals to relate to – I’m honestly not sure. But, as someone who has high-functioning autism (Aspergers), I find that I have always had a deep internal yearning for something that I don’t know how to get or how to keep – and that is a true sense of belonging. I have had fleeting moments of feeling like I belong in a group. Lunches with friends at school, days at work where I laughed along with the others and felt like part of the gang, or even last year, when I was hospitalized and briefly came to feel at home among the other patients.

But none of these lasted. The very next day, or even the next hour, I could easily be feeling like an outsider again, like someone with their nose pressed to the window, watching the motion and activity inside with longing. Even among friends, it was often clear that I was “the weird one”, the one that was sometimes liked, but never completely understood. I often felt like I was an alien being in a foreign world, and sometimes I still feel that way.

Now, since I don’t have to attend work or school outside of my home, I am not forced into regular contact with others and the chances of feeling a part of a group are even less likely to occur. I can go out and seek groups, and sometimes do, but I never really end up feeling a part of them. I am not a cog in the gears of a greater machine, I am a spare part left on the table.

The best way I know to describe the yearning inside is to share the first few lines from the theme song to the old tv show, Cheers:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where where everybody knows your name

That is what I want, but realistically, I could hang out at a bar EVERY SINGLE DAY and I’d be lucky if anyone learned my name…and I can’t help but feel that is my own fault. I’ve seen others who can walk into a place and in a few minutes, they are no longer a stranger to anyone. It is almost like a magical ability, and is clearly one I’ll never have.

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When Non-Profits Only Care About the Money

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On Facebook I shared a post about some tax changes that are being made to churches and non-profit institutions. The debate that started, made me think about my own experience working for a non-profit organization and I wanted to share a little bit of that here. For around 6 months or so, I worked for a non-profit religious hospital system. My job was to be one of the people in the emergency department who collected patient information (especially insurance information) and processed payments.

From the beginning, it was drilled into us that it was about the money. We were hounded to make sure we collected certain percentages of money from patients while they were still there in the building, whether they could afford it or not. We were encouraged to apply pressure to them to pay at least a percentage that day, regardless of their personal circumstances. Although patients could legally ask to be billed later, we were told to NEVER tell them that, and only offer that option if they brought it up first.

We were told bluntly that the hospital had to make sure to look like they were doing enough “public outreach” to keep their non-profit tax status, so when they did run public assistance programs we were told to advertise them when talking to patients. It became clear that they didn’t necessarily do programs for the poor because they CARED about them, it was so they could continue to get the tax breaks and other non-profit advantages. I heard so much negative talk there about Medicaid patients and the poor. I was also told flat out that the company was purposefully looking into opening more locations in areas where the people were more likely to pay, and closing locations where the populations were poorer.

One huge issue I had was that even when someone was brought to the ER and died, we were pressured to try to get money from their grieving relatives. More than once, those in charge actually chose not to tell family members that their loved one had passed away until AFTER we collected insurance information and copays/deductible payments. They would send us in, and we would know the family’s loved one was gone, but we were told to lie and pretend we knew nothing. This killed me to have to do. One time a lady begged me for information on her husband who was dead, and I couldn’t tell her anything. I also struggled to go up to a mother whose child has just tried to commit suicide and ask her for money. I felt like scum.

In the end, I couldn’t keep this job due to my own health issues, but I couldn’t have kept doing it with a clear conscience either.

Weekend Life Update: Depression, Meditation, Politics

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I am currently experiencing a real downturn mood-wise, but I’m going to try to write a life update post anyhow. I tried to write a blog post yesterday, but was simply to depressed to complete it. Today I’m just going to sum up a few things that went on this last week, so hopefully, I will get something done today.

  • This past Wednesday, my husband and I tried out a new meditation group (new to us anyhow). I haven’t meditated in months at least, and it felt good to “get back in the saddle” so to say. Even though I don’t find that meditation is all that great at relieving my anxiety and depression symptoms overall, it does at least give me some perspective and allow me to step back a bit when I am feeling my worst and realize that it will pass if I just wait it out. That awareness is definitely beneficial to keeping myself on this earth when part of me wants to check out.
  • My blog post about not being a social media doormat really became popular! I guess many others struggle with all the bullies and haters that tend to hang out on popular social media platforms. Glad to see I’m not alone in this experience.
  • Today I am taking my bike and aerobics trampoline to sell them to a used sports equipment store. I have had to face the fact that I am not physically healthy enough to use them anymore and they are just taking up space. Hopefully someone else will get some use out of them. It is a bit depressing though to just give up.
  • I am so disgusted by American politics right now. I am disgusted with Trump. I am disgusted with his blindly loyal followers. I am disgusted by those on the left that display blatant hypocrisy and pretend to be “the opposition”, but are just as sold out to big money and corporation interests. I am disgusted by all the pointless warfare my country perpetuates. I am disgusted by the news media that twists everything and often outright lies.  I am disgusted by the lack of empathy many people have towards anyone who is different from them. I am disgusted by the fearmongering and scapegoating. I am disgusted that in the richest country on earth, Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean water, and much of Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power. I am disgusted that 40 million Americans don’t have health care and that 40% of the country can’t afford basic necessities like food and shelter. I am disgusted that conditions have deteriorated to the point that suicide rates have risen 30% since 1999. I am simply disgusted and feel powerless to help.

A Few Words About Applying for Government Disability Benefits

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(The below was written out of simple outrage from what I have seen happen to fellow human beings who are genuinely too sick and weak to work, but are expected to wait years for any help from the government programs they have paid into all their lives. I am fortunate to have other resources to survive on while unable to work, but not everyone is so lucky. Many homeless you see on the streets are actually disabled veterans and citizens who deserve so much better…)

Applying for government benefits, even those you have worked for and earned yourself, can be a ridiculously long, complicated, and humiliating process BECAUSE they design it to be so. They want to break you down, make you give up, make you give in. They expect the sickest and weakest among us to jump through hurdles on command, knowing it is almost an impossibility unless there are others propping us up.

Honestly, I think they hope that you will die on your own before they have to do a damn thing. I can picture Uncle Sam with fingers crossed, hoping you buckle under the stress and poverty, or even end up taking your own life from the hopelessness and despair of feeling useless, discounted, and vilified by a media that touts how “easy” it is to fool the system and labels those who are disabled as leeches or lazy.

Apparently discrimination laws don’t apply to the government either, since they clearly indulge in age discrimination, something every lawyer will blatantly tell you up front. Even publicly, you can find legal representatives in the field explaining why you are simply fucked if you dare get too sick before age 35, 40, or even 50. So if you are a young adult or middle aged person struggling with a chronic illness or severe pain condition, you had better tell it to get lost and come back in 10 or 20 years. Yeah, that works. After all, young people aren’t allowed to be sick or disabled.

You know, it is really funny, that many of the same people who are so public about being pro-life are also always trying to cut social safety net programs like disability or make them harder to access. If they could, I think sometimes that the government would perform adult abortions on those too weak or sick to continue to prop up their sick, twisted system. Getting rid of us all would be so much easier, wouldn’t it?

Video: My Experiences with Emotional Pain or Abuse from a Church or Religion

Hi everyone! I wanted to share this video I made recently for my Spiritual Agnostic YouTube vlog channel, in the hopes that perhaps others who have experienced similar things or even much worse, might find some comfort and strength in knowing they aren’t alone and that it is possible to heal and move on from things like this. In no way did I make this video to be mean or vengeful, but just to express my own process of growth and learning through these experiences.

My New Second YouTube Channel, “Nerdy Agnostic”!

Hello! This is just a short post to alert all my followers that I have started a second YouTube vlog channel entitled “Nerdy Agnostic“. The main reason I started a second channel was because my primary channel, “Maranda’s Toys & Books“, has a significant underage following and I wanted a separate channel where I could discuss more mature subject matter without worrying about kids being exposed to inappropriate material.

My new channel will be about a variety of subjects, but will likely focus largely on religion and secularism (hence the title “Nerdy Agnostic“), philosophy, social issues, politics, my own personal struggles (depression, Asperger’s, chronic illness, etc.), and anything else that I want to share with a more mature audience. If any of this appeals to you, please check out the channel and subscribe!

Here is the introductory video for my new channel:

New YouTube video – how I got my Asperger’s Diagnosis (and how it made me feel)

From the feedback I have gotten from those who watch my YouTube videos, it seems that people are most interested in hearing more about my experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome/high-functioning autism, so I am going to try to focus on that some. I figured the logical first step would be a video talking about how I got my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and how that affected me. So here you go…

Picking on the poor in the name of Christ

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Over the years I have heard some of my fellow Christians say truly awful things about the poor, the disabled and the needy. In one conversation a fellow Christian declared that the poor “deserve to be poor” and almost always cause their own problems. I have heard similar sentiments from other Christians that almost always make me want to wince in discomfort.

I have also heard fellow Christians (and Fox News) say repeatedly that most people on disability are able to work and are just lazy people who want to rely on the government. I’m sure if they knew firsthand how hard it is to get disability, how long it takes and how worthless and depressed many disabled people feel when unable to work, they might change their minds. If they went through it themselves or someone else in their immediate family needed those services, you can almost guarantee their opinion might change. I would say the same for other services for the poor, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When I hear negative comments about the poor and disabled from anyone in the Christian community, I can’t help but think of these verses:

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” Zechariah 7:10 (The word “alien” in this also makes me think about our treatment of immigrants – legal or otherwise).

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 (Jesus commanded this kind of extreme sacrifice and yet we balk at helping the poor in even small ways?)

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33 (I’m sensing that Jesus really wasn’t a materialistic guy and didn’t want his followers to be either. Could be wrong there, but I definitely get that feeling.)

Religion is getting harder to defend…but I still have hope.

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“Blue Heart Sunrise”

I love God. I always have and likely always will. I’ve always had a deep interest in spirituality…even before I understood religion. As a small child I often had vivid dreams (that I can picture to this day) of both good and bad spirits visiting me. I was always glad that in these dreams the good seemed more powerful in the end, no matter how scary the bad might seem. I rarely have those dreams anymore, but once in awhile I still do and I’m always relieved to see that the good is still strongest.

However, aside from my own personal feelings and experiences, I am finding it harder and harder to defend manmade institutions of religion. I try. I know there is good in religion. There is truth to be found in the scriptures, metaphors, stories and myths. There is goodness in many of the people and religion in its healthier forms can help provide a deeper sense of community, family and belonging. It can make you feel closer to God and help you to grow spiritually. If done the right way, it can provide a chance to reach out to others in love and make the world better.

Unfortunately, more and more, I am seeing the dark side of religion and it breaks my heart. I grew up seeing this some in my own family where people were condemned to hell for simple things like cutting their hair, wearing the wrong clothes or watching tv. Luckily, I did not grow to follow that kind of fear-based faith but found a couple spiritual mentors who showed me true love and encouraged me to think for myself and research things rather than just believing what I am told. I thought growing up that the rest of the religious world wasn’t as fearful and judgemental as some of my family members, but I am seeing more and more that fear and misplaced devotion seem to be issues across the religious spectrum.

Where is this fear you may ask? It is in families fighting and disowning one another over varying religious opinions. It is found in people who want to discriminate against another group of people simply because those people are “bad” according to their religion. It is in women who are abused and made to feel like second-class citizens because of fundamentalism. It is in the belief that God loves some more than others and that this “God” approves when we bully or mistreat other nations or groups of people. It is in the torment that comes along with the belief that our loved ones are going to hell if they think differently than we do. It is in the blindness that results from believing we have the only truth and everyone else is wrong.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. I wish I had a solution. I sometimes wonder if John Lennon wasn’t right in imagining a world without religion. I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to think that this is how religion has to be. Through it all, I still hope. I hope for a time that we will all come together in love. That we will accept and celebrate differences instead of fearing them. That families will not fall apart over differences of opinion. That we will work together to solve problems, not to force our personal convictions on everyone else. That we will help to comfort those in pain, but never help to cause that pain. I still hope.