Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Danger Double Standard

Last night my brother took the wrong bus. He's never been on a bus and he got on the wrong one which took him to the other college campus instead of heading towards our apartment. I was very concerned about his safety and was worried about him until I heard he had gotten settled. I'm very protective of my brother!

As I write this I'm staying in my accommodations for the conference in what some may described as an "unsafe" area. To get to my motel, you leave the metropolitan area and head over a bridge. From there, continue on the main road past the pawn shops and cash advance stores. Continue on until you see a Burger King next to Wendy's across from a strip mall. In the strip mall there is a Taco Bell, Arby's, McDonald's, Planned Parenthood, Plasma donation center, and a Subway. If you drive behind the strip mall, you will find the motel I'm in.

Now, I'm perfectly fine with these accommodations. I'm staying in a place with free parking, free breakfast, free wifi, and there are not noticeable stains or smells in the room. When going to conferences, the conference centers are often connected to giant mega hotels. One night at one of those hotels is more than my entire stay here, not including necessary things such as wifi and parking.

I'm not really a high-maintenance type of girl, if you haven't been able to determine. So far on my travels I have slept on the floor and two separate couches. Falling asleep anywhere is one of my super powers. My other super power is the ability to untangle chords, which is extremely useful. It takes the simple things like a roof over my head and a warm bed to make me happy. Since tomorrow begins the conference, I'm going to get some rest. See some of you tomorrow!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Poster Perfect

Back in school, we always were required to make poster projects. These posters would need to be colorful and informative about some random subject matter. I've done posters about frogs and constellations and advanced biology topics. Posters and I go way back. When I was younger, my mother would help me create these works of art. I can arrange things, but the actually act of writing all the information down in a neat way is not my forte.

So what's very interesting is that I will actually be doing a poster presentation at OCALI. Yup, I put myself in a position to create a poster without being graded on it. So my biggest challenge is making things look very neat and clean. I don't have the best penmanship, but I do have creativity!

Here's a little sneak peek at my poster. It will be displayed in the exhibit hall beginning Wednesday. I hope to see some of you around the conference!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Executive Functioning Failures

Executive functioning (EF) difficulties are a trademark characteristic of autism spectrum disorders. Over the past couple of weeks, my energy has been spent on taking care of me and not trying to get my EF skills in order. It's been a struggle for me because I get so overwhelmed with what needs to be done I can't even get started! Yup, it's a vicious cycle.

One of the greatest things about this little trip I'm on is that I get to hit a "reset" button in a way. A change of space is exactly what I need in order to get me back on track. For me, removing myself from my comfort zone briefly shocks my system into working again. It works to place myself in a new situation and to reconnect with important people in my life.

I actually work very well under pressure. I have set aside all tomorrow to catch up on things I need to get done before OCALI this week. These things vary from school work to freelance work to personal work. It's been very devastating for me to have fallen behind in things that mean so much to me. I absolutely love the work I do; it makes my day when I get positive feedback from my peers or students. As I've mentioned things related to trauma and energy levels recently, I've had to learn to be kind to myself.

I have always been my own worst enemy. I've held myself to unrealistic expectations because I don't always accept my own limitations. One of my classmates actually wrote to me expressing her concern because we've been in every class together so far and she has never seen me fall behind. Her, and others close to me, know I do my best to act professionally. I may be young, but I am working on my career right now.

Tomorrow is set aside to get so much done. Yes, there is a phrase about procrastinators. No, I don't need to be reminded of it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


So I honestly did not think I was ever going to get to 100 blog posts. This is not the first blog I have done, but it is the first one I have taken very seriously. Over the past couple of months, I've found it as a platform to discuss important topics and connect with people from all over the world. I have learned we all share some of the same struggles regardless of disability. It is these unifying characteristics which make us all connected to each other, even if we have never met in person.

So today is also a pretty big day because I began my road trip to the Midwest to present at OCALI. This is my second year attending the conference and this will be my first time presenting. My poster presentation is not yet assembled, but there will totally be arts and crafts time here on my first leg of the journey in New York. For now, I get to enjoy the company of friends and focus on catching up on school work.

One of the great things about driving across country, yes I may be a little nuts to drive INTO a Polar Vortex, is it really gives you time to think and reflect. So my wonderful and loyal readers, I will leave you will the questions I pondered listening to podcasts and burned CDs on my first leg of my travels.

Road Ramblings:

If they really wanted to make luxury cars look fancy, they should include penguins in the advertisements. Penguins are already wearing suits and look very fancy.

Pomegranates are wonderful because you can use violence to gain access to food.

I'd imagine the first person in the world who discovered they could not eat gluten felt really left out.   

Cats may one day try to rule the world, but they would be such adorable overlords I'm not sure anyone would think they were a menace.

Friday, November 14, 2014

To College or not to College!

Back before I went to college, not everyone went. People were aware that the collegiate track is not for everyone. Some people do not have scholastic interests requiring a higher degree. In this day and age, not every high paying job even requires a degree. Many of my peers graduated from college only to go back to jobs like cashier, stork clerk, or receptionist. Jobs not requiring the large amount of debt they accrued.

I'm currently working on my Master's degree because an advanced degree in the field I work in makes me a more appealing candidate. However, it is the work I have been doing for years and not the undergraduate degree I have that really gives me an edge. It's not just about what skills you say you have, but what you do with those skills employers are impressed with. Most of my resume is work I've been doing to 'pay my dues' as it is sometimes called.

Somewhere along the line, people decided once you graduate from highschool students must immediately go to college. What ever happen to working a job for a year or taking a gap year? Take some time to figure out what you really want to do before throwing yourself in debt at a high priced college. Why not start by taking some college classes at a local community college? Get some experience close to home and some of the courses may meet prerequisites for another school if you decide to transfer.

For two years in college I was a Resident Assistant. I interacted with freshmen all the time and saw many people, upperclassmen included, questioning why they were there. Not everyone is a good fit for higher education. Vocational schools and other creative arts may suit a person better. It is a very individual choice for a person. It is also totally fine to be 18 years old, or 22 years old, and confused about what path is right for you. We should take time to explore all of our options before thinking we need to be stuck on one "right" path.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Not a person with...

Since this came up again recently, in several mediums, it's an important topic to talk about.

I'm Autistic.

I do not identify as a person with autism.
I also definitely don't suffer from autism, so if you think that you are totally on the wrong blog.

 I'm working on my Master's right now and even when I submit papers, my teacher will try to correct me. "People are more than their disability" the red notes in the margin say. Oh yeah, I'm more than autism but autism is me. Autism affects my daily life, like it or not. The only time I'll say I'm living with autism is in reference to creatures I live with, humans or felines.

I choose to use identity-first language and this is a conscious move on my part and the part of many other self-advocates. When I get politely told off by parents and professionals for saying "River Tam is autistic", those are the little moments where I get to try to have a teachable moment. Would you say a "person of Italian heritage" or would you simply say an Italian? How about "a person with homosexual tendencies"? We teach educators and professionals to use person first language, but like gender identity, how about we ask they person how they would like to be identified. Let's not make assumptions because of how a person looks or how they behave.

There are many different branches in the disability population who do prefer person-first language over identity-first. Again, I am speaking specifically about the autism community. Personally I'll respond to being called pretty much anything, but there may be an eye roll if the phrase is really condescending. The point is; it is our choice on how we want to present ourselves to the world and the significance of our word choices. For decades it was parents and professionals speaking out and advocating for the autistic community. We have now found a voice and should be respected for the things we have to say.

Autistic is not a dirty word.
It is a strong word.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let's get physical!

If you can infer from things, or the fact that I've said as much, it's been a rough few months. I've been in a bad place and it's affected my health. The biggest hurdle for me recently has been the depression. It feels like I'm trapped in my body and unable to do the fun things I want to do and it's a struggle through the things I need to do. Seriously, let's not talk about the epic mountain of doom that is the pile of clothing in my room.

So as a way to improve my overall health, I've gone back and started working out heavy duty again. I've been working to try to create lifelong healthy habits and exercising on a daily basis is a huge one. It's right up there with eating healthy and not smoking. It's that whole "My body is a temple" thing I'm trying to do. Again, everything is totally a work in process.

Anyway, as I was cross-train-er-ing watching Community I began to feel better. In fact, once I was done I looked like a drowned red-headed rat. As I dripped over to the water fountain, the endorphins raced through me. It's been said five million times, but exercise does make you feel better. Cardio is an easy one to do, but I actually prefer weightlifting because it is a deep pressure sensation.

I've taken pharmaceuticals before for depression, in fact I did it for years. For me, the side effects were not worth it. My chemical and neurological system is so sensitive, drugs really tend to mess me up. Now that I'm not in the middle of crisis, it is the perfect time to work with natural and holistic approaches. I use catnip (insert joke here) for pain relief and helping get to sleep.  So as I work to get back on my life track, exercise is going to be key for me.

Hey, when I get back from my Midwest adventures there is a new physical activity I'm going to be doing. This new activity is going to take things in a fun new direction when it comes to daily exercise.
Hint: I'll still be spinning, but not on the ground!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Let me ask you

My friends and I came up with a way to vet out potential suitors.  We would sit them down, have a few drinks, and ask them a series of questions. These are not your usual series of "where do you see yourself in 5 years" as those answers didn't give us an accurate reflection of the person as a whole. So here for you is one of our questions and my own answer.

The Ordeal: Question Number 8
The scene, an empty stage. The spotlight shines on you and you cannot see the audience. You are wearing a red sequined dress standing before a microphone. What song do you sing?

Given where my life has been lately, I'm thinking a female power ballad is in order. Although originally sung about a bad romantic breakup, the song "I will survive" seems the most appropriate. I can actually picture myself standing center stage and belting out the words. The power of singing out the words in our heart is something I have talked about recently. The music can reach inside and give us strength. That's why we ask this question. Some people take a comic route while others try to do something impressive. All the choices speak to who a person is and how they view the world.

Me, well, I'm a survivor of course.

I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sweet Rest

For me, sleep is not always restful.

When my Lyme is really bad, I will end up sleeping about 14 hours a day. Then I'll wake up not even feeling fully rested. With chronic pain, some nights I wish for sleep while my body yells out at me. Even when I am stressed out, my energy level gets so low that the only reasonable thing I can do is go to sleep.

A good thing about my ability to fall asleep, is I can sleep virtually anywhere. I fell asleep once standing up and I woke up when I came crashing to the floor. Planes, trains, and automobiles are all easy for me to sleep in.  It is something about the relaxing sway of the movement literally rocking me to sleep. It was also discovered in College that I can fall asleep grasping something, a small toy mouse normally, and not let it go through the night.

My bed is covered in blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. I love nesting in all the soft things and falling asleep. Fluffy, a stuffed grey cat given to me for my first birthday, always lays at the head of my bed. Above my bed is a dream catcher I made for myself. Although I can sleep anywhere, there is something very comforting about being home in my own bed/nest.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Alone but not Lonely

As winter approaches, actually it's here, people couple up. Perhaps it is something in our genetic structure clinging to another warm body in the cold night. Perhaps it's because people find thermals sexy. Whatever the reason, this is the time of year when people hibernate with a mate, or two.

When it comes to family reunions over cranberry sauce or turkey, the subject of relationships will always come up.
"So Brigid, trapped any guys this year?"
"Nope, they all chewed through their legs and escaped."*
*Yes, my family is a filled with snarky wonderful people.

I'm not at that age yet where people start to whisper concerned behind my back about me becoming a spinster, but I am at that age where people expect me to date around. I don't know why. Maybe people think being in your mid-20's means living in a romantic comedy. Heads up, my life is more like a Lifetime movie than anything starting Katherine Heigl

So unless Keanue Reeves suddenly comes to woe me, I'll be holidaying for one again.
But I'm okay with this.
I'm not lonely. 

See, the type of relationship I want is like my friend Allison's. She is dating her best friend. He's a science nerd, despite how many times he tells me what he is in school for I can't understand it, and she is a writer. They have their own lives with their own friends and adventures. When they come home at the end of they day, they are two separate people who are improved by sharing a life with the other person. That's what I want.

I've seen people become couples and compromise who they are on an individual level. For some, they become a stronger unit. I've seen couples come together and go against the odds with their partner by their side, something not possible if they were trying on their own. For many people, they end up building resentment for what they 'gave up' in the relationship.

I was talking to a younger friend this summer who had a similar experience with relationships. We both are so involved in our work, we don't even notice people vying for our attention. The daily texts of "Good morning, Beautiful" go unnoticed by us as we crunch to make deadlines and are so involved with our passions. We seek a partner in crime, someone who can join us for adventures but then go on their own adventures without needing us. I'm a firespinning autism advocate finishing up grad school. I know there are people who can fit into my life and I'm going to look forward to finding those people.

You know, after I get back from the Midwest.

Hey, I'm busy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Brains on my mind

Today I got the opportunity to do one of my passions: acting. I love the Autism advocacy work I do, but there is something about becoming a different character that has always appealed to me. Street performing, theater, film. It doesn't really matter the venue as long as I can put on a good show.

Today I was a zombie in a film. It was cold and hay-covered and so much fun. The Maine film community is a quirky little family. All the experiences I've encountered have been positive with people really supporting each other. I first was cast in a student film my first week after moving back home after college. Three and a half years later and I'm still enjoying it!

My dream in life right now, as silly as it may seem to some, is something I am actively working towards. It is to travel the world performing, presenting, and writing. This past year I started putting some of the building blocks in place. This next year I'm going to be ramping things up even more. Watch out world!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Social you say? More like socially awkward.

I like people.
I like people better in small doses.

Socializing for me can be draining. There are so many different things I need to do in a day, making awkward small talk is not always on my list of things to do. That being said, I do love to hang out with people.

I'm hugely social when surrounded by friends and family. They know I sometimes say weird things (Brigid-isms) or I may miss a punch line. My friends, new and old, know being social is different for me. Sometimes I may just need to leave or I will get too overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed socially, it does not end well for me.

Social doesn't always mean talking, either. Working on individual projects in the same room as someone else is also a social activity. I feel sometimes we get too caught up in the verbal world we miss the real communication. I will say, everyone staring at their screens in the same room instead of talking is not social interaction in my mind.

So even when it drains me, I need to be social. I've gone to noisy clubs just to hang out with one or two people who will also be there. It is not humanly possible footer me to socialize with everyone all the time, but it doesn't mean I don't want to. Starting conversations can also be difficulty for me which is another big reason I trend to talk to the same people. The only bigger social stresser for me is leaving a conversation.

Yup, I don't know how to stop talking once I start.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where are you tonight?

I've made it know that I have a special relationship with the moon. The passing of time makes way more sense to me from a lunar standpoint than just looking at the days passing.

So what has changed from the last Full Moon?

Well now I'm living in the apartment of my dreams. After the difficult times I've been through recently, it feels like I have a great reward for staying genuine and standing up for myself. Today I spent the day decorating and setting up things. Putting things in their place, my place, felt so rewarding. Everything has its own little nook to go in and things fit perfectly. I know I'll be getting some furniture soon and I can't wait. I get to really decorate this place and in the spring I have permission to garden!

It's also been a time of reflection in relationships. As I move on personally and professionally, I deserve to be surrounded by caring individuals. Those who treat me poorly, and who treat those I care about poorly, have no place in my life at this moment. There are some people who are at the end of their journey with me for now. We may meet again, but on different terms. It is a difficult decision to fully remove a person, or people, from your life but it is a decision we must make at times in order to take care of ourselves.

Still, it is a time of celebration as we move into the darkness. This month is already shaping up to be amazing and my trip to the Midwest is beginning in a little more than a week. Don't ask if I am prepared because the answer would shock no one! I'm looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues and friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sing loud and make music

To change gears onto happier subjects, I'm going to talk about music today. Music has always been an active part of my life. I was raised listening to everything from opera to jazz. Even with that preface, the first CD I ever bought for myself was N*sync. Before buying a CD, I had tapes and a tape player. As a child, I would record my favorite songs on the tapes and listen to them endlessly.

With the brain damage, music has become an old friend I am getting to know again. When I was younger, I could sight read lots of music and understand how things were supposed to sound. Now I once again become familiar with measures and beats. Things have a way of working back into our memories. The muscle memory of keeping time is still there. I still know the first verse of "Somewhere over the rainbow" but can't play it without tearing up.

I had the chance to see the musical Stomp when I was younger and I've since rewatched clips. It just perfectly highlights something my parents were trying to teach me. Music is everywhere. Music is a part of life.

You know those songs that perfectly capture the mood you are in. How it seems cheesy that a pop singer in her 20s can perfectly describe your marriage, but its true. We have the ability to share our stories through music and relate to others in a very personal way. Researchers once did a study finding one song could actually impact our whole mood. The power of those verses is not something to underestimate.

Songwriting is not one of my many talents. I can't put words to melody, at least not without the help of my friends, but I strongly admire those who do write songs. I can write powerful poetry, but the music lingers in my head like a friendly ghost. For me, I'll stick to singing them and appreciating the hard works others do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It is not okay to kill your child

"Well, I can understand..."

"Well, she was under a lot of stress..."

"We can't judge..."

"We can't know..."

If you read my letter to Alex, you know it really affects me when parents murder their Autistic children. What also contributes to the issue is people who come to the defense of the murderer. I will say that even though I did not birth him, I still acted as my brother's parent growing up. He may have been an unholy handful at times but I'd sooner kill myself than him.

The discussions that are not happening are about the other options for the parents besides the extreme. Extended family visits are an option and, in some states, abandoning your child is also an option. In situations where there is another parent, say to them "I'm going to a motel for a weekend to sleep and read by myself or I may kill our child."

This is not happening to deaf children.
This is not happening to diabetic children.
This is not happening to children born with degenerative medical conditions.

It is autistic kids who continue to be murdered.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hyposensitivity or Did you feel that?

Hyposensitivity is when a person has difficulties processing input through the senses. This means more stimulation is needed to properly register a sensation.

Hi, my name is Brigid and my tactile sense is completely hyposensitive. This means my sense of touch is not as defined as other people's. Yes, this is the reason why corsets are relaxing to me and deep pressure in the form of weighted blankets or crushing bear hugs are so comforting.

So when I was younger I broke my arm. Now the problem was, I didn't realize my arm was broken.
For 3 days I didn't know it was broken.
It was not until it had swollen up completely and my mother insisted on taking me to the hospital. See, the problem was I could not actually register the pain of a broken arm. For people like me, this can make doctor appointments very complicated because the pain scale of 1 to 10 does not really make much sense. I don't know what a pain rating of 10 would be for the average person. I don't even flinch when I get tattoos or piercings. See the issue?

For those who are hyposensitive, we search out sensory input. For those of us who have a hyposensitive vestibular system, we can spin around forever on those teacup rides at amusement parks and never feel like we are going to loose our lunch. It is only with the extreme sensations do we have a little more comfort in our own bodies.

One of my favorite sensory accommodations is a weighted blanket. I'm currently working to afford one because I've noticed they can help calm me down in record time. This summer I was under a total of 30 pounds of weighted blankets and then asked my mom to sit on my lap, it was a stressful time but it completely regulated me. Until then, I'm currently sleeping under several thick blankets and full sized pillows to get the same feeling.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hypersensitivity or Don't touch me!

Hypersensitivity is very common for those of us on the Autism Spectrum. It means exactly what it sounds like, we are more (hyper) sensitive to different sensory things. One thing I've learned from talking about my hypersensitivities, is that people who aren't Autistic are hypersensitive about some things. My level of tolerance for sensory things, as like most people, varies depending on stresses or my health level.

Recently, I've become very aware of smells. Before I could hang out with people regardless of smells like cigarettes or perfumes, but now some smells are getting overwhelming. I've had to walk away from certain places due to lingering food smells. Picture a dimly lit room smelling of alcohol, fried foods, perfumes, leftover cigarettes, and sweat.

I've always had hypersensitive hearing which give me the ability to hear things from great distances away. This can be beneficial when I get lost in a crowd but when I can't filter out all the sounds it gets too much. I need things to be at a quieter level when I'm relaxing. Even when things are normal volume levels, it can be too loud for me. Earplugs are my best friends.

For those of us who also have hypersensitivities, it can sometimes limit where we can go in the community and drain us. Sensory accommodations, such as wearing light cotton fabrics without tags for those with some tactile issues, are how we function in the world. There is no one size fits all solution as what works for one person may be so very wrong for another person. By first identifying which sense, or senses, is sensitive you can begin to discover appropraite accomidations.

I'll discuss the other side of this coin, hyposensitivity, tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Let's try this again.

So this month is one of the months when people write like mad and try to construct and entire novel.
For bloggers, it's trying to do a post a day.

I tried this last year and lasted... a week.
This year I'm going to try again because I'm all about making positive changes and writing daily is a really important thing for me to get in a habit about.

Some posts may be longer and some may be shorter. If there are any topics you want me to touch on, please write so in the comments or on my Facebook page.

We are already expecting some of the dreaded white stuff this weekend so it officially feels like Winter. Let's start hibernating!