Friday, May 15, 2015

A Road To Me: Acceptance. Love, and Self-care: #AutismPositivity2015

Fridays are normally a "social" night. However, the upcoming weeks will be breaking my brain a little bit with all the social. Starting right now, the next and last free day I'll have until June 4th is this upcoming Thursday. I'll be traveling to 4 different states for multiple events.

Yes, I'm very glad I recently purchased new tires.

I'm willing to drive hundreds of miles in the upcoming weeks with loads of social interactions and new experiences for one simple reason.

I found communities where I can be myself 100%.

My trips will take me to two major flow events. For these weekends, I can spin my props until I can't feel my hands anymore. Then I'll spin using other body parts just to keep spinning. Reconnecting with amazing people who don't flinch at my obscure pop culture references allows me to be social in my own special way. I literally get to talk about or indulge my special interests almost non-stop and it's so liberating.

I'm free to be me.

Self Love is a work in progress for me. There have been deep dark holes in my past where I didn't like myself. I fell into the spiral of negativity; which has ALWAYS been around my social interactions with people. Saying the wrong thing, doing something awkward, laughing at the wrong time, getting lost in the conversation: those little things other people never paid attention to or noticed ate me up from the inside.

Then one day I woke up and realized who I am.
I'm Brigid.
There is no one else exactly like me in the entire world.

Every day is a new change to play and explore the world around me. The first steps to fully embracing myself involve not being so judgmental or holding myself to lofty expectations. My apartment will never be spotless and my laundry will only be fully put away when it decides to communicate with me. "Perfect" is an illusion we create of some imaginary life we think we are supposed to have.

Instead of being social tonight, I'm taking it easy at home. I've defrosted a pizza and have a bottle of wine. It's an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind type of night as I get things prepared for an active weekend in front of me. Tonight needs to be restful so I'm on top of my game for this weekend. Take it easy on yourselves and treat each other well.

And maybe it's funniest of all
To think I'll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be
Amanda Palmer- In My Mind

Monday, May 11, 2015

Food Stamps and Ableism

I live in Maine.

Recently, our state has gotten more nationwide attention because our Governor has made statements and policy changes about the use of Food Stamps. In the past year, our state has required photo identifications on EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to reduce fraud. Maine has also implemented a policy requiring "able-bodied adults without dependents" to work, volunteer, or be part of a vocational training program for at least 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving food stamps. In a state with marijuana legalized for medicinal purposes, he also is trying to push for universal drug testing.  Even Fox News has described our Governor's plan as one of the "boldest welfare reforms". Governor Paul LePage has also recently issued statements about wanting to prevent EBT users from purchasing items like soda or chips.

If you have never gone through the process of applying for food stamps, I'm not sure you understand what it is like. It's not as if you walk into a building and they hand you a preloaded card with thousands of dollars and tell you to run wild. It's a process taking a minimum of months if all the bureaucratic wheels are running smoothly. You need to demonstrate your continued need for assistance by paystubs, bills, leases, ect. Even then, you may be lucky to get 17 dollars a month for a  household.

Recently, there has been a surge of "outrage" by fellow nosy shoppers who are judging what EBT users are purchasing. I have a few HUGE issues with this.

1. Why do you care what other people purchase?! (I literally NEVER notice what other people are buying in line because I always have a momentary panic thinking I forgot my wallet once I've arrived at the register.)

2. How does what anyone else chooses to put into their body affect you or your life?

3. What makes you think you know what someone's life is like based on the few moments of their life you observe reflected in the items on a conveyer belt?

Invisible disabilities exist all around us including those affecting us mentally and/or physically. I've been told I don't "look" disabled, however those wonderful employees who work at the grocery store near me may have a different opinion. Sometimes there is not the energy to cook a meal from scratch. Other times we need to get nutrients ASAP or else something not good may happen to us. Other times my sensory system will prevent me from eating anything other than a restricted number of foods.

Don't judge what people buy.
Earlier this year I was very sick. I lost 9 pounds in just 5 days because I could not eat anything and my survival was solely based on 100% fruit juice popsicles. When I could finally stomach food, my body was craving red meat. This is a family trait and one we identify as "turning the corner" to recovery. I used my debit card for my purchase and I'm not sure if anyone noticed my payment method.

Did they see the graduate student who presents internationally on Autism and part of an award winning performance troupe?
Did they only saw the girl with the messy hair in sweatpants buying a steak and make the assumption she was a "welfare queen"?

I know they didn't see the face I made while eating my first meal in almost a week or my face as I fell asleep with a nutritious meal in my stomach, instead of with the hunger pains I know all too well.

Friday, May 8, 2015

All the Doors

After 8 months, today I walked out of therapy with no appointment for next week. We talked about my progress and acknowledged the door was always open.

 With the warmer weather, my cats have been enjoying the sunshine. They go out in the morning and come in for food. As humans, our responsibilities are to make sure the bowls are full and open the door as needed. My cats hate closed doors. If we open it before they are ready, our furry overloads just look at us in bewilderment.

"Silly human, I don't want to go inside yet. I want to drop in this spot and have you to rub my belly"

Feline in many ways, I have trouble with some doors. When relationship doors close, for the myriad of reasons relationships end, I'm sometimes left standing there in confusion. What did I do? What didn't I do? Should I have done something differently? Is it me?! These questions and more ring through my head.

Or they use to ring through my head.

These insecurities are not unknown to other people. However, being autistic does cause me to view communication or lack of communication through a different lens. It is not just through words do we communicate so silences hanging the the air have a weight to them.

But that is not my concern anymore.

People, the people who matter to me, know I'm disabled. I've trusted them to be straightforward and honest in their interactions with me. The people who have been two-faced are people I no longer wish to associate with. It is much less painful for me to hear my actions are disruptive to someone from their own mouth than catch it on the gossip vine. I'm choosing not to live second guessing my communications and relationships any more.

That is an achievement.
My calender is filled with color coded dates of events for May. Flipping the page reveals June is equally covered with markings. Sitting next to the front door of my apartment is gear for tomorrow's gig. I'll load things into the car later today so I'll be able to hit the road bright and early in the morning. In the next few weeks I'll be interacting with hundreds of people and showcasing my talents. It's a busy month, but plans to be very rewarding.

When one door closes, another one is always open. We just have to be brave enough to walk through it.