Friday, July 5, 2019

Is "Sapiosexual" Ableist?

Let's start with a few definitions of "sapiosexual."

"(of a person) finding intelligence sexually attractive or arousing." (Google)
"One who finds the content's of someone else's mind to be their most attractive attribute, above and before their physical characteristics. From the Latin root 'sapien', meaning wise." (Urban Dictionary)

Is the term "sapiosexual" ableist?

If we go by Urban Dictionary's definition (there's no "official" term in the Merriam-Webster), it seems like the answer is NO.
If sapiosexual is ableist in the context of the Urban Dictionary definition, it would imply that people with disabilities do not have a mind, which is utterly ridiculous.

So let's work with Google's definition, since it includes the word "intelligence," which is the main concern here.

"Intelligence" lately has been dubbed an ableist word, mostly due to it being used against people with intellectual disabilities, autistic people, and others, to dehumanize them and deny them rights. Many of these people were called "retarded" and were treated as less than a person.


I do take this seriously and believe that intelligence, cognitive ability, or practical abilities is in no way related to someone's inherent humanity. Everyone deserve human rights, comfortable lives, and acceptance regardless of how their brains work or what they are able to or unable to do.

That being said, this article is not about how the word "intelligence" has been used in actually ableist ways. Check out this insightful article by Amy Sequenzia if you want to read more about that issue.

I would like to work with the term "intelligence" based on the way it seems to be used with "sapiosexual."



1. INTELLIGENCE IS DYNAMIC

"Intelligence" in regards to sapiosexuality doesn't imply you have to be a college graduate with a high IQ. Nor does it imply that you must be neurotypical.

There are many types of intelligence that people of all neurotypes (including people with ID) can be stronger or weaker in.


Of the skills in this graphic, I notice autistic people tend to be stronger in the one on the right side (logic, naturalist, musical, existential) while NT's tend to be stronger in the others, though of course there are exceptions and variations.

Examples of exceptions:
  • I have autistic friends with a broader vocabularies (linguistic category) than the average NT.
  • My introspective (intra-personal) skill is quite strong, while another autistic friend of mine struggles with inward self-awareness.
  • I know NT's who are terrible at reading people (intra-personal).
  • There are people with such extreme cognitive differences that they might not fit any of these categories, and that's okay too.

So it really varies.

To assume that "sapiosexual" is albeist is like assuming that all people with disabilities are not intelligent in any of these categories (or any others beyond this graphic) and are therefore excluded from the term. This is obvious nonsense to me.



2. SEXUAL/ROMANTIC ATTRACTION IS NOT A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

Being sexually or romantically attracted to a certain traits is different than being purposefully discriminatory on the basis of disability.

For instance, if I'm only attracted to one gender, am I sexist?


If I tend to be attracted to people of my own culture/race, am I racist?

If I'm neurotypical, must I date an autistic person to avoid being ableist?

I certainly like to keep an open mind (I've been attracted to many different types of people), but I've also learned that you are NOT obligated to be sexually or romantically involved with anyone simply for the sake of being inclusive.

Same goes for intelligence. I just don't want to be close to someone who doesn't challenge me or make me think in important ways. I've dated other autistic and disabled people who do just that, and I'd describe them as incredibly intelligent.
(much more exciting for me than a neurotypical [or autistic] who would rather drink beer and watch sports, than have a deep conversation about life or show me all the different plants in nature and their uses.)



3. BE SPECIFIC ABOUT TRAITS YOU LIKE

If you ask different people what "intelligent" means to them, they might give you different answers.


Here are some possible definitions of "intelligent":
  • Good at math
  • Emotionally perceptive
  • Reads a lot of books
  • Kind-hearted
  • Makes friends easily
  • Uses big words in sentences
  • Has vast knowledge about airplanes
  • Picks up on nonverbal cues
  • Knows the exact moment I am in need of chocolate

Notice anything? These are incredibly varied traits!

Perhaps we should be more specific when we use the term "intelligent," or in this context, change the definition to "has cognitive traits I like." That would fit very well with the term "sapiosexuality" (as defined by Urban Dictionary), as being attracted to the mind before the body.

Should we change the definition of "intelligence," create a new word, 
or simply define "intelligence" on a personal level? What do you think?

I like the word "intelligent," so I would like to define it on a personal level.

For instance, I want to date someone who is adept at text conversations: full sentences, punctuation, emojis, depth of conversation, etc. I perceive people with this ability as intelligent, even though I recognize that it is merely a skill in a specific channel of communication.

I've tried dating people who are excellent at in-person conversations, but give one-word answers via texts and it drives me mad. (or, they're terrible at both.) 

I tend to perceive those people as quite boring, because text/messaging is one of my primary forms of communication.
^ Notice I said "boring." So one association I'd have with intelligence is "not boring!" This is why defining these terms on a personal level is important.


I would also like someone with strong interpersonal skills to make up for my struggle with body language, also it helps when I go nonverbal because said person can usually sense if I'm in distress and ask me what I need.

Emotional intelligence is not its own category on the graphic, but I am attracted to people who can reflect on their emotions and express them, and are aware of others. I've seen this in both autistic and neurotypical people. I actually like people who are extremely emotionally expressive outwardly (even overly so) because I can read them better.

Those are some traits I like. What do you like? Feel free to comment below. :)

Perhaps someday, the word "intelligence" may be replaced with something else out of sensitivity to its misuse. My hope is that the concept of intelligence will no longer be a determining factor in granting basic human rights to everyone.

However, the term itself is useful in multiple contexts, and can mean different things to different people. So let's always take context into consideration and ask people how they define the word personally to avoid making strawman arguments or false assumptions.

In terms of sapiosexuality, I will continue to use the term. Personally, I like Urban Dictionary's definition since it seems more relevant to sapiosexuality, and doesn't imply that mind = intelligence. It also helps communicate to other I'm looking to date that I'm not just attracted to a body: I'm attracted to the mind first.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Autism Debate (Part 2): Enforcing "Normal" Behavior (Podcast)

Continuing our previous discussion of The Autism Debate, last time we asked whether we should be researching a "cure" for autism.


My answer/personal opinion is NO. I wasn't too clear on this in my last post--I was merely stating two different sides of the issue. It is a neurology and cannot be cured.


However, I can understand where cure-seekers might be coming from. All the suffering that comes with living as an autistic person in this confusing world, for cure-seekers, is often pinned on autism as the cause. They seem to think if the autism goes away, so does the suffering.

What they might not realize is that the suffering is hardly ever caused by the autism itself, but by chaotic environments, social ostracization or bullying, repeated gaslighting, abuse, misunderstandings, co-morbid psych/health conditions, and a severe lack of the tangible support they need.

Now that you know my stance, let's move on to the questions I mentioned in my last post:
1. To what extent should we enforce an idea of "normal" behavior?
2. How do we define "normal?" What does it mean to "live a full life?"
3. If we found a cure, would we be curing autism or just the negative side effects?

Today we are discussing #1.
To what extent should we enforce an idea of "normal" behavior?

Personally, I think we should be able to navigate life well enough that we feel capable and like we can thrive. At the same time, I don't believe we all have to act the same way or have the same needs.

When I see an autistic person do a "problematic" behavior (like having a meltdown or not complying), I ALWAYS ask first, "WHY do they do it?" not "how can we stop it?" And never forget that they are human like you. Different behavior does not mean they are somehow less human.

If you want to change a behavior, it really helps to know why it's there. If the autistic person is having sensory overload, it makes sense to me that they would have a meltdown in response. Imagine that everyone is screaming in your ears, flashing lights in your eyes, making you wear clothes made of cactuses and sandpaper, and on top of that they get angry at you for reacting!


ETHICALLY ADDRESSING BEHAVIORS

If a behavior is the result of the autistic person in distress, it's more effective and humane to allow accommodations (like taking breaks, wearing sunglasses and headphones etc.) and their natural forms of expression (like fidgeting, not forcing eye contact) to prevent worse outcomes like meltdowns, rather than trying to change their behavior only.

Autistic responses are inevitable, but distress can become more manageable if that person learns healthy (and natural!) ways to cope and be allowed to have those accommodations.

If you are worried about the autistic person becoming a target for not acting "socially appropriate," know that it's possible to strike a balance between granting an autistic person basic comfort they deserve, while teaching social and functioning skills they need to get through life.


THE ROLE OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Teaching self-acceptance is extremely important here. It's too easy to get frustrated with yourself and give up if you view yourself negatively.

Too many autistic adults (including myself) have grown up feeling like we are broken, and that we do not deserve basic comfort, love and boundaries that all humans have a right to. I wish I would have learned about consent and setting boundaries early on, rather than compliance. I was NOT put through ABA therapy (thank goodness) but somehow still learned to be compliant lest I'd be corrected or ostracized.

I found it increasingly more difficult to retreat back to my inner world to recover since I had been repeatedly dragged out to socialize or learn facts I didn't care about, or because God demanded my attention. At some point, I had become a smiling, submissive girl who did what she was told, a people-pleaser who thought her worthiness depended on meeting the expectations of others. (I credit both being on the spectrum as well as my religious upbringing).

I had to learn how to accept myself. No one could teach me this. Not pathologizing autism would have helped me a lot earlier in life. Negative messages about autism rang in my ears: "it's an epidemic!" "they will never live normal lives" "obsessive, repetitive, no empathy."

My parents were overall accepting of my quirks, and yet it still wasn't enough to offset the negative messages and the felt pressure from everywhere (school, friends, job, etc.) to perform at a level not natural for me.

So in the process of learning to balance self-care/regulating behaviors with social and functional skills, always treat the autistic person as an intelligent, equal human. Take their needs, rights, and well-being seriously. Make sure they know they are valuable and that you recognize they are doing their best.


HARMLESS VS. HARMFUL BEHAVIORS


~Stimming~
Behaviors that are harmless to the autistic person and other people, like stimming, should be left alone. Stimming is repetitive body movements like rocking, hand-flapping, bouncing one's leg, etc. and it often helps autistic people release energy and manage anxiety, and filter out sensory input. If it's harmful or a disruption to themselves or others (like self-harm, or stims that truly distract them from learning in school), it would be reasonable to try replacing it with another, more subtle stim, or stim toys like fidget spinners or other sensory items. Stopping the stim altogether is just going to make that person anxious. 


~Self-Harm~
Keep in mind that stims involving self-harm (like hitting their head, biting themselves, etc.) is often their way of communicating distress. It is NOT attention-seeking, so do take it seriously--I don't see it as much different a neurotypical tearfully telling a friend "I am not okay" when they are emotionally overwhelmed, besides the obvious fact that self-harming stims are... well... harmful to the person in distress.

It's imperative that this type of stimming IS stopped so they don't hurt themselves, but please follow up with them when they've calmed down and ask what was distressing them. It could give you some clues about how to help. They could be dealing with severe mental illness or bullying, or perhaps they are abused at home or have dealt with abuse in the past and are having a PTSD reaction.

(Aside from a few rare occasions, I've never had self-harming behaviors. So I am drawing from my experience with mental illness and insight from Agony Autie on self-harm, so if  you have any questions on the topic I highly recommend watching her YouTube channel.)


TEACHING FUNCTIONING SKILLS

When it comes down to adapting to society, I think it's always good to teach functioning skills. Each person on the spectrum has different needs and abilities though, so targeting realistic goals for that specific person is more productive than trying to use a one-size-fits-all method of teaching these skills.

For example, some autistic people might be able to work, but struggle with the process of attaining a job. I recommend teaching specific steps according to their preferred learning style. And when I say specific I mean specific--personally, I thrive when the steps written down in simplified bullet points followed by elaboration beneath each one. For me, the more in-depth, the better. I want to know all the details to ensure I do the task correctly.

Pictures/visuals can also be immensely helpful, especially for autistics who are visual learners. When I was in middle school, I had my entire morning routine broken down into steps on notecards (one step per card) which helped me get out the door on time. I had a picture followed by text on each card, for example "Get out of bed," "Brush teeth," "Pack lunch," "Put shoes on," etc.

As an adult, have something similar, for specific tasks as well as broad ones. I call them "Routine Cards:"



It's good to encourage an autistic person to work hard and push themselves when they can, certainly. It's also good to be realistic about it.

For instance, I make my own phone calls to handle things like bills I wasn't supposed to be charged, or scheduling doctor appointments, etc., but I need to make them at home on a day off since they are exhausting for me. I also should avoid making calls while I'm driving or cooking or doing other complex tasks since I could get distracted and make mistakes. I pace a lot when I'm on the phone because it helps me focus. 

The important thing is that I am getting things done. What's not as important is how I am doing them, as long as my methods are not too overwhelming to me or others around me.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

"Through Our Eyes" Extended Version on YouTube!

Remember my documentary "Through Our Eyes: Living with Asperger's"?
(With how ridiculously often I promote it? I hope so!)

I released the 50-minute extended version on YouTube, so you can watch it for free! It used to be exclusively available on DVD, but I decided to release it to the public during Autism Acceptance Month, where it will be here on the internet to stay. Feel free to use it (along with any of the videos below) for educational settings or to spread awareness/acceptance this April.



Help spread the word by posting it on social media and sharing it with friends!

If you would still like a DVD copy, you can get them from my shop for only $6.99 now!. https://life-of-an-aspie.blogspot.com/p/shop.html

The YouTube version and the DVD (recently re-released) now has subtitles in English and five other languages.

I also uploaded the exclusive bonus interviews from the DVD to YouTube. These interviews feature parents of individuals on the spectrum and psych professionals experienced with autistic individuals.


Dr. Tim Wahlberg
Difference between Autism and AS
Difficulty Multitasking
Strengths and Weaknesses
Educating people about AS
Social Interaction and Motivation
Functional Skills

Patti Boheme

Restrictive Interests/Repetitive Behaviors
Changes in the DSM-V
Misconceptions about Autism
Teaching Perspective Taking
Advocating for individuals with Autism
A Success Story


Carol McKellar
Katie's Aspergers
Parenting Katie
Katie's School Experience
Katie's Friendships
Katie's Development

Jodi Borger
Bram's Diagnosis
Bram's Social Experience
Bram's School Experience
How Bram Thinks
Bram's Progress
What people should know about AS





I post videos, podcasts, and blog posts on autism and mental health. Check them out here:


Alyssa Huber - The Life of an Aspie on YouTube
Online videos on Asperger's Syndrome/autism, and my experiences


https://life-of-an-aspie.blogspot.com/2019/03/where-empathy-meets-hyperfocus.html

If you like my work, feel free to leave a small contribution here, or a custom contribution on my website. This will help support me so I can continue creating educational content!


The Autism Debate (Part 1): Does Autism Need a Cure? (Podcast)



While y'all are waiting for my documentary upload (I'm smoothing out the details), check out this interesting poll posted by AutismTalk on whether we should be researching a cure for autism.


I saw it around when it was first posted, it was around 80% "Yes" and 49% "No." I watched the comment section for a while as autistic people posted their thoughts and many were incredulous at the numbers (I was surprised too as AutismTalk appeared to be a pro-Neurodiversity page), and the numbers changed after a few hours. Wow! Here is the final result.

There is a still a ton of controversy surrounding the idea curing autism. Many autistic people lean towards "no, we don't support a cure" because autism is neurological, it's how our brain develops, and--for many of us--our identity. It's an issue of "is it even possible?" and if it is, "should we?"

On the other hand, many parents and caretakers of autistic people--especially if they are neurotypical and have mostly encountered autistic people with more problematic behaviors and higher support needs--might say "yes, we support a cure." They see the suffering of "low-functioning" autistic people and wish for them to live a full and normal life.

There are also some autistic people who DO want a cure and NT parents/carers who support Neurodiversity, so it's not always neatly divided between autistics vs. neurotypicals.

A couple questions this debate sparks in my brain:
1. To what extent should we enforce an idea of "normal" behavior?
2. How do we define "normal?" What does it mean to "live a full life?"
3. If we found a cure, would we be curing autism or just the negative side effects?

Stay tuned: I will address each of these in my next series of posts, "The Autism Debate."

Friday, March 29, 2019

Where Empathy Meets Hyperfocus

"Overwhelmed" – by Elena Covalciuc Vieriu

I was mulling over the idea that I am a very negative person, when a friend reminded me that I tend to hyperfocus on certain thoughts. Worries have a way of making themselves real if I think about them too much, like if I worry I'm being cringey, I'm more likely to actually act that way.

I can be very happy if I'm focusing on happy things, and especially if I'm feeling physically and mentally well. My body and mind have always seemed determined to create obstacles where there should be none--sensory issues and physical imbalances, anxiety and depression, and not to mention the after-effects of little (and big) traumas that pile up on me as time passes.

I've talked before about breaking out of negative thought cycles in this podcast:




I AM AN EMPATH


Add caption

I am very easily affected by what is around me. People's conversations, ambient music, what's on TV, etc. And not just sensory-wise, but emotionally. I have realized over the years that I am empathic, so I can feel the energy of what I take in as if it is my own.

If my mother is stressed out, I feel stressed out. If a friend is excited about something, I feel excited. If they are sad, I feel sad. Etc. etc. etc. Each person also has their own unique energy about them, and some are louder than others, some jive with me while others make me uncomfortable.

This is seriously a double-edged sword. While I can empathize with people's emotions, I don't always know what to do with them. And they can overwhelm me if they are too strong. So what use is it, knowing how they are feeling if I am helpless to respond?

"Pain from within" - by kimded on Deviantart
I can also feel emotions most people would rather not feel. I can empathize with people who abuse and do bad things, and feel their humanity when it seems no one else can or will. In no way does this justify anything they do, but it helps me understand why they might do something terrible. Their pain is my pain.

(This has come in handy in playing "devil's advocate" in various debates, when appropriate.)

I often have a hard time differentiating between my emotions/energy and the emotions/energy of other people, as well as stimuli like songs and characters in TV shows and movies. 


Pearl's precision and gracefulness makes me want to try ballet.

Sometimes I'd find myself in a terribly sad mood and not realize until later that it was triggered by a sad song I listened to earlier. Or I'll find myself inwardly adopting the mannerisms and thought processes of a movie character and have to remind myself that I'm me and not that person.

Perhaps this would make me a good actor someday, if I can manage to control my input and output of emotional energy.


DIRECTING MY FOCUS

As I said in the beginning, I tend to hyperfocus on certain thoughts and emotions. Being empathic intensifies this experience. My hyperfocus can either be a valuable tool or a crippling obstacle, depending on its direction.

Living alone helps me a lot, as well as maintaining a lot of control over my environment and schedule. And healthy habits are a must! For example, getting out of bed right away helps me set the tone for my day, rather than giving that job to my Facebook news feed when I check my phone while I'm still in bed.

I have an app on my phone that disables other distracting apps like Facebook Messenger, Discord, internet browsers etc. since I have a compulsive checking habit. It comes in handy on days when I want to center myself and regain my sense of me after taking in too much energy from other places. I have similar programs and browser extensions on my PC, and some days I just unplug from the internet or leave my PC off.

The best part of this is that creativity naturally flows from me the moment I take a break from absorbing other people's energy. Just yesterday, I sketched two characters, which is a lot for me in one day.

Amethyst from Steven Universe

Fade from Vael (my fantasy-novels-in-progress)
Sometimes though, I have very long creative dry spells because I'm constantly absorbing everything rather than giving much output. Some days, the most output I give is a Facebook status, and the rest of the day is spent processing other stimuli, along with other people's thoughts and emotions mixed up with mine in a confusing mass of confusion.

Still, once things quiet down, I'm really glad I can still get me back, and express myself again.



Sunday, January 6, 2019

I'm Only Half-Functioning

I learned that I should not talk to people when I'm in a bad state.

Unfortunately, I'm in a bad state 50% of the time. 

I got in trouble for expressing suicide ideation multiple times to different people I met at my university. The university staff told me to go home and commute for a while until I felt better.

I never did feel better, but I did shut up about it.

I wish I didn't have to, but people just aren't equipped to interact with me when my words and behaviors are so confusing. In that state, I just want to feel safe, accepted, and most importantly, not alone.

It's very lonely, spending one half of each month in seclusion, and the other half catching up with friends.

I hardly ever feel like a real friend. I often feel like I'm constantly making up for the time I was gone. Some friends are more understanding, while others scold me for disappearing or not responding to their messages and calls.

I just don't want to be alone.

But being corrected isn't fun, either... especially for something I can't help. I'm really trying.

I always keep one special person close enough to me that they can be present during my "bad states." This person changes every few years, if I'm lucky enough to keep them for that long.

Not everyone can handle it. That's okay. Sometimes even that one person leaves. Or they stop being understanding so I have to leave them. I accept that.

I know I don't always make sense. I know I sometimes say concerning things. Reasoning or arguing won't work with me because I'm scared. Please don't take it personally. Please do set boundaries. And know I don't expect anything of you.

You don't have to do anything, just be there and listen. All I need is to feel safe, accepted, and most importantly, not alone.

Monday, November 12, 2018

What is life like as an adult with autism?

Someone on Quora asked this question, and I thought it might be good to share my answer here on my blog.

-----

Alyssa's Answer:

First, thank you for asking. Not many people are aware that there are autistic adults out there and it’s not just a child’s condition.

I am an autistic adult. I can give you a bit of my personal experience. Just keep in mind that I’m one person, and others may be different.

I’ll explain my specific autism-related issues first:
1. I’m hypersensitive to light, especially florescent and sunlight. I used to get headaches as a kid, until I started wearing sunglasses at all times, which helps greatly. If I’m under lights too long (usually over an hour), it feels like my brain is scrambling and I stop functioning.
2. My skin is very sensitive too, especially when it comes to clothing and climate. I can’t be too cold or to hot, I can’t stand shirt tags and seems, and have to wear baggy clothing to feel comfortable.
3. I’m sensitive to sounds, especially complex sounds like people talking, music playing, and multiple sounds happening at once. I prefer quiet, nature sounds, or music I choose to listen to.
4. I have limited information capacity, and some information feels raw and full of intensity and emotion. I have to be selective about my friends, music I listen to, TV shows I watch, or what I read online.
5. I can be naive if I’m not careful. I want to see the best in others, but I’ve been duped too many times already. I never know who to trust, if someone is lying to me, if they think bad things about me, etc.
6. I experience extreme fatigue from all of the above.
7. I’m also socially awkward. But I guess it comes across as cute to some.

For me, being an adult on the spectrum is much, much harder than being a child or young person on the spectrum. I did experience a lot of anxiety when I was younger, had meltdowns (sometimes resulting in a hole in the wall), but I remember being happier. My parents were a great support to me, and allowed me to be myself (they still do). I was completely content in my own world and found it so natural to be creative and weird and express myself.

When you’re a child, people aren’t surprised that you act like a child. When you’re an adult, you’re expected to act like an adult… which from my experience, is more suppressed, controlled, articulate, etc. While the horrendous experience of school is over, there is still an expectation that you have to make it on your own, and look “normal” in order to get a job and keep it. Not to mention the fact that there is little to no support for autistic adults, compared to all the help an autistic child might receive.

Sure, there are some services that help autistic adults find employment, or apply for SSI if they’re disabled, but there just isn’t enough information to help autistic adults actually access those things. I wish there were free services (because let’s face it, many autistic people do not have a lot of money… at least I don’t), to help make phone calls, or provide step-by-step visual guides to things adults do (even as simple as doing laundry), or come up with scripts to use on the phone or in certain crucial social situations like job interviews.

Phone calls are hell for me. They are unpredictable, and I don’t like being put on hold for a non-specific amount of time (the uncertainty makes me anxious), and I’ve had to make so many calls just to ensure that I won’t lose my SSI benefits, or sort out surprise medical bills, etc. Again, I wish there was a service that makes phone calls for me, or at least for there to be a text or email option for many businesses and government offices, ones that actually get back to you.

My mental health sucks. It’s natural for an autistic person to “mask” their autistic traits to appear more “neurotypical,” usually to set other people at ease since our behaviors can bring about negative reactions from others. Masking helps me get along with everyone more, but it’s extremely stressful from my experience. That set me up for some serious mental health problems.

I became more perfectionist as I got older, trying to meet everyone’s expectations, and adjusting my behaviors in a way that pleases others so I can make friends. The downside is that I don’t even know what I want anymore, because I felt that what I want is supposed to be what everyone else wants from me. It’s made me depressed and unable to fully enjoy my own hobbies, even… what’s the point, if it’s not to please someone else? Besides, if I’m supposed to work work work until I die, how will I ever have time for my hobbies anyway?

I cannot work full-time, because otherwise I’d be in a perpetual state of panic, experiencing suicide ideation and extreme fatigue. I have a hard time taking care of myself as is, and keeping up with basic things like washing dishes and laundry. Hence why I’m on SSI. I’d prefer to be alive and actually wanting to live.

I have less tolerance for socializing and dealing with people’s bullsh**. I do have a few friends that I dearly love, but I prefer to be by myself most of the time. It does get terribly lonely, but people are so exhausting to me that socializing is almost not worth the cost. When I do socialize, I am methodical about it, ensuring I don’t spend more than 2–4 hours with that person (1–2 being ideal), having a solitary “day off” between each “social day,” and arming myself with everything I need—my sunglasses, earplugs, snacks, water, meds, etc. And it HAS to involve something I’m actually interested in doing, or it isn’t worth my time. I try to also group my social obligations together by having a small party with a few friends or doing something as a group, so I can spend time with everyone who wants to see me.

I spend most of my time in my room. My room is comfortable and familiar, a safe haven to me. I do go outside on sunny days to absorb sunlight (it’s good for depression), and sometimes go for walks in nature or to get exercise. But at the end of the day, my room is ideal, especially when I’m living with other people. I don’t like people and objects moving around too much, or making noise. I like keeping everything in its place and having control of what’s around me. I can keep the lights low and the temperature tolerable. I spend a lot of time at the computer since that feels safer than the outside world, and I can still express myself (like I am now) without exposing myself to sensory overload.

Everything is uncertain. I’m never sure if I’m gonna lose my financial safety nets—SSI, food stamps, Medicaid/Medicare… and on top of that, I may not always be able to live with my parents. I cannot afford having my own place, so I feel like I’m always mentally preparing to get rid of all my belongings and live in a box on the street. I know my parents won’t let that happen, but considering my limitations, I want to be ready for anything.

There are positives. For one, I am no longer in school so I’m not expected to socialize and exhausted myself—now I can do that on my own terms. I have more free time to get therapy and live in a way that’s better for my mental and physical health (that’s mostly thanks to SSI—there are many other adults on the spectrum working themselves into terrible states). I also maintain some of who I always was, despite the masking… I am still imaginative as I was when I was a child, I just need to put more effort into accessing that part of me. I’m also hoping to write a fantasy novel soon. Honestly, as long as I can get that published, I wouldn’t mind living in a box on the street holding a copy of my book.