Collated Responses #3

My weekly roundup of responses I have posted to other people’s posts here on Medium, for those who don’t feel like scrolling through the Responses tab on my profile.


April 22, 2018

Hey there, thanks for sharing that. Very interesting. Have you always transposed words like that?:

Have you always transposed words like that?

No. This is new. I just assume it’s me getting old, frankly. Nonetheless, I find it disconcerting. As to meditation, I can’t imagine I have either the patience or the discipline. There’s too much chatter and restlessness in me.


April 23, 2018

Nature as Therapy: Why Getting Outdoors is Good for Your Mental Health:

In 2016, a report undertaken by Natural England and mental health charity Mind focused on three main green care initiatives to help support people struggling with mental health issues (care farming, environmental conservation and therapeutic horticulture), illustrating how these types of social activities have helped lessen symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Whether we should be giving credit to nature herself or the sense of purpose and achievement that comes with meeting new people and learning a new skill it’s difficult to tell. But certainly the combination is a powerful one — and at little cost.

As I write this I am sitting in the barn at the current project location for The Belmont Goats (“Portland’s nonprofit resident herd, offering an oasis of rural community amidst the built, urban environment”), where I am a member of the board and project manager. It’s where I come to get most of my Medium reading and writing about mental health done. Since the herd’s beginnings in 2013 at its original light-industrial location, visitors have referred to their time here as their “goat therapy”. Whether it is “just” the whimsy of running into a herd of goats living full-time in the city or some more profound connection, for five years now Portland residents and out-of-towners alike have taken advantage of the “oasis” I deliberately wrote into the nonprofit’s tagline. We’ve been a place both for others to find respite (we’ve had arranged group visits from special needs groups and senior living facilities, for example), and for myself to have to exercise at least some modicum of social communication beyond your basic common courtesies of pleases and thank-yous that are a part of most anyone’s daily life. That isn’t to say there aren’t days when having to be the host for visiting hours isn’t hard, sometimes very hard, on my particular constellation of mental health issues. But, on balance, at least those days still put something into the world for the mental health benefits of others.

Ways to Function Under Stress:

Do not be afraid of prioritizing self-care. Understand that you are a wholesome, complicated, nuanced human being and not a robot engineered to meet a set of expectations. Understand that your headspace is a precious resource and should be treated as such.

This is the situation I’ve been insisting upon since leaving a job placement I forced myslef to stick with for six months despite the damage it was doing me. I’ve got some major decisions to make about next steps, but I’ve steadfastly refused to get into them at least for this first post-job month. Not accepting to begin with that getting out of that job would have been a permissible prioritizing of self-care is part of how I got into the mental health jam that I did to begin with. I refuse to rush my need to recover from that and potentially make a second disastrous decision.

Writing with autism:

Don’t get me wrong, I have had jobs outside of the house, I’ve worked retail and done warehousing jobs, but the consensus is that I haven’t worked to my potential. The reason for that is that I find dealing with people very stressful and tiring, and adding the stresses of a more involved job would leave me almost crippled.

These are amongst the things that will make my next set of major decisions fraught with stress for me. My last job placement (my first-ever as part of an attempt to use Vocational Rehabilitation services to get me into steady work) was a disaster and debacle. I could do the work, but not the job, and so far nothing has sprung to mind during this first month of recovery to help me understand just what I should choose to do next, or how to do it.

Is This Supposed To Be Life?:

I want to go someplace quiet and sit there for a month. But I’m too young to be on a sabbatical and too grown up to get the kind of summer breaks that children do in school. Those one month/three months breaks. I need that kind of a break. My body tells me it needs it. My mind tells me it needs it. But the world I am in is like a broken record that alternates between tunes of hustle and meditate.

I am, in a sense, fortunately getting to do more or less just this, but of course there’s a catch. While I no longer am subjecting myself to the psychological damage of my last workplace, it’s only once again being a drain on family financial resources that makes this possible. So while I am under significantly less stress and strain having been freed from that environment, every day carries the awareness of being a stress and a strain for others. On the one hand, I need to return to being free from (or, at least, freer from) that as soon as I’m psychologically capable of doing so. On the other hand, I can’t rush that move for fear of putting myself right back in a damaging work situation again. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. It’s all stress, but at least, so far, I am not having routine emotional breakdowns.

Fatigue, spoons and a sledgehammer:

There is no such thing as refreshing sleep and there hasn’t been for years. That is normal life for so many of us.

This has been an issue for me in recent months, and it’s been getting weirder. I’d almost become accustomed to the fact that during the six months of the job I just left I was not getting a restful sleep, with dreams that while they didn’t trigger anxiety within them did leave me with anxiety upon waking up. But now, just the last couple of days, I’ve been having dreams in which I am actually suffering anxiety attacks; I suffer in the dreams and then am suffering upon waking up. It’s pretty nightmarish, even if the effects don’t always linger into my day. Combine this with frequently needing to sleep come mid-afternoon and then just feeling crappy after anyway, and, yeah, it’s all just sensationally fun.


April 24, 2018

Autism & Cleaning #7:

I use unscented HE detergent, cold water (except for whites) and don’t overfill. I add items one at a time to balance items around the washer. Not anything shocking, but I know some folks dump everything in. I find that things can get wrinkled in the washer and it makes things harder to dry without wrinkles.

Everything in this post essentially is the opposite of what I do, but then I live alone and I just need things laundered. I have seven of the same outfit, one for each day, and a few t-shirts to vary. It all goes in at once in a very full load except the outfit I am wearing that day. It’s all mixed together, all cold water. It all goes into the dryer together, on low, and usually takes two or three cycles to dry. But, as I said, I live, blissfully, alone, and as long as I get the above done every week, I figure I’ve won at last one battle that week.


April 26, 2018

AUTISM AWARENESS: FOOD:

They can be EXTREMELY sensitive to not just flavor, but also the color, smell and texture of foods.

When I was a kid (this, of course, is decades ago), I typically would not eat anything where different things were mixed together. This applied to obvious things like sandwiches or pizza (school lunches had to be, for example, tuna in a thermos), but also to things like Lipton soup packets, where the parsley bits were “things” in my soup that I could not abide. Today I don’t really have food quirks like I did back then, although I still have texture issues, mostly with any foods that are too soft or runny. Even yogurt used to be to make me gag, even the thought of it; I enjoy yogurt now, but it has to be plain.

The Trouble with “Normal”:

When I got the diagnosis, I was relieved. It was something I could hang all of the difficulties I faced as an adult in relationships and employment. I was hoping that I could explain to my employers what was happening with me and that they would understand.

I’ve sort of lucked out on this count, even including the Vocational Rehabilitation placement I had to leave after six months because while I could do the work I couldn’t do the job. They were well aware of my issues, and there were employees with other issues. It was made clear to me repeatedly to do what I needed to do to take care of myself. This included, if I was having an emotional breakdown, not needing to go have a face-to-face conversation about leaving for the day; I could leave and just text. As I said, though, the job itself ultimately was too much of a strain on my resources. Next month I’m doing a temporary job that I do twice a year at our local elections office, and despite not believing the familiar environs will trigger anything, I made sure in advance to mention my diagnosis to my supervisor. They, too, were respectful and receptive. Long term, however, I am not sure how this sort of disclosure will take me.

An Open Response To The Man Who Thinks I Need A Warning Label:

Nobody with a mental illness, asked for their illness. Just like nobody requested to have cancer. With that said, it’s integral to spark meaningful conversations about mental health. Doing so, will give people confidence and make them feel comfortable about seeking treatment, rather than opting to deteriorate in isolation and feeling ashamed about how they suffer.

It might also be important to note that you might still feel ashamed, sometimes, even if you choose not only to seek treatment but to speak publicly about one’s diagnoses. That’s okay, as long as you learn to see if for what it is and not get caught in a spiral of it. Every single time I open up Medium to work on my new mental health regimen of highlighting and responding, I carry a low-level anxiety throughout, and it’s difficult not to feel some degree of shame. Weirdly, for me, much of that shame comes when I get stuck spinning my wheels over the idea that it’s ludicrous and egotistical to think anyone is going to care what I have to say about anything. Except, then, some people do; and on mental health issues you sort of have to go by the notion that if even one person finds something you’ve said out loud to be of use, that’s a win. (It also helps that on a lark, and talk about anxiety-inducing and egotistical-feeling, I tossed up a Patreon in case anyone I knew felt like helping get through the moments where I’m so frustrated I want to just delete all my stuff here. Four people have, and, honestly, the idea that this effectively covers one new Kindle book a month is pretty good motivation for those low wanting-to-erase-my-Medium moments.)

The Myth Of “High Functioning”:

Having someone behind me in most cases is very stressful. It’s not something that will cause a meltdown, but it is something that saps my energy in an exponential manner.

It wasn’t until I started doing this thing where I am using Medium to read and write about my post-diagnosis life that I realized this really was a thing for other people, too. While it’s all well and good for my psychotherapist to understand, it’s another thing to see other people bring this up. Still missing for me, though, is any sense of just why this is. I just don’t understand what it is about having people behind me. As I’ve written previously here, it’s not wholesale for me; grocery lines, for example, are fine. But in a work situation — or even right now as I sit in a coffeeshop writing this — I need my back to a wall.

Why believing I’m autistic is one of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made:

I stopped following the “you gotta look ’em in the eye” social rule, which makes my skin crawl, and just gave into the “look very close to their eyes every once in a while and they probably won’t catch it” that’s been my instinct.

Wearing sunglasses all the time helps with this trick, too, if they are tinted enough. I even managed to get away with sunglasses at my last job. As long as your head is pointed in an eye-contact direction you can actually be looking at whatever you want. My most recent pair is not dark enough for this, but I just ordered larger frames and lenses with not just a darker tint but mirrored. Very much looking forward to them.

Why believing I’m autistic is one of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made:

I stopped caring what people would think if I wore the same outfit to school every day for a week (or four).

I meant to include this in my previous response: I, in fact, last year assembled seven instances of the exact same outfit, with some occasional outer t-shirt variations. I never really have to think about what I’m going to wear on any given day, and eliminating, or at least mitigating, this one daily decision has been a godsend. Honestly, no one’s even noticed.