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Something missing…

Ideas on a spiritual solution to our attitudes towards the way we are.

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I believe there is something missing in the discussion about autism, and I’ve decided to write about it. 

This… is a strange place to be, and a place I find myself often. If you want to accomplish something new, something that’s never been done before, you’re just not going to get that feeling like you belong. If you’re going to take the risk and do something different, to add something important to the mix that may really help out your fellows, there is a huge chance you’re going to miss out on winning any kind of popularity contest…

… and really, isn’t that one of the core issues we as autistics face? 

So here is my hypothesis: a lot can be gained from a spiritual perspective of the autistic human condition. That’s what my core experience has been. It seems to be an unusual way to deal with my autistic situation, but I’m finding it works better then anything, and I’ve come a long way through a lot of other experiments to get here. 

I almost died trying to cure my autism, before I even knew that was what I was trying to cure. I’m glad fate had me try and cure it through benzodiazepines, love addiction, codependency, and alcohol, because if it hadn’t gotten as terrible as it did, I wouldn’t have gotten to the solution I did. Now I don’t want to cure it at all, because I’m starting to see it as a whole thing – like all things in life. It has good and bad points, depending on how I look at these points. 

I don’t want others to have to get as low as I did. Delirium tremens and suicide attempts are something I’d like to spare you. I’m just one small person, and none of the ideas I’m going to talk about are new at all… I just think I may have a perspective that other may not have, and I have experiences that I’ve never read about before, so I may be able to help. If I can even help out one person in this world, it will be worth it. So, here it goes. 

Any of you who are familiar with AA and 12 step programs won’t see anything new here, but I’ve also read and been told that AA and 12 step work has been a disaster for most people on the spectrum. I can see why, and I can see how I’ve had to modify my own 12 step experience in order to survive alcoholism. This blog will in part be tips and pointers on how to navigate – and utilize – the 12 step world in an autistic way. I’ll also cover how to make AA and 12 step meetings and work accessible to people on the autism spectrum, as well as those with sensory issues related to autism. 

My other goal is to present a 12 step program for facing the difficulties of autism without having any other addictive issues. This may or may not be a successful attempt, but I feel it’s worth a try, since the basic 12 step principles have helped me so much. These are working notes of a book I plan on putting together at some point. I’ve decided not to worry if anyone ‘steals’ my ideas – because they are not my ideas in the first place. This is just how I’ve interpreted ideas that I’ve seen others use successfully for addiction to many things – chemical and non chemical. More importantly, it’s a system for dealing with things you cannot change, so you have more power to change things you can. 
As an autistic, there are things that I will be forever unskilled at, and things I excel at. Knowing what is what just might bring me to a deeper understanding of my existence, and a reframing of my life from a life sentence, to a satisfying adventure.

In the late thirties, alcoholism was considered a condition with no cure, and alcoholics were often institutionalized for life. They often died at their own hands. In order to save himself, an American man named Bill W. borrowed ideas from an organization called the Oxford Group. He had seen these ideas work in his friend, who was astoundingly bright eyed and sober. He realized he could create a framework that would save himself and his fellows from misery, without having to change the institutions of the time. 

I believe that complete independence like this could really help our autistic community. The energy we spend trying to change the institutions is still valid, but why not implement a grass roots change as well? I know a lot of my fellows are suffering, specifically from loneliness. As Bill W and others noticed, alcoholism and addiction was and is primarily a disease of loneliness. And, for their dilemma and ours, I have found there is a spiritual solution. 

There is a lot anyone familiar with the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous will find redundant here, and a lot I won’t be able to see I’m not covering for those who have no idea what 12 step work looks like. Again, that’s why this is a work in progress, and one I want to separate my ego from. Please comment about your own experiences and ask questions! 

The only way this project will be a success is if it contains many anonymous voices – just like its predecessors. I may not have the ability to address all questions, but it will be really helpful to me and anyone reading this to be told where my blind spots are. This is already a group effort – but not everyone involved has the time or the resources to write every day. I do have that time, and to continue to not use it would be to ignore the great blessings I’ve been given. 

A quick note about spiritual language and subject matter: there is absolutely no requirement to adhere to any specific spiritual group or dogma in this or any other interpretation of 12 step work. Anyone who has told you otherwise is mistaken, and quite possibly trying to gain power or manipulate you in some way. I live in an area that has a majority of Christian practitioners, but I am not of that faith. I actually swing towards the Buddhist end of philosophy… so if anything I say doesn’t sound neutral, please point it out and I will deal with it in the final work. I don’t want to give this project a religious bent of any kind if it can be helped. 

Thank you for listening! I look forward to what may be next, and any commentary. I’m going to start by publicly working a set of steps with my autism in mind, and ill most likely be asking more questions then giving answers at first. 

Live long and prosper.

Your friend, 

Bird. 

An Open Letter to Mashal Mathers

Because why the fuck not?
Dear Slim,
Hey, how’s it going? I enjoyed your latest work. I actually haven’t been deeply interested in your work until recently, when I heard the rumor that you are on the autism spectrum, and in recovery. That’s rare. I’ve actually been looking everywhere for people who fit this description in my home town. The fact that you’re in your forties is interesting to me as well, since I’ll be there with you in two months. 
Of course I always had a crush on you. What woman my age didn’t? – we all know about the famous blue eyes, and then of course 8 Mile. But there’s been something about the way you put words together that’s always fascinated me. When I found out that my brain is the way it is almost a year ago, I started seeing the patterns of pattern seers. I started noticing who talked in circles – most people – and who told the truth. I started seeing how few of us there were, and how even fewer still had good recovery. 
To be honest, I looked around and just saw me. 
Why am I writing you? I feel like your albums need a reply. Can I say that I understand in a way that you will understand exactly how much I actually do? Let’s pretend you’re Stan (well, because of course you are) and I’m Eminem. I’d get the letter. I’d relate. So let’s just say I got your tape, Marshal, and this is my reply. I hope it isn’t too late. 
You seem okay, but knowing what it’s like to feel locked up in a tower of my own making, the added isolation you seem to get to deal with seems frustrating. Do you have a way to look like someone else, to be invisible (again)? I hope so. I hope you have more freedom then it sounds like you do. 
I get your relationship. I did the same thing with maybe 20 different guys with the same personality as each other, instead of the same person for many years. I don’t know if it is them or not. Do we attract sociopaths, or is everyone a sociopath to an Aspie? Is that just where we fall on the scale? Are we really assholes? I don’t think so. But the couple other aspies I know report that the general population sees them as such. I find them all to be a relief. 
I wish we could just get coffee. The first question: when do you breathe? I never hear you inhale on an album. There has to be a trick to it, or does it just happen somehow? The next question: how’s it going with Donkey Kong? I beat Tetris during a three day depression after my first breakup in 1998. That was it for me and video games. I scared myself by not moving from the same chair for three days. I’ve moved on to other things – other addictions – nearly everything, really, at this point. 
I’m writing this from my car on a freezing night mid meltdown. I was having trouble driving, trouble seeing the road. I’m good though. This happens all the time. I’ll be able to get moving before it gets too cold in here. 
I had this dream about you the morning of the day my boyfriend left me. I was reading tarot cards for us both – they said everything was going to happen swiftly and to stay strong. I don’t know if that meant anything to you, but it was weird to me, because that night my boyfriend left a note and the key, and cleared out his things. Right now he is either using or dead from heroin. His work hasn’t heard from him in three days. That’s all I know. 
But I’m fine. I just keep going to meetings and listen to the assholes who are full of shit, and wonder if my standards for honesty are too high. Why wouldn’t they be? If you’re tricked and bullied your whole life by nearly everyone, maybe that makes for oppositional defiance. I’m not going to do anything for you unless I know exactly why. I’ve had that trick played on me before. 
Do you sing like Ken Keniff From Connecticut when you’re wandering around the house doing dishes or whatever? That’s how I picture it. 
Sometimes I daydream that I meet up with you some crazy way – it would have to be crazy. You know, Revival has that whole wonderfully dirty song about it. Picking up chicks by near vehicular homicide. I guess whatever works. I can just go up and talk to people, and still, I flirt with drawings. 
Well, if for some reason you ever want to hang out, it would be interesting. I’ve never met anyone in recovery who is my age and spectrum. 
And what was with Steven Colbert? Was he actually fucking with you or was that a show. If so, your acting is creepy good. If not, I can understand your facial expressions. I’m constantly wanting to backhand just about everyone lately. 
I’m no one. I’m just an artist and a writer who lives in a tiny apartment near Pike’s Peak. I just think about the possible neurological chemical basis for the Karpman drama triangle all day, and whether or not my chronoseption (good word) is better then the average person’s. I’ve gotten really good at reading facial expressions and lie detecting. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I think I Maybe was happier when I looked at the ground and didn’t know what people were thinking about me. 
Ah well. Maybe someday I will meet someone with a wonderfully broken brain like me, and we can have adventures involving stupid sober shit at one AM, getting kicked out of places for playing the wrong pianos, and curling up like cats on snow days. Maybe not. I have one of those visual thinking imaginations. I can invent whole Star Wars films and watch them in my mind. I have ways to pass the time. 
But I’m going to be 40 on St Patrick’s Day, 2018, so I know I’m going to die eventually. Miracles happen. If you are ever in the area, and you want to grab a diet soda or whatever, hit me up. 
– Maiden Manitou 

A Dinner with Temple

 

It’s not as cool as it sounds… there were hundreds of us there.

I went to a benefit dinner last night, and Dr Temple Grandin was the key note speaker. It was a very educational experience. Dr. Grandin said most of what I’ve already heard her say on her Ted talks and various speaking engagements. I strongly suggest you check them out, she has a lot of very interesting things to say. The book The Autistic Brain is one of my favorites. What was most educational, to me, was the interaction of the people who were at the dinner itself.

 

First of all, I was worried for a solid couple weeks about what on earth ‘formal attire’ meant. I think I did okay. I went and purchased a few items that looked neurotypical to me, in order to blend in. Rose gold is pretty, and that’s ‘in’ right? So I got myself a couple rose gold items and was sure to wear my least comfortable pair of shoes.

 

I didn’t have to worry, as it turned out. There where a throng of what I imagine as NT people in evening gowns, and a smattering of aspies in tee-shirts and other inappropriate attire. It as fun to scan the crowd and try and find out who my people were.

 

And that rings me to the overreaching concept of what I observed at this dinner. Who are ‘my people’ after all? It was very clear that I had a lot in common with the autistics in the crowd. But there was a lot that didn’t overlap, and the most noticeable thing, to me, was my recovery.

 

I spend many hours every day thinking about spiritual concerns and working hard to see and intercept my character defects.  I can very clearly see now that my autistic traits are not character defects, unless they get to an addictive, obsessive or compulsive level. I’m working every day – for my own survival sake – to bring these patterns to the attention of myself and trusted friends. This is not an ego driven mission. This is how I stay sober, and how I stay out of the thought patterns and situations that might possibly lead to self destruction and even suicide.

 

So, this is what I saw:

 

Dr. Grandin is a lovely lady. I really enjoy her sens of humor. At the beginning of the event, she was very noticeable among the crowd in the front waiting area. She had on one of her famous shirts, and she was being accosted by fans who wanted tot talk to her and take pictures. I felt crowded and overwhelmed in this atmosphere myself, and I don’t honestly see famous people as being more important or interesting then anyone else. So, I went into the hotel lobby and listened to the piano player. He was amazing. He was playing standard and recognizable piano peices with added flourishes throughout. His grand piano sounded amazing, and the original pieces where nearly unrecognizable underneath his additions. It was as if classical music could be manipulated as jazz could, but his playing held the classical sound. It was by far one of the highlights of my evening.

 

I wasn’t really interested in talking to someone who had made something interesting once, when it meant missing out on someone making something interesting in that very moment.

 

I couldn’t figure out where to sit, and had to ask. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I have this piece of paper.” The ticket sales staff laughed at that. I’m finding humor to be the best way to deal with autistic traits. I also ran into my land lady in line, but it took me twenty minutes to figure out who she was. Yes, it apears I am somewhat face blind. I haven’t figured out wheather I need to make a joke about this at some time in the future. I think I was polite to her, and maybe looked a bit confused.

 

The people at my table talked about food when we were eating food. One couple seemed to be talking abut something intense, so I’m still not sure if they were neurodiverse, but I think they laughed at the same jokes Temple Grandin made. There was a stark difference between who laughed at what jokes. The NTs seemed to applaud any mention of discipline, and the autistics seemed to laugh loudly, separately,  and in many tones at some of the most ridiculous things she said.

 

There was a really decent amount of ableist talk from the introduction. I’d rather not talk about it. My stomach turns a bit to think of it, actually. I don’t like it when people play the victim role with their own children as the perpetrator, regardless of the situation. I’ll leave it at that.

 

After she spoke, there where questions from the audience, and as far as I could tell, they where all asked y autistics. This is when I realized how much recovery has changed me. One woman in her early twenties would not back down from defending the fact that she played six or more hours of video games a day. I could hear the same tense tone in her voice that I hear from newcomers in AA every day. A man asked what to do with his anger, and Dr. Grandin gave the most profound answer of the evening, ‘learn to cry,’ she said. I absolutely love that. There is all kinds of recovery in that simple statement.

 

The diner was uncomfortable, and I was relived when the desert was about to be served. I barely ate any. I was much more interested in leaving, and the possibility of meeting Dr. Grandin, and giving her a little drawing I had made during her speech.

 

I darted into line and declined the offer to purchase a book, not really knowing if it was rude, but a little too poor to care. And there she was, the woman of the evening, looking very far away and confused. Who of us wouldn’t be. It struck me how much the curved line of book buyers reminded me of the cattle ramps she designed. Maybe she should design a place to sit that would calm fans, and she could be away from all these lights, chaos and people. I imagine she spends the week after a talk holed up inside. I most definitely would.

 

I approached her with a sad heart and offered her the paper. “I have a gift for you, I drew this when you were talking.” She didn’t look at me, she looked like she was in the same daze I am in when I’m at my absolute limit and am moving on autopilot, far far away from my body. She has practice, clearly, because she held it together well. She said my drawing was good and asked if I was doing anything with it – practicality and financial self sustaining is definitely one of her special interests, and I have no critique of this. I told her I was a teacher, but I didn’t mention that I was unemployed. She took my drawing and put it in her pocket, and then turned to the next person, “you are a teacher?” Surprisingly, the next woman in line was in fact a teacher. It was as if Dr. Grandin’s associative mind was working in conjunction with the line itself, a sort of magic trick. I escaped. I was getting to reach my limit of human beings and all their information.

 

And that is what keeps me alive now – knowing my limits and walking away from any situation when I need to. I know for a fact, at this moment, I could not do what Dr. Grandin does and stay sober.

 

So maybe one day I will be teaching. Maybe my writing will take off, or someone will actually spend money on my art, but there are more important things.

 

Before I went to this diner, I met an artist who was drawing beautiful pencil drawings in a big notebook. “Do you ever show in any galleries?” I asked.

 

“This is my gallery,” he replied.

 

After it all, I drove up to the north side of town to hang out with some sober friends who were bowling. The bowling ally itself looked like it was underwater, complete with hundreds of fish hanging from the ceiling and murals. It was beautiful, like the piano player. My friends talked and laughed. A guy I know was leaving because his back hurt, and I got to borrow his giant shoes and bowl a few rounds. I got to be Stanley. “It’s your turn Stanley.”  Another friend talked about being a hoarder, and the progress she was making, although slow, getting rid of things. Another friend and I joked about the difference between wanting a lot attention in real life versus attention on the internet. I don’t get it, I don’t want any attention – or do I? I’m writing this. So, I guess I do.

 

We all walked outside and someone joked about how I had told him I didn’t recognize him without his dog, and I told the story of being face blind to my land lady. The night was cold but the company seemed to make it warm again. My friend Edward gave me a side hug, and I teased him about the fact that he always gave side hugs. “I like it!” I assured him, waved goodnight, and drove home.

 

All this time… all this time I have been looking for my people, and here they are. They’ve been here the whole time.

 

And here I am in the cafe typing the next day, my eyes watering with gratitude. I don’t need to look for what I’ve already found.

 

 

Scared 

It’s almost sunrise and I haven’t slept. I didn’t eat much yesterday. My boyfriend left. He left when I wasn’t home and just left a note. He said we needed to talk, but I don’t think that means the same thing to him. To me, needing to talk means quietly talking and coming to an agreement. I guess I’m popular culture, needing to talk is slang for ‘I am going to argue with you and you should be afraid. I don’t know what people in popular culture say if they actually need to talk. 

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I’m terrified. I’m not able to sleep because of sounds. The heat is so loud it vibrates the mattress. I can feel it even if I have ear plugs in. It vibrates my whole body and feels like the house is giving me a panic attack. I feel like not sleeping is just going to make me more crazy, which will make me more annoying, which will make more people not want to be around me, which will make me more crazy, and so on. 

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I’ve recently read about countries where the government will help you commit suicide if you are on the autism spectrum, like me. There are governments that say ‘yes, your condition is terrible enough that we believe it makes sense for you to end your life. 

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That’s not very hopeful.

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I don’t know how to act so people don’t get angry with me. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I suspect it’s a little bit of everything, and it boils down to communication problems. No wonder I never spoke when I was little. I gave up. I gave up trying. 

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So I talk or write to get the thoughts out, but is it really communication? If no one cares, or if it somehow is coming out weird or annoying, then I’m shouting into the darkness. 

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I miss my boyfriend. He didn’t always understand me, but sometimes he really did. He had to be trying. He had to be giving me the benefit of the doubt and forgive a lot of mistakes. I guess he just didn’t have the energy. There are other people who are a lot easier to communicate with. I would have to be gold in someone’s eyes for them to keep digging every day. I’ve never had a relationship last more then two years. I’ve had about 20 relationships in 20 years. 

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This pattern is getting so old. 

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It’s getting old enough that I think I may as well not try and have any type of relationship with anyone- including friendship. It would be cool if this problem was only in romantic relationships. No. Autism effects friendships, work relationships, therapeutic relationships, relationships with doctors, family relationships, the people at the coffee shop – everything. 

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So… what do I do?

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Let’s pretend there is in fact a God, a loving God that made me and has a plan. Autism has no cure, so I can’t overcome it. It will always be here, pulling a rug out from under me. I will always have to have super powers in a genius way, or something someone wants to use me for, in order to have anyone in my life. That’s not what I want. I want someone to love me for who I am. It’s very easy for me to love someone for who they are – but I am not easy to love. I’m not the only one saying this. You can find plenty of parents – and those are the most forgiving ones – calling their own children ‘hard to love.’ How can I possibly expect anyone to feel that way about me?

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How can I possibly hope for a basic human life?

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I’d love to be hopeful and optimistic now, but I’m really alone and there is no hope I see of being otherwise any time soon. If I meet a friend tomorrow, I won’t be able to tell if that friend is after something devious. I won’t be able to tell if a friend is a bully. I don’t even know if my… ex? Is he already my ex?… boyfriend is a bully. Or maybe he is sweet and confused and having a hard time. I have no idea at all. And I don’t know what to do in eaither case. 

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So here I am, in the dark, typing with thumbs on my phone (now the fastest way) holding my stuffed octopus. Yes, I can’t even be normal now. 

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So… what do I do? 

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Wait for the sun to rise? Go to meetings tomorrow all crazy feeling? Why? So I can become more confused and annoy new people? 

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I don’t know. I’m very scared tho. I wish I had a full human life, and there were people I could be comforted by, without annoying them. 

Yes, I am disabled 

I recently read a surprisingly polite post by an autism advocate. She said what I’ve been thinking a lot lately, but I’ve been thinking it with a lot more anger behind it. Since receiving my autism diagnosis, I’ve run into a lot of really terribly misleading information, which is entirely frustrating to me. 

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First of all, let me be clear that an autism spectrum diagnosis does not fall between kittens and rainbows and manic pixie dream girl in the DSM. If you only read Rudy Simone and others of her ilk, you might get this impression. Clearly publishers are going to be interested in this angle. What’s a better way to make money off of a stereotype then to create a new one? And I’ll admit, at first glance it’s really appealing. A lot of human rights movements- specifically the gay rights movement – were bolstered by the idea of being able to let your freak flag fly. This works great, until someone who is very solidly homosexual doesn’t really have a freak flag to fly, and they feel ostracized because of it. 

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Some lbgtq people are incredibly normal folk. Some autistics are actually quite boring. That doesn’t make them less autistic. 

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I’ve incountered this attitude among fellow artists and musicians for years, and when I found out about my autism diagnosis I thought ‘ah! This is it. This is why I haven’t ever gotten along with people like me. They are not my people. Autistic women are my people.’ So, I went online and started trying to make friends with autistic women. This was a total failure.

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First I found a group of women who I could relate to because they had trouble leaving their houses. There is definitely a limit I of frustration that I get to where staying in – all the time – forever maybe – seems like a great idea. However, sad for me (and most humans, because we are humans) I tend to get really depressed when I resort to this idea. Then I think it’s a great idea to drink, which no one can see you do through the internet. You can be totally wasted and rant all day online, and no one can tell, right? Well, I did that for years, and then I couldn’t stop. 

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I have this weird idea sometimes that what I experience and learn is being experienced and learned by others, and it isn’t. I don’t think this is a ‘lack of empathy’ as Baron-Cohen (not the Borat one, the one who isn’t funny) would suggest. I think this is a product of the isolation that autistics often face. Anyway, when I got sober a few years ago, I figured it was a trend of sorts – that everyone got it. Of course I was instantly drawn to all the autistic women online who suffer from addiction of one kind or another. And of course (hello Alanon sponsor! [waves!]) I tried to tell them about how awesome twelve step work is, and how my concept of a higher power had changed – thus saving my life. 

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The best way to get kicked out of a group of addicts is to start special interest info dumping recovery 😁.

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So I did. It was slow. There was bitterness and weirdness instead of the official booting. But it was painful. 

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Then there was also the self same autistic author – Rudy Simone – who politely informed me that my comments on her posts were too peachy (I had used the G word) and she was unfriending me because of it. Also, I wasn’t paying the yearly fee to be a part of her online support group. She didn’t state that last bit explicitly. I mostly felt that, for someone who writes about what to do with a bully, she definitely knew a lot about excluding people with that kind of cunning that tends to make me sick to my stomach. 

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That’s when I learned for sure that being autistic doesn’t make you a kind person, and writing self help books doesn’t either. 

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So, my heroes became very human and flawed, and I’ve been depressed about it. There are a lot of angry and opinionated people in autism support groups online, but I’m starting to see that as the nature of the internet itself. 

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Isolation, it seems, isn’t pretty for any of us. 

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So, here is what I have come to. Autistics are not my people. Autistics are people just like everyone else. Yes, I do have an awful lot in common with the ones I’ve met in real life and online, and I am greatful for the ‘community’ of them – because having people to talk to about a shared experience is great. But having a diagnosis doesn’t give you a free pass into my tribe, any more then being in recovery does. There are absolutely terrible people in AA, people who will use their membership as a mask to take advantage of others in the fellowship purposefully. The autism community has these people as well. A place in my tribe has to be earned. I urge anyone who reads this to set the same boundaries.

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All of this is fog, for me. None of it has brought me closer to knowing what autism is for me, and how I can live a full life with it. It has been just as much of a distraction as all the rediculous faux science regarding causes and cures to autism. The book Switched On has left me very uneasy as well. I’ll have to write a full blog on that. I’m pretty convinced John Elder Robinson just had what amounts to a life changing acid trip, but it’s hard to say. With so much quackery out there, any real scientific advance probably won’t be nociced in my lifetime. 

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I had a roommate who worked as a sign interpreter for deaf high schoolers, and did side jobs interpreting for churches, individuals and other organizations in the deaf and deaf blind community. She taught me a lot about deaf culture and disability rights, and, knowing I struggled with some kind of mental issues, I really liked the sound of that community. There didn’t seem (to me) to be a lot of requirements. If you were deaf, you were a part of the community and the movement itself. 

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So, where does this put me with the Neurodiversity movement? I’m not sure. At the moment, I feel a lot more fellowship for the disability community and what they have been working towards for a long time. I honestly don’t think my autism is a cultural difference. I think that reinforces the idea that autism is a social deficit without an underlying neurological cause, and I think science has been past that idea for a while now. 

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And maybe I’m confused about what the neurodiversity movement is, but in my defense, there is a lot out there to confuse me. 

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Tony Attwood says something to the effect that, if you leave a child in a room by themselves, they no longer have Asperger’s Syndrome. I think this idea might be what’s confusing me most about autism. Left alone in a room, I still stim, I still have executive functioning difficulty, I still have sensory issues. If autism is all about eye contact and how I relate to others, I don’t have a disability – it’s everyone else’s problem and they need to accept me for who I am. But that argument ends when I’m alone and struggling. 

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So, call yourself anything you like, but I definitely have a disability. I’m also not interested in getting a cure any time soon. No, no way. Tell me EXACTLY what autism is and what causes it, then we can talk cure. Anything else is just snake oil. 

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Support would be nice. Science knows enough about autism to know how it manifests, so that’s a start. Deaf people have hearing people who can translate spoken language to sign for them. I’d love something like that. I clearly speak a very different language then others. 

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And maybe that’s all my disability is. 

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Thanks for reading 🌟💛🌟

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Rejection, autism and addiction 

Exclusion is an interesting thing. According to some resent reading I’ve been doing, rejection can in fact cause physical pain. The effects of cortisol – a stress hormone – on the body and body tissues are numerous, and mostly harmful. 

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I’m at the Broadmoor Hotel. This is a very prestigious and well known hotel. It has all the stars. As I walk around, I look and wonder at the behavior and expressions of the people here. The staff appear eager to please, and of course they have a general underlying attitude of distain. The guests posture and compete to be the most knowledgeable and rich. “Look at the Indians coming down the hill” one woman exclaims, pointing at a historical painting of Native Americans. Nearly every passerby as I sit here writing is explaining some interesting fact to the person with them. With all this competition, with all this social work, I wonder who wins in the end. If everyone is so busy trying to be better, then who is really in charge in this exchange. The dollar?

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It seems as if the dollar is winning. But it doesn’t seem anyone here – staff or patrons – are happy or at peace. 

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Money is a language that backs up the social agreement of work in a modern society at large. To have a lot of it, is to be socially accepted on a grand scale. To have less of it is to be rejected. 
As a person on the spectrum, I’m finding I have an interesting view of money. Today I was paid less then agreed for a dog walking job. I’m not currently hurting for money, and was excited to be of service to someone who I thought of as a friend. Arriving at the client’s house, after being stuck in traffic for an hour, I found a note saying that she was paying three fourths of the amount we agreed on, because I ‘changed the plan’ by letting her know I could no longer drive across town – that the stress was causing me shutdowns. 

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In America, it is illegal to pay someone less for work for being female, for being of a certain race, for religion or sexual preference. It’s perfectly legal, however, to pay someone less if they have a disability. In some cases, minimum wage laws do not apply to people with disabilities.

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I like to feel that maybe I have some spiritual edge, sometimes. I like to think that years of turning the other cheek when being excluded, years of ignoring insults, years of unemployment, general confusion, and psychological distress have given me at least the advantage of taking a spiritual approach, of being forgiving, and of feeling like I win this game because I can see it happen from the outside, and I don’t play. I’m good at being kind no matter what. I’m good at being invisible. I’m good at fading away, like a ninja or a ghost. 

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But right now I’m hurt and angry. I feel like the only place I might get support is from complete strangers on the internet. I don’t feel at all like I can go to some kind of home base and get loving support from trusted individuals. Why would I trust anyone? If insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results, trust would be the craziest thing I could feel.

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But here I am, in this life, in this world. Isolation is boring. The internet is boring. Yes – the internet is big, but it’s still smaller then the world. 

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And I want to belong.

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Temple Grandin sounds like a really neat lady. I’d love to meet her, and talk about Star Wars with her, like my friend Michael was able to do. She represents success to a lot of autistics. But from my special interest in religion and philosophy, I’m going to say nearly all the advice there points away from monetary success as the way to happiness. Maybe with a few extra bucks in my pocket I could afford to live in a quiet house. Maybe I’d buy a mansion, and the state would decide to build a super highway right next to it minutes after I signed the deed. Who knows? From a spiritual perspective, my sensitivity to sound still baffles me. 

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I’m an addict and an alcoholic, and today I’ve decided that I forgive, because if I don’t, I’m libel to drink. I’m so kind I have this tendency to try and kill myself for the benefit of others. How’s that for twisted logic and low self esteem? No. Fear. I don’t think I have enough of a real solid sense of self to have low self esteem. I’m just afraid of being here in this world isolated and bored, trapped in my own room and head like it’s a prison, with no real way out – not even the way of words. Not even the way of connection to the people around me. 

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Recently I was rejected by a group of aspie women online, and I see now it was for my own good. Their coping mechanisms veered towards addictive behavior that I’ve already tried, and they were not going to listen to my experiences. There are aspie supremacists among us. Sometimes this manifests as the temptation to complain about neuotypicals – The Other. I find this to be misguided. As another recently diagnosed friend said to me, being an asshole is a condition that can be found equally on and off the spectrum. 

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So where do I fit? 

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Another friend told me recently that she thought it was cool that I didn’t fit into any of the cliques. I don’t think she knew what she was saying. I tried to explain to her that I have been trying and giving up at belonging, as a central theme, for my entire existence on earth. 

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So, what do I do?

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Maybe I give up. Maybe I forget the whole idea of finding a tribe who all know each other, where interaction can occur among them, and I count my blessings for knowing individuals who are scattered across the globe. 

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Maybe I can’t give that up. I want a tribe. A real live one, outside of the matrix. No matter how successful I am at spiritual maters, I remain human. I’d like to have this human experience while I have this body. Pure spiritual experience can wait for when I’m dead. I’m in no rush. 

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Ok, so use aspie super powers then, Bird. Apply some logic and categorize. 

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I can continue to try and gather people on a local level. I can gather aspies and meet with them in person… maybe. Maybe just one at a time. I can keep hanging out with neurotyipicals and hope they take the time out of their busy lives to learn my language. 

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And, I can have faith, and just keep trying to belong and hold onto my spiritual beliefs, and have faith in spiritual solutions. Life is short. We may as well do science to it while we are here. 

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After all, it really is only a game… and no one wins. 

Step 2 

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” 

Let me begin by saying I’m feeling a bit angry, a bit excited, and a bit caffeinated. 

     

     So – for decades I believed that therapists and institutions were what could restore me to sanity. Let me begin by saying, for me personally, this isn’t working. I definitely need something bigger, I need something in my life that affirms and promotes me as an autistic person. I need something that loves me as autistic, has a mission for my autistic self, and quite possibly even decided I should be autistic, for the betterment of those around me. 

     That’s a pretty big idea. 

     So, here is the part that may get a bit weird – but is definitely the part that I need to hear the most. I’ve decided there is a higher power that made me autistic, and this is A GOOD THING in many ways. 

     Let’s brake this down logically first, for all of the skeptics (which definitely includes me on a lot of days.) Lets say that autism and sensory differences play a role in human evolution, and therefore in human survival. Doesn’t it make sense, that in a small tribe of African humans, ages ago, that about one in fifty of them should be more sensitive then the rest? Wouldn’t it make sense that a tribe would need one or two of us to hear and see things that the others didn’t hear and see? Wouldn’t it make sense to sacrifice a bit of the social protocol to have this? Wouldn’t it even make sense to have a small handful of people who didn’t bother with social protocol, to keep the tribe in check, and to act as a liaison between tribes, or to be honest and not polite when fellow tribe members needed advice? 

     I believe neurodiversity is good for humanity in so many ways. So for me, even the anthropological approach works as a higher power- one that is above and beyond the often damaging pathology paradigm. Much like our siblings in the glbtq movement, we have strengths in our self acceptance, and will probably be much more helped by each other then people who want us to ‘stop acting autistic.’ 

     From another perspective: eugenics. I’m not taking much of a leap to say Hitler was a terrible person with some terrible ideas, and eugenics was basically what the whole idea of an Arian race was all about. So why would it be ok to support organizations that want to do away with any type of person?   

     Somehow, these organizations exist when it comes to autism. I would say that in knowing this is a terrible practice, I can logically deduce that my existence as an autistic had been sanctioned by a higher power of a moral spiritual nature. Perhaps it is my spiritual duty to keep existing as an autistic, to be out as an autistic, and support my fellow autistics. 

     From here I can even go farther out, so bare with me of you don’t lean in this direction. I think logic has plenty of arguments for there being a scientific reason why being autistic is a good thing – but I need more then that. I’m a very spiritual person, so is there a higher power I can understand that will keep me from the insanity of trying to not be autistic, to the point of considering ending my life? 

     Absolutely. 

     For me, nature, science and spiritual dimensions work as one force. ‘As above, so below.’ I like to take what I can from all faiths. I like the Lord’s Prayer – my grandmother was Catholic, and it has comfort for me. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I’d say this is more an observation then a command – God doesn’t need me to let Him/Her/It know to make the world obey spiritual laws. Taoism is another thing I like to use, and Buddhism as a tool for observation. All of this, in my mind, points to a world in which me being autistic is going to be a strength, so long as I don’t struggle against it. 

     So, what am I struggling against? 

     An idea that I should NOT be autistic. 

     Where am I getting this idea? 

     From a cultural idea that one size fits all. In an extreme form, this idea is known as fascism. 

     I’ve decided my higher power isn’t a big fan of fascism. Luckily, in a general sort of way, fascism has limits- there are philosophies that point out the dimensions it will never physically be able to take over. It may win battles, but never the war. Victor Frankel says this all much better then I do, but in essence, I will always have the power to change my own thoughts and attitudes towards things. Buddhism is the same idea. And, one of the most famous readings in the AA big book, known generally as ‘acceptance.’ I don’t think it’s any coincidence (spiritually speaking – for me) that the movement the autistic activist community has begun in order to fight for itself is known as Autism Acceptance. 

     “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes. ” p 417

     So, for me, that’s a good enough start. I’ve been giving my will and self over to the established psychology for decades. It hasn’t worked. I’m very grateful I never had to suffer through ABA, and for this reason I am often glad I wasn’t diagnosed as a child. 

     What can it hurt to give my will over to the idea that I’m meant to be autistic? 

     I believe that a higher power can restore me to sanity and happiness through my autism, and not despite it. The next step is giving myself over to that idea, and seeing what happens. With all the fighting I’ve done, and the severe damage to my life and self esteem, I think the risk is worth it. 

Step 1 – part 2

… and our lives had become unmanageable’ 

Autistic burnout is a real thing. I’ve been reading a lot lately about autism and suicide. Generally, there is a very high percentage of us who think of suicide after an adult diagnosis – one study at the time of this writing points to over half of us considering suicide. A third of newly diagnosed autistics, it says, attempt suicide. There are things I’ve read that say nine times as many autistics commit suicide compared to the average suicide rate. 


What is killing us? 


No scientific study has come up with a good answer to that question, that I have come across. But I know I put an awful lot of energy into appearing to be neurotypical, to thinking like a neurotypical – even though I have no idea what that is even like. (I’ve asked NTs what it’s like to NOT think in pictures, for example. I’ve asked them why they talk about weather. They say things like ‘I just think’ or ‘I’ve never thought about it.’ Generally, I’d say most NTs – being just like most people around them – never question these things. They just take them for granted as being ‘normal’… which is something I never seem to do with anything.) 


An alcoholic drinks to manage life. When I was drinking, being the analytical person I am, I did it with forethought. I remember standing in my kitchen one day, saying aloud, ‘that’s it. I’m done being suicidal. I’m going to be an alcoholic and dye in a slow and acceptable way.’ I don’t think I’ve heard this anywhere in AA before. I know for a fact, however, that there are Autistics in alcoholic’s anonymous meetings. I know one who has decades of sobriety, one who is new to sobriety and is self diagnosed, and one autistic who shows up at meetings who doesn’t have a drinking problem- but really values how the community supports them. I know there are people who do think like me in the rooms, even though they don’t always speak up about it. I imagine there are a lot of us who use drinking to seem ‘less autistic’ – weather we are diagnosed or not. I know I drank with the thoughts of wanting to be more social, more normal, to talk more, and to think less. These remain my ‘goals’ when I try to ‘act neurotypical.’ 


(On a side note- I know of one book written by a alcoholic with Aspergers who said AA didn’t work for him. The unfortunate side effect of anonymity is that if AA does work for you, you would be going against the traditions to make money off a book that said it worked. That’s why you are reading this for free right now, and -unless you have good powers of deduction, or know me personally – [even if that’s virtually] you don’t know who I am.) 


Alcohol didn’t make me NT. Looking back, I was just a drunk autistic. Maybe I found comfort in knowing the drunk neurotypicals were too drunk to notice me ‘acting strange.’ And there were other autistics in those crowds possibly… definitely other neurodivergents – and if those with addiction classify as neurodivergent as well… the number of actual neurotypical people in any given bar might get pretty small. The point is, that no matter how much I drink, no matter how drugged by prescribed pharmaceuticals, no matter how much I used non chemical things, I was still mysteriously different – and trying to be ‘normal’ was killing me. 


So, now that I’m no longer drinking, and now that I’ve been officially diagnosed as autistic, I’ve found another layer of management I’ve tried to get into, another that could potentially harm me in very severe ways. Here is where my personal work gets a bit new and tricky. This is where I’m applying 12 step work in a way I’ve never seen done before, even though it may have been done and I haven’t heard of it. This is the part where I admit that I am powerless over being autistic, and that my life isn’t manageable by me. In essence, no matter how hard I try, I’m only going to hurt myself and the people around me by trying to be something other then the autistic I am. 


How has my life become unmanageable as a now sober autistic person? 


When asked to do my assignment by a sponsor in AA around this, it was suggested I look at this list of signs that my life was ‘unmanageable’ from the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous:


“…. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.” 


This describes my life right now, in early diagnosis, the way it described my life in early sobriety. It’s been very difficult to see my fellow alcoholics take great strides in these areas, and to feel like I’m falling way behind again.

 When people talk of the alcoholic black outs, I think of the meltdowns I still have. The burn out and depression, the deep sadness, is what people talk about in AA meetings when they talk about drinking, and I’m still there. 

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to be autistic, have sensory processing issues, and still make a living. I am always afraid – to the point of a strange paranoia that the people in my community are going to don hoods and light torches and come to my house at night – and why wouldn’t they? Is that so far fetched, even as an analogy, with the history of the world and autism, or with the current news? Wasn’t Asperger himself trying to save the children in his care, by trying to convince Nazi’s our creative thinking was of use?

 I find myself scowling at people, having huge resentments against all the ‘spoiled’ neurotypical people around me – even though I can see they struggle with different things, even though there are neurotypical people I love deeply and appreciate. Because of this attitude, I’ve found it difficult to help other alcoholics, and have little energy to help anyone – even the few autistics I know. 

I get resentful at dear friends who have children on the spectrum because of their ignorance. A year ago – before I self diagnosed – I had no knowledge of autism whatsoever. Who am I to be so prideful and unwilling to help? 


I know a little bit of what spiritual health looks like. What I’m doing in my life right now looks nothing like spiritual health. 


So – this is the ‘oh crap’ segment of recovery. Luckily, step two exits. Hopefully I’ll be moving onto that part quickly. 

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So things don’t get too doom and gloom for anyone reading this, step two is ‘came to believe a power greater then ourselves could restore us to sanity.’ Before you get scared off by the use of ‘higher power’ here, know that there are atheists now in AA and other twelve step programs who do just fine for decades. There are all types. I personally consider myself a sort of theist… sort of. 

Religion and spiritual matters are a special interest of mine, so I could do another blog on this subject, and happily go on and on. But know your higher power, whatever that may be, doesn’t have to look like mine or anyone else’s. 

As a bit of a sneak peek, let me at least say that I believe my own personal higher power made me autistic on purpose. I believe my special interests, for example, are given to me by my higher power. I believe my meltdowns are spiritual warnings.

That may sound a bit ridiculous to someone without a keen interest in spiritual matters, but taken a different way – I think all my autistic ‘traits’ are ways my brain and body have developed naturally to help me, regardless of how socially ‘appropriate’ they may be. Ignoring them is dangerous to my mental health, I’ve found, and so is masking them. The way my mind and body work in the environment are not something I can manage anyway. 

My neurology itself – and how it’s developed – could be looked at as a higher power, if I wanted to go the purely scientific route. To use a popular analogy, I feel I’ve been given this operating system for a good reason, and trying to run the wrong software on it is making me insane. 


Before I end this bit, let me just say that if you are out there and struggling, there is a lot of hope and a lot more resources then you may realize. Some short term stop gap higher powers can include: 


1. Online community 

2. Therapists

3. Showing up at other 12 step meetings even though you ‘don’t belong’ there. I’ve done this just to listen. Why not? It’s free and you don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. You may be asked to introduce yourself. Don’t want to? Can’t? Maybe just wave? I don’t know. I’ve at least always been able to say my name – and I know that isn’t available to everyone. 

4. A healthy family support, if you have one

5. Bed time. I have literally been in such a dark place before, that just making it to sleep without hurting myself was all I could do. It worked. I’m still here, and I’m doing much better then I was. 


And remember, I’m just one person trying something out. I’m just one person on the internet. If none of this works for you, or feels off, please keep moving and look somewhere else. The world is not a one size fits all place. What works for me may not work for you, but it might – which is why I’m making this all public. If I can help one other person, that is a really good thing. If you are not that person, there is something or someone who can. As long as you breathe, there is hope. I’ve gotten through a lot of days just breathing, without any other progress, and those days passed, just like they say, one day at a time. 
Another thing I hear all the time – it gets better. 


I believe it. I’ve seen it in others and experienced it myself. 
It gets better. 


[link to the original text of step one from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: 
http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step1.pdf ]