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Day twenty-nine.

Goals for the next 30 days.

–Finish out this internship well

–Get some savings put aside

–Get decent grades on my midterms

–Eat lobster and chowdah as soon as I’m home in a couple of weeks

–Try to get over being alone

–Make it to Disney and Universal a few more times

–Survive

~Sam

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Day twenty-eight.

Something that you miss.

Cuddling. Hugging. Physical contact.

If you know autism basically you know most of us are comforted by being firmly wrapped. That’s why pressure blankets and spandex hammocks are commonly sold to parents of autistic kids.

Same goes for adults, but for me specifically, it’s being with another person who will hold me like that that works. And I haven’t had it for weeks.

Now, I won’t be attempting to get back with my ex OR to find someone else in order to meet this need. But I do think a pressure blanket or even a super long full-body pillow are in the cards for me.

~Sam

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Day twenty-seven.

A problem that you have had.

I’ve mentioned this before. I suppose it deserves a bit more detailed of an explanation.

I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Before the DSM-V (a volume of diagnoses for mental health professionals), I would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome…if I had ever had the chance to be diagnosed at all.

Socialization was never my strong suit as a child. I grew up ostracized by my peers for being strange and different. I suffered through adolescence and young adulthood without any knowledge of why there were so many things I did that made people angry or upset. For the longest time, my parents would always say that I ‘needed to mature’.

I first started looking into possible mental illnesses when I was in high school. I knew there was something different and wrong with me, but I had no idea what I was looking for. My search finally narrowed down when I was a senior. I had been fired from my position as class treasurer after some students reported that I had argued with them in our Facebook group. My frequent, sometimes-offensive outbursts online betrayed a lack of cognitive filter, but I was used to thinking that I was ‘immature’ and simply needed to wait for this magical ‘maturity’ to appear. Yet, as my searches led me into this particular form of disability, I started to realise that more and more of the bullet points actually did apply to me.

I have intense, tunnel-vision-like obsessions that can come on at any point in time, over essentially anything in the universe, and stay with me for life. I am a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the show Cats, my first real obsession, and several other subjects.

I never really understood the nuances of social interaction until I was much, much older–and by then, it was more a matter of me learning how to ‘fake’ neurotypicality than it was me really learning how to naturally converse. I hate to make eye contact and I often offend people, either with overbearing talk about my points of view or by speaking in a tone of voice that to me, means exactly what I want it to mean, but to them means something different. I always notice that I’ve spoken too much or for too long after it’s too late to really stop. I interject at the wrong times, and it makes people unhappy.

I also have sensory overload. I cry very, very easily if I am taxed emotionally. If made to stand in one place for a long period of time, I will experience blurred vision, auditory processing issues, and dizziness. I hear most sounds at the same volume if they are not totally blasting loud or pin-drop quiet.

Those are some of the disadvantages. But there are a few advantages, too. I am fiercely loyal to my friends (if not a bit clingy, but if you can deal with it, you can stay). I have an IQ of over 140 and my academic skills are beyond compare. I have enough of a brain to get me so far in terms of faking normalcy so I can maintain employment. And I have found a community that truly accepts me for who I am, because we are all in this boat together.

I remain undiagnosed, because I fit a profile of ASD that is relatively new and not well-researched, that being an adult female presentation of Asperger’s. It is also incredibly expensive for an adult to seek diagnosis due to insurance companies refusing to cover it past childhood. But my research is solid, I have taken most of the diagnostic tests given by psychologists and scored well within the range for diagnosis, and I have grown into this identity to the point of some form of self-acceptance. There are a couple of leads I am currently following for professionals in Canada and Australia who may be able to give me a diagnosis via Skype, but that is also uncertain. For now, I keep my identity pretty public, but I keep my undiagnosed status private unless it is necessary to reveal it. There is considerable stigma against people like me. I have claimed a few assistance accommodations but in general I am capable of ‘normal’ function…but that’s just me.

If you meet someone with autism who has comorbid disabilities, is nonverbal, or is otherwise not functioning in the way society would expect them to be, don’t pass them off. I may be lucky enough to be successful, but it has come at the cost of hiding a lot of who I am in public. Everyone who lives with autism is valuable. Everyone in general is valuable. ❤

~Sam

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Day twenty-six.

What kind of person attracts you?

In terms of friendship, I value those who can take my words at face-value instead of thinking ‘she’s autistic, that explains things’. Sure, there will be plenty of times in which my friends will have to pass off my behavior as being a part of my disability identity. My best friend here at school seems to be doing incredibly well with my constant pleas of ‘are you working today?’, ‘How’s your homework load?’, ‘Can we go somewhere?’.

She probably noticed long ago that each of those questions is really a statement–‘I want to go to Disney/Universal/Publix/Target/etc and you always drive me and I have not become bored of you or these places (and never will). You complete me! Let’s go!’. But she still answers the question, because it’s part of the conversation and part of my thinking and it’s important. And I value it more than she knows. I get to feel normal despite us both knowing that the kinds of interactions I’m starting up aren’t. She is my best friend, and she probably has no idea of that. (Hello, dear! You’re probably reading this. Can we go somewhere? 😉 )

In terms of romance…someone who can deal with me. I don’t give a shit about ‘oh, I don’t deal with you, I love you unconditionally’. Unconditional love does not exist. Humans have a specific set of parameters for the humans they like to interact with, and if I don’t happen to be within them, it’s not going to work out very well. I don’t change for anyone. I learned that lesson long ago.

I appreciate someone who can connect the dots with me. If you know that autistics love to be wrapped up, and that one of my exes used to cuddle with me for 6-8 hours at a time (we’re talking days in bed here, not nights), you can infer that I love to cuddle and will be very happy if I can. You can also notice that so much cuddling is counterproductive to homework…and so, the logical next step would be to explain that frankly to me and to then plan the cuddling around the homework. When both partners are autistic, this just happens, I’ve found. When one is neurotypical, it’s a bit harder. So either way, I value the ability to adapt to not having that innate knowledge.

Hard work is the basis of any relationship. It sometimes has to be thought out and feel like work. In other cases it isn’t noticeable but it’s still going on. So I guess I value people who are willing to put in the effort to learn about being with me, since I put in the effort to learn about being with them.

~Sam

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Day twenty-five.

Someone who fascinates you and why.

I am constantly fascinated by the behavior of my now-ex. How someone can agree to help you with your internship and then say you talk too much when you mention that a family member’s health is in jeopardy is pretty confusing. He warmed up to me the other day for a fleeting moment, but I kind of ruined it. Well, c’est la vie. I’m gaining some valuable insight into human behavior from this.

I am also fascinated by Walt Disney. His ways of thinking combined the fantastical and the practical, the necessary and the extraneous (but necessary to those of us who see things in the same way). I almost wonder if he would have tested on the spectrum like me–it’s well known that his brother Roy was responsible for the business decisions due to Walt’s complete lack of common sense. But in a good way. And he knew the plight of the adult trapped with the child’s fantasy. He knew that many of us wished to escape in the way that he did, but didn’t have the place to.

I’ve always found visiting the theme parks to be a more effective mental health treatment than any therapy, but maybe that’s just me.

~Sam

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Day twenty-four.

Your favourite movie and what it’s about.

Do I have to pick one? There are WAY too many good films.

I suppose Xanadu is worth mentioning. Yes, it’s terrible. But I wrote a 12-page research paper on why it was decent despite being terrible, because it follows traditional mythology. And it’s adorable, you have to admit it. Gene Kelley’s last on-screen dance scenes are in here. It’s about a man named Sonny, an artist, who loses his inspiration until he is kissed by a greek Muse who inspires him to build a roller disco. Because THE FILMMAKERS COULD.

I also like Grease 2. Again, a shitty film from a film critic’s perspective, but a wonderful romp from mine.

Moulin Rouge is nice, too.

~Sam

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Day twenty-three.

Post photos of five guys (who are famous) you find attractive.

Oh, I knew they were famous. And since this was vague enough to warrant cheating…

I like the tall ones…

…And the short ones.

I like the ones who don’t have a lot to give…

…But I also love the ones with baggage. Preferably in the form of peanuts and fries and a tall Peach Sprite.

…Ohhhhhh, baby.

I love you, Five Guys. ❤

~Sam

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