Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sensory Deja Vu

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about all the negative ways being hypersensitive to sounds, sights, textures, tastes and smells affect me. That really isn’t fair. There are so many good things I can associate with my senses that haven’t been getting enough attention lately.

Smells, especially, have such a powerful ability to awake emotions and memories in me. The smell of donuts and coffee reminds me of the Sunday morning drive to church. Roasted turkey legs (the big ass ones they sell at theme parks) remind me of my first Halloween Horror Nights when I worked at Universal. Cool Water cologne reminds me of my show choir days in high school. Sheep shit (yes, I said sheep shit – it smells like old cheese) reminds me of climbing all over castle ruins in Wales. There’s a certain brand of hairspray that reminds me of being in Rome. Orange blossoms make me feel relaxed. Jasmine makes me feel flirty. Amarige by Givenchy makes me feel more attractive. Vanilla makes me feel content.

It’s the same with all my senses. Hearing a certain song can instantly transport me to a particular place and time in my life, down to a specific moment. Live For Loving You by Gloria Estefan takes me back to standing in line for the ferry at the Magic Kingdom my Junior year of high school. Lean On Me takes me to a lipsync contest at church camp. Lady Marmalade reminds me of driving my first car, listening to a mix tape my best friend made me when I moved away.

I hate that there are things that can attack my senses and send me into a tailspin, but I refuse to see my sensitivity to them as a curse. If not for my amped up senses, I wouldn’t have the powerful connection I have with the good feelings and memories that they can provide. You have to take the bad with the good.

Now pardon me while I crank up some Oingo Boingo and duct tape this scented candle to my face.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Weight and Fear of Intimacy

Now this is the kind of marriage that would work or me.

This might be the hardest thing for me to write because it is full of thoughts that I don’t like to admit exist. The subject came up in therapy last week when we finally connected my binge disorder to my Asperger’s. Deep down, I’ve always known that my binging was about padding myself with fat to keep people away. I just never knew why.

My nature is to be attracted to men who I know, at least on a subconscious level, will never want me. Either they’re gay or in a serious relationship or maybe I’m just not their type – ultimately, I know nothing will ever come of it. I don’t make friends easily. I don’t like small talk. Actually, I loathe small talk. I simply don’t do well with people.

As with many visible disabilities, obesity has the effect of causing people to look away because they don’t want to stare. It works for me, because it means I don’t have to engage with people. If they won’t look at me, I don’t have to make eye contact. If they won’t get close, I never have to worry about them touching me.

I know there are a lot of Aspies who are happy to be single for their whole lives. I am not one of them. I don’t want to be alone. I like men. Quite a bit, actually. I just don’t know how to properly interact with them. My physical encounters have been rare and incredibly awkward. My last actual “date” was over a decade ago and a complete disaster.

The fact is, I’m totally fucking terrified of relationships. I know what I want. At least, I think I know what I want. I just haven’t a clue how to get it. The perfect marriage for me (or long term relationship, since I’m not sure I’m the marrying kind) is one where we live in a duplex, so I have my own bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen (or at least where we have separate bedrooms and bathrooms) and we only get together every other day or so. Yeah, good luck finding a relationship like that.

The very idea of dating makes no sense to me and the awkwardness of it all makes it doubly confusing to my Aspie brain. I know I’m a long way from being ready to date. I have a lot of work to do in the meantime. I have to learn to accept myself as I am before I can expect anyone else to do the same. In the meantime, the fat suit has got to go. Sure, I’ve got a shit ton of weight to lose, but I also have a lot of emotional baggage to shed at the same time. Oh, goody. More therapy.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Yes, I stim. I can do it very subtly when I am around others, because I know it can freak people out. When I am alone, it’s a different story. I rock, I flick, I tap. I’m actually rocking as I type this. To neurotypical people, this is “weird”. I don’t particularly give a damn.

The world is an overwhelming place for an Aspie and stimming provides some relief. I rock myself to sleep at night because it helps my brain to straighten out some of the jumbled thoughts in my head. It feels good, even if it is “weird”.

I can’t just sit and watch TV. Either I’m tapping or flicking or I’m using a computer game to help me stay in the moment. It gives me a chance to spend some time with my roommates, while still doing what I need to quiet my brain.

So if you see me on an imaginary rocking horse, don’t be weirded out. Just be glad you have a friend who literally rocks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Understanding Why I've Never Understood the Things I Don't Understand

Since my diagnosis, I sometimes feel like Alice after falling down the rabbit hole. The world around me looks so different. It is all too big, too loud, too bright, too everything. I’m chasing my own white rabbit, knowledge about living with Asperger’s, while seeking guidance from my therapist, the caterpillar. My fellow Aspies, diagnosed much earlier than I, are happily enjoying their tea party, content in the ways that they differ from the rest of the world. At the same time, I fear society, or the Queen of Hearts and her court, judging my differences and declaring that it must be off with my head. Like Alice and the “Eat Me”/“Drink Me” potions, I am constantly adjusting to fit my new world, not knowing what the end result will be or if I will find myself “going out altogether, like a candle.”

There are so many things I’ve never understood. What’s more, I’ve never understood exactly why I don’t understand. At least now I’m gaining some understanding about my lack of understanding. Things are very black and white for me, very logical. If you and I have a misunderstanding that leads to an argument, I feel like we should explain our positions, clear up the misunderstanding and end the argument. I don’t understand the need to keep talking about how we felt because we’ve already established that it was all just an error in communication. If I see a clear solution to a problem you have, I want you to take action and solve it, not talk about how the problem makes you feel.

This is not to say I am incapable of empathy. On the contrary, I feel enormous empathy. Perhaps too much, on occasion. My problem comes in expressing it. If you are hurting and there is no clear way to fix it, then I hurt for you. I just don’t have the capacity to give voice to that feeling. I have learned to say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting and I wish I knew how to help.” but that is rarely enough to make the point that I really, truly do care about what you’re going through.

I know I’m not the only one making adjustments and learning new things. I am accepting that this is permanent, because it is who I am. I am the Mad Aspie. Pass the hookah and pour me a cup of tea. I’m not leaving Wonderland.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review -- The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism

When my own Asperger's diagnosis at age 34 sent me searching for others like me, I found Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg's inspiring, moving and often funny blog, While I am still searching for the words to explain what it feels like to suddenly discover as an adult that I am Autistic, Rachel has found those words and shared them in this very personal book. Rachel provides an inside look at redefining the way we communicate with the neurotypical world and learning to self-advocate. If you're recently diagnosed, or know someone who is, or suspect you are or do -- read this book instead of (or in addition to) the clinical analysis written by the "experts" who have studied Autism rather than living with it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've started wearing earplugs in my office.  I tried a few different styles, but found that the inexpensive foam kind are the most comfortable and effective.  These are the kind that you smoosh down with your fingers and put into your ears and the foam expands to fill the space.  There is this perfect blissful moment for me in this process, this wonderful little moment of joy when the foam finishes expanding and the world around me is virtually silent.  I would equate it to slipping into a hot bath after a stressful day or kicking off a pair of shoes that pinch your toes.  It's become one of the best parts of my morning.  I can still hear the phone ring and the intercom paging me, but the sound doesn't cause me pain the way it did.

I am also learning to say, "I don't know what to say" instead of stressing myself out over trying to think of the correct empathetic response to another person's emotions.  I have wasted so much energy worrying that I was going to say the wrong thing to someone when I wasn't sure how to respond.  Now I know the right response is the truth.  If someone is hurting and I don't know how to make them feel better, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I wish I knew how to help you."  It's the truth and it tells them that I care about the fact that they are suffering.

Damn, I'm deep today.