My first Mandala.

Further to the possible occasional mention of my crochet addiction, I am please to announce that I am starting my first Mandala!

I’ve been wanting to make one for awhile – they are absolutely beautiful – but I can get very easily overwhelmed with patterns, eyesight issues, colors, types of yarn, amounts etc. and then guess what happens?

Nothing.

But since I’ve been doing the Seaside Stash Busting Blanket Crochet Along, with 4 – 6 rows being doled out each week, and finding this a good way to work for me, I decided to google other Crochet Alongs, specifically of the Mandala variety. I landed on this fantabulous project (Sophie’s Universe CAL 2015):

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Yowzers! I love it and Dedri even has two other color examples she’s made:

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and

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I don’t know about you but I think these are splendiferous so I decided to go for it. I am also twisting my 17-year-old daughter’s arm (who has just graduated from high school and suffers from the similar project-starting paralysis as me) into joining me. We are using worsted weight yarn so our finished blankets/mats should be around 6 feet by 6 feet.

So, yesterday we got our yarn stashes out, figured out how many colors we needed (11) and decided what sort of color schemes we wanted to do. She wants to do something similar to the last one pictured and has a good supply of different tans, blues, greens and orange so just needed to get some cream.

I, however, decided that I want to make mine to match the colors in our living room rug and couches which are greens, burgundy, tans, browns and a little black. I needed to purchase 4 new colors of yarn to go with the existing colors I had in my stash and I did!

So, once again I went to the website, copied the instructions and pasted them into Word and blew the font up to 18. Then I printed out the color suggestion for each style and changed them to the colors I’m using. Today I sat down and quickly worked rows 1 – 8. The instructions are perfect and very easy to understand, with lots of tutorials and links etc.

So, without further ado – here are the first 8 rows of my first Mandala blanket:

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Yipee!

The end of an era: we’re done homeschooling.

Wow, just like that. When I wondered if my daughter would EVER finish her last assignment for her last class for Grade 12 (which she’d been dragggggging out since February) she declared to me yesterday with a tiny smile that she had submitted her last assignment.

I’ve been waiting for this day. More for her sake. She can be a big procrastinator so usually each May I watch her fall into a self-inflicted state of dread and panic over finishing up her courses. She’s been doing school at home since grade 8 (her choice) and I’ve been the facilitator of that. We have been enrolled in an online school so she has had access to teachers and most of her courses have been taken online to ensure that they met the requirements for graduation in our province.

Her “Dogwood” certificate is on its way.

But the realization that this is all coming to an end has been brewing for awhile in me now. That whiff of change in the air. That ‘what next’? that follows an ending to something. My job as her homeschool facilitator/motivator/whip-cracker is over. That’s it. I knew it was coming. My job is finished. Just like that.

I feel this change-related anxiety/Twilight Zonishness every school year. Getting back into it is an adjustment and it takes me a few weeks to settle in and figure out what life looks like during school times. Then when school is done for the year it takes me a few weeks to settle in and figure out what life looks like during summer holidays

I still have one daughter in public high school. She’s just finishing up Grade 10 (provided she passes her courses) but dropping her off at school each morning is mostly the extent of my daily participation in her schooling.

So now that homeschooling is over forever there will be an adjustment again – a much bigger one – how will life look now that this major focus is gone?

We shall see.

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I have a thing for making blankets.

Okay, it’s Show and Tell time.

I’ve been making baby blankets, big blankets and lap blankets for years now. Today, I am going with my mom and daughter to our local Senior’s home to donate 4 of my latest blankets. They are lap blankets that measure around 32″ wide by 44″ long. Just enough to tuck in over a lap but not big enough to get caught up in wheelchairs etc.

Now, in terms of my blankets, I love making them but since I am on the shy side I have been giving them to my mom (who is not shy) and she has been donating them to a couple of places around town for me. I am the drop-in-an-unmarked-bag-by-the-backdoor-at-midnight type. However, today I am going in with my mom and daughter because I’m interested in (possibly potentially tentatively) volunteering. Or at least finding out about volunteering. There are lots of things to do there and not enough people to do them. I also play the piano and they would love for me (anyone) to play there. I LOVE playing. However, I have incredible “stage fright”. I don’t throw up or anything but my hands shake so badly and my mind goes blank – sometimes – not all the time. This makes playing in public a little daunting. But I am thinking about it. (Can I pull a Jim Morrison and play with my back to the room AND be behind some kind of curtain?) I’d love to quit living in so much fear, thus I’m thinking about it. And I’m going in today.

I took some pictures with my phone (sorry if they’re not so great) so you can ooooh and aaaah over them. 😀

These are the 4 I’m taking in today:
(They are made with 7″x7″ squares with a 1/2″ seam and then seams on the top are cut rag-quilt style. The back is lined with a solid color)

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2 Like this camo one

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And then here is a sampling of some of the baby and lap crocheted blankets I’ve made:
(as long as I can keep finding homes for them, I’ll keep making them!)

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I will leave you with this picture of Sarah, our chicken, looking in our patio window at our old house. She used to fly out of the chicken yard most days to lay her egg in the wood shed and visit us.
I miss our chickens.

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Yes….I am still alive.

Just in case you were wondering.
You probably weren’t, but just in case you were. (but just in case you weren’t – don’t feel bad.) 😀

But, I wanted to pop back in here because a friend mentioned to me today that they’d noticed I hadn’t posted lately and this is true.

In fact, my snake-peeling post was dated May 24th – 2 weeks ago! I’ve been posting several times a week since December so 2 weeks is a pretty long time between posts.

Things have been up – yes. “Life” has been happening and not in the greatest of ways lately. Until today, I had no desire to post anything and didn’t know if I would again.

I’ve been dipping in and out of the abyss of sadness over the last month or so. Some days are okay, some days are better and then some days I cry a lot. I know that I and my family have undergone major changes in the last 4 years – selling house, buying house, the end of the homesteading dream, job changes, a failed business, crawling out from a monumental amount of debt, selling house again, buying a house not-yet-built which requires us to live in a tiny suite packed with boxes for 6 months, job changes again, family struggles, teenager troubles which got very scary.

So I get it – lots of stresses. Then around 7 months ago, discovering the roots of my neurodivergence and re-processing my life through a completely different lens – that’s been something. Mostly good but some not good.
Yes, these are enough to put anyone over the edge now and then.

But last week my 16-year-old daughter’s friend committed suicide.

And I just hit the wall with everything.

I. Just. Can’t. Even.

My heart breaks for this world and the pain that so many of us endure. I hate that there is so much suffering. I know that there is but I still hate it.

I hate that this boy was in such pain that he just wanted to end it all and so did.
I hate that his family and friends are suffering through the aftermath.
I hate that we all lose. He lost. We lost.

None of this can be swept under the carpet by some neat and tidy platitude.

I am just struck with the stark reality of life. There are a lot of scared parents in my community right now and my husband and I are two of them.

But I am still here and we still live and breathe.

So we keep going.

I will keep going.

During the last while I have also been mulling over topics I ‘wish’ I could post about here but don’t. I have entertained the idea of starting another blog completely separate from this one and I had decided on a title for it: “The Neurodivergent Theist”.

I have withheld a piece of myself from you guys. because I am afraid that you won’t like me anymore. Even on this blog, I am still masking, hiding because nobody wants to be disliked. I am hypersensitive. My skin is so thin that it’s practically not even there.

I live in fear that people online won’t like me and I live in fear that people in the real world won’t like me. I’ve been afraid since I was a little girl and, at 47, I’m still afraid. Don’t laugh – I am.

But, hey, we can all change and that is what I’d like to do.

When I set out to write this blog I wanted to be honest and I have been. There have been things I’ve left out but what I have written about is 100% completely honest.

Just like I mask my neurodivergence in real life so that I appear less “weird” or immature (not sure that it works all the time) I’ve been hiding my belief in God online because I see how unpopular my beliefs can be and I want to protect myself. I don’t want to get hurt. I guess in that way I’m being selfish. I know my beliefs influence every post I write because they are at the foundation of how I feel about life and what I believe but still…have I hidden it well?

So, in the interest of honesty and wanting to include the “Christian” side of myself in my blog (it IS my blog after all!) here I will go. If you feel the need to unfollow me because of this so be it – but I hope you won’t. I mean, you already know me – most of me, anyway.

I am NOT an evangelist – let’s get that clear right away (how can someone terrified of other people be an evangelist???!!??) but I do believe in God and since I am neurodivergent I feel/know that I have a different experience than the mainstream in regards to this.

This is what I want to talk about because I also know that there are others out there that don’t ‘get’ it in the traditional sense either. Does that make us ‘bad christians’? I have certainly felt like a failure as a Christian and have quit ‘church’ multiple times and even deconverted completely from Christianity and religion around 10 years ago. But I came back because at the end of the day I still believe in God. Not the God that whacks you around and gives you a list of 1000 things you can’t possibly do. But the God that loves us all and, for reasons I can’t understand fully, made us and wants to know us.

If that makes me a Bad Christian then so be it. I’ll wear that.

I don’t convert. I don’t evangelize. I don’t debate. I don’t make self-righteous comments on other blogs. I don’t understand parts of the bible. I don’t see God the same way that neurotypical people around me seem to. But I still believe in my own way.

I accept people. Life is complicated. Humans are complicated.

I am once again a square peg that doesn’t fit into the round hole.

So that’s what’s been going on lately.

To leave with you with something lighter, here is a beautiful picture my mom took and sent me today. These grow wild along the sides of the road in our rural areas and smell wonderful.

 

 

 

I peeled a dead snake off the road today.

“Don’t touch it!” My husband said to me, his tone alarmed and slightly raised. We were walking in our neighbourhood on a lovely summer-in-May day.

I could tell he had that look on his face – that ‘ew‘ look.

But the ‘it’ wasn’t that bad. It was just a fairly small dead frog. It was on the side of the road and had obviously been run over – it was flat. But it was mostly intact, except for one missing leg. And I wanted to touch it.

Why wouldn’t I?

It was dead, so I could touch it and look at it from all angles at my leisure. Plus it didn’t stink. I knew I would have to wash my hands well when I got home but this was definitely worth it.

Alas, my husband’s exclamation and tone were enough to put me off and I snapped back into reality and remembered that we were out on a walk for exercise so I resumed my pace beside him.

But I still wanted to touch that frog.

I love to look at dead things. Not dead people – definitely not dead people. Just dead animals and critter-ish things.

I’ve always been like that, and my youngest daughter is the same.

It’s so hard to get a really good look at things when they are alive, because they’re afraid of us and are usually hiding or run away as soon as they see us.

That’s where the dead part comes in.

You can have a long and thorough look at something when it’s dead. It’s not running from you, nor is it afraid of you because…

…it’s dead.

I’ve examined things in various stages of decomposition like: sharks, fish, jelly fish, seals, sea lions, sheep, deer, some other large furry mammal I couldn’t identify, snakes, frogs, rabbits, raccoons, shrews, rats, mice, birds, chickens, bugs and the list goes on.

I used to be able to look at dead things without anyone rushing me. Since I’ve been married to my husband I don’t get as much time to examine my dead finds, as he is always wanting to move on in his slightly squeamish, grossed-out fashion.

*sigh*

But when I spotted the dead snake on the road today, I got to take my time. I was with my daughter and I almost stepped right on it. These little snakes are coming onto the road right now because it’s nice and hot out and they love to sun bathe. Except that cars drive by and squash them. Sometimes they just clip the edge of the snake, like yesterday. The snake was still nice and plump with just the tiniest edge of its head squished. But today, it was full-on squished and already dried out. It looked perfect in its color but when I went to move it off the road with a stick I couldn’t. It was stuck. Completely flattened and glued onto the road.

So I peeled it off carefully and laid it to rest in the ditch.

It was this kind (a garter snake) and only around 18 inches long:

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Poor little gaffer.

There’s one thing that’s sure in this life….we wrestle.

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Okay, maybe not the Nacho Libre-type (one of my favorite movies) of wresting because not many of us (get the chance to) do that.

But there is a different kind of wresting that we all do. It’s the kind that goes on in our minds. Show me one person on this earth that doesn’t wrestle and I’ll show you the one billion dollars in unmarked bills I have stashed under my bed. Neither exists.

We wrestle.

With ourselves.

With each other.

With our thoughts.

With our pasts.

With our presents.

With our futures.

With our ideas.

With our beliefs.

With others’ beliefs.

It is in our very nature to wrestle. To question. To seek. To solve.

And just when we think we’ve come to a place of peace, that we found the answer, that we’ve solved the problem, another one pops up in its place.

How much pain do we suffer because we forget that it is natural, that it is human to wrestle?

We don’t like it. We want to arrive. We want to solve. We want to sort. We want to categorize. We want to dust off our hands and say “Well, that was nice – all figured out. Now I can go on with the rest of my life in peace.”

Until one tiny drop of rain lands on our perfectly sculpted plans and they all melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West.

What if we were okay with the idea that we can’t always:

-solve
-sort
-resolve
-know 100%
-change what is

What if we pried our fingers off the wheel that they are imprinted into?

Can we be okay without knowing it all?

Can we be okay without solving it all?

Can we be okay that we won’t ‘arrive’?

Can we be okay that things we don’t want to change might and things we want to change might not?

Can we be okay that there is nothing wrong with wrestling?

This life is a wrestling match. Some rounds we win. Some we lose. Some rounds we don’t want to fight in at all. We get paid in days, even when we lose.

So let’s wrestle. Let’s talk about our hopes and fears. Let’s be honest.

Let’s toss out the book on our shelf that says “Learn to be Blissfully Happy and Incredibly Wealthy and Successful with your whole-life-figured-out in 3 easy steps!” (the one you bought off the home shopping channel at 2am that came with the 6-part motivational DVD set – all for 3 easy payments of $34.95 including shipping and handling…but wait…there’s more!)

In this life we will wrestle. Whether we like it or not. We will have good matches and we will have bad matches. Let’s not feel so bad for the ones we lose. Let’s not expect to win them all. But let’s expect to win some. And let’s celebrate when we do!

So, I for one will attempt to embrace my wrestling. I will try to not be surprised when a new match starts. I will try to not feel guilty when I get tossed out of the ring. I will try to not expect to lose them all.

And I will wear some really cool costumes.

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(but since I’m a girl, mine will include a top 😀 )

Dear Friend. I’ve noticed you don’t call anymore…

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Dear Friend,

I’ve noticed you don’t call anymore.

I knew this was going to happen. I’m sorry I wasn’t a good friend. I won’t bother you anymore.

I get the message – loud and clear.

Like other friendships I’ve tried to have, things go well in the beginning.

I seem friendly, talkative and interesting. Someone you’d like to get to know.

I can start our friendship but am always faced with the problem that I don’t know how to maintain it. I start to worry because I don’t know how to reciprocate properly. I start to feel trapped. I will only let you in so far. I can tell there is something missing in my approach and how I process friendships, but I don’t know what.

I know that I talked too much. Those time you had me over and I came with a billion words that I tried to get out in 20 minutes after you asked how I was. I know it was a convoluted mess. I know it was exhausting. I know I was racing to get through it – to get the words out so I could see where they would land so I could make some sense of what was going on in my head. I know my eyes dart here and there while I talk to you. I simply can’t maintain eye contact with you if I’m trying to think and talk at the same time. Plus, looking into your eyes too much feels creepy somehow – wrong.

I’m sorry I didn’t think of you as much as I should have. I’m sorry I didn’t call you just to chat. I know I don’t do that. I know I would just get in touch sporadically to set up a visit time and place once a month. I just can’t handle seeing people too much. I know you needed more. I get it. I just couldn’t give you that. I don’t have it to give. I don’t know why and it makes me feel terrible about myself.

I know I’m a terrible friend. I’ll be the first to admit it.

I’m sorry.

I wish you all the best in finding friends who will treat you right.

Tammy


Dear readers,

This is a letter I imagine writing to a lady I had a brief friendship with around 13 years ago. We met when our young daughters were in Kindergym together. I had no idea I was autistic at the time but have always known that I struggle keenly in making friendships and maintaining them. Since then, I’ve isolated myself even more, as one failure after another takes its toll. I want to connect but it just doesn’t feel natural to me.

This letter may seem sad. I don’t feel sad in writing it. It is the truth of how I felt when that relationship ended. I blamed myself and took full responsibility since I knew how awkward I feel most times in friendships and how I struggle to know if I’m doing the right thing in regards to the other person.

Friendships can be  hard for autistic people. This has been a big struggle for me and not knowing the ‘why’ until 6 months ago has piled on years and years of failures.

This letter and post highlights the idea of “Let’s see what happens to a person when they live their whole life not knowing why they are the way they are.”

It’s a bit of a mess.

I submit myself for posterity’s sake.

I’m a bit of a science experiment.

And that’s just the way it is.

 

I forget the rest of the world exists when I’m not in it.

“So, what else did you do today?” I asked my son over ice cream treats at Dairy Queen.

“I got myself a nice satchel to carry my work laptop in.” he replied “Yup, got it at Value Village today.”

“You did?” I asked, surprised. “We were just there today too. What time were you there? We were there at around 10:00.”

“Naw, I was definitely not there that early. Some time later, I guess.”

I had to think about this for a minute. I was at Value Village today with my daughter. But then my son was there later. At Value Village. On the same day.

For reasons I’ve never understood, I always find this type of revelation freshly stunning: you mean Value Village continued to exist once I’d left it that morning? You mean my son was living his life and out doing things independently of me?

I know this sounds a little ridiculous but this is a kind of cognitive dissonance that I have always noticed in myself. In my intellect, I know that the world exists and people continue to exist when I’m not with them. On the other hand, I obviously feel that the world goes into a kind of freeze frame until I enter back into it, or I wouldn’t be constantly surprised that it has continued to play out in my absence.

It is the same way that I am always surprised when someone tells me they were thinking about me or talking about me when I wasn’t there. Somehow I don’t feel that I exist for them either.

A few years ago I was telling a lady I know about how I had been a little down and bored in the dreary winter weather, not getting out of the house much. She asked me why I hadn’t called her to go out with her or do something. Honestly, the thought had never occurred  to me. I didn’t say “Because you aren’t really real to me when we’re not in the same room.”

Cuz that would sound kinda weird.

I’ve always had this kind of disconnect with the world. I remember feeling it when I was very young. It plays into the ‘on the outside looking in’ or ‘behind the glass’ idea. I think of it also as being slightly out of sync with the world. Like things are happening but I’m not aware of them, so I’m always hearing about things in the past because I don’t connect the idea that things are going on at all times around me.

I don’t imagine my friends living their lives. I don’t imagine them talking or thinking about me or remembering that I exist. I don’t think about the people I know very much on a day-to-day basis, unless I live with them. My son has recently moved out, thus exiting my sphere of reality so maybe this is why he has joined the ranks of the world out there that doesn’t exist as much as my world here does.

Either way – it’s a little Twilight Zone-ish to know that I think this way.

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I explained this way of thinking to my husband in the car later after Dairy Queen and asked him if he feels this way about the world.

Nope. He’s the one that suggested I have a kind of freeze-frame idea about the world or a place that I have left.

A few good folks on twitter suggested a term for this: Solipsism.

Like all ‘definitions’, I find this one a little creepy and aseptic. I tried to find articles relating to solipsism and autism but didn’t seem to be able to land on anything easily.

Here is what Wikipedia says:

Solipsism (/ˈsɒlɪpsɪzəm/ (About this sound listen); from Latin solus, meaning ‘alone’, and ipse, meaning ‘self’)[1] is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist.

I’m not sure that this is exactly the definition I was looking for, since I do know that other people and minds exist. I just can’t seem to remember that they exist when they’re not right in front of me. I have a hard time remembering that other people are out living their lives at the same time as I am.

There is a disconnect from my intellectual to my visceral.

Further to the Solipsism suggestion, the term “Object Permanence” was put forth.

Wikipedia says:

“Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way).”

So obviously I have a lack of that.

When I googled this term with autism I came up with scores of links with the two words side-by-side, which tells me that this is the term I am looking for. It would appear that to me, objects are things, places and people – pretty much the whole world! From the time I was small I have had a lack of object permanence. My dad tells me that once when I was a child, we had gone hiking up a mountain and I asked him in a very concerned voice if my friends, house and toys were still ‘there’. I must have felt that since I was up this mountain, my life back home had ceased to exist.

This is also why I don’t like my husband to ‘put’ any of my things away that I need to do something with – like important papers. If he does, they will be gone to me, as in wiped from my memory.

And usually important papers need to be dealt with.

All of these difficulties could also be chalked up to the fact that my mind is usually so full and busy that whatever isn’t right in front of me goes to the back of the line. If you have a better term for this, let me know – otherwise I’ll stick with Object Permanence for now.

So there you go. You learn something new every day!

And I’m glad my son got his cross body satchel. Even if I weirded myself out while hearing about it.

 

 

Snippet: Value Village

It’s a beautiful May morning and I pop my head into my daughter, Hannah’s, room at 8:15am. “Are you going to come walk with me at the track? We can go to VV’s after.”

She’s still in bed. She looks at me sleepily and says yes. Hannah is finishing grade 12 through online homeschooling and usually does her school work in the morning but I’m trying to get her out of the house this morning and it’s worked.

At 8:40 Hannah, I and her sister, Emma, pile into the minivan to drop Emma off at the local high school. Hannah and I have a brisk 30 minute walk around the running track beside the school in the glorious sunshine. It’s not too hot yet and I love to hear all the birds singing. The track is that spongy, rubbery kind that feels bouncy and gentle to walk on. It is just us and one other person on the track.

After our walk we stretch, walk around the back of the spectator bleachers to see where the barn swallows (I call them stealth bombers) are entering the roof to nest and house their screaming babies and then head back to the van.

It’s Thursday so it’s a perfect day to go to Value Village – a large, cheery and tidy thrift shop in town. I’ve taken to calling it VV’s. There are always a million interesting things to look at and choices galore for clothing. I find traditional clothing stores overwhelming  most times, with their loud music and sales people that ask me if I want help. Value Village isn’t like this. No one ever greets you or asks you if you need help. Perfect. We can stroll up and down aisles of books, puzzles, home decor accessories, clothing and shoes to see if we can find any nuggets. Most times we don’t. But sometimes we do.

The reason Thursday is a perfect day to go is that it won’t be too busy. I hate those times when I say “Want to go to VV’s today?” only to remember that it’s Tuesday aka Crazy Busy Seniors’ day. I can’t go to VV’s on Tuesdays or Crazy 50% off Sundays. The parking lot will be jam-packed and I will have to drive way down the street to try to find somewhere to park. The store will be jam-packed with seniors on senior’s day or non-seniors on 50% off days. Those people will have their carts full of 40-odd different items of clothing that they will need to try on in the approx. 6 available change rooms. So, it is virtually impossible to try anything on. I can’t buy clothing without trying it on so going on Tuesdays is out for me.

But today is Thursday. We make the left turn into the back parking lot and to my delight I have three parking spots to choose from – three! The front parking lot is way too chaotic and busy for me – I like the back parking lot. Not as many people know about the back parking lot. Perfect.

We make our way into the store and I brace myself for the smell. That thrift store smell. It’s so unfortunate. The first week VV’s was open it was great – the absolute hugest thrift store in our community and no smell! The building was brand new – that’s why.

Alas, after a few weeks of being open the smell moved in with all the used clothing. The smell, I imagine to be 99 quadrillion sloughed human skin cells being eaten by 99 trillion dust mites. So, is the smell the dead skin and mites? Or is it the dust mite poop?

No one really knows but I hate the smell regardless. Obviously not enough to deter me from going, though.

I head to the shoes and Hannah heads to the books.

I have a look at a few pairs of dress shoes. I don’t have any dress shoes anymore. The other day I needed to wear some decent shoes other than sandals and my only choice was my purple Reebok runners.  I was wearing my soft brown comfy corduroy pants and a dark apricot top. I didn’t see purple going with those so I had to wear my black crocs instead.

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I questioned this decision with Hannah, knowing that my husband feels crocs are a crime against humanity, but she assured me it would be okay, as I was going to a restaurant and my feet would spend most of their time under my seat. That set me at ease so I wore the crocs.

After perusing the dress shoes for a little while, I grab a right shoe of one pair and a left shoe of another. I sit down to try them on. The left shoe is slightly too short and squeezy around my toes and the right shoe is too worn and way too loose around the heel. I have a really hard time finding shoes that are properly comfortable. The left shoe is virtually brand new but the right shoe is well-used. I am slightly grossed out by the idea of wearing someone else’s discarded old shoes. I have bought a few pairs of used shoes over my lifetime but only ones that look virtually new. I don’t understand how anyone would want to buy a pair of sandals with someone else’s big toe imprinted into the bottom of them. Just thinking about that makes me shutter.

I glance to the left and something catches my eye: a pretty fringed scarf.

I like scarves. Or at least I like the ‘idea’ of scarves. It’s like how I like the idea of all accessories – except that I can’t really stand to wear them. They look fine on the shelf, fine on other people but that’s as far as it goes. I start looking through the scarf rack, each scarf folded neatly and clipped onto its very own hanger. I like the fringed ones the best. I pick up a beautiful and soft Pashmina one in oranges and reds. I take it off its hanger and let it slip deliciously through my fingers. This one would go with my coloring. But…I would probably never wear it. I know that as soon as I would put the scarf around my neck and arrange it in a suitably comfortable way (if possible) it would start to cost me. I would be able to feel it. It would slip around. It would get in the way. The fringe might be scratchy around my neck. It would feel bulky, even if it were small and thin. I know I would end up taking it off. It would be relegated to the depths of my closet with all the rejected accessories that I am keeping in the hopes that some day I will feel comfortable wearing them.

It’s like the Island of Misfit toys, except that they’re not broken – just neglected and unused.

I walk up another aisle and notice a few ladies with heaps of clothing in their baskets. I’m not in the mood to look at clothes today. I don’t really need anything and sometimes have a hard time finding things I like. I often gravitate to the same types of things – same colors, same fabrics. Comfortable things. Modest things. Things that make me feel safe. A lot of women’s clothing don’t check those boxes.

I can’t stand low necklines, strange straps, squeezing bras, scratchy fabric, tight waistbands with huge buttons or snaps that gouge into my stomach. I can’t stand wearing things that I can’t stay warm in so skirts are always out. I can’t stand most dress shoes – they are too uncomfortable and usually make my feet cold and clammy.

I rarely wear anything that I don’t feel comfortable and safe in anymore. I prefer sweater-weather because sweaters are loose and make me feel safe and hidden. I feel exposed in anything form-fitting. I wore ‘dress’ clothes for a few years in my early twenties when I worked in offices. Some days I was so physically uncomfortable in my outfits that I would be literally driven to distraction and getting the day over with so I could go home and change was all I could think about. I hated the fact that I was usually cold in these outfits as well.

I know I don’t have the best wardrobe. I know I don’t wear things that are figure-enhancing or sexy – things my husband would like to see me in. But I can’t. I can’t stand the discomfort. I also don’t feel like me in those types of outfits.

I put the scarf back onto its hanger and  head over to the tiny pet section. Last night we were talking about getting one of those fishing rod toys for our cat, Clara. She doesn’t go outside much lately because there are dogs on the property where we live so I thought she could do with some playtime inside. I glance around the shelves of food bowls, tiny fish tanks and used collars (I can imagine how bad those would smell – ew!) and spot it around the back – a kitty fishing rod toy! And only $1.99! I grab it and finish my rounds of the housewares section.

By this time, I’m feeling done and ready to leave. I spot Hannah coming up the aisle towards me. She’s holding a book – one of the Our Canadian Girl series.

We head to the till, watch the lady in front of us checking out her 30ish items of clothing and then it’s our turn.

We pay, take our receipts and had back to the van, satisfied with our purchases.

Once inside I offer Hannah a hand wipe. She declines. I take one out and wash my hands. They always feel like they’re covered in some sort of film after touching things in a store. They feel that way after coming out of any store but it’s always worse after VV’s. The things in there can be slightly dirty and combined with the smell, I always feel a little defiled.

I finish washing my hands, run the wipe up and down the fishing rod cat toy, throw the van in reverse and we’re off.

Where are the doubts coming from?

I think I know.

I have read many accounts of diagnosed autistic adults having doubts back and forth about whether they are autistic or not so I might still have them even then.

I might still worry that I’ve carefully crafted an argument and managed to sway and manipulate the expert/whoever into believing me.

But why would I do that? Could I even do that? That makes no sense. How did I arrive at the epiphany of being autistic last November anyway?

Through seeing my youngest daughter having the same struggles I’ve had, specifically the sensory processing, executive functioning and social ones. I always wrote myself off as a person who had survived a tumultuous childhood and then been awkward, difficult, selfish and slightly mental which then turned into obsessive and neurotic.

For no reason.

Why would I want to self-diagnose as autistic? Why not something glamorous like “Intelligently Sensitive Genius Disorder” or “Highly Brilliant Syndrome”?

I have read articles about highly intelligent people having troubles socializing and fitting into everyday life. Why didn’t I land on one of those?

Because my husband saw similar traits in our daughter that we see in her cousin, who is autistic. Because I took to google like a dog with a bone and as soon as I read about autistic traits in girls and women, as opposed to the confusing medical definitions I’d tried to interpret years ago, the light went on.

Yes, I saw the traits in my daughter but I was absolutely blown away by the sameness to me in the stories I was reading on blogs and in articles written by late-dx women.

I was in awe that there was finally a place that I fit in. A place where everything I was, thought, think and am made sense.

And these women HAD been diagnosed.

This is that part that is tripping me up:

Some of my family members have expressed doubts about there being autism in our family. I get that. We often don’t notice (or want to see) the things in others close to use that are the same as us. When it was suggested that my son was autistic 14 years ago, when he was 5, I laughed it off. He was fine – he was just like me. Sure, we were a little different maybe – pretty intelligent – so doesn’t that make us a little different? I couldn’t see him or myself from the outside – because I was on the inside with him. I was also very opposed to ‘labels’. It seemed every second boy in school was being labelled with ADHD and given pills. I figured they were just fidgety because they were boys and not as apt to sit primly like girls and play ‘school’ when they wanted to be outside running around.

So I get it. I mentioned the idea of autism in our family to my one and only sibling, a brother, 6 months ago. I haven’t heard from him since. I’ve emailed and written. Nothing.

I can only assume that he utterly rejects the idea and is so repelled by it, he has chosen to not even respond to my communications anymore.

A few years ago I might have done the same thing.

I remember being offended when my mother-in-law suggested that our youngest daughter was a little like her autistic cousin. It wasn’t known that the cousin was autistic at that time but she definitely had struggles we could all see.

I guess I’ve always wanted to be in the ‘normal’ camp.

Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here.”

So here I am now. With my doubts.

I have read articles and posts about self diagnosis vs. official diagnosis. While there is a vein that says self-diagnosis is fine and valid, there is also a vein that says it is not. They argue that it is just an excuse ‘those’ people are using for all their problems and that self dx is an insult to all “real” autistic people. The comments/reaction to that article were pretty bad, I’ll grant you, but it did cut a little too.

I mean, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I fit into the autistic community like a hand into a glove – like never before in my life. But I don’t want to do any disservice and there is that part of me that says I can’t play because I don’t have my papers. At this point I don’t feel there is any way for me to get any. I am too emotionally vulnerable. I don’t have $4000 to pay for an official assessment. I googled counselors in my area and the only mention a few of them made in regards to autism was how parents can better ‘cope’ with their kids’ autism.

So this is the rub for me.

Can I ‘come out’ if I’m ‘only’ self-diagnosed?

Am I legitimate?

Can I add the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag back into my twitter posts? I have stopped using it, fearing that I’m some sort of diabolical impostor – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Can I say I am diagnosed? Even if the answer to who diagnosed me would be “Ummm…….myself?”

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I can’t lie. Once I was asking a friend how to say I was ‘fine’ when someone asked me how I was. I was not ‘fine’ but knew people don’t really want to know how you are – it’s just something we all ask. But I felt like a liar saying I was fine. She told me “Well, you can say you are fine and here’s how: Are you physically fine?” Yes, I was physically fine. So there – I found a way to say I was fine because I could add the physically part in my mind and then I didn’t feel like a liar anymore.

But, in terms of autism, it seems that all the voices (that I’m listening to) say we aren’t truly ‘there‘ until we have the paperwork to prove it. I mean, EVERYONE’S talking about how their life changed once they were diagnosed, when they were diagnosed etc etc. And my life has also really changed since I realized I am autistic.

But…

Can I be there without the paperwork? Am I not autistic before I have the paperwork and then somehow magically autistic once I do have it? Wasn’t I born autistic, whether anyone knew it or not?

Because….maybe, even though autism fits me perfectly…..maybe I really have “Crazy Psychopathic Defective Syndrome” or “Simply Utterly Mental Disorder” instead and I need an expert to set me straight so I can just go about my crazy way with the right words attached and shut up about it.

I worry that I will be accepted into the autism community online (which I guess I already have!!) and then, since I like to write and contribute, some man in a crisp business suit will read this blog, look me in the eye, point at the door and shout (with bulging eyes and spittle flying out of his mouth),

“GET OUT! SHE’S NOT EVEN DIAGNOSED!!! IMPOSTOR!!! EVERYBODY DISREGARD EVERYTHING SHE HAS SAID!!!! DISGUSTING IMPOSTOR!!!”

I mean, I’m not being difficult in regards to official diagnosis on purpose. There are significant barriers in my way to being diagnosed at age 47. I have listed those previously and they are varied and significant.

But that can’t mean I’m no where, that I have no voice. Because I am here. And I am who I am. And I think the way I do. And I am autistic.

So can I say that I am diagnosed? Even if it is me that has diagnosed me? I have had quite a few comments from others who agree with my diagnosis.

But is it real? Or am I a fraud?

*sigh*

I guess I’m the one who is going to have to answer these questions.

 

(Here is my original post from January 2018 in regards to my diagnosis barriers which are sometimes, like right now, a dilemma to me – and sometimes they’re not!)
“My diagnosis story might surprise you – but it might not.”