Thursday, September 11, 2008

Step 1

After realizing I need help with social anxiety in July, I've started taking anti-depressants, and had my doctor refer me for an assessment for Asperger's Syndrome.

I had the first meeting today, and I think I'll get the diagnose. Since I was there, I also did a test for depression, and the psychologist said that I would score high in a few sections due to Asperger's, so she must see that I have it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To challenge a culture

Most of the time, I am too late in my readings and responses to be an "active part" of the autism blogging community. Neither does it help that my blog is most often read by people who search Google for keywords like "asperger no life" and "asperger never marry". Fact.

But today I came over an interesting blog entry, made by abfh, which mentions a comment Amanda made where she explain the use of the word meltdown in the autistic community. To prove a point, she quotes part of her comment;

I would never attempt to join a culture and then say within a few years of joining it, that the culture's longstanding words are inappropriate and just now being defined, just because the wider community doesn't know them yet.

I can agree to what Amanda is saying, but at the same time, I think it can be dangerous for any culture or group of people to never be challenged on their use of words, their paradigms, and such. If we never challenge what is already set in stone, there can be no evolution and no future for the culture. And to provide an image for this as I believe many people know, who's to say there is no black swan?

Amanda makes many very good arguments as to why it should be called a 'meltdown'. The argument that stands out to me is one she used in another comment, where she says that the use of these words ('meltdown', 'shutdown') came about because one did not want to use the clinical words used by professionals.

That, to me, says a lot. A culture will always have its own words. Some people call this slang. That the autistic community, not just online, use their own words for the feelings and situations, means that there is indeed a community, and a vibrant one at that. The argument over these words and the connotations they bring about is also a healthy sign. What, perhaps, is not as healthy, is when people say others are not as involved in the culture as others, and thus cannot voice their opinion.

It's not about the validity of the online autistic community, as abhf says, because we know the autistic online (and offline) community to be very valid. Not only just by what it can achieve when it comes to lobbying and "getting things done", but because it is a community, a culture, that cares greatly about itself and its members.

As a newcomer here, myself, I would like to think that I am just as welcome as a person who has known about her autism for 10 years, or, her entire life. Abhf made a parallel to the gay/LGBT community, which has faced criticism due to conformism, and thus I find his parallel to be a good one. Especially is the case here is that one has to conform into the culture adopted by many, rejected by a few.

The choice to use the Rainbow Infinity Symbol as a symbol of "pro-autism", and not the puzzle piece, has been an active choice in the autistic community. As the symbol represent, among other things, the spectrum of autism through the different colors (the differences in our symptoms), it can also represents the difference in our opinion about our culture. As I have previously mentioned, all cultures change. All paradigms are challenged. The Rainbow Infinity Symbol shows this never-ending cycle.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Learned Empathy

I remember when I was growing up in the mid-to-late 90's, there was a heavy emphasis on EQ, or Emotional Intelligence.

Not fitting in with my peers, I become very interested in this EQ-thing, as well as quasi-psychology as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It was the only thing I knew that could help me understand others, although I don't think the book was meant for, or written about, 10 year olds.

Looking back at it now, I can see it as a "symptom", if you will. Since I was not able to make and keep friends through normal means, I made my peers into "lab rats" and applied the theories I read in the books. It did not really help.

At the time, when EQ was very much in the limelight, I remember not feeling I "fit" with how one should be, EQ-wise. I felt that I did not fit the shape making out "a good person". In 1990, EQ was defined as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.". Read that again, and think of the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Syndrom.

I tried so hard to get a high EQ-score in the tests published in women's magazines. After taking a few, I saw a pattern and adapted my score, manipulating it, if you will, to be able to "brag" about my high scores. I learnt, through these tests and articles, how a "normal person" felt, thought, behaved and treated others. It's a lesson that has stuck with me through my life since then, making me the person I am today, through constant manipulation of my thoughts, feelings and behavior against others.

When I first started reading about Asperger's Syndrome, and autism, I was very against the idea that all autistics have problems with empathy. I still do, in a way, due to the notion that every autistic is different. What I had problems understanding is that there is a fine line between empathy and sympathy.

While empathy is the ability to recognize or understand other people's state of mind or emotion, and what is talked about as being able to "put one self in another person's shoes", sympathy is defined as concern and sorrow for another person's situation or misfortune. The idea that autistics lack empathy is known as Theory of Mind; the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own.

Looking at it now, a couple of months on, and with new experiences and understandings of myself as well as autism, I can see that I do not employ this theory of mind. Most of the time I am able to "use" it through the things I have learns about other people, feelings and "common courtesy", but when I'm stressed out, angry and panicked, I catch myself speaking and acting out my true feelings.

One of my greater flaws is my perfectionism. Although I can be very hard on myself to be as perfect as possible, I might be even harder with others, be it the mailman who is an hour late, or a salesperson in a store I gone to to get something I simply must have straight away (yet another flaw, my impatience).

Being able to recognize this flaw, and putting in the context of autism, I see that it is not simply that I am unreasonable, although I clearly am, but it's an unreasonableness I cannot help. The unreasonableness is a product of my lack of empathy, and I have to stop and think about it when I've calmed myself down that maybe, just maybe, this person cannot really do anything more than she or he already is. That is no excuse, thought, because now that I am aware of it, it is something I can work on.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coincidental books

After trying to find something to read earlier this summer, I stumbled across Anne Rice's The Witching Hour in our double-stacked bookshelves. Judging from the name and date written on the inside of the cover, it's been 4 or 7 years since I last read it, all depending on how you interpret my writing. Either way, I was glad to find the book. I remember liking it, and the rest of the Mayfair Chronicles "back then", and thought it'd be nice to read it again.

Reading is a slow process for me these days. I struggle a lot with my concentration. The book is slowly dragging along and I haven't made it as far as I used to, where a book of this size would be devoured in a day or so. But, at the same time, I've kept back, because although I've searched, I haven't been able to find the second book of the series, Lasher. A search on Amazon hasn't allowed me to track down the second book with the design matching that of the first, and last, book.

On Monday we went to town to run a couple of errands, and dropped by what once was a roleplaying/manga/anime store, though during the last couple of years, it's degenerated into an overprices comics and DVD-store. Imagine my joy when I found what I thought was the second book, the one I'm missing, stacked away amongst books from another series, only to come home and realize we've bought another "third book".

Going back today to exchange it for the proper book, I was fairly disappointed that they didn't have it in stock. They have taken my order to have it shipped from one of the other stores, if they have it, or from the US, which will take 3-5 weeks. Now that I think about it, I should just ask them to delete the order, as it will be faster for me to just get it from Amazon myself - either way it won't be the same cover design.

Trying to exchange the book, we're told we can't get out money back (this has been a problem with the store from day one, and it's not a common thing in Norway - to be honest, I doubt it's within the laws of purchase), but that we can either get a gift certificate to present when the book is back in stock, or we can exchange it for something else. Roaming through the shelves, I find a book that's been on my Amazon wish list for a few weeks, The Speed of Dark, so I happily purchase that instead. says:
"Corporate life in early 21st-century America is even more ruthless than it was at the turn of the millennium. Lou Arrendale, well compensated for his remarkable pattern-recognition skills, enjoys his job and expects never to lose it. But he has a new boss, a man who thinks Lou and the others in his building are a liability. Lou and his coworkers are autistic. And the new boss is going to fire Lou and all his coworkers--unless they agree to undergo an experimental new procedure to "cure" them.

In The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon has created a powerful, complex, and believable portrayal of a man who varies radically from what is defined as "normal." The author insightfully explores the nature of "normality," identity, choice, responsibility, free will, illness and health, and good and evil."

Husband found a book of his liking, as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New books

I received two new books in the mail today, which my husband ordered for me a week ago from Amazon. I was starting to worry that they would not get here before we leave for vacation on Thursday, but they did, so now I've got something to read.

The first is Survival Strategies for People on the Autism Spectrum by Marc Fleicher. It's a "self-help guide for autistic teenagers and adults" that will "help readers improve their quality of life and overcome everyday challenges". The table of context has chapters like The Worry of the 'What If?' Scenario, Rules of Socialising and Dealing with Uncertainty.

The second is Ask and Tell: Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum with foreword by Temple Grandin and edited by Stephen M. Shore. It contains articles by people like Ruth Elaine Joyner Hane (Communicating Through Advocacy and Self-Disclosure: Four Ways to Connect) and Liane Holliday Willey (Disclosure and Self-Advocacy: An Open Door Policy).

I hope these books can come in handy; I've been in contact with two men online. One is 28 and has been mis-diagnosed in the past, but got the diagnosis of Asperger's five years ago. The other is 46 and just this spring received his diagnosis. They're both dealing with how to tell others (family and friends, and potential employers and others who will need to know) about their autism. A thread was dedicated to how to be open about the diagnosis on an online message board and we've talked a bit about it there, sharing experiences and worries. I recommeded Coming out Asperger, and they've both bought that one in Norwegian. One of the men also bought a book on Asperger's and employment, but I'm unsure which as he didn't mention the author's name.

Have you read any good books and autism lately? Care to share a few titles?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Asperger's Syndrome in Adults - link

I know I keep sharing links with you all, but I happen to stumble upon several good sites or blogs these days. I hope you don't mind.

This has been lying in my RSS-feeder for some time now. My initial thoughts were to comment some of the stuff it mentions, like - symptoms in adults. But, I assume such an entry would be me repeating my symptoms, and I don't think that is necessary?

However, I do find it refreshing when someone writes about autism in adults, and I'm glad someone does it. It's hard finding good information on that subject, and even more so on autistic women.

Video and update

This old post barely touching the subject, and I still think she's better at explaining. I suggest you watch the video.

In other news;

I seem to be one of the statistics. One of those 13.5%.

I saw a doctor today, to receive a diagnosis of social anxiety. After turning of the TV, closing the door to the garden and then hiding behind the bed when the bell rang yesterday, I realized I cannot go on like this. Of course, there are other things as well - waiting to check the mail till the neighsbors are nowhere in sight, not being able to be outside as long as the neighbors can see me, trouble going to the store on my own, et cetera, et cetera. The list goes on.

The doctor was very kind, and agreed with my own conclusion. I had blood drawn just to make sure there's nothing else going on that could give the same symptoms (which I pretty much doubt).

I did not inform her of having Asperger's. I'm going back in August, unless there's something wrong with my blood tests, to talk about what to do now - therapy, group therapy and/or medication. I'm opting for the latter + sessions with the uni psychologist and/or group therapy. That'll be the time to bring up the AS, I think, as that'd the underlying cause as far as I can tell.