Bad Mother

So.

I talked to The Entitled Brat, I mean my son, today.

It came out that what he wants is A Real Mother, one that he can visit and smell cookies baking as he steps onto the welcoming front porch.  A place where he could always find me, from which I would never move.

He doesn’t want his mother to be a nomad, forever wandering about in her camper enjoying Nature, meeting other interesting nomads-by-choice, writing and photographing and living the rest of her life doing what makes her happy.

No.

He wants his mother to do what makes HIM happy.

And he’s willing to make life unpleasant for his mother, should she make the mistake of taking up an invitation to spend a holiday with him (and get thrown out, because her presence irks him).

He does not regret throwing me out at Thanksgiving.  The opposite: “he needed his space.”

Lovely readers, I have done everything in my power to help this 30 year old child have a happy life.

He doesn’t see it that way.

What he sees is that I moved him around too much, and holds that against me.

We did move three times. And for someone on the Autistic Spectrum that can be traumatic.  His father moved once, across town, when he was a child, and still can’t get over it.

You know, there are only so many times I can apologize for the way my life has gone and the way it has affected him.  And then, On The Spectrum (which he fiercely denies) or not, he’s got to take the reins and determine his own destiny.

Even if he does have…

A bad mother

I Feel Like A Jerk

Have you ever felt like a jerk?  Huh?  Have you?  Sure?  Noooo, not really!

Well, I do.  I feel like a total jerk.  It’s one of the manifestations of my complete and total discomfort with Who I Am.

Yes, and it’s part of the problem with being an Aspie.  Yes, I know I haven’t written about being an Aspie before.  That’s because I didn’t have a “formal diagnosis,” just a lingering suspicion buoyed up by results of countless online quizzes.

I have confronted my psychologist about this a number of times, and she has hemmed and hawed about it, and said things like, “Haven’t we been over this ground before” and “You know you are, so why do you need a formal diagnosis?”

DAMMIT, I NEED THE FORMAL DIAGNOSIS SO THAT WHEN I TOTALLY FUCK UP AND MISINTERPRET SOMEONE’S INTENTIONS, I CAN LOOK AT MYSELF AND INSTEAD OF FEELING LIKE A TOTAL JERK, I CAN SHRUG AND SAY, “I’M AN ASPIE, AND ASPIES OFTEN MISINTERPRET PEOPLE’S MEANING, THAT’S ALL.”

She doesn’t get it.  She is so awfully, awfully neurotypical, it’s starting to get on my nerves.

One of several reasons I feel like a jerk at this moment is that I have already actually been a jerk twice that I know of, just this week, and it’s only Wednesday; and I suspect that one of the jerkees might have outed me to another person whose esteem I value, thus spreading the jerkness high and low.

And still I hear Dr. What’s-Her-Name saying, a bit irritably, “You’ve got plenty of diagnoses already.  What do you want with another one?”

I want a reason for why I misunderstand people all the time, for why I’m so naive, for why I get taken in by people with ill intentions all the time, for why I never, ever, for one moment have felt like I belong on this planet.  THAT’S what I want.

I want this diagnosis to be formalized so that when I do some stupid thing for an Aspie reason, I can just go ahead and say to myself, “Well, there you go, being an Aspie again, you couldn’t have seen that one coming but please try not to do that one again.”

She can’t fathom why in the world having a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, NOS would be such a comfort to me.  I have tried to get her to understand:

VALIDATION, VALIDATION, VALIDATION.  Did I say it loud enough? 

No, probably not, because I can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic and saying yes, of course, I know you’re an Aspie, so why are we even having this conversation?  Or conversely, no, I don’t think you’re an Aspie, so why are you harping on this?

Ugh.  I don’t know why I have to fight for a formal diagnosis of the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF MY SELF-NESS of all.

Yes, I am bipolar, have ADD, PTSD, LMNOP alphabet soup…But the one thing that has given me my triumphs and caused the most pain is Asperger’s Syndrome.

Syndrome.  Not disorder, although it has served me up plenty of disorder.  Yep, we even talked all about the various types of miseries Asperger’s has got me into.

But really, I feel like a jerk, and I don’t even want to explain why.

The Power of Unconditional Love

Listen, I don’t pretend to be a perfect practitioner of unconditional love. I wish I was. My loved ones would have had such better lives, had I had any notion of what unconditional love could do.

For example, on July 20 I bought a skinny, sick, fearful dog, for a ridiculous sum of money. I was in a terrifically needy state, having lost my beloved dog Aress to a freak accident. I looked into this pitiful sick doggie’s soft brown eyes, paid the sum, and took her home.

It was clear that she had never been in a real house before. OK, I don’t really live in a “real house,” since I make my home in a fancy van. But it is undeniably a home, and it was clear that she had never been in one. She lived in a kennel outdoors, was taken out to train, and put back in her kennel. From her lamentable condition, it was also clear that nobody had ever paid much attention to her.

In the six or so weeks that I’ve had her, she’s become a sleek, happy pup who loves almost everybody except people she deems untrustworthy. This is her job, and she does it well. She’s affectionate to the point of occasional annoyance, since there are things that must be done (according to me), like writing, doing chores, paying bills…but to Atina, these are annoyances to her, for damn the torpedoes, the play must go on!

An old buddy of mine stopped by to camp for a few days (hi, pal, in case you’re reading this!). I showed him the picture of Atina when I first got her. You could count her ribs and all her vertebrae, and the bones of her pelvis stood out like a sick cow’s. Her coat was dull and ratty: so much so that I had her tested for mange.

My friend asked me how I had managed to rehabilitate her into the sleek, happy girl she is today. I shrugged.

“Love,” he said quietly. I nodded, tears stinging.

Although he gets furious when I bring up the topic and vigorously denies it, my son is a very high functioning autistic. He learned to speak before the age of one, and before that, he developed his own version of sign language. By 19 months he could count to 19, and by three he could tell you the names of every dinosaur known to man, where they had been discovered, and what they did, their diets, their habitats, and what era they lived in. By four he had taught himself to read and do basic arithmetic via “Reader Rabbit” and “Math Blaster” on our desktop Mac.

On the other hand, he hated anything to do with other children, refused to participate in preschool, and whenever possible isolated himself in corners, absorbed in a book or playing with his plastic dinosaurs or action figures. At three, he was already seeing a child psychologist. We managed to get through private kindergarten in five-minute segments. If he cooperated and sat in the circle with the rest of the children for five minutes, he got to go to his corner and be alone for fifteen minutes. Later in the year he discovered the school office and became enamored with the laminating machine, so he became more motivated to sit for five minutes so that he could run to the office and laminate for fifteen.

First grade was a bust, as far as the teacher was concerned. We enrolled him in a progressive Quaker school: small class size, emphasis on art and music, compassionate teachers–what could be better? Nothing, I guess. Literally nothing. My son staidly refused to cooperate with anything whatsoever. His teacher, a caring and earnest young man, could not get him to do anything. He retreated to a corner and refused to come out. Somehow he managed to ace all the tests, though. But he would not come out of his corner, nor would he speak a word. The teacher called me on a weekly basis.

“He refuses to participate. What shall I do?”

I was busy, harried, frustrated and sleep deprived, so my stock answer was, “You’re his teacher. YOU find a way.”

This did not work.

Finally I had a brainstorm: “Make him the class scribe. Give him a tape recorder, and have him sit just outside the class circle and record everything. This way he’ll feel like he’s got an important job and is not simply one of the (muggles, but that word had not yet been coined by Rowling).”

It worked. We managed to make it through first grade without any further conflict.

In later years, I experienced what happened when I tried to force my son into anxiety-producing behaviors using negative consequences. He either withdrew, or else he simply sat down on the floor and crossed his arms, earning him the nickname “Sitting Bull”. When he got older, he became threatening and intimidating. I was not about to knuckle under, so I upped the ante, and so did he. Soon a full-blown war was in progress.

Now, I don’t believe in accepting bad behavior, not even from a “special” child. But there are ways, and then there are ways.

My moment of epiphany dawned upon reading Karen Pryor’s amazing book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. Pryor was the head porpoise and Killer Whale trainer at Sea World for many years. Now, you can’t make a large sea mammal do anything it doesn’t want to do. You have to make doing the desired behavior so attractive, that said mammal would rather do it than just swim around and play, like porpoises like to do. You have to make it fun to do what you want them to do.

Pryor’s book, as its title implies, carries this philosophy over to dog training. At the time her book was published, most dog training was based on negative reinforcement: You don’t do what I want, you get your neck jerked, you get yelled at, you might even get hit with a rolled-up newspaper for doing your business where you’re not supposed to.

Pryor applied what she had learned as a sea-mammal trainer to dog training. Thus, lucky dogs found out that doing the desired behavior resulted in treats and praise, while negative behaviors got them…nothing. Ignored. Exactly what a social mammal desperately does not want.

Of course, psychology students already knew this from getting rats to do things that humans had a hard time with, by simply having a tasty treat at the end of the maze. But applying methods that worked with “lower life forms” to humans? How insulting. Humans ought to just know that what they were doing was good or bad. Adam and Eve, right? Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, and stuff like that.

The Behaviorist School of Psychology, pioneered by B.F. Skinner, showed that positive behaviors rewarded with positive reinforcement produced more positive behaviors, while negative reinforcement inhibited negative behaviors. A third strategy was called “extinguishment.” You do what I want, you get left alone to do what you want. You don’t do what I want…nothing. The behavior “extinguishes,” for want of reaction. In many cases this worked better than negative consequences such as electric shocks. (N.B.: a rumor somehow began that Skinner experimented on his own child by placing her in a “sensory deprivation” cage. This is not true.)

Pryor capitalized on Skinner’s Behaviorist School of psychology and its “behavior shaping” model in her sea mammal training program. She then morphed it over to dog training…and concluded her book with a chapter on shaping the behavior of humans.

I can’t say that I ever mastered behavior shaping, either in dogs or in humans, but I have tried to incorporate it, when I remember.

What I’ve learned through the years, though, is to assimilate and practice the art of “Love the person, even if you hate the behavior.”

I have always loved my son, completely and passionately, even when I was dodging head-butts when bear-hugging him through an autistic melt-down, or once again leaving a cart full of groceries in the checkout line when all those people were just too much for him, or agonizing through the time he was in and out of countless outpatient and inpatient addiction programs as a teenager, or sitting up nights worrying when his stepmother threw him out and he lived in a drug house, on the street, in a homeless shelter, in a psychiatric ward zombied out on legal drugs.

Finally he got arrested, and this was my chance to save his life. I called the judge, whom I knew from my work with the court system (yes, this was taking advantage of my position), and begged him to remand my son to long-term inpatient care. The judge reprimanded me for calling him, but honored my request.

After a long period of searching, we found the perfect place. The students were held to a strict policy of personal accountability. Positive behaviors were rewarded with increased privileges; breaches of the rules resulted in suspension of free time, which was instead spent writing a paper examining the undesirable behavior, why the kid did it, what the internal meaning of the behavior was, and why this was counterproductive to the kid’s development as a productive, independent, successful individual. The student then presented the paper to a mentor, who helped process the ideas and helped the kid internalize them. There was still a consequence in terms of loss of privileges for a finite period, and a defined way to regain the lost privileges.

In this way the teens learned that self-determined productive behaviors resulted in more freedoms. In addition to these interventions, the kids had daily group therapy, thrice-weekly individual therapy, a staff mentor who was always available for processing issues, family therapy monthly, and many other interventions. It turned many lives around. It gave my son tools that he is still using, ten years later.

For me, it reinforced that the power of unconditional love moves mountains and saves lives.

Amen.

Don’t Make Any Noise And You Won’t Get Hurt

My policy on this blog is not to post trigger warnings; in this case, I make an exception.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, think carefully about reading this post.  It contains graphic images of sexual predation, and could be triggering to anyone who has suffered sexual violence.  Please be careful.

Some of the following is included in my upcoming memoir, A Runaway Life, and in my novel-in-progress, The Beanbag Chair.  I’m sharing it with you here because I know that for every survivor of sexual violence who seeks treatment, there are untold numbers who don’t, and who live with the horror, shame, and destruction of the integrity of the self and the soul that sexual violence begets.

My first personal encounter with a Male-factor–as we used to call them during my tenure as expert examiner on child sexual abuse cases for a State District Attorney’s Office in a Northeastern state in America–was at age sixteen.

Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

I knew nothing about sex beyond veiled inferences gleaned from “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” swiped from my parents’ library and read over and over, to try to figure out what all that language was referring to.  I had seen the heifers in heat mounting each other in the pasture next door, but had no idea what they were trying to accomplish.  I had no frame of reference.

I was sixteen.  My interests were Latin, natural science, poetry, music, and art.  At sixteen I was permitted to date, but the boys in the country backwater school I attended were either brutish dolts or eggheads like myself who tended to stay at home trying to teach themselves Greek.

My mother continued her perennial assault on my self-image via an uninterrupted stream of verbal, psychological, and sometimes physical abuse.  My depressions grew blacker, my desire for relief by any means more intense, until finally I despaired of ever finding truth in living, and debated within myself whether this life was actual reality, or perhaps was a construct by some demonic mind for whom I was a toy.

An older man I met in the burger joint where I worked on the weekends admired my legs and asked me for a date.  I was flattered.  Someone thought I was attractive.  I got my mother’s permission–she was thrilled–and I went with him.

The details of that date have been published elsewhere.

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

I woke up to those words, still muzzy from the drug he had slipped me.  In the dark basement, his hand clamped over my mouth, my back squashed painfully into the cold concrete floor covered with moldy carpeting…..and the searing pain jolting through my body until at last he tore through, not through my hymen, but to the side of it, so that for many years I had not one but two openings there.  (At last in my 40’s I had the courage to take at least some of my body back, and had that part surgically removed.  Later I had a second surgery to try to repair the damage to the muscle between my vagina and my rectum, but that has mostly failed.)

After he finished with me, he bundled me back into his car and let me out in the dirt circle that stood in for my parents’ driveway, my blood soaking through my new spring coat.

That was my initiation into the cold, dark terrorism that is rape.  My virgin sex, shredded beyond repair.

I ran away from “home,” hoping to find relief, but ended up homeless, being raped when I asked for bread, for shelter, for medical care.

I look at the few pictures of myself from that time.  I was so young.  I looked thirteen at the most.  I had no figure, even though my mother’s pet name for me was “fat-ass.”  The eyes looking out of the delicate triangular face were hollow and haunted.

Fast forward two years, and I was living with a kind and honest couple who had taken an interest in helping me pull myself out of the life on the street.

The Viet Nam war was still raging, and I was a dedicated anti-war activist, a still-passionate Peacenik who believed that Good could triumph over Evil if only The People would shout it out loud enough.

Young Mr. Doctor-To-Be frequently managed to take time out from his medical studies at Boston University to help organize rallies.  We were Peace Rally Comrades, nothing more.

That time, I had incapacitating menstrual cramps in the midst of a rally on Boston Common.  The rally had such a huge turn-out that the riot cops were exercising their batons.  I was fainting and nauseous.  Mr. Not Yet Doctor fanned my sweaty face with his poster and proposed that we go to his apartment, where he had some medicine that would relieve my cramps.  Even though I had recently come off the streets, I did not doubt his intentions.  Have I told you that I’m Autistic?  I’m Autistic.  I can’t read intentions.

He half-carried me to his apartment.  I remember a dark stairwell, and being “helped” up the stairs.  I remember the small white bedroom with its unremarkable furnishings.  I remember being told to take off my panties and lie down.  I remember wondering why that was necessary, but he must certainly know because he was the Almost-Doctor.

I remember his voice as he hissed in my ear:

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

He took something out of his shirt pocket: a penlight, such as all doctors have in their pockets.  I thought he was going to look at me with it, and froze.

He raped me with it, and as he did, he masturbated, and when he was finished he told me to go.

I climbed down from his bed, numb and bleeding, fumbled my way down the dark stairway and into the bright-white sunlight, dazed, blood running into my sandals, squish, squish.

I was in a part of Boston I had never seen before.  I managed to get home somehow, my long skirts hiding the blood.

Fast forward three years and many events less dramatic than those.

Irish flute master classes with a famous and now dead Irish flute master.  (NOT James Galway, thanks to G-d.  And NOT Cathal McConnell.)

One day he refused my payment for my lesson.  I thought that was odd, but did not understand the implications.  I Am Autistic.

He got his tween coat, and off we went to the Custom House Tap, where we played duets for Black-And-Tans until we were both solidly drunk.  He invited himself to my place for tea.  We had not even got off the sidewalk when it started.  This part I cannot write, for it is too triggering for me even to remember.  But I didn’t run away.  I was like a rabbit transfixed by the hard gaze of the wolf.  I went along.  I let him into my apartment.  It got worse.  Then it got horrible.  Then he left me, gagging and bleeding, and I never heard anything more from him.  Several years ago I went about trying to find his whereabouts.  No purpose in mind; I just wanted to know.

The obituary said he had drowned while taking a swim off his private dock in Martha’s Vineyard.  The pit of my stomach was cold: just as cold as that night that he rammed himself down my throat until I lost consciousness, waking choking on my own blood and his disgusting fluids.

Why do I wonder that it’s so hard to trust?  Why do I feel as if around every corner there is something huge waiting for me, a muddy black smudge beckoning, threatening to take me over and obliterate me again and again and again?

Why do I feel a terror of closed spaces, a dread of not being able to escape?  Why must I always have my back to a wall, facing the door, and know every escape route?

Why, when I think of being imprisoned, does the panic rise in my throat, and thoughts of suicide race through my head?

“Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

 

 

The Honesty Tax Again

Ladies and Gentlemen, gentle readers: I adjure you to tread softly when you review books on any site where books are reviewed.

As most of you know, I am autistic.  I have little to no ability to soft-pedal, and no ability whatsoever to suck up to people, whether they are potential customers for something I might be selling on eBay, or whether they have written a book that has drawn accolades from well-known reviewers.

And so it was that, having bought a book from an online bookseller, having read that book, and having been asked by the bookseller to review it, I did so.

The book didn’t float my boat.  In my opinion, it lacked a good deal.  My review was much more reserved than my full-on opinion, but in the interest of giving the author a break and not putting potential readers off, I went easy.

It seems that my review wounded the author’s feelings, and he sent me a letter.  This surprised me.

I have never considered myself an important writer, and certainly not an important reviewer.

The letter I received from the author of said book made me wonder if I had morphed overnight into some lauded writer, whose “C+” review might actually mean something.

It accused me of everything from sullying the author’s reputation, to negatively affecting his income, to damaging his health.

Good grief!  The next thing, I fear, will be a letter from said author’s attorney, or worse yet, a summons of some kind.

Grief, grief, grief.

The reason I am sitting here in this barn–yes, I do mean barn, literally, not figuratively–is that fourteen years ago, I opened a registered letter.  It informed me that I was being sued for half a million dollars, and that I was summoned to a hearing in a far-away state.  I barely had the means to put beans on top of rice, not to mention traveling!

At that time, gentle readers, I had just lost my job; my child was desperately ill;  and I was already spiraling into the depths of a depression that was resistant to every antidepressant on the market, because it was a Bipolar Depression, which behaves differently from Major Depressive Disorder.  Antidepressants just make things worse.  The specter of ECT loomed on my horizon.  I fought it off with brooms, and cans and cans of Raid™.

That Registered Letter was the straw that catalyzed my first hospitalization.  But that did nothing to avert the rumble of the approaching juggernaut of the pending lawsuit.  Stomp, stomp, stomp, like a bad Japanese movie.  Only this was no movie.

All of the lawyers I contacted said the suit was a frivolous attempt by the plaintiff to gouge money out of hundreds of caregivers, and that I would certainly be exonerated, and could then file a countersuit for damages.The only thing was, the lawyers wanted a retainer of $25,000-$35,000 up front.  And I was penniless.

So I did the only thing I could do: I went bankrupt.  The few things of value I still had to my name went away in one horror-struck day.

I will never forget seeing the repossessors come and haul away the little car that I had used for work and house calls.  My big horse trailer went too.  Anything else of value was carried off in due time.  I was left sitting in a mostly empty single-wide trailer, on land that was thankfully untouchable by the vultures that swirled around my head.

Now that I am in fact homeless, I feel more at ease, because I don’t have anything to steal.  I don’t even have a reputation to feed and care for.  I am Just Me.

I no longer accept registered letters.  If it’s a check from Publisher’s Clearing House for a million dollars, I imagine they might call.  Or maybe not.  What does it matter?

At this point, my energy reserves are at their nadir.  I have just spent nearly four years helping my father to die, in great pain and suffering for both of us.  I’m happy that his suffering is over; and I must say that it is a great relief, as I feel very sure that he is in a good place and out of pain.  But it’s taken an enormous toll on my own resistance to diseases, physical and psychological.

The aforementioned author’s thinly veiled threatening letter has set off a cascade of paranoid thoughts: what would I do if he decided to sue me for….for….um, for honestly reviewing his book?  What has the world come to?

What would I do?

I am weary.  I don’t know how much more I can take.  There are times when I long to go up on some high mountaintop with a fifth of good single-malt, and drink it until I become numb, and let the bitter cold of the night take me Home.

And then I think: how well do I know the evils of this world!  But–what if there really is an Afterlife?  What if there really is a God, who gave us laws?  What if suicide is seen as murder, in that Other World?  Meh.  I just want This World to be over.

I am sick and tired of paying the Honesty Tax.

I wanna go Home.

 

The Whole Social Media Thing

To begin with, I can’t see sh*t.  That is because I got new glasses about a month ago, with the usual promise that “I will get used to them.”  Having worn glasses for 53 years, I do have some experience with that phenomenon.  These are wrong, and I’ve been round and round with the eye people about them, so until I get that straightened out (probably by forfeiting the $385 they cost me and going elsewhere), I have about a centimeter of lens in my left eye that I can actually see out of.  So if I make typos (horrors!) here, please forgive Little Miss Picky because she is mostly blind at the moment.

Social media: WordPress.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Google Hangouts.  Google Plus.  Or is it Google+?  I don’t care.  For some reason it infuriates me.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of chaos that overcomes me when I know for sure that I have no control whatsoever regarding what little groups, or big, or medium groups I get included in.  I’ve tried posting on Google+ that I don’t want to be included in it.  Of course that generated discussion, good-byes, and affirmations that people would respect my wishes.

Not.  I keep getting family photos, adorable pictures of the new baby sister, etc., all on Google+.  I don’t respond to any of it, so the way I know it was heaved in my general direction via Google+ is when I get an irate, or disappointed, or whatever negative emotional reaction, in my actual email inbox.

Other people try to send me stuff (or register their displeasure at my non-response to Google+) via Facebook.  I look at Facebook, oh, maybe once every two or three months, except when there is a war and then everyone in my country uses it to communicate so I am on several times a day.

Quiet returns, I’m no longer there.

Oh right, Skype.  F*ck Skype.  They send me all kinds of communications in I think Icelandish, by the look of it.  I don’t understand that language.  I do use Skype once or twice a year, but I sure as hell do not leave it open so that it can start ringing and disturb my train of thought.  Anyone who knows me well enough to Skype me knows my email address.  We can make an appointment.

Twitter.  Yeah, I’m sure it’s really useful, especially in times of war and natural disaster.  It’s just that, people, I am on the autistic spectrum and I just don’t care about most things.  I care about my family, my dog, my son especially, my ethnic group, the scary situation with the honeybees, the scary situation with the bats (another very important creature that most people don’t even know about), the bad things that are done to whales by our “Defense Department(s),” and other things I’m quite sure most other people don’t know about and might not care about even if they did know about them.  I do not give one shit or Shinola about my mother’s hellish cat.

So Twitter, unless there is a war or natural disaster that you want to keep up with, is just plain intrusive.  I finally figured out how to turn off audio notifications in my current flavor of Android (who the f*ck cares whether it’s “Ice Cream Soda” or “Strawberry Suppository”?).  They’re just trying to keep up with Apple’s infuriating system of naming their big operating systems after big cats.  Jeeezus K. Reist (thank you R. Crumb), not only do we have to figure out how to stop the effing Apple Store from taking over the whole damn computer, but in addition have to remember what CAT we’re running?  I HATE that.  “Hello, Applecare, there is black smoke coming out from under my keyboard.”  “Oh I’m sorry to hear that, are you running Leopard, Snow Leopard, or Abominable Snowman today?”  “There’s no such OS as Abominable Snowman.”  “Oh yes ma’am, you’re right, I was just fucking with your head.  Now how may I help you today?”  (I discreetly send reverse amplification to their dumb and dumber terminal, causing a chain reaction on their side that blows every circuit in their personal MacBook Pro Titanium, and also gives them a hell of a toothache.

So.  No, Twitter gives me a headache.  Use my email if you want to talk to me, OK?

There’s an email in my right sidebar.  You’re welcome and encouraged to use it!  And of course I fastidiously monitor and respond to comments on my blogs!  That’s where I really feel there is a personal connection.  It’s great for people on the Autistic Spectrum, because you can interact on a personal level without ever having to do air kisses, or hug people you don’t know, or try to avoid people crushing your arthritic hands in their “firm handshake,” or smelling their idea of perfume that makes you gag, or making eye contact for any reason.  Right.  It is a panacea for all of the threatening forms of social intercourse, while opening space for actual exchange of ideas and, yes, emotion, Dr. Spock.

In the meantime, well….there really isn’t any meantime, since you’ve already read all about it above!

Love yas all, peace…..

The Dinner Guest

I went to a dinner party at my parents’ house tonight.

I wasn’t invited.

Only big deal art collectors and a big deal artist were invited.

My parents live one minute away from my rude yet adequate dwelling–my father’s former studio, just a pole building really.

The way I found out about the dinner party was that my mother was whining on the phone about having to cook again, after having had a dinner party last night, to which I also was not invited.  The guests were the same art collectors.  They bought a lot of stuff, you know.

She was having ribs tonight.  I don’t eat pork.  Maybe that’s why she didn’t invite me.

I decided to make an appearance anyway.  I didn’t dress up: I wasn’t an invited guest.  Jeans and a clean shirt, good enough for a “just dropped in.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence when I walked through the door.  They were just sitting down.  The big deal art collectors offered to make me a place at the table.  No thank you, I smiled, I’ve just come by to say hi. The female art collector hugged me.  So did her husband.  The big deal local artist who can’t stand me and makes no bones about it, didn’t want to hug me but I hugged her just to piss her off.  Don’t ask me why she can’t stand me.  I don’t know and I don’t care.

My mother flew at me to try to hug me for the benefit of her invited guests: pretending to be glad to see me, as if I had just blown in from far away instead of down the dirt path.  I sidestepped her.

My dad, of course, was ecstatic to see me, and showed it.  That’s all I wanted.  That’s all I came for.  That, and to let Boo Radley make a public appearance.

And–I admit it–to make a small, silent statement: there is a daughter.  She lives one minute down the path, but we don’t invite her…or speak about her.  She’s disabled…..but we can’t say how, so we just don’t mention her.  And we certainly don’t invite her.

I stayed three-quarters of an hour, enough to be polite.  For table talk, my mother announced she had booked a massage with the new massage therapist in town.  Big deal artist said she’d already been (of course).  I asked her the details, what it cost.  A dollar a minute.  Maybe I could trade her, I said.  Lots of massage therapists are happy to trade with me.

My mother snorted audibly(cringe).  “What have you got to trade?”  Acid dripping on the floor.  Sssssssssss………

“Acupuncture,” I answered.

“What?”  As if she hadn’t heard me the first time.

“Acupuncture, or a custom perfume.”  My voice sounded hollow in my ears.  The noises of the dinner party pounded.  The woman rich art collector looked up sharply.  She had heard.  How could she not have?  My mother’s voice is famous for its booming quality.  She does not need a microphone.

I sat silent in my chair, which I had pulled up outside the inner circle of diners.  Images flashed: little girl circulating the loud and laughing room with trays of hors d’oeuvre,  smiling politely, speaking when spoken to and shutting up at the hard glance across the room.  Back to the kitchen to reload the tray, careful to make an artful arrangement for the guests to dismantle one by one, or maybe by twos and threes if it was caviar on cream cheese.

Then help serve the meal, and sit quietly (“children are to be seen and not heard”) unless there happened to be one of my special adult friends present, in which case I was allowed to sit next to them and talk for a little while, as long as I was not “monopolizing” them. It’s important that children learn how to conduct themselves at dinner parties, especially when there are honored guests, so that they don’t embarrass their parents.

After clearing the table (“Thank you, dear”) I was expected to disappear to my room, which is where I wanted to be, while the adults repaired to the living room to get drunk.

I stood, carefully replaced my chair where I had found it, and put on my wraps.  It’s still a bit chilly here, nights.

“Oh, are you leaving us?” cries the big deal art collector woman.

“You’re leaving?” says dad, tearing up.  I can’t kiss the top of his bald head because my mother is swinging at me, trying for a fake hug, and he’s stuck on the other side of her.   Leave it for tomorrow.

I smile and say goodbye, hope to see you again soon, making eye contact with the big deal art collectors.  Fuck the big deal artist, she can’t stand me anyway.  And she’s parked her gently ostentatious new car in an impossible place in the driveway.  I have to make a 5-point turn to get around her.

Back in my pole barn, I feel like having a drink or two or three or four, but I know it will only give me a bigger headache.  What about organizing some of this unbelievable clutter instead?  Do something constructive, shake it off.

Leave it for tomorrow.

Pass the hors d’oeuvres, please.

 

Once an Aspie, always an Aspie

I had a very Aspie day today.

On Autistic Spectrum forums (actually the word is “fora” because “forum” is Latin and its plural is “fora” but since nobody would know what I meant I left it “forums” which is incorrect) (you see what I mean?) I rant and rave about the fact that “autistic children” grow up to be “autistic adults” but everyone associates the word “autistic” with “children.”  Admit it:  I say the word “autistic,” what’s the word association that pops into your mind?  “Child” or “children,” dollars to donuts.

Anyway of course nobody on the fora disagrees with me so I can rant all I want to.  But today, after doing something socially awkward for the 20,000th time, I realized that once an Autistic Spectrum child, always an Autistic Spectrum child.  It still hurts just as bad to be excluded from a conversation that I invited myself into as it did when I would try to insinuate my undesirable self into a game of jumprope or kickball.  No one wanted to play with me because I was WEIRD.

Well, I’m still weird, and I still have trouble taking turns and waiting to be picked for Red Rover.  I never did get picked for Red Rover because I was Weird and Not Popular.  And socially awkward, and completely baffled by the behavior of other children.  It was WRONG.  It was not FAIR.  They had their cliques and I was not in any of them.

So now, when I find myself in those same sorts of uncomfortable situations when I don’t know how one is supposed to behave, and I decide to be brave and take a flyer at it and it turns out to be the wrong one, and I get those same looks, stares, and then they turn away or just leave, why, I realize that although my body has aged, I’m STILL an Autistic Child.  So maybe I shouldn’t get all bent out of shape when all the media etc. ever talks about is Autistic Children.

My Mental Magic Shield

I just had a revelation.  I’ve always told everybody something I learned in my NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner course in 1997-98, which is, All Illness Has A Purpose.  All illness has a message that your body is trying to teach you.  Even when it’s a horrible illness, like God forbid cancer, or Lou Gherig’s disease (did I spell that right?), or you name it.  The reason for the disease is to give you the opportunity to grow the spiritual organs that you are missing.

Hard one to swallow, eh?  Yeah, for me too.  I’m always grateful that I don’t have anything worse than what I have, although in suicidal moments (or days, weeks, months, or years) it seems as if I really could not feel worse no matter what was being done to me.

But tonight, as I was alternately reading stuff on children of narcissistic mothers (I have one: a narcissistic mother who is the daughter of a narcissistic mother–what a joy) and a 1981 textbook on runaways, what causes them and what to do with them (I was a runaway in 1970-71), I got a revelation.  What do my psychiatric diagnoses do for me?  They shield me.  They stand between me and the world.

This is a double edged sword.  Because my Bipolar Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (which I do not think of as a disorder, but an advantage) put me one level of separation away from the world, I feel isolated a lot.  I used to feel lonely, but now I feel more comfortable when I’m alone, which is 99.5% of the time.  On the positive side, my “disorders” protect me from a lot of the slings and arrows I would otherwise be subject to, if I was out in the world and participating in it.

Twice that I can remember, some other human being was trying to coerce me into doing their will, and I said “Don’t do that, you’re hurting me, you know I’m mentally ill,” and they stopped.  So that was a positive way to use my illness as a defense.  On the other hand, it would have been much healthier to say “stop doing that because it’s a shit thing to do and I won’t put up with it.”  Now THAT would be a healthy way of defending one’s self.  But since I wasn’t up to it because I actually WAS feeling ill, using my illness as a shield was a good strategy, I think.

On the other hand, I don’t wish to cultivate this defense mechanism, because I think it could become a habit: “oh, poor me, I’m mentally ill, don’t stress me out.”  When actually, what I should be saying is “Hey, don’t fuck with me, you’re taking advantage of me, you’re trying to abuse me, you’re seriously pushing my buttons.”  But that has always been a problem for me, because of the way I was raised.

When I was a child, “back-talk” was rewarded with “back-hand” across the mouth, prolonged tirades including belittlement, insults, curses, and other forms of crushing.  The Silent Treatment usually followed.  Banishment to one’s room was routine; but as soon as I got old enough to grok the situation, I stayed in my room voluntarily, or stayed outside, even if it was cold or raining, rather than be in the nasty indoor weather.

So I learned to say as little as possible, if confronted by negativity or abuse.  I always laugh when I read accounts of rape trials where they look for signs of struggle on the girl’s part.  Oh yeah, great if they find his skin under her fingernails; but let’s be realistic: when some dude who is twice your size says, “don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt,” you’re probably going to keep as quiet as possible and let it get over with so he will go away and leave you to your quiet private hell.  I know that one very well.  Way too well.

I have to say I think I was more of a rape-magnet because of my abusive upbringing.  When your mother tells you you’re nothing, you’re shit, etc., etc., etc., after a while your subconscious incorporates that into its reality, and it becomes part of your personality, that you are somehow substandard protoplasm, and rapists get that on their radar from miles away.  It’s like, shit, if there was some asshole wanting to rape somebody in the general vicinity, all he had to do was turn around and, pow, there I was, telepathy or something.

That was before I figured out that I was crazy and therefore had a good reason for people not to fuck with me.  I have permission now to get really, really angry.  I can unload on people if I get that pushed.  But it freaks me out, because I am a pacifist.  I unloaded on a particularly toxic asshole last year.  It was the first time in my life I have ever done that.  No, it was the second time.  The first time was when my ex-husband “forgot” to come home from work one night.

So I’d much rather use my magic shield: I’m mentally ill, don’t fuck with me.  I don’t know how healthy that is, but it’s better than heaving a vase at their head.

Mass Murder and Psychiatry – Psychiatric Times

Mass Murder and Psychiatry – Psychiatric Times

I read this article three times over, and I’m still reeling from what I think it said.

I think this article said that:

1)  People with psychiatric illnesses should be considered at risk for committing mass murders should they chance to get their hands on automatic weapons, and know how to use them;

2)  People with psychiatric disorders don’t really have disorders, but diseases;

3) People with “psychiatric diseases” are potentially vessels of evil, as the author experienced in the prison population.

I think this article itself is a vessel of evil.  Please correct me if this is just me being my usual paranoid self.  I admit to being particularly paranoid since the latest mass killing was attributed to a person on the Spectrum.  As a person on the Spectrum myself, this type of finger-pointing that stigmatizes all of us makes me want to hide even more than I customarily do.  I don’t know how that would be possible, since I only go out in public once a week, for my therapy session; but there you go.

Please help me out, Dear Readers.  Am I just being hyper-paranoid here, or has this guy really stamped the Mark of Cain on the forehead of everyone already branded with a DSM diagnosis?  Help me out here.

Mass Murder and Psychiatry – Psychiatric Times