The Gap

It’s 6 a.m. I’ve almost been awake for two hours. I have two finals today. I should probably study for them but I don’t really feel like it. Instead I’ve been reading stories online and singing songs in my head. But mostly when I wake up this early, I just think.

I am not like anyone I have ever met. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that thinks like me. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it just means that I need to get to know more people. But I wake up at 4 a.m. singing Disney songs. I think about people all the time. I’m a people pleaser and people watcher and people analyzer. My best friend was frustrated with another friend of hers, and I told her what was probably going on. She told me later that I had been right. I’ve just spent my entire life learning about people, but I feel like I hardly know anything.

There seems to be a gap between me and the rest of the world. I have a lot of friends. Most are distant or just slightly closer than being an acquaintance, but they are friendly and we talk sometimes. I just feel separated. There seems to be a gap keeping me from becoming better friends with people.

I contemplate suicide a lot. It’s mostly in the quiet moments like this that I think it would be easier to just go, to silently slip out of everyone’s life. In truth, I never really want to die. I just want my situation on the outside to fit my feelings on the inside. I feel so far away from people emotionally that I just want to be that far away from them physically, like on another planet type of distance. Or I feel so torn up on the inside that I just want to be torn up on the outside to match all the things I’m feeling.

I know I’m going to do fairly well on my finals today, mostly because I don’t have to do very well. I have already calculated my grades and my final won’t make much of a difference. There’s something about life that I have never understood- how can it be so hard and so easy at the same time? I don’t think life is really that hard or complicated. You find something you want to do, learn how to do it, do your best at it, and try to make friends and have fun along the way. Yet, there is a dichotomy and a distance between physical life and emotional life. I want to be loved. I want to feel needed and wanted and important. That’s what we all want, right? And I know that I am. I am loved and needed and wanted. But there still seems to be a gap. Does everyone have that gap or is it just a product of my own creation?

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Keep Going

The other day, I did something that was impossible for me a year ago- I said hello to a friend in the grocery store. I know that probably sounds pretty trivial to most people, but I have never been able to greet someone if they were not looking directly at me. I have a hard time controlling my voice volume so I was always worried that I would be too loud and scare the person or that I would be too quiet and they wouldn’t hear me.

I also had a major fear of touching someone, like on the back or shoulder to let them know I was there, which is another thing that has changed recently. I have gotten “pins and needles” before when a friend rubbed my back. I was not used to being touched and my body reacted in negative ways to it. But the other day, a friend rubbed my back and there was such an incredible warmth that went through me. It felt like love radiated through me from the touch of their hand. It was such a beautiful and calming feeling.

Anyway, I said hello to this person in the store, and we had a conversation like we would at church or any other place I might see them. It was simple, natural, completely normal to any onlookers and something that person probably didn’t think twice about, but I was ecstatic. I texted another friend to celebrate my accomplishment. I had wanted to do this my entire life. I even asked for help on this blog at one point to get ideas about how I could learn to say hello to someone. It seemed like a daunting task at the time, but has become less terrifying as I have learned how to communicate and express myself better. In this moment, I celebrated how far I have come in the last few years.

I have come so far and made such amazing progress that I just want to encourage everyone to keep going, keep trying, keep working on getting better. Looking at all of my progress is almost unbelievable. Things that were impossible are now normal. Things that used to make me feel uncomfortable can now help me feel the incredible love others have for me. These changes have truly been a miracle. One of the biggest miracles is that most people don’t know how hard these things used to be for me. They see who I am now and think nothing of these major milestones because it fits me now. I have become the type of person that talks to people and loves and feels love, and that is probably my biggest miracle of all.

Grateful for Talking

I have never felt like I was very good at talking to people. I couldn’t say the letter “R” growing up, which made things even more awkward. I also didn’t have many friends so I didn’t get to practice talking as much as most children. I have a hard time translating my thoughts into words, or more accurately, translating my feelings into thoughts that can become words.

I have been grateful over the years for alternative forms of communication. I have used letters and notes often to tell people what I think and how I feel and to communicate information. I love alternative communication methods because it gives me a voice when I can’t express things any other way. However, I also really love talking.

I am so grateful for people that have allowed me to talk with them in the past few years. I don’t get the privilege of talking to people very often because most people end the conversation before I get a chance to process my thoughts. I have a few friends, though, that let me practice talking with them. They call me and let me figure out how to take turns on the phone without getting frustrated with me or ending the conversation prematurely. These conversations mean a great deal to me and I treasure them for weeks after.

It is still not easy for me to speak out loud. I struggle with conversations at times and can have long periods of awkward silence. But I am grateful for the ability to talk. I am grateful for the opportunities I get to talk to people. I am grateful that some people take the time to listen to me and be patient with me. It has helped me so much.

Don’t Step on a Crack

Since I was a child, I always avoided stepping on cracks, even the cracks between sidewalk tiles. I thought for a long time that it was because of the little rhyme, “don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.” I can be overprotective of my mother so it is not too surprising that I would avoid cracks just in case the saying was somehow true.

However, I am at the age where I don’t believe in the superstition of little rhymes. So, I decided that I would stop avoiding cracks quite as much and just step on them if they happened to land in my stride. After a few minutes of not trying to avoid cracks, I realized the real reason why I have avoided cracks all these years- I don’t like the way it feels to walk on a crack.¬†The uneven feeling under my shoes is uncomfortable to me. I dislike walking on cracks because I feel them as I step on them.

It was interesting for me to discover that the purpose behind avoiding cracks had a sensory reason. It made me wonder what other things I do for sensory reasons. I know there are a lot of things I do consciously because of sensitivity to noise or light, etc. I generally listen to music on the lowest audible setting. I use the tab on the rear view mirror while driving at night to dim the light of cars behind me. I also know that there are other things I do subconsciously, like walking on my toes or taking extra long strides while running. But it is interesting to think about the things I consciously do for subconscious reasons. For now, I am grateful to understand myself a little better, and I think I will keep avoiding cracks when I walk. ūüôā

Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by¬†The Sensory Spectrum¬†and¬†The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia!

Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop?¬†Click here!

I Am Loved

I am loved.

I have to remind myself of that often. I feel a little ridiculous in recounting all the things I do to remind myself that I am loved and wanted and important and of worth.

I have sticky notes in my car from friends saying encouraging things. I have pictures on my wall and my dresser and my nightstand. I have notes and letters on my nightstand and sticky notes on bed posts. I keep emails and texts and screenshots of especially meaningful texts and emails and Facebook statuses. I have a box under my bed, filled with every card or note or tiny piece of paper almost anyone has ever given me.

I used to take a particular street to get to my house because it passed a friend’s house and seeing it every day helped me remember that I have a friend. I kept a picture of my best friend from middle school on my dresser for 8 years even though we didn’t really stay friends after middle school because it reminded me that at some point, at some time, someone cared about me enough to give me a picture of them.

Things are different now. I am more loved than ever and feel it more than I ever have before. And yet… I still need to remind myself of it every day. And sometimes, I need others to remind me of it because my reminders are just not enough.

Is it ridiculous that after feeling like I didn’t really have friends for over a third of my life, that I still can’t believe it on most days? Is it ridiculous that I constantly need to be reminded that I am loved and wanted and people enjoy my company?

I still wonder why anyone would want to be around me. I still wonder why people even try to talk to me. I still feel like a stranger that will never fit in or belong in this world.

Does everyone’s past bother them this much? I feel like I have overcome a lot of my past. I have worked through a lot of stuff. I have healed and recovered and gotten better. Yet, there are times when I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all. Is it possible to stop doubting my worth? Is it possible to believe that I have friends that want to be my friend and that I’ll always have friends? Is it possible to believe in a reality that doesn’t seem real?

Do you ever wonder if you are loved? If you have worth? If you have friends? What do you do to remind yourself?

From Your Friend with Autism

I’m scared that I won’t know how to talk to you because I don’t.

I’m scared that you’ll leave because I’ve never kept a friend very long.

I’m scared that I don’t know how to be a friend because I haven’t had many.

I’m scared that I’m too much or too little because I can’t tell the difference.

I’m scared about how I feel because loving so much can lead to more hurt later.

I’m scared because I’ve never done this before.

I’m scared because I’m not good at reading signals.

I’m scared because I’m getting better, which makes it harder to handle if I mess up.

I’m scared because I don’t think you know how scared I am or how much I try.

But most of all, I’m scared because friendship means so much to me and I don’t know if or when I’ll get another chance.

Autistic Person vs. Person with Autism Follow-up

I wrote this post about 3 years ago, but never posted it because I was still unsure of how I felt about everything. However, after my last post, I feel this post will bring more understanding to my point of view.

I have never understood the whole debate between whether we should refer to someone that has been diagnosed with autism as an autistic person or a person with autism. Who decided that saying someone is autistic is an insult? Who decided that we lose value based on how we are labeled? Who decided that the order in which we say something connotes the importance of each part of the phrase? And ultimately, who decided that the order of words determines whether we are people first or disabilities first? Who decided that who we are has to be ordered?

To me the debate is completely unnecessary¬†and detracts from life as a whole. If we can’t even say a sentence without someone arguing about the way we phrase something, how can we possibly hope to have a wholesome and healing conversation about autism and what it really means?

Autism is a noun; autistic is the adjective of that noun. Why does this have to mean anything other than that? Why do people even talk about person first language? We are all people. Who says that saying we have a disability detracts from our value as people? Who says that saying we are autistic people means that we are less than saying we are people with autism?

And in reality maybe we should be asking, what makes autism less than the rest of the world? Why is autism considered less, not as valuable, demeaning? Autism is a disorder. But this does not make someone with autism of less worth than someone without autism. Is a blind person less than someone with sight? You who see the world differently, does that mean my world is of less quality than yours? Perhaps I could show you things in your world that you never even knew existed. Perhaps my world is of no less quality than yours. Maybe it is just different.

And that is what we need to realize. Autism is not less. Autism is not person first or disability first. Autism is not an insult or a lower standard of living. Autism is a difference. Autism is the reality of a world that the rest of the world may never know.

And it is okay to be different.