The Need for Opportunities

Not many people realize I have autism. It is not a topic that comes up very often in everyday conversations. And I have grown so much in my abilities to communicate and cope with my surroundings that I hardly notice it much of the time. Through all this, I have realized how important it is to have opportunities to learn and grow.

Most people take talking for granted. They see friendship and having conversations throughout the day as normal, everyday occurrences. This is not always the case for someone with a disability or for someone who is a loner or an outcast or even just an introvert. I remember being afraid of my voice as a teenager and young adult because I used it so little that I was constantly afraid it would not come out right when I needed it.

I have grown so much over the last several years because of the opportunities I have been given to communicate with others. I have seen the differences in my abilities to communicate because of the practice I get in communicating. I talk to people constantly at my work and at home with friends and family.

This has not always been the case in my life, and I first started noticing the difference when I visited my sister’s family on a regular basis. I noticed that it was easier to communicate and the words came more readily because I would always talk more when I was with my sister. I would read books aloud to her children. I would be engaged in conversation with the family and extended family. I was given the opportunity to use my voice more in those situations, and it created a notable difference in the rest of my week.

Since that time, I have been given an incredible amount of opportunities to improve my social and communication skills. I was asked to teach a class at church. I translated often at work and conducted orientation meetings for new hires. I gained a best friend that pushed the limits of my communication skills and allowed me to explore the social demands of friendship in ways I never had before. I was constantly using my voice and communicating my needs and using my social skills. They say that practice makes perfect. I am not sure if that is true, but practice definitely makes you better. The more I was able to practice my skills, the better they became.

My point with all of this is that growing up, I went to therapy and had scattered opportunities to learn communication and social skills, but it was not enough. I learned the skills necessary to place an order, ask a question, or do other things that were required of me, but it never came easily. It was a constant battle to communicate my needs and not feel lost in a world that I could not seem to understand. Now, communication and life in general has become much easier to handle. I know how to do things that I never thought possible in my earlier years. And things do come relatively easily.

I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to have more positive social experiences while growing up. I was an outcast and bullied and extremely cautious with who I trusted because of those things. But I hope that the world has changed enough that it is more possible for children today to have these experiences. I hope it is more possible for children with autism to learn social skills by practicing with their peers. I know the importance of those opportunities. I have seen how much of a difference they can make. And I hope we all try a little harder to give people the opportunities they need to become better.

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Waking Up to Life

I feel like I’ve been asleep for a long time.

I came to Idaho at the beginning of last year to start over. I was escaping grief and heartache and hoping that a new place would allow me to heal. The problem with that was that I didn’t really know how to heal. I probably should have gone through grief counseling or something, but I basically decided to just take a break from life.

I stopped taking classes. I stopped volunteering and helping others and just sort of let the world pass me by. And maybe it was just what I needed and maybe it wasn’t, but over the last few months, I’ve been looking around and wondering what I’m doing with my life.

I am not where I want to be, and I have probably taken a few steps back from where I was. It can be disheartening to look at your life and realize how much you have let pass you by. And the truth is that I am tired of simply being alive without really living. I’m tired of just going through the motions of life. There is so much more to experience in life that I haven’t seen in this dazed state of living.

I want to be better. I want to experience life more- love more, live more, do more. I know it is easy to get stuck in the mundane, but I want to break out of that cycle. If there is anything that helps you do that, please let me know. I need all the help I can get.

An Effect of Antidepressants

I have been taking an antidepressant fairly consistently for a couple years now. There have been times when I stopped taking it because of money or pride or thinking I would be okay without it. I always go back though because I see what my depression does to those I love. I never want to hurt people, but depression is a complicated beast that is hard for me to control without medication.

My antidepressant works wonders. It helps me go from constantly suicidal to occasionally suicidal. It helps me go from desperately needing to be saved from myself to being as close to normal as I can imagine. Medication helps me stay alive.

Unfortunately, medicine has side effects. Sometimes these are in addition to its helpfulness. Sometimes it is because of how it is helping. I have noticed recently that my antidepressant seems to make me less compassionate and sympathetic. In addition to suppressing my harmful urges and destructive thoughts, I sometimes feel nothing when I want to feel something. The medicine does not completely negate my emotions. I still feel sadness and pain and all the other emotions tied to depression, just at a more normal level. There are some emotions though that I enjoyed.

I feel like I loved people more in my depression. I felt for them more. I understood them more. I wanted to be around them more. It can be hard to lose these feelings, to feel heartless, emotionless, unable to connect to others. Depression is a beast, but it made me feel more compassion for others.

I am not sure how to get those feelings back. I know that I cannot stop taking my antidepressant because the consequences of that are worse than not feeling emotions I want to feel. Maybe I just need to learn how to feel differently, love differently, live differently.

Alone

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.

~Anne Hathaway

I have been having a rough few days. Well, to be entirely honest, it has been a lot longer than that, but the last couple days have been especially hard. There is something about being alone that has always bothered me. I do not do well by myself. Even though I am a very independent person, I crave the companionship of others. I have a hard time concentrating by myself. I work best when I have other people nearby, but we are all doing our own thing.

The point of all this is that being alone is hard for me. I have not been alone physically lately, but I have felt very alone in many ways. I feel alone in my struggles, responsibilities, questions, concerns, doubts… I fear that if I tell anyone how I feel, they will worry or not understand or take it too seriously. Sometimes I just want someone to listen to my concerns because most things cannot be fixed and some things do not need to be fixed, but it is nice to have someone to tell what is on your mind.

I have some pretty wonderful friends, and one in particular that has been there for me tonight. I realize that I did not tell her everything and there are a lot of things I have been keeping bottled up, but I was so grateful to be able to share some of my burden, to feel just a little less alone tonight.

Normal

Feeling normal is amazing.

Okay… Back story…

I spent most of my life believing that I was a horrible person. It was not just that I thought I was not good enough. I literally believed that I was bad. And I thought that there was nothing that could be done about it. I believed that I could not do good, but… I also could not stop myself from trying to do good.

I cannot help but see people’s needs and wants and desires. Even when they don’t want people to see or are trying to hide how they feel, I see it anyway. And I can’t help wanting to help them. I can’t help wanting to make people feel good about themselves or the world or life. And once upon a time, I believed this was a horrible trait.

I saw myself as unwanted, unlovable, and annoying. Why would anyone want someone like that to do something good for them? But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop myself from trying to do good things for others. I tried everything to keep myself from trying to help people, but it was a piece of myself that wouldn’t die. So I tried to kill myself, over and over.

And then one day… It finally clicked… It finally got into my head that I was not a bad person. It finally made sense that I was better than I ever dreamed I could be. I had worth. I had value. People wanted me around. And I actually mattered and made a difference for good in the world.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post is because it is amazing how much less you stress when you realize it’s all okay. I remember driving down the road and stressing so much about everything. I would analyze every word I said and every word said back to me. I would have conversations with people that I never had in real life because I decided they would not go well if I actually tried to talk to that person.

And I know that normalcy is a fallacy that we tell ourselves is achievable to anyone but ourselves, but… feeling normal is amazing… Especially with friends. I absolutely love having a best friend. It makes me feel so normal- not weird, not flawed, not unlovable. I feel whole. And just remembering that, remembering I have a friend is totally freeing. It makes me feel like life is the best thing ever.

So now I worry that I’ll be the overly thankful friend that frightens people away because I’m so excited by these feelings that I can’t help but be grateful. And I still worry that I’ll be too much or not enough. But… Those moments when it feels normal to just be myself are the most amazing feelings ever.

What You See

I bought a house a couple months ago. My mom cosigned on it, but I am planning on paying for it myself through renters and such. It feels somewhat strange to buy such a large house at 28 years old. My neighbors are all much older than me and my sister (who lives with me). Plus, they are all married, and most have children.

The thing is though, we all only see what is on the surface. I look at my neighbors and see people who are at a totally different point in their lives than I am. They probably look at me and think the same thing. Some people may even be jealous of me. People tell me that they weren’t even considering buying a house at my age. Others look at my house and tell me how lucky I am to have this place. I do feel very fortunate to have this house and for the lot I have been given in life, but there are definitely things I long for in my life.

It is easy to look at my life on Facebook and think that I have things pretty good. I have a house that is now fully furnished. I have a decent job that pays my bills. I have a college degree and am well on my way towards a second degree. I am doing well physically and mentally and even emotionally most of the time. But, you don’t see all the other things that have happened in the midst of all this. You don’t see that shortly after I bought the house, I had to fix the heater, then my car, and then the garage door, and I will eventually have to replace a damaged sprinkler pipe. You also may not know that I used money from a car accident settlement to make the down payment, and you don’t see that I have been searching for a new job because I haven’t been given enough hours at work to pay my bills now. But the biggest thing that no one ever sees is the longing in my heart for something more.

I know that I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have my family and friends and my new house, but… I really want someone to share it with. I have my sister here, which definitely helps, but I would love to have a husband and children. I wouldn’t mind living in a rundown trailer if it meant having a family of my own.

We all have something we long for. Some people long for stability while others long for adventure. Some long for riches while others would give away their riches for true love. No life is perfect, no matter how much it may seem to be so on social media. We all long for something. Just remember that what you see is just the surface of someone’s life, and you can miss the beauty of your life by constantly comparing to the surface of someone else’s.

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 Mommy 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!

It Would Be Easy to Disappear

I moved to a new state about a month ago. It was a decision that was both sudden and a long time coming. I love the atmosphere here. It is a rural town with everything I need within a 5 minute drive from my place, but I can also drive for hours and see nothing but livestock and country. I live with one of my best friends and just a couple of minutes away from my other best friend, which is great, but it makes it tempting to disappear.

I dislike trying to make new friends. I have never been very good at it. People do not usually like me right away. I am intimidating. Even my best friends found me intimidating when they first met me. I do not tend to make good first impressions. And living with one of my friends makes it easy to not feel like I need others. Emotionally, I am an extrovert. I need people like I need to breathe. But I struggle when I have negative experiences with people.

Tonight was hard. I tried to go to an activity for my church group, but I could not find them at the park area where we were supposed to meet. I haven’t been there long enough to recognize faces in crowds, and there were a lot of other groups there tonight. I want to give up. I have friends. I live with a friend. Do I need to try to make more friends? Do I need to try to socialize here? Or can I just disappear? It would be easy to disappear.