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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Therapy

Now that depression isn’t a debilitating part of my life for the moment, I have been able to focus on social skills in therapy instead.

It’s really hard to have client-driven therapy when you’re focusing on social skills. It’s like going to a talent show and being told there’s too many singers so you have to dance instead. Even though you explain that you don’t know how to dance, they just say to try your best and hope it’s what the audience wants. I feel like that’s what I’m doing most of the time in therapy. I have no idea how to communicate, but I’m trying to figure out how to dance and what the audience wants.

It’s sort of exhausting, but good at the same time. I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m drowning half the time, but I’m learning how to swim in the process. I feel like I have been treading water in the social realm for so long that learning to swim is crazy hard. But… At least I have someone who is willing to teach me and maybe eventually I can survive in the deep end.

(Sorry for all the analogies. It’s the only way I know to express how this stuff feels. Hopefully they all make sense!)

Loving My Brokenness

Prayers are answered in strange ways sometimes. Sometimes it is through our weaknesses and brokenness that our most sincere and important prayers are answered.

I am constantly amazed by how well things all work out. I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always had autism. But I never suspected that depression would help me with autism.

I started going to therapy a couple months ago because I was thinking about suicide often enough that I thought I might attempt it again. I had gotten to the point where I just had to do something because I just couldn’t keep living the way I was. I needed something to change. So even though I didn’t feel therapy had ever helped me in the past, it was the only thing I could think of. 

I am so grateful that I got to that point of depression and suicidal ideation because it made me turn to therapy, and this therapy is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. It has helped me so much with my struggles with autism. It has helped me with the deeper thoughts that lead to wanting self injury or death. It has helped me with self image and being a better friend and better person in general.

It’s not fun to be broken, but there is definite beauty in the brokenness. I am learning to love my brokenness because it leads me to help I wouldn’t have sought, friends I wouldn’t have made, and understanding I wouldn’t have had. I love being broken because I feel the difference it has made in my life. I am a better person because of the broken pieces of my life that have become something beautiful.

Depression and Doing Good

Yesterday I almost yelled at my therapist. We were talking about depression, and he was saying that depression is focused inward; so doing good things for others can help get you out of depression. Those weren’t his words exactly, but that’s what I was getting out of the conversation.

I couldn’t help but feel indignant. I wanted to say, you have no idea what you’re talking about or who you’re talking to. Instead I said, it doesn’t matter though. It doesn’t matter how much you help people or what you do, you’re still depressed… I’m still depressed.

It helps. I’m not going to lie and say that helping others doesn’t help with depression, but it doesn’t make it go away either. I feel better when I help others, but I often still go back home and cry myself to sleep. I’ll do something good or contribute my insights, but then go home to thoughts of suicide. I’m doing good things, very good things and helping people, lots of people. But the thoughts have not disappeared, the feelings have not left, and I am still struggling nearly every day.

So… Maybe it’s time to consider medications again. I’m just tired. I’m tired of trying so hard with such small results. Therapy has been great for my struggles with autism, but so far not much has happened with my depression.

I still feel depressed. I still think of suicide and self injury often. And I’m doing everything “right” by everyone’s standards, but the thoughts aren’t changing. They’re not going away. Exercise helps; eating healthy and sleeping helps. But it’s not enough.

I don’t like the thought of medicine being used to control my mood, but more and more I feel like it may be the only option. I just want to not feel like depression is my default. I want to feel as happy as I know I am. And I just know I can’t do it alone.

I Can Do This

I keep repeating this to myself over and over. It makes me laugh sometimes because my little nephew will go around saying, “I can do this.” So it reminds me of him.

The past week or so has been pretty hard. I’m not really sure why, other than the fact that a few of my friends left for college this week; so it’s been harder to find people to talk to at activities. Anyway, I’ve almost broken down at work, at church, and today I basically broke down during therapy.

The hardest thing sometimes is the feeling that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, I still feel depressed. I’m still trying though, partly because I want to be happier and partly because it’s the only choice I have.

I asked how I could serve people more at church, not so much because I want to serve as because I need to serve. I need something to forget myself. I feel like I’m drowning and the only way I can think to get out is through others. It feels kind of selfish, but I don’t really have much of a choice.

My therapist said today that we’re all a work in progress. We can’t compare our works in progress to other people’s finished product. I’m still thinking about that, but for now it helps me remember that even though I might feel selfish now, I’m not the finished product yet.

This post is not as organized as my usual posts, but that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately- less organized and more chaotic. I’m just hoping it gets better with all the stuff I’m trying to do.

Video Modeling

I was reminded recently of video modeling by a comment on one of my posts.
If you haven’t heard of video modeling, it is when a video shows a behavior modeled for others to imitate. Generally people watch these videos and then do some or all of the behaviors shown in the video. “How to” videos would be considered video modeling.

Research has shown that video modeling may be especially effective with people that have autism. Using videos, therapists have been able to teach autistic children different behaviors and those behaviors are generally retained even after the video modeling/ therapy ends.

I have personally never experienced video modeling as a form of therapy. However, I have noticed that I am especially susceptible to behaviors I see on a screen. When I watch a movie, it changes the way I act and the way I think. I mirror the behaviors in the movie more than I would mirror those behaviors if I were to see the same things happen in person.

For example, if I watch an action movie, I tend to walk faster and with more confidence, take more risks, and be more physically active. If I watch a children’s movie, I tend to be happier and friendlier and more playful. If I watch an intellectual movie, I tend to speak more formally, recite facts more often, and be more willing to sit and read.
That’s one of the reasons I don’t watch horror films… I don’t know how I would act if I watched a horror film, and I don’t really care to find out.

 

One day I would like to experiment with video modeling as a form of therapy on myself.

That’s actually part of my reasons for promoting this blog. If this blog ever gets enough support, I want to do a kickstarter so that I can get someone to do a video for me that will video model how to say hi in different situations. I have never been able to say hi to my friends without them either looking directly at me or them saying hi first. I hope that one day I will be able to say hi to people when I see them. Until then I look forward to the day when I can try out video modeling to see if it will help me with this skill.

What do you want to know about autism?

I don’t have much time to post this week since I’m visiting with my family. So I decided to ask what you would like to know about autism. Is there anything you have questions about or are curious to know? If you could interview someone with autism, what would you ask them?

Just leave your question in the comment section and I will do my best to either make a post about it or answer your question directly.

In the meantime, you can check out this video I found recently and let me know what you think. I might make a post about the video in the coming weeks.