Category Archives: Relationships

One thing different

The writing prompt for today’s blog seemed like an interesting one so I decided to use it as a jumping off point.

The prompt given was “If you could relive one moment in your life, what would it be and why?”

For me, there are many moments in time I can now tell changed things on a larger scale than I could have ever imagined. To be a dork for a second, it’s very much like a episode of Doctor Who entitled “Turn Left” in which the protagonist discovers the fate of the universe was completely altered one day when she decided to talk a left turn instead of a right turn while driving. In that same vane, it was the smallest moments that have made the most difference for me. As per usual, the significance of these moments went by almost unnoticed until much later with lots of reflection. At the time I did what my heart told me to do given the information I had at the time.

My biggest issues have always been relating to sacrificing my own comfort for the sake of appeasing others. I’ll put myself second in order to try to maintain relationships because I, foolishly thought, if I didn’t do things correctly people wouldn’t be friends with me. It has taken way too long for me to realize some people don’t deserve my friendship. There are, unfortunately, some people who will use good people because of interpersonal issues they have. There’s nothing wrong with me and it’s nothing I can change, so the healthiest thing is to keep my distance. Can you tell I’m been a series of unhealthy relationships?

I think the past year or so has given me a distance from some of my more recent trauma to more clearly examine some of the warning signs in order to prevent similar things happening in the future. I’m a person who has been systematically abused by friends, educators, people in positions of authority, and family members which wore me down for so long. It’s only since reclaiming my power by embracing authenticity have things changed for me. So my answer to this prompt is one I’ve recently been promoting to some of my younger friends.

Boundaries are healthy. If someone feels your boundary is restricting their behavior, especially towards you, it’s because they most likely have been violating your boundaries all along.

The moment itself is burned in my memories, but the edges have become softer with time. Like most burns, after time the pain lessens and there may remain a scar in the place of the trauma. The scar in my mind is the voice trapped in my throat wanting to say “No. I don’t deserve to be treated this way.” That moment in time has long since past with the other participants most likely not even remembering it. The significance however is not lost on me in those frozen moments. Since I was unable to use my voice then, I choose to use my voice now to help those who have trouble speaking for themselves. No one should have to go through what I went through and no one should be treated so poorly in their own home. I think home should be a safe haven from the rocky outside world.

Would anything have really changed back then if I had been able to speak up? Honestly, I highly doubt it. Things would have reached their natural conclusions in time and it’s possible friendships would have been maintained, but I don’t feel those people deserve my friendship for how they treated me. I’ve had someone ask me how one of the parties is and truthfully I haven’t spoken to them in over a year. It’s sad when people you thought you’d always be friends with are no longer part of your life, but there is a plus side. It does make room in your life and your heart for those who do care about you.

Me and my people

Currently, I’m relaxing in Boulder and doing my best to figure out the next steps of this wacky thing called ‘life’. The greatest part of all this is I’m surrounded by one of my mentors and still feeling the effects of the Autism Society of America conference.

The joke came up several times last week about how several of us go to the Autism Society of America conference to be social. It’s a once a year trip most of us make to unite us from across the country. Navigating the whirlwind of meetings and presentations, either giving or attending, we still manage to reconnect in the hallways or in the evening.

On the last night of the conference, what was only going to be a brief dinner with an old friend and my mother turned into something so much better. It started by inviting new friends to join us. That quickly turned to other friends showing up and soon we were taking over a large section of comfy couches. The evening was spent talking about everything as we watched lightning dance across the Denver skyline.

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That last night before the end of the conference, I was stressed and very nervous about my early morning presentation looming the next morning. My topic for the Sisterhood of the Spectrum panel was “Authenticity”. At 8:30 in the morning, still adjusting to Mountain Standard Time compared to Eastern Standard Time, I would speak about the importance of embracing who you are and knowing others have walked the similar path.

One of the greatest things I have come to understand and accept is that I have people in my life who truly care about me. There are people in the world who genuinely want to support others and wish the best for them. I am one of those people and am very thankful for being surrounded by the same type of people. My people are kind and care about each other. This is something very special I was able to be reminded of at the conference.

Sometimes the best parts of the conference are not covered in the program guide.

Dear You, Happy Birthday.

3/10/2014
Dear Me,

Please know, it will get worse. That feeling in your gut will not lessen; please learn to listen to it.
That nagging feeling when you wake up in a cold sweat and can’t get back to sleep will not go away. When you hear a door abruptly shut and flinch because it will not “just get better with time”.
When  you want to make a plan with a friend and it makes you afraid they will leave you standing on a street corner, that is just considered ‘normal’ in your mind.
Things will be horrible for half this year (2014).
 ……
But when you turn the corner, things will get amazing.
You’ll finally start to appriciate yourself.
You will finally understand ability and disability in a global view.
There is an amazing home you can grow a wonderful garden in and remember what the ground feels like between your fingers.
School ends and it will not be as scary as you think.
The home you will make will be unlike anything you had imagined.
You remember what strong feels like.
You will never be truly alone as love will be in your heart.
…….
I wish I could hug you
and say we will all still be friends next year,
but that would not be true.
Know the price we pay will be worth in it in the end.
~B
———————————————————–
3/10/16
Dear Me,
We did it!!!!!!!
At times we wanted to give up knowing it felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. It seemed an impossible feet but it was accomplished in just the nick of time. There is nothing stopping us from this final journey.
Just take the one last step we need.
Just a leap, as we know our ways along the rocky coast.
This project is going to help so many people.
………
Blessed are you for remembering love.
You opened your heart and let such wonder and light fill you to the brink, overflowing into the ocean.
Wearing your heart on your sleeve paid off.
Be very happy you know what love feels like and know things will only get even better.
Finally we understand how others should treat us.
~B
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3/10/15
Dear Me,
It’s okay to be as happy as we are and not think the other shoe is going to drop.
We’ve turned the corner of success and our dedication will carry us through.
Resiliency is the greatest gift our family has passed on.
Please remember to laugh.
~B

 Happy Birthday to Me~

How do we get the control that we might need to feel safe? I say that the first thing that we need control of is ourselves.-Reference from Aeprils Astrology

Ke$ha butterflies

Today is Valentines day, also known as the day before chocolate goes on sale. I’ve been resisting getting a candy bar all day because 1) I am trying to be healthy and 2) tomorrow chocolate was be as plentiful as snow in New England.

Today is also one of those days where people analyze their relationships or their lack of one. This is one of those days where people get swept away by romance or are upset at the happiness of others. It gets really confusing.

Personally, I love to see my friends happy and in love. It gives me a ray of hope I’ll find someone to be happy with some day. It’s not easy for a person with social anxiety to go out and meet new people, but it is something that does need to happen in order to find a special person. Ah, the double edge sword. Most of the time, my desire to stay in my own social bubble wins out.

I will never be one of those girls who ‘needs’ a romantic relationship. I’m a little lot too independent to get swept up with needing someone to save me. Heck, I’m more likely to do the saving in a relationship or ideally we can make each other better along the journey. I feel people get an idea in their head about what a great relationship looks like without remembering it takes work to make it function properly.

One thing I’ve had to learn the hard way over the past few years is I’d much rather be by myself than in an unhealthy relationship. Being alone with my thoughts is still more comforting than being wrapped in the arms of someone who treats me poorly. I’m worth waiting for someone special who makes me feel like my stomach is filled with a million butterflies dancing to Ke$ha. I’ve been privileged enough to know what it feels like to be loved deeply by another person.

It feels like a million Ke$ha butterflies moving in-synch to “Your Love is My Drug”.

Image from http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com

Give me my bag of skittles!

Sometimes a single skittle is awarded for for accomplishing a small task.

Last night I earned a bag of skittles.

I knew from my dreams last night would be coming and in a big way that knowledge helped prepared me. I went through, in my dreams, the scenarios where I was stabbed. Bleeding out on the floor, my final words were inspirational and poetic. The situations where I resorted to violence were met with acceptance and understanding of the consequences of my actions. I would be hauled away by the police, but met with compassionate looks by the officers who booked me. Earlier this week there was an elaborate fight sequence choreographed to a song from a mix tape my friend gave me which happened to be playing in the cd player in my car.

All of these random scenarios of chaos and violence and hurt prepared me for this night.
(Mainly, it was the months of therapy to properly deal with my abuse and the resulting trauma which prepared me for tonight. However, there was a significant amount of foreshadowing within my perseveration and nightmares.)

My abuser for the past several months stood mere feet away as I talked about my hopes and dreams with friends. My friends and I chatted about my dreams for the future over a drink, something I didn’t have months ago. (A view of the future is something people don’t always have when they are bullied down into submission. For months I was in a place where I didn’t want to think about what was going to happen once I got home, let alone in several months.) Things were doing exceptionally well for the circumstance, but I knew what was coming.

My fear was not so much contact from my abuser, as contact from One of the other parties. The One who watched me being abused. The One who researched Autism and held me as I cried on my couch as I wondered, “why won’t she understand me. What am I doing wrong?!” The One I felt a sisterly bond for the first time since College and The One I had supported when she felt the world was against her.

The One who’s last words to me all those months ago were, “You could have handled (her {The Abuser’s} treatment of you) better.”

The only contact I have had with The One in months (Since September really) was tonight. At the end of the night, after Waltzing around the room the evening, she came up to me. She was the one I was afraid of talking to for fear she would not understand the trauma I endured from her. Maybe, despite all her research and knowledge and degrees, she did not understand her neutrality will be remembered in the annals of my memory with the people who directly hurt me. For all the complicated issues, maybe she can not understand what she did.

Maybe that is why she chose the end of the night to hurriedly come up to me  to say anything to me.

In the many scenarios in my head I could have;

  • Resorted to violence.
  • Wept.
  • Run away. 
  • Screamed.
  • Cried. (A common theme)
  • Cursed her out using foul language.
  • Cursed her out using an ancient curse.
  • Teared up. (See a pattern?)
  • Screamed.
  • Asked her simply “Why?”
  • Asked her if she felt bad about her role in the chaos of my life.
  • Begin talking in French and walk away.
  • Run away. (Another popular motif)
  • Not say anything/ignore her.
  • Left and went into the bathroom and engaged in self-injurious behavior. (Far down on the list but considering how damaged, wrong, insignificant I was made to feel for months this was #1 most likely to occur.)
  • Hugh Jackman carries me away and I forget the life I lived as if it were a bad dream.

None of these things happened, however much I wish the last one to have happened.

Instead, I looked her in the eyes and simply said, “Goodbye.”

She was leaving for the night as the club was closing and I don’t know if she fully registered the significance of what I said. If she happens to be reading this, it means closure. It means Goodbye in the sincerest form. It hurts to let go of a 10+ year friendship, but not as much as I expected it to. No longer will I look out in a crowd while performing searching for your face, wondering if you decided to catch the show tonight even though you RSVPed no on Facebook. I won’t be afraid to attend events I want to go to because they matter to me, even though I know you will be there.

The opposite of love is not hate; it is apathy.
No tears were shed as I realized the pain I experience in 2014 is finally over. I have ended the relationships that needed to end and I have closure.
I can finally bury my dead bodies.

I earned all the *$&%ing Skittles last night.

Alone but not Lonely

As winter approaches, actually it’s here, people couple up. Perhaps it is something in our genetic structure clinging to another warm body in the cold night. Perhaps it’s because people find thermals sexy. Whatever the reason, this is the time of year when people hibernate with a mate, or two.

When it comes to family reunions over cranberry sauce or turkey, the subject of relationships will always come up.
“So Brigid, trapped any guys this year?”
“Nope, they all chewed through their legs and escaped.”*
*Yes, my family is a filled with snarky wonderful people.

I’m not at that age yet where people start to whisper concerned behind my back about me becoming a spinster, but I am at that age where people expect me to date around. I don’t know why. Maybe people think being in your mid-20’s means living in a romantic comedy. Heads up, my life is more like a Lifetime movie than anything starting Katherine Heigl

So unless Keanue Reeves suddenly comes to woe me, I’ll be holidaying for one again.
But I’m okay with this.
I’m not lonely. 

See, the type of relationship I want is like my friend Allison’s. She is dating her best friend. He’s a science nerd, despite how many times he tells me what he is in school for I can’t understand it, and she is a writer. They have their own lives with their own friends and adventures. When they come home at the end of they day, they are two separate people who are improved by sharing a life with the other person. That’s what I want.

I’ve seen people become couples and compromise who they are on an individual level. For some, they become a stronger unit. I’ve seen couples come together and go against the odds with their partner by their side, something not possible if they were trying on their own. For many people, they end up building resentment for what they ‘gave up’ in the relationship.

I was talking to a younger friend this summer who had a similar experience with relationships. We both are so involved in our work, we don’t even notice people vying for our attention. The daily texts of “Good morning, Beautiful” go unnoticed by us as we crunch to make deadlines and are so involved with our passions. We seek a partner in crime, someone who can join us for adventures but then go on their own adventures without needing us. I’m a firespinning autism advocate finishing up grad school. I know there are people who can fit into my life and I’m going to look forward to finding those people.

You know, after I get back from the Midwest.

Hey, I’m busy!

Slut-Shaming on the Spectrum

In popular culture, women are presented in two distinct ways. They are presented as sexual objects and we condemn the women who embrace their sexuality as sluts. We also tell women they should remain chaste and modest or else they will get pregnant and their lives will be over. For women on the Autism spectrum, these juxtaposed stereotypes pose even more problems.

I’ve mentioned the concept of schemas before, or the way we organize ideas into different categories. People on the Autism Spectrum function well by placing things into schemas, even when things are way more complicated than just slapping a label on something to figure it out. The concept of what a woman should be is something many females struggle with and even more so women on the spectrum. We get concerned with choosing the “right” option and this creates a lot of anxiety. In the world of glossy magazine covers, we are bombarded with how we ‘should’ look and how we ‘should’ behave.

In my opinion, one of the most personal choices anyone can make is in relation to the expression of their sexuality. Some women choose to wear revealing clothing or make-out with their partner in the street, that is how they choose to embrace their sexuality. Others keep their expression behind closed doors with the lights off. Some people are raised with religious guidelines or have family values instilled in them as to how they should behave in regards to sexuality.

A problem I’ve seen in my professional and personal life is when parents or guardians don’t want a person to explore their sexuality for a number of reasons. This may be a personal reason or because they don’t want their children to explore what many consider to be ‘intimate relationships’. I’m very much in favor of having open communication and educating people on what healthy relationships should look like. There are situations where a person may not have the ability to consent to intimate relationships with another person, but they should not be left in the dark about their own sexuality.

It’s a difficult talk to have with anyone, but it is a conversation that needs to happen also to protect the individual from being taken advantage of. It is a scary reality, but there are predators out there who do take advantage of others. Education on ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch’ is important to help people know they should tolerate and when they need to let someone know something wrong is happening.

 ******
More that 90% of people diagnosed with a developmental disability, this includes Autism, will experience some form of sexual abuse in their life. 49% will experience 10 or more incidents of sexual abuse.  
– Valenti-Heim, D.; Schwartz, L. The Sexual Abuse Interview for Those with Developmental Disabilities.

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This being said, there are people with all types of ability levels who are in healthy relationships. These may be not be the conventional hetero-normative one man and one woman, but the relationship may make the person happy. There may be people who have intimate relationships we don’t understand or that may go against our beliefs in relation to age, gender, or any number of other variables.

That’s not our business.

To voice our opinions of what a person does with their sexuality it to slut-shame them. I’ve seen it happen very recently to a young woman was told she should not have a boyfriend until she has resolved all her mental health issues and she should break up with him because there are stressers in her life. There will always be stressful things happening in our lives. I’m currently experiencing some seasonal stressers, but I do my best to deal with things in a healthy manner for my overall mental health. I’m sure some of the people reading this right now are experiencing stress. Sexuality is not a reward to being a good person or not having a stressful life; sexuality is part of the human experience.

I can’t judge someone for how they choose to express their express their sexuality because I’m not them. There are so many mixed and contradictory messages out there, all we can do is help educate people on what healthy relationships should look like and not judge people for how they choose to express their sexuality. As long as a person is in a healthy and happy relationship, why should anyone else be affected by it? Sexuality is not a one size fits all box, it’s custom made.

Resting, Relaxing, Relationships

This week I needed a break from my hectic schedule so I ran away for a few days. I ran away to New York to visit some friends and I did get caught in the storm on the way back.

Resting and relaxing is not something really in my nature. I jokingly blame my mother for this. We come from a family of hard workers. “Days off” are not really a common occurrence in my life and it’s only very recently I’m working on building them into my schedule. This break was very much needed because I could feel myself getting worn out.

Relaxing is important to everyone and leading the type of life I do, it’s even more important. If I get too stressed, my Lyme acts up and I will get very sick very quickly. I’m talking about not being able to swallow liquids or solids serious. 48 hours of that and then I’m needing to get my nutrients from tubes. Luckily, I have a Prius and can travel quite a bit on not a lot of gas.

My last day of adventuring ended up with me leaving Vermont yesterday. I bid farewell to one of my best friends and knew I’d be seeing him again soon. Through the winter storm advisory, my little prius ventured back to Maine. The glow of spending good times with my friends helped to keep me safe as the snow drifted around me. The people I hung out with are some of my closest friends. They know some of my deep dark secrets and still want to be friends with me. That means a lot since some of my baggage does not say “Handle with care” as much as “Danger: Contents under pressure” or “Warning: Flammable”.

I’ll be the first to say I’m not the best at interpersonal relationships. It was the observations of one of my best friends that really drove the point home to me. Talking about yet another person who I once was close friends with who now dislikes me, she pointed out the theme of my life.

“You know Brigid, that happens a lot to you. Some of your closest friends once really disliked you and people who you once were best friends with now dislike you. People either like you or they don’t. There’s no real middle ground.”

I’ve heard this a lot. Like A LOT. Something about this really sunk into me this time. This past year I’ve distanced myself from some people who are working on their own baggage and the place they are in right now is toxic to me. Or the more accurate thing is to say the more I learned about them the more I decided I didn’t want to be close to them.

How do you deal with that?

I’m quick to socialize and quick to trust some people, but the more I learned about some people the more I learn they can’t be close to me. I can’t be friends with people who are not patient, who are emotionally volatile, or who won’t communicate about serious emotional issues with me. Those people are best kept at arms length from me because I care too much. I care about people who don’t hesitate to wound me or who really don’t care about me.

That being said, I am learning more and more who I do want to be involved in my life. It’s important to realize now everyone will like me, but there are people who love me for my flaws. The love of my friends and family helps when the world feels too heavy. We all have those days when things pile up on us like the snow accumulating outside my windows. But the snow must end and summer is just around the corner. Things take awhile, but I can rest soundly knowing my friends can help dig me out if I need a hang.

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“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” ― Dita Von Teese

Goldfish in Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
“Little Boxes”- Malvina Reynolds
**************

One of the main difficulties of having an invisible disability is it is invisible. Sometimes my coping strategies make it appear as if I’m just like everyone else so people don’t always understand why I struggle with the “simple” things. These same people don’t realize the need to check every time I leave the house to make sure pants were not forgotten when rushing out the door. Little things some people do without thinking confuse me and vice versa.

The biggest issue I personally struggle with is relationships. Relationships are all based on communication in some way, shape, or form. Having a disability rooted in social difficulties obviously can be a big challenge. It can cause strain on my relationships because people don’t always understand me.

Letting people see my flaws and challenges takes a lot of trust on my part. I wear my heart on my sleeve and being so kind can hurt me as much as help me. It is all too common for people to use and abuse people like me since I’m such a caring person. Manipulation does not make sense to me and I am always the last to know if someone is not being straightforward with me or worse, if the person is dangerous.

The way the world looks to me helps to compound my relationship issues. Why wouldn’t people be nice to each other? What harm can come from having conversations with people? If I have the power to help someone by doing something as small as listening to their problems, why wouldn’t I?! Love, happiness, and compassion are traits spread by giving them to others.

That being said, I’m not sure when people care about me. This is not a “poor Brigid” moment, it’s just the truth. It is very confusing to think people will be there for me the way I am there for them. As empathic as Autistic people are, unless people bluntly tell us how they feel we don’t understand. Unspoken emotions and unsaid promises are never fully received. Like a living game of telephone, the message get muddled.

It was a joke for a long time about having an accidental ex-boyfriend because I never realized we were dating until we broke up. My friend Stephen Shore tells the story of accidentally dating the woman who is now his wife. How can this happen? Well as someone who has dated another friend for an undetermined period of time before we decided to take a step back, it’s REALLY easy for me to not understand the nature of relationships.

Why?

I’ve mentioned schemas before or basically having a blueprint of how things are supposed to look like. As a person who needs those blueprints to make sense of the world, there are not always the best design plans floating around. Movies and books promote conflict in relationships to move things along or bring people closer together. I thought there were right and wrong ways to date a person or to be someone’s BFF (Best Friend Forever). As someone who also has brain damage and does not actively remember the majority of the first 16 years of my life, I’m missing a LOT of the blueprints even other Autistic people have learned.

The hard/easy truth I’ve learned over the past year is no one has any idea what relationships are supposed to look like. Everyone is stumbling around looking for the magical blueprints that don’t exist to have the perfect relationship. Millions of magazines are sold every year telling people how to be a good friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, or a good person who people want to be friends with. Most of this information is so conflicting it can be comical at times, but distressing for the same reason: there is not a “right” way.

So I’m working now, and will continue, to try to figure out what a friend looks like to me. We teach Autistic kids how to treat other people so they can have friends, but no one teaches us how friends should treat us. We stumble sometimes in the world and get hurt because we don’t understand why people would want to take advantage of us or lie to us.

Growing up, I heard the story a goldfish could only grow as big as its environment. My brain translated this into a picture of different sized containers contained fish of corresponding sizes. Somewhere in the translation or transcription of my brain, I thought relationships worked the same way. As much as I’d like to put relationships into nice little boxes to organize things, they are wild things. Just like goldfish, relationships continue to grow as you grow. Some relationships are only for a short time and other cases you find friends for life. I’m still working on understanding what relationships are supposed to look like and I’ve tried my best to not hurt others by my lack of understanding. In many ways, I’m just a kid and doing the best I can to act like an adult. In more ways, I’m just like everyone else because we are all trying to do that.

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“The most common cause of stunting is a lack of understanding of a fish’s requirements resulting in a lack of appropriate care.  A stunted fish is not a healthy fish.”- It’s Not Just a Fish Organization