Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Need To Matter To Someone

I haven't written here in ages, and it's because I've had an archival temp job that's kept me very busy! It's been really nice to be working, even though it won't be for too much longer - doing what I love and being paid for it feels wonderful.

It's also a bit odd to be working on a blog entry around 3 in the morning, I know. I'm fairly nocturnal as it is, but I'm up late working on NYCC cosplay stuff with a friend (it's a Saturday so it's okay) and I had a realization about myself that I felt like I needed to write about.

As I've occasionally mentioned on this blog, in late 2011 I ended a friendship that had become unintentionally emotionally abusive for me due to the other person's struggles with themselves and things that had happened to them. I know my friend didn't mean to take things out on me the way they did, but it got to a point where I knew the best way to protect both of us was to get myself out of there. This friendship unequivocally changed me as a person and made me grow in ways that have been both positive and negative. I had a realization about one of the more negative things that has happened to me tonight and I'm currently sitting here typing this out so I don't cry as my friend sews next to me.

Growing up, it was difficult to find full acceptance from my peers. People would sometimes hang out with me and drop me or even hang out with me out of pity until I got to high school and developed a set of friends (who are still my best friends today and are amazing). I was able to be myself around my friends in high school and that was so important for me because normally who I was wasn't acceptable to other people. In college, I was also initially rejected by my peers because nobody at the preppy liberal arts school wanted to be around the weird baseball girl. I did find some friends, though, one of whom became my college roommate. She'd lost her mother not long before she met me, and I tried to make sure I was a good, supportive friend because nobody deserves to lose someone they love to cancer. Eventually, though, her depression caught up with her, and she desperately sought to plug the mother-shaped hole that had been left behind. The problem was that to fill the hole, she began to unconsciously use me as the plug. This put pressure on me to be constantly strong and supportive and eventually triggered my 2009 OCD mental breakdown, which I don't think I fully came out of until 2011, when I ended the friendship and had time to mentally recover. Her mental illness plus my mental illness ended up being a really bad cocktail, so being roommates for two school years probably wasn't the best decision for either of us but we didn't have too many other options and I didn't have many other friends at school. We were both trapped until I graduated and slowly weaned her off of me because I knew she wouldn't be able to recover herself any other way. I did what I did to protect both of us, and I hope it helped (a mutual friend informed me recently that she got happily married, so I think I did the right thing for her).

The realization I came to tonight as I was sitting here was that I'm still stuck in a certain pattern that combines my early lack of acceptance from my peers and my desperation for approval that developed during the emotionally abusive friendship. I often go far out of my way for my friends to help them with things and generally try my best to be a good friend (a thing I have to put a lot of conscious thought into to make sure I'm doing it socially acceptably). I'm willing to put my own well-being and even my health aside for my friends sometimes, and that's where things can get a bit dicey because I'm not good at drawing a line between taking care of myself and helping other people. I actively choose to be kind because I want to be kind and help others - it feels right to me to do. The problem is that I also feel this nagging desire in the back of my mind to do as much as I can for others so that maybe someone at some point somewhere will think I'm important and treat me as such. I do so much more than I have to in a desperate quest for validation, and I'm not sure it'll ever succeed because it's self-defeating (the more I do, the more people are willing to ask me because they know I'll do it because I want to help). I want to matter to my friends the way I've rarely felt that I do, and yet I go about trying to earn that importance in a way that's so exhausting and ineffective that it's never going to happen that way.

And yet after all that, I feel selfish saying that I want to be acknowledged in some way, so I don't even tell people that I want to know I matter. I feel like bringing it up is asking for something that I shouldn't be asking for, that it's something my friends feel that they already give me. Implied acknowledgement doesn't exactly work when your friend is autistic, however - I'm going to need occasional blatant confirmation that yes, I'm an important friend, too, and my needs matter just as much as everyone else's.

I just need to break out of this cycle because tonight I realized just how detrimental to me it could potentially become. I'll work my way out of it like I work my way out of everything, but just realizing that I feel selfish for wanting acknowledgement that I and my needs matter to my friends is concerning enough to me because it reminds me that although I've moved on from that emotionally abusive relationship, I still haven't healed all the scars.

Monday, July 11, 2016

At Last, A Character Really, Really Like Me

I'm not sure I've ever related to someone fictional more.
Finding characters I relate to has always been a fairly difficult task for me throughout my life because autistic characters just don't pop up in fiction very often, particularly when it comes to autistic female characters. This is something I've discussed before - those rare characters I click with tend to be male characters only because there are very few female characters who really remind me of myself.

And yet here I am, 27 years old and suddenly relating really intensely to a teenager who flies around in a giant green lion and fights aliens.

Voltron predates me (1989) by a few years; it premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and ran until 1985. It's actually a lot like the original incarnation of Power Rangers in the U.S. in that multiple anime series were mashed up and edited to make a new series entirely for the American market. (Specifically, season 1 was taken from Beast King GoLion and season 2 was taken from Armored Fleet Dairugger XV.) The series had a few U.S.-made sequels, and as of 2016 it now has a reboot that you can watch on Netflix done by Dreamworks. I'm a little more than halfway through so far and it's doing a wonderful job in capturing the spirit of the original series whilst giving the protagonists more characterization and depth.

Specifically, I really relate to what they've done with Pidge. Spoilers are ahead, so I'll put this under a cut just in case you happen to both read my blog and want to watch Voltron without being spoiled.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy #AutisticPrideDay 2016!

Today is our day, everyone - let's celebrate the amazing people that we are!

For more on Autistic Pride Day, check out my friend Alyssa's post on it here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hey, Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation: I'm Not A Monster

Somehow or other - maybe I signed some petition a long time ago - I got on the mailing list of an organization called the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (not to be confused with asdfmovie). Every so often, they send me envelopes hoping I'll give them money even though since I'm an autistic person they should be giving me money. In general, I rarely have money to give at the moment since I'm job-hunting right now, but I'd much rather give my hard-earned cash to ASAN or the Autism Women's Network, organizations that I know are looking out for me and people like me.

Today I got a letter from ASDF trying to get me to give them money again, and this one actually made me angry.

Oh, yeah, this is promising. Calling me my parents' worst nightmare. Great way to start this one off.

So already irritated, I opened the envelope...

I'm so dreaded, you guys. I'm a national emergency. I'm a monster, ooooooh.

Here's the deal: yes, families with individuals on the spectrum absolutely need and deserve financial support to help their family members survive in a world that's not designed for them. We all could use some help with that. Services are definitely needed for both autistic children and autistic adults. But worded like this? This makes autism sound like some sort of death sentence. You know what actually could be a death sentence? Not vaccinating your children. Yes, autistic people - myself included! - and their families can use extra financial support since we often require special services to ensure that we can make it in this world that clearly was made for people who aren't autistic. However, scare tactics aren't the best way to accomplish that. My existence is not a tragedy to exploit. Neither are the existences of all of my fellow autistic people. If people were willing to take a few minutes to listen to us, they'd realize we're not that different from them. We generally want the same thing as they do - to be treated decently and respectfully.

So don't be afraid to donate to help families and individuals with autism - both children and adults need services and support! However, any organization that portrays autism as some sort of menace or an epidemic is likely misguided at best and deliberately using scare tactics at worst. (In fact, autism isn't even an epidemic - we've just expanded the diagnostic criteria and understand the signs more. I myself wasn't diagnosed until I was 20.) For organizations that you can support instead knowing that your money will directly help autistic people, check my resources page out here.

Initially, I went to recycle the letter I got since I obviously had no reason to keep the vile thing around. But then I had a better idea...


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pet Therapy For Mental Health: Murphy Is A Movie Star!

Murphy and I made the big-time!

Well, not really, but my friend, documentarian, and fellow Aspie Alyssa Huber featured us in her latest video on her blog. It's all about the therapeutic relationships autistic folks have with their pets, and given Murphy's importance to me when she put out a call for stories I jumped right in! You can see Alyssa's blog post here, and her video is below.

Trigger warning for extremely cute footage of Murphy as a baby.

This cat is the best cat I've ever had the fortune to share my home with, all 22.2 pounds of him. Love you, Murph.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Stuck In A Holding Pattern

It's been a bit since I've written a blog post here, mostly because I've still been struggling with my fear of being unable to survive as an adult on my own due to my lack of a job and nothing new has happened. I signed up today as a protege in SAA's mentoring program in the hopes that I would be able to find a mentor who can guide me as I begin my career in the archival field and help me network better, which of course brings up that old concern of mine again - when, if at all, do I tell this person I'm autistic and need a little extra assistance with certain (generally social) things?

It's times like these that I feel like I don't have control of my life yet, especially as people around me - my graduate school colleagues - are finding jobs and settling in and doing wonderfully. Nothing has materialized for me yet, and as such I'm inclined to feel helpless and pathetic, things I logically know I'm not. I'm not jealous of my friends - I'm very happy for them - but when everyone is getting jobs except me, it does make me wonder if I'm even supposed to have one in the first place.

I'm well aware that success takes time to achieve, and I've never stopped working hard my entire life. However, struggling to find any form of employment in my field when everyone else I know in my field is happily working is definitely disheartening, and so I've noticed that I've gotten quieter on social media and less expressive in general. I'm not entirely certain that I'll fully be myself again until I have a job, regardless of whether or not it's in my field. Somehow or other, working has become tied to my self-worth.

I'm not giving up yet, that's for sure, but it's definitely the hardest challenge I've faced since 2009 and I'm not entirely certain as to how to fully handle this. I don't want to cry myself to sleep every night, but I don't want to ignore how I'm feeling, either - I definitely need to release emotion in some way or another and ensure that I don't bottle it up like I've tended to do throughout my life. I've been drawing a lot more in the past few weeks, at least, which is a good sign all around for my emotional well-being.

I just wish I wasn't stuck in this seemingly perpetual holding pattern. I've been ready to take off for ages now.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Talking Myself Up Career-Wise Out Of Fear

It has become evident to me lately that during the periods that I'm unemployed I live in fear of the world. I leave the house significantly less, wallow much more in depression, and constantly worry about money. Oftentimes, I cry myself to sleep and lay there at night feeling worthless.

I logically know I'm not worthless, of course. I'm a human being and I have value just because I exist and I'm not mean to other people. It's often hard to see that in a country where your skills are often passed over just because you don't always make eye contact with people.

I had a job interview three weeks ago today, and by all accounts it went quite well. The problem is that now I'm waiting to hear back, and the headhunter working as the go-between hasn't spoken to me in over a week. I haven't been rejected yet, but not knowing where I stand reminds me of a more recent job where I thought I nailed the interview and wasn't told that I wasn't hired for over two months (it took me contacting them back multiple times). When I'm in limbo and applying for jobs and waiting to hear back, my anxiety tends to take over. I worry that people search for me and learn about me and see things like this blog and decide that I'm worthless without really knowing me. I worry that they're making a judgment before getting to know me and seeing what I'm capable of.

I mean, let's take a look at this for a second:
  • I have a Master's degree. I got my B.A. in history in four years - the normal length of time for an American college program - despite having a horrible mental breakdown in the middle of it. I then went on to get my M.S. in library science with a focus in archival studies and had no trouble whatsoever academically at any point. I'm intellectually very capable of working in an academic setting, be it a library, a museum, or somewhere else.
  • Archives are quiet places. You don't have to talk to as many people as you do in other places. This makes them a great setting for someone like me to work - I can talk to people, but not too many people that I get tired and overwhelmed.
  • I regularly take initiative and start creative projects and do my level best to see them through until life gets in the way. I start things when I've noticed that nobody else has started them and believe they should be done.
  • I'm very creative and innovative, on that note.
  • I'm great with old technology! I actively take an interest in playing with it and I can adapt to pretty much any computer interface really quickly, and I get really excited when I get to work with analog materials. Old playback machines, old computers, and other sorts of things just make me really happy - yet another benefit to my profession.
  • I'm a very focused worker. People everywhere I've ever worked have always been astounded by my work ethic and just how much I can get done in any span of time. I'm highly productive and yet very detail-oriented so I'm less likely to make mistakes - I'm not rushing, I'm just focused.
  • I'm highly confident in my ability to learn new things really quickly. I'm a sponge. If you teach me how to use something hands-on, I'll never forget how to do it for the rest of my life.
I'm perfectly capable of performing any archival job assigned to me. I've just become so accustomed to rejection either via my resume or after the interview stage that I sometimes settle into this idea that I'll never have any sort of job ever again at all, and whilst that's unlikely to be true I genuinely fear not being able to work in my profession despite being incredibly good at doing so by all accounts so far. I've never had anyone tell me I'm not good at being an archivist. It's come to me naturally. It's what I'm meant to do. So why isn't anyone letting me do it?

I genuinely fear it's because people find out I'm autistic and let their misguided ideas of what that means lead them to a judgment about me before they even find out what I'm about. It's not fair at all, and although there are numerous companies now hiring autistic people to do various jobs I haven't found a fit for myself yet. I dread that I never will, and so I write this blog to advocate for people like myself to make sure that nobody who comes after me will have to deal with the same prejudice I do with regards to being employed. I want every autistic person after me to have an easier time finding employment in a world not made for us because we all deserve the same quality of life as everyone else. I'm going to do my level best to make sure we achieve that.

Here I am talking about this in video form: