Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick Ableism Story...

Sometimes I see just how entrenched ableism is in society and it actually hurts no matter how used to it I get.

I was in a group chat once with some friends and the administrator of a group I was a member of. We were trying to sort out a problem in there with another member (which is a story for another time). At one point in the chat, the administrator referred to someone else in the group (but not the chat) as a "fuck-up" because he had mental health issues and an Asperger's diagnosis.

Bad idea.

When I came out immediately as also having Asperger's, he backpedaled so quickly that it astounded me. This was a man almost twice my age trying to save face because he'd made an erroneous assumption about disabled and mentally ill people. He didn't know how to handle the fact that not only did I reply politely but I also offered advice and linked him to this blog. I think he was surprised that I had the same diagnosis as this kid and yet had a Master's degree and was living a seemingly productive life.

I still think about this a lot because it's apparent that we deem people's worth based on how much they can contribute to society or exist "normally," and that's a really harmful attitude to have. I don't think he realized how much that comment hurt me and how angry it made me because I handled it calmly, but I raged internally and my friends knew it (and saw me ranting in all caps in another chat we were in about it). It's really, really painful to be dismissed by someone just because of your mental health and your disability.

And autism is a spectrum, too. One autistic person is one autistic person. Categorizing us as all being one way? If you do that, that makes you part of the problem.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I've been meaning to update the blog for the past two weeks, but I just haven't had the time - the reason being I got a library job! I'm currently working reference, but as I settle into my new position more I'm going to also be taking charge of doing stuff with the local history collections, which is what I'm really trained in because I'm an archivist.

It's a part-time job, but I'm still working enough hours and being paid at a high enough rate that I can handle my student loans, and that's what I was looking for, so I'm relieved! Everyone's really nice and they've been patient with me as I learn everything - they've told me it'll take months before I really have everything down because there's just so much to learn, so they've been teaching me new things a bit at a time until I have all my responsibilities understood instead of just piling everything on at once. It's a much better fit for me than being a tour guide was, since that just involved constant socialization. At the reference desk, I get to talk to people, too, but it's far less often and the conversations are much shorter, and I also have a lot of other work to take care of. The patrons who I've helped so far have all been kind to me and many of them have even welcomed me aboard - they're very sweet!

A couple of my co-workers know that I have Asperger's because it came up in a conversation (we have a regular patron who is also on the spectrum), but my boss doesn't know yet, and I'm not planning on bringing it up unless it actually does come up again somehow. Although it's a core part of my identity as a human being, so many people don't really understand what being on the autism spectrum really is like (and when they do, they often just assume my experience is like the male experience, which it's not), so I generally don't go around telling everyone I meet about it. It's not something I necessarily feel like I have to hide, but I also don't loudly announce it because I know it's not quite understood fully yet. At any rate, people will probably find out over time, especially since I'd love to do a program to help teenagers on the spectrum out since I'm in charge of YA books. (Which has more or less put me in charge of the manga and graphic novel collection. It's going to be so good now, just sayin'. I have great taste.)

I ought to close this out here since I have some other things to attend to today, but basically, things feel really nice right now and I'm so thankful and relieved that I'm going in the right direction. It got scary for some time there, but now that I've got a job - with a regular schedule - I think I might just be able to handle this 'adulthood' thing.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I'm not annoying, but I fear I am

I find myself wondering rather frequently if I'm annoying.

I know it's a big part of the social anxiety I've developed as a result of being rejected by most of my peers growing up, but it plagues me to this day. I'm afraid to open up to my friends because I don't want to annoy them with my problems. I'm afraid to talk about my own interests with people because I'm afraid of boring them and not being a good conversationalist. People avoided me as a kid because I would do that, and I was aware of it. Now I'm worried about info-dumping, even with people I'm close to. (Writing is a great outlet for me in that regard.)

I'm realizing that it's exhausting to try to pass as neurotypical all the time. I'd love to live in a world where I don't have to and I can comfortably be myself, but I don't live there yet. I live in a world where I have to seem "normal" in order to be accepted, a world where my 2009 OCD-related mental breakdown is stigmatized and makes people think I'm "crazy." It's a world that's decidedly against people like me.

Asperger's aside, I do indeed have OCD and social anxiety as comorbid conditions, and they feed off of each other. I'm terrified of any potential social missteps, and my OCD amplifies them significantly to the point where I regularly lose sleep over the fear of upsetting my friends or irritating people I'm trying to get a point across to. And at my tour guide job, I would email my boss regularly about goings-on that were in my mind relevant, but when she didn't reply very often it reinforced the idea in me that I was annoying and had to deal with everything myself.

And that's usually what I end up doing - internalizing my problems and dealing with them myself, because I end up thinking that I annoy everybody. I know it's my brain telling me this and not necessarily me, but so many things in my life can trigger this feeling - my family being busy, my friends not sounding interested in what I'm talking about, a superior not replying to messages I send - and the OCD makes it linger for hours and hours. I'll often end up with anxiety headaches and nausea and end up feeling like I'm back in 7th grade being rejected and ignored by my peers.

In 7th grade, I didn't really have friends. My elementary school friends were more acquaintances to me by that point, and nobody else wanted to be my friend. I was being bullied horribly, too, and to this day, I fear being rejected - not just by men, even though boys were my primary bullies, but by everyone for everything social.

I know I'm not an annoying person and my friends and family love me very much, but my brain can't help but make me feel that way sometimes due to how it makes me perceive things, and it's a genuinely frustrating, awful thing to have to live with.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Asperger's Job Hunt Is Kind of Scary

The good news is the library temp agency has my resume and is actively working to find me an entry-level library position!

The bad news is that I'm in the grace period of my student loans, so I'm going to need to find something quick.

It's a scary time for a lot of people in my age group - nobody's retiring and we're all horribly in debt due to our college educations, so we're all struggling to get by and a large number of us are still living at home, myself included. My parents are totally cool with me staying at home until I can move out (and even have told me it's okay if I ever have to move back in), which is great, but at the same time I'd love to start taking over my own bills so they don't have to pay them. The problem, as usual, is getting a job.

I often worry that potential employers see this blog and decide not to hire me on account of my disability, which is actually illegal if I find out about it. I fear that misunderstandings about the autism spectrum will make people see this blog and decide that I can't operate in the real world the way they'd like me to, so they actively decide that my resume isn't worth keeping around. On the other hand, my resume states that I have a Master's degree and am fully qualified and points out that I honed my social skills as a tour guide. In an interview, I can do what's called "passing," wherein people who meet me and get to know me at face value think I'm neurotypical. I've become good at pretending I'm not disabled, and I hate living in a world where I have to pretend to not be disabled just so people will think I'm normal enough to hire.

The truth is that jobs where I have to do a lot of social interaction are stressful for me and make me really tired, whereas jobs where I can do more solitary work and interact with my co-workers on my own terms (or whenever they pop into my office for a quick chat) are much more suited to how my brain works. I'm extraordinarily productive when I'm working - every archival job I've ever taken on (volunteer or not) has commented on how quickly and efficiently I get things done (and get them done well). I've discovered that in the right workplace, I, as well as many other people on the autism spectrum, will positively flourish as long as we're given the opportunity to play to our strengths.

I just wish someone would see that and take a chance on me instead of dismissing me. I know it's likely due to lack of experience (i.e. I've been archiving as a volunteer only since 2009 or so), but there's always that nagging voice in the back of my head saying that people are aware of my disability.

Keeping my fingers crossed that something works out.

(I do take commissions, so in the interim between jobs, if you'd like me to draw something for you, check out my portfolio and prices here!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Anxiety is a cruel mistress

I haven't written here in a rather long time due to graduate school, and I sincerely apologize for that. I was just so busy finishing up my final semester and balancing that with an archival internship and my part-time job that I haven't had much time for anything else!

It's been a little over two months now since I finished my grad school coursework, and I'm officially going to be handed my degree in May. It'll be nice to officially be done with another part of my life, but now I'm in a particularly horrible limbo of not having a job yet and loans looming over me.

No regular work means no regular schedule, and in addition to that, my doubts and fears about not being able to get anything have crept in. Am I qualified? Am I competent? Is something wrong with how I interview when I do get those rare opportunities? Why don't employers want me? Does ANYONE want me?

My anxiety is naturally on the rise at the moment. I've been having panic attacks over things I don't normally have them over - yesterday I had one when trying to explain to a friend that I wouldn't be able to drive due to the hail completely icing over my car, and I'm still thrown off by that one today. I know having a library job won't solve everything, but it would go a long way towards calming me down and getting me back into a routine, something we Aspergian people thrive on.

A temp agency has my resume and I filled out and sent their form back to them yesterday, so hopefully I'll have a placement soon. In the meantime, I'm going to keep applying to every open library position in the greater NYC area and try not to lose my head.