Friday, December 30, 2011

Moving On

It's almost the end of 2011, so I guess I should write about what was for me a very big year. Because this is a culmination post or whatnot, you get an actual photo of me (in my room at home) with my partner in crime, Murphy.

The first half of this year was really difficult for me - in between writing my thesis and navigating a lot of difficult stuff in my personal life, I ended up struggling with depression. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be happy in your current situation, you can't. It just happens.

Things actually looked up once I graduated from college. Although there were a few months where I started floundering because I had no idea what to do with myself, I ended up getting my feet back under me and went back to my therapist. He got me back on the right track and eventually convinced me to join a group therapy session he was starting up every week for women. I'm the youngest member of that group. There's one other girl in her 20s, and everyone else is older. It's like I've gained four more mothers and an older sister, honestly. Having their guidance is wonderful. Because of all of them - and if you ladies read this, you know who you are - I finally feel secure in myself as a person.

For various reasons, I never felt secure as a person in the four years I was at college. There are a lot of factors, most of which are things that I'm not going to talk about at the present, but they're all behind me. I will say this, though - I learned a lot about people when I was at college. There are all kinds of people out there in this world - some will be good to you, and others won't be. Then there are those who are both. It's up to you yourself to successfully navigate your relationships with all of these people. For people on the autism spectrum - like myself - that's harder than it is for neurotypical people. It's a struggle to understand the people that care about us, let alone the ones that don't. It's harder to determine who those people are sometimes. Sometimes, we're even flat-out wrong about what people want from us. We've all experienced good and bad relationships (the story of my 2011) - the toughest part is determining what to do with them.

Sometimes, you just have to move on, too. And that's okay.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2012! Now we just have to hope the world doesn't end, right? Right.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank you for your support, everyone! Happy holidays!

This drawing I did of Barnaby and Louise was my holiday card this year. Since tonight Hanukkah begins and Christmas - and my dad's birthday - are on Sunday, I figured now was as good a time as any to wish you all the best for the holiday season!

I wanted to thank you all for reading this blog over the past two years - as my readership grows, support for Asperger's grows, and I really appreciate that. The more awareness we can spread, the better the future looks! I also owe you all a personal thank you for your support over the past year, especially as I've moved on from college and am attempting to find a place in the real world. I love you all so beyond much - you've really made me feel so welcome in the autism/Asperger's community and in the world as a whole. Thank you all for being there for me - it means so much to me, and I know I couldn't have done it without all of you.

Thanks, everyone, for being awesome. I'm so glad we're all friends. ♥

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Confidence, Social Exclusion and Fubuki Shirou

Confidence has always been my biggest issue. I just don't know how to actually have it.

I had a minor work setback a couple of days ago, and it's lowered my confidence severely in everything I do that's work-related. I think everyone else at my workplace is a significantly better writer than me. I'm scared that people at work don't like me anymore, or that I'm annoying. And you know what? All of those thoughts are really stupid and irrational. I know they're not true. They're fears that I have, though, and my brain makes them horribly real to me.

This all goes back to my lack of social acceptance as a kid. I feel like I have to be perfect at everything I do in order to be accepted, and that's not the case at all. I just assume I have to do everything and I take on insane amounts of responsibility - which of course then makes it impossible for me to actually do everything and therefore sets me up for failure. It's a horrible cycle that I can't break and I hate it. I hate that I think I have to be perfect. I hate that feeling of being alone, or losing people because I'm not good enough.

(Fubuki Shirou, my fictional equivalent in the confidence department.)

I couldn't even bring myself to draw a cartoon for this post because I don't have the confidence to waste my time on my art. Fubuki, who went so far as to absorb the personality of his deceased twin brother to make himself "perfect" and prevent his ever being alone, reminds me a lot of myself in that respect. I really feel like I have to be perfect to be socially acceptable at a point where I won't be judged. It goes back to me being made fun of for everything I did growing up. I'm paranoid that everyone's eyes are still on me and that they're all here to tell me I'm wrong and should give up. It's a terrible feeling. It makes you feel really alone, to be honest. It's what both Fubuki and I fear most.

I think I just need to go and cry now for a little while until everything returns to normal for me. I'm just so angry with myself for feeling this way.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Help The Vectors Of Autism Project!

30 Days of Autism writer Leah Kelley has just written a great post on the Vectors of Autism Project, a documentary on autism in adults. This documentary looks amazing, you know. It might just get us even further up on the map for acceptance.

I know I don't have too many followers on this blog. However, I'm writing a quick little post asking you to help me out - if you're able to, please donate to the documentary fund or at the very least spread the word around! They're hoping to raise at least $5000 to complete the editing and hopefully enter the film in festivals, so help them out if you can!

If we each give a little bit, we can help a lot - this story deserves to be heard by both people affected by autism and those who are not. Please give if you can.

Thank you in advance! More strange happenings from my life, complete with stupid cartoons, will come soon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Telling People To #KillYoself Is Wrong

Okay, let's talk about the internet and how it's betrayed me today.

I've been using the internet as a place to escape from my daily life since eighth grade. It was then that I discovered and learned to enjoy fandom. For someone who was picked on and made to feel inferior by the real world, the internet was somewhere safe I could go. I knew I could rely on it.

Nowadays, it's harder and harder to escape your problems online. In fact, you can find them even more easily.

There's apparently a hashtag on Twitter called #killyoself. According to, it refers to the following:
Commonly used to tell someone that the statement they just made is completely insane.
Now here's the problem - you should never, ever, under any circumstances tell a person to kill themselves. It's offensive. As more and more people in this country struggle with depression and bullying, telling someone to kill themselves, even if you're joking, can have serious ramifications. If someone's recovering from depression or a suicide attempt, how do you think they'd feel if they were told "kill yo'self?" It's extremely jarring. There are some things you just don't say to people.

I've had a very hard time over the years. My lack of social ability has often made me wonder about things, and if someone told me to 'kill yo'self' I would be really, really hurt and feel even more left out, regardless of whether they were kidding or not. I'd be questioning whether or not they actually liked me or whether I was actually worth anything. In extreme cases, reading that hashtag might actually be the thing that pushes somebody over the edge and actually leads to their suicide.

It is never, ever, under any circumstances okay to say that to anybody. You never know who you could hurt.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm Cutest To Straight Women - Why?

Here's something I don't think I'll ever understand.

People call me 'cute' somewhat often. I'm 22 now, so I don't fully follow why I'm still 'cute' and not pretty. But the weirdest part to me? The people who call me cute are mostly straight women.

I've never been called cute by a boy. Ever. I have been called cute by lesbians before, but it was in that same affectionate way that the straight women were using the term. I just don't get why it always seems to happen to me.

I dress in a somewhat odd fashion - namely, I take clothes that were originally designed to be masculine and have since been feminized. I wear a lot of blazers and hats. The cartoon I've drawn is a pretty typical outfit for me. I'd consider myself to be a fairly pretty girl who dresses distinctly - I don't follow the pack. Somehow, this fairly pretty girl with her own fashion sense is constantly labeled as 'cute.' By other fairly pretty girls. Who like boys and have no foreseeable reason to flail over how 'cute' I am.

Could someone explain this phenomenon to me? I just don't understand it. And on that note, if any of you reading this are boys, am I cute in a way boys would like?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Identifying With Fictional People

It's been my lot as long as I can remember. I don't even fully understand why, but I've always had trouble identifying with real people, but never with fictional characters. I mean, I know why I don't identify well with real people - I have Asperger's. But when you see yourself in fictional people all the time and yet never in real people, what is that supposed to mean?

It hadn't happened to me for a while, mostly because I didn't have too much time to enjoy fiction when I was a college student. Then I came home and watched lots of anime again. Now I'm seeing myself everywhere.

This is my most recent case:

His name is Kyouhei Sera. He's a forward for fictional soccer team East Tokyo United. He wears his emotions on his face, is overly enthusiastic (or upset, or...well, he's overly-any-emotion-he-feels), is smaller than everyone else on the team at 5'4" (I'm 5'2"), and is so single-minded in his pursuit of scoring goals that he blocks out everything else in his thought process. It kind of disturbs me how much he reminds me of myself.

And yet everyone loves him. They all think he's adorable and dorky and sweet. I'd love it if someone would think that about me. I'm so used to being seen as loud and annoying and frustrating and awkward that I can't even possibly comprehend the idea of being lovable the way he is. I see myself in him and yet I can't understand why people think his character is adorable and yet in real life I struggle so much. Maybe that's just it - he's fictional and I'm real.

When you're fictional, people can look at you from a distance and use you to examine themselves. They can like you as a character. When you're real, they actually have to interact with that character, and that's where people struggle.

Anyway, Sera's what people online would refer to as my 'spirit animal' now. We're so clearly the same person that it makes me happy. It's nice once in a while to find someone just like you, even if they're not real.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm back!

I've had a very busy past couple of months. It really all comes down to the fact that we've adopted two Old English sheepdogs and I'm playing mom to them whilst volunteering at my godfather's library helping to transcribe documents in the local history room. It's given me a sense of purpose again, which has really helped my morale out a lot. I've also applied for a big girl job - keep your fingers crossed - and I sold some of my art at New York Comic Con. It's been some solid progress for me, I think. I'm working on getting the hang of this 'adult' thing.

(In the top left corner there is Louise with my mom as she graduates 'puppy first grade.' I'm just really in the mood to share some cute puppy photos with you all today. On the right is my brother with Barnaby.)

I'm actually doing group therapy now, as well. It's for social skills practice, and the other women in the group are helping me out a great deal. I'll do a post on that - without divulging any secrets since what happens in group stays in group - soon.

Right now, I just wanted everyone to know that I'm going to be updating this blog again. More cartoons will come soon, promise! I just really needed to take a little time to settle back in and get used to taking on some adult responsibilities.

Monday, July 11, 2011

In Need Of Direction

I actually drew this on vacation. Yeah, you think I'd be happier on vacation - and don't get me wrong, I had fun - but I've been struggling greatly since I've graduated from college. I have no direction in my life right now, and it's becoming really frustrating. I'm planning on going to graduate school and trying to get a paying job (not a 9-to-5 one, remember?), but at the moment I feel completely lost and I hate it.

I'm going to talk to my therapist tomorrow about this and see if he can give me a nudge in the right direction, but I'm realizing that boredom does not sit well with an active person like myself. I don't mean active in the sense of 'athletically active' or anything - I'm just one of those people who can't sit around doing nothing. I need to be doing something.

Today I ran an errand, going to Williams-Sonoma at the Garden State Plaza to pick up some ice cream bowls that my dad wanted. I also got lunch (Sarku chicken teriyaki and soba). This was the first time I'd left the house in two days. Just being outside gave me some life. I need something to do. I need a life again.

I need some direction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Irresponsible Traveler

Yeah. I forgot something when I checked out of a New Hampshire hotel today and my friend and I traveled to Vermont.

It was my bag of already-worn shirts and my iPod.

Somehow, when I called the hotel, they managed to find my iPod but not my clothes. Either way, I ended up feeling really stupid. It just made me feel disorganized and irresponsible.

For those wondering, my iPod is in the mail on its way to my house. They're still looking for my clothes. If you really care, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I have never had a job for money. I've had several volunteer positions over the years, but the only way I made any money was through petsitting (or occasionally babysitting). Yesterday, I finished sixteen hours of MLB Draft coverage singlehandedly, which I survived on caffeine and...well, that's about it. I like caffeine.

I've noticed, though, that working normal jobs just isn't for me. I don't like 9-5 hours - I'm more of a night person, so that's why I'm starting to gravitate into sportswriting: they work at night. It also means I don't have to be around people as much, because people tend to just make things really difficult and awkward for me. I knew at an early age that I couldn't deal with an office environment after I went into work with my dad on Bring Your Child To Work Day. (I did get McDonalds out of that, though. Score.)

It's not that I can't work with people - I network online with my Aerys Sports colleagues pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. It's just that I like working on my own time with my own rules, which a standard work environment wouldn't provide for me. It makes finding a job really hard in a job market that's already extremely difficult to navigate and deal with.

You can do me a favor and commission art from me, though. That'd be pretty cool. Hit up my email for more at stephsartrequests (at) gmail (dot) com.

Desperation aside, my point is that jobs are a difficult thing to figure out, especially since everyone on the autism spectrum has specific needs and not every job is going to meet those needs because each person is different. Those are my needs. Well, those and money. I need money, too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Talking Normally, Talking Like A Human, And Talking To Boys

I tend to feel left out a lot in social situations, especially since I can't integrate myself into groups very well. It's very difficult to do in person, especially with my lacking social skills. I try to talk to people, but since I don't talk normally, it ends up being very off-putting and isolating. Here are some of the things I have problems with:
  • Not sounding condescending. Because I'm hyperlexic, I use a lot of big words in my speech. To me, it's normal: I just love big words. I've been reading since I was 2 1/2 years old. To other people, I sound like an Ivory Tower academic. That's not the kind of person people want to be around. I sound like I think I'm better than them, and although I don't actually think that, it makes them feel like I'm a snob and don't like them or that I'd be taking myself down socially just to associate with them. It hurts. I genuinely want to be friends with them.
  • Not sounding like a robot. I talk like a computer sometimes, especially since I'm so stiff. I have a tendency towards spouting off information whether it's relevant or not: as soon as I think of it, I say it, which really annoys people who don't actually care. (The one place this is useful: my knowledge of random baseball statistics, which are actually a good thing to be able to spout off in the sportswriting world.) I'm not very good at toning myself down with the random information, which also alienates me.
  • Boys. I'm really intimidated by them for some reason, probably because I know they have the power to accept or reject me in a very different kind of love than family or friends give me. So when I'm talking to one I find cute, I get really shy and fail even more at making eye contact than usual. I'd love to connect to one and fall in love and get married someday, but this is really, really hard for someone like me because I struggle so badly with putting myself out there. I'm too shy to open up in non-baseball settings. I can talk to boys about baseball - and I do, as it's part of my job writing for Aerys Sports. But when it comes to everyday life, I'm crippled, and it's hard for me to open up. So whilst boys can and will fall in love with all of you, they won't fall for me. This isn't the case for most girls, Asperger's or not: you're quirky and beautiful and lovable, and as long as you let them see that, you're golden. But I was made fun of so badly as a kid that I'm afraid to open up now because I'm afraid that it could easily happen to me again, so I'm very closed off.
As you can see, I clearly face a lot of social challenges. The internet minimizes these for me by making it easier for me to talk to all of you, especially since I get to write instead of speak and I can write a lot better than I can talk. But I want to be able to survive in real life, and I feel like no matter how hard I work on my social skills these three things never get any better. I know they're part of what makes me who I am, but they're also things that make it harder for me to develop friendships and other kinds of relationships (I'm 22 and I've never been on a date, let alone held a boy's hand). I mentally struggle with this a lot, and it's hard for me to pick myself up sometimes.

But then I remember that I'm unique and special and there are people in my life who appreciate me for who I am, and it makes me feel better. Hopefully, there are other people out there like that, too.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank You

Today I had my final collegiate therapy appointment.

I broke down sobbing at the end.

My therapist at school is named Dr. Bradley. I first met with her two years ago during my sophomore year when I was stricken with OCD and I really needed help - I was in a horrible place at that time and I swear having her to talk to saved my life. She walked me through my OCD at a time when I was extremely mentally needy, and she kept me alive and helped me survive my sophomore year. I literally would not have made it without her.

Here I am, graduating on May 22nd, and where would I have been if I didn't have her to turn to? I don't even want to think about it. It was her advice and her willingness to always listen to me that guided me through college. I would have been so beyond lost and despondent without her help. I'm scared to think of what I might have been like without her there. I don't know if I would have made it to where I am here.

Dr. Bradley, I really, really love you. You are a huge reason why I'm still here and why I'm graduating soon, and I know I could have never done it without you. Thank you for everything you've done, and I'll be sure to keep in touch with you once I'm back at home! It means so beyond much to me. Writing this is making me tear up all over again because I'm going to miss you so much when I'm not in school anymore. I can't even find the words to put this post together because there's just so much to say and I can't even articulate it. It's hard to put emotions into words anyhow.

So in short, thank you, Dr. Bradley. You're amazing. Keep on doing what you do - you're truly a wonderful woman, and I am so lucky to have you in my life. You've really made such a difference for me and I'm going to carry it with me forever.

Thank you. For everything. ♥

Friday, April 8, 2011

Academia ate my brain

I drew that in my notes during my second trip to the National Archives this semester when I was on a research trip to get some court-martial records from some soldiers in order to write my senior thesis, which is on rheumatism and soldiers who faked the disease to get out of military service during the American Civil War. I've never felt this mentally fried due to scholarly work in my entire life.

Normally, I eat, sleep and breathe academia, specifically when it relates to my interests (military history, baseball, etc.). When you have a limited time to work on things, however, you feel a sudden squeeze and it just grates at you and saps all of the fun out of doing the research and exploring your subject. I love doing research. It's such a gratifying feeling to find a source or a bit of information that helps you prove your point. But when there's so much pressure and you find yourself continually crying and sobbing to your roommate that you're breaking down because of it, it's not exactly as fun. The stress of this was just not okay.

In retrospect, I'm wondering if I could have gone to Disability Services on campus to ask them about working with my professors to help me find better ways to complete my assignments without getting so stressed out. But I'm pretty much done with my undergraduate experience now, so I'm always going to be left wondering. Don't be too proud to try it, though, because you never know what might happen and who could help you. My on-campus therapist, Dr. Kathy Bradley, has been my savior this semester. Make sure if you need support you get it - you'll melt down and end up in a very bad place otherwise.

And now I will go and do my citations. Ugh.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I like cats.

Want to make me cry when I'm at college? Ask me about how much I miss my cats.

I have four - Mittens, Gimli, Tony and Murphy - and all of them have special meanings to me. Murphy, my youngest, is especially important since I found him during a rough time in my college career when I was struggling with OCD. He saved me, and I saved him (he was a tiny unweaned kitten when I found him). So that's why I drew him in my arms for this post.

My cats throughout my lifetime have taught me all sorts of things. When I was born, I had two older cat-siblings, Arthur Malone and Hillary Rose, and when my grandmother moved in with us she brought with her Gremlin, her passive-aggressive orange blob. Art and Grem both passed away from cancer when I was in elementary school, but Hill lived until I was nearly sixteen. I also adopted a kitten named Mitchell when I was ten, and his death three years later from kidney failure was the first major loss of my life. Growing up surrounded by these cats meant I learned responsibility and how to take care of others - combined with having a younger brother, I became a great nurturer. The cats have also been friends to talk to, shoulders to cry on, and sick day companions, and when I look into their eyes and we blink at each other or I get a headbutt, my heart absolutely swells with joy.

My cats have taught me how to love.

And here's the thing - if your child is on the spectrum, seriously consider getting them a pet. Animals are loyal, trustworthy friends for them. They give them something to talk about and share with others. They teach responsibility and respect and love. If you ask me, adopt from a shelter, where the best pets always are. I used to volunteer at a shelter in high school - RBARI - and all those wonderful animals deserve someone special. I know all of you are special, so go and give someone a forever home!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Keeping My Balance

It's something I'm not too good at doing, especially in fancy shoes. But on Saturday, I was wearing fancy shoes and walking in them and everything.

For the very first time, I went to my campus formal. I'm a senior.

See, at the campus formal, it's dark and crowded and there are lots of people bumping into you all the time. And when you don't know too many people on campus, that makes it even more awkward to deal with. And on top of that, I hate dressing up and looking all fancy. It just doesn't work well for me. Being flat-footed doesn't help too much on the shoe front, either.

But this year was different. It was my last year here, so I figured I should go at least once. My roommate (who's been wonderful in helping with my Asperger's over the years) and another friend of ours, who also happens to be an Aspergirl, all ended up going together. And in going together, that made it so much easier for me. I wore a dress (it was green and on the longer side). I wore dress shoes. I didn't wear makeup, but that's only because it makes my face itch. I even had a glass of wine - just one, because I don't drink much, but I had one. It was just plain huge for me to successfully go.

I only stayed about an hour because I had gotten up at 7:30 that morning to go to Antietam on a field trip. But it was still a success for me - something that took a lot of courage to do. And I am so, so glad that I went in the end, even though I was nervous to walk into those doors.

And since I know you read this, Mom, I'll close with an actual photo of me in a dress for you so you can be pleasantly surprised by me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Do What You Love

As people with Asperger's, we often find that when something has to do with our highly specific areas of knowledge, we're extremely good at it. Therefore, when I talked to my psychiatrist about potential careers since I'm about to graduate college, she reminded me that sticking to my interests could make me an undisputed expert in my field.

Well, my interest happens to be baseball, and I've got a gig writing about the Orioles for G9 Sports. Although I started out as a Red Sox and Mets fan, the Orioles have grown on me enough whilst I've been at college to make them my third team (although they're in the same division as the Sox, they're not very good right now, so it doesn't affect very much). My blog, which will be called Charm City Yakyuu, is going to discuss the Orioles in length, and I get to do what I love, talk about baseball. I'm even going to be posting cartoons there occasionally, as well, because I have a strong fondness for drawing baseball players. I'm not going to stop updating this blog, of course, because this is extremely important to me, too, but I just want to point out that writing for a sports network about a baseball team has officially given me a whole lot of confidence in myself. It's something I know I can handle, something I know I'm good at, and, most importantly, something I love doing and care about.

Basically, what I'm saying is that people with autism can succeed by following their dreams, just like everyone else. If anything, they're even more likely to put in all the hard work to get there because sometimes we can be so single-minded in our pursuits of our interests. And as long as we keep at it and stay determined, we can do anything we want to do. We just have to keep working and believe in ourselves. And I believe in every single one of you, too.