Saturday, 24 November 2012

It must suck to be normal these days

Spare a thought for all those poor, poor People With Normality out there.

Not so long ago, they could go to work, school or social outings and never have to see anyone different from themselves.  They could use words like "retard" and "spaz" as insults without thinking of the actual meaning of those words.  They could move effortlessly through their world, secure that the infrastructure - both physical and social - was all designed with their needs in mind.  The social structures which guided their passage through life were so stable and secure that they never even questioned their existence, the way one never questions a mat's reliability to stay on the floor.

Storm Crowd 

 Now, though, things are different.

Now you will see people with all sorts of bodies and all sorts of abilities going about their day, and you'll have to get over the desire to stare, or avert your eyes, and deal with us like actual regular human beings.  Now you're expected to think before you speak (or type), and understand that even if you don't feel the term you're using is offensive, someone else might and with good reason.

If you've been brought up with the unspoken belief that one way of being is right, and others are wrong, damaged, broken, shameful, or a source of novelty, then suddenly being expected to turn that whole way of thinking around is a big deal.  Change is hard.  And that sucks.

You know what else sucks?

Being murdered

Being beaten to a pulp

Being assaulted by someone supposed to care for you

Being left to die in a fire

That's why, when the straight white able cis neurotypical dudebros whine because they've lost their right to use "retard" as an insult or park in the spaces closest to the shopping centre doors, they won't really get a lot of sympathy here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I can't have a pretty kitchen

When I moved into my current digs, I had high hopes for the kitchen.  It's less a room and more a sort of nook, and I was going to turn that crummy neglected-rental-house kitchen into something magazine worthy.  I dyed curtains, hung some old tin trays on the walls, and acquired some big glass jars and used them to store rice and pasta and other won't-go-offs in a line along a shelf.

It looked damn fine.  Just one problem: it didn't work.

So I've just started a project to redo my pretty artistic kitchen into something much more prosaic and industrial that I can actually use to make food and stuff.

never accept an invitation from a stranger unless he gives you candy -Linda Festa 

I've ditched the big glass jar idea - I'll go back to storing my button collection in them, sorted by colour - and instead invested in a few bulk packs of sealable sandwich bags.  The idea is that when I'm feeling spry and functional, I measure out my rice, pasta, cereal and the like into single serves (a cup for pasta and cereal, half a cup for rice and lentils) and put each one in its own baggie.  Then, come mealtime, I can just grab one and go instead of having to measure, or eyeballing it and massively overestimating how much I need.

It works for freezer stuff, too.  A big bag of mixed frozen veg becomes a week's supply of grab-n-go packs ready to be opened and tipped into a stir fry or a pasta sauce.  A pack of sausages can be split up and frozen so that I can defrost 2 or 3 at a time, rather than cooking the whole lot with the idea of saving the extras for work lunches, but then I somehow manage to eat them all in a day or two.

Pictures showing my workable but not pretty system are to come, once I get the kitchen clean.

Which may be never.

Monday, 19 November 2012

They don't write social stories to cover this sort of thing

I'm having a 'how do I behave in this situation' dilemma, and I need to solve it soon because I don't know how much more my bladder can stand.

About two or three in the afternoon I usually need a post-lunch cuppa to see me through until hometime.  Having a stereotypically tiny female bladder, this means about quarter past four I need to use the lavatory.


The cleaner arrives at 4pm.  I don't want to go just after he's cleaned the loo, because that's surely a slight on his work, like walking in muddy boots over a floor someone's just mopped.  Similarly I don't want to use the bog just before he cleans it, because that's kinda wrong too, in a "LOL dude, you clean lavatories for a living and I'm going to remind you that we've been weeing in it all day.  Sucks to be you!" sort of way.

I may be overthinking this (Really?  You think?) but I am quite at a loss.

Just don't suggest skipping or rescheduling my afternoon cuppa.  Them's fighting words.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I have a problem with the social model of disability

That's not to say the social model of disability is flawed, it's just that there's one particular aspect that doesn't work for me.  Quite possibly I'm misunderstanding it, but either way it's giving me some pause for thought.

This model argues that we're not disabled by our condition, but by the society and infrastructure of the world around us.  People who use wheelchairs, for instance, aren't disabled by the condition which has affected their mobility, but by the stairs, crap footpaths, old buses, and the other things that prevent them from getting around using their particular mode of locomotion.

Applying this to Aspergers, we'd be talking about things like shopping centres that seem to be set up to deliberately cause sensory overload, about social convention regarding small talk and eye contact, and the odd situation whereby shouting "squee!" at a picture of a cat on a computer screen is considered normal but having a little flap when you're happy isn't.

But I'm worried that there could be a progression argued from "we're not disabled by our bodies, but by the way society's set up", to "we're not disabled".  And I think that's a dangerous path to go down.  Because, for some of us, it just is.  And whether that disability's caused by our own bodies or the way society responds to those bodies, that disability's still there.

It's a worry when it comes to ASD stuff because there are so few services for adults in the first place.  Most services that do exist are aimed at children, and dry up when their clients reach 18.  I'm concerned that anything that sounds like it's putting distance between ASD and disability could make it even harder for us to get the services and help we need.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Five questions to ask when choosing a counsellor

I've had an... interesting... run with counsellors over the years.  Before I was diagnosed I sat through a lot of talk that achieved nothing because the underlying cause - Aspergers - wasn't even identified, let alone addressed.  So that you can learn from my experiences, here are some things to bear in mind when you're sussing out a therapist. 

How could you be mad at a face like this?


Does this person have experience working with adult Aspies?

This doesn't just go for Aspergers - whatever it is that's driven you to seek counselling, you have a right to know whether the therapist has experience in dealing with it.

Over the first 25 years of my life I saw seven different therapists. I'd never counted them until now. Wow, that's a lot.  None of the seven - who ranged from school chaplains to psychologists in private practice - identified me as having Aspergers. By not addressing that, we were wallpapering over the cracks that belied serious structural issues.

I've had sessions where the whole time's been spent quizzing me on how I see the world, because the apparent novelty of an articulate adult Aspie - and a female, no less - is a learning opportunity for the therapist. I'm all for teaching people about Aspergers and dispelling myths, but not when the meter's running and I'm paying. Therapy sessions should be about working on your stuff, not teaching the therapist.

Does the therapy have a goal, and a plan to meet it?

Related to the 'teaching the therapist' idea, I spent a while with one chap where the individual sessions were interesting, but there didn't seem to be a point.  It wasn't going anywhere.  I wasn't getting better at any of the things that were giving me trouble.

A plan of attack - what you want to achieve and some sort of plan for getting there - is vital.  Even if you change it as you learn more, if you have to ditch one technique and find another, or re-set the goal posts because you've made them too hard to reach or too easy, you need to have a map you both agree on, charting your route and destination.

Does this person have a barrow to push?

More recently there was a counsellor who seemed OK, if without a particularly clear plan, but I had an odd feeling about them. Something just felt a bit off.

Then we had a session where she told me that meditation and yoga were the work of the devil and must be avoided, obviously not realising I'm a part time tealeaf-reading pagan.

This therapist wasn't affiliated with or employed by a church or religious group (as far as I know), just a regular person in private practice.  There was no reason to suspect a sudden close encounter of the religious kind.  But there it was.

I didn't go back.

Does this person treat you like you're broken, defective, or at fault?

One member of the Secret Seven told me it was my own fault I had no friends because I was fat and ugly.

I'm never going to be neurotypical.  It just isn't going to happen.  So therapy that's aimed at making me neurotypical - either in terms of thought processes, or in terms of pretending and passing - is more wallpaper.  I want therapy that helps me be a healthy, happy Aspie, not a sad Aspie who's a good actor.

Can you trust this person?

Another member of the Secret Seven was moving from a practice he shared with various other health-type people to his own office, and told me he'd call me when he was set up and we'd resume sessions.

He never called back.  I later found out he considered himself to have as much work as he wanted, so used the move as an opportune time to shed a few clients by pulling a 'don't call me, I'll call you'.  To make it worse there were other psychologists at the practice he was leaving who could have taken over his case load, but he decided to just leave us hanging instead.

Is a dick like that someone you want to entrust with your innermost secrets?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Poor balance is a prick(le)

I was just ducking out to bin the bagged-up recycling that's been sitting in the hall for two days.  Because I was going at most twenty paces I didn't bother putting shoes on, and because I didn't need to see where I was going in any great detail I didn't bother with glasses either.

Apparently a horde of invisible ninja prickles have sprung up in my lawn since I last walked barefoot on it, and they leapt out and attacked my helpless, barefoot, barely-able-to-see self.

So I do that awkward 'walk on the bit of your foot that doesn't have a prickle in it' thing out of the invisible ninja prickle patch and then stand on one foot, so I can pull the prickles out of the other one.

Except because my balance is poor to nonexistent, and I'm in the middle of the lawn where there's nothing to lean on, every five seconds I have to put my other foot back down to stop myself falling over.

And that's when I discover I'm not out of the invisible ninja prickle patch after all.

I have to put my foot back down so frequently that I'm actually getting more prickles in it than I can pull out when I raise it.  So it's back to the 'trying to walk on one square inch of foot' thing as I hobble to safety and then pull half of an old growth forest out of the soles of my feet.

And then I realised I'd dropped the bags in the prickle patch.

Somewhere in this picture is an invisible foot-attacking ninja.  I can't see it either.