Thursday, April 2, 2015

Autism Awareness Day 2015

Hello everyone! Happy Autism Awareness Day!

Autism Awareness Day is like a holiday to me. I know it's a strange thing to be "happy" about, but to me, Autism is worth celebrating. I was honored walking around school today and seeing people who know me wearing blue...thank you! It is a day to help people be aware of what Autism really is, besides what you may have learned on TV. 

If you have read my blog before, then you know that I have an autism diagnosis. If you read my earlier posts, I go into much detail about how Autism has affected me, and how it currently affects me. It is a huge part of who I am, though it is not entirely who I am. I am a human being: I have multiple layers that make up what is "Maddie Dugan". Along with being autistic, I'm also an actress, an artist, a writer, a friend, a karaoke addict and a kick ass trapeze artist (and a pretty good over exaggerator). 

In the spirit of Autism Awareness Day, I want to talk about something that affects me today. Something that many people I know do, even if they don't intend to hurt me when they do it. I want to talk about the many phrases, words, and other things that you may have said in the past, that you may not have been aware of, that hurt people like regards to Autism. 

Let's take a look at phrases such as...

"You have autism? I never would have guessed! You're so fun and personable!"

"I mean, you don't *really* have autism..."

"You're too pretty to have autism..."

"Dude, that's so retarded."

Here's the deal, guys: while you may have meant well with statements like these...they have hidden meanings behind them that hurt people like myself. 

In my theater history class today, we talked a lot about stereotypes in the media. People were voicing their opinions on how they aren't affected by certain stereotypes, and how many TV shows make fun of all kinds of people, so that makes it ok (such as South Park). The entire conversation, I wanted to shout "THOSE WORDS MIGHT NOT AFFECT YOU, BUT JUST EFFING ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY AFFECT OTHER PEOPLE!". It does not matter if it directly affects your life or not. We have become desensitized as a culture to humor that puts people down...apparently, because every group of people is a target, that makes it O.k. I don't believe it is, but feel free to disagree with me.

I'm asking you all to take a step out of your own lives for a would it make you feel people came up to you constantly and made remarks like the ones I listed above, knowing that you live with a certain trait every single day of your life? People don't understand the implications behind things like "You're so smart and personable!" is potentially implying that people with Autism are not so...

Like I have said countless times throughout this blog...


There is a reason it is called the "Autism Spectrum".

While there are people who face social differences because of their autism, that does not mean that everyone with autism has the same kinds of functioning. Also...people with even severe autism can be "fun". Their "fun" might not be your "fun", but that doesn't take away from the fact that they can have fun. It's just different. 

Telling me that I must not really have Autism because I have an easier time relating to people completely takes away from my experience with Autism. It is something that I am proud to have, despite the difficulties that have come my way because of people not quite understanding how I function. I am not any less autistic just because I might not show the same kinds of signs you have seen in movies, or in your friend or relative who has autism. I have many of the symptoms that come with an autism diagnosis, and while I may "pass as normal" (whatever the heck that means...), I still am impacted by Autism.

Along with this, phrases like "you're too pretty to have autism" hurt people unintentionally. Why are you suggesting that only ugly people have autism? Autism is not a physically representative condition. A super model can have Autism. Celebrities can have Autism. There isn't some hideous giveaway that someone has Autism. While I am flattered to be considered pretty, the fact that you have to put down other people in the process of your compliment makes it no longer much of a compliment. 

And then there's the "R" word...

Ugh. Ok.

I have heard just about every excuse in the world for using the "R" word. "It used to mean slow in it's original meaning" "It's musical term 'retardando'" "I'm not calling YOU retarded, just this object or subject". I've heard it all, guys. We all know you aren't speaking in musical terms when your friend does something while they are drunk and you tell them about it the next day and refer to their actions as "so retarded" (unless your friend is just a crazy good tuba player after taking one too many tequila shots...)

"Retarded" has been used to put people down. It has been used to tell a group of people that they are stupid, less than other people. While it may have meant something different long ago, it has been used in recent time as a means to hurt people, and it's not ok. 

Even if you aren't directly using it at me, you are still using a word that has been used against people like me. Calling something "retarded" is implying it is stupid, dumb, whatever. Knowing how it has been used in the past makes it impactful to someone who has a different functioning than you, no matter how you say it or what it may be directed at. People who are Autistic have been called "retarded" for far too long, and we are far from it.

There are so many other words you can use to describe what you are trying to imply, without directing bringing in an oppressed group of people who are directly associated with that word. The negativity behind the word is still implying that being "retarded" is bad. Why is someone "slower" than you a bad thing? It isn't. It is just different. 

I know old habits are hard to break, and that "retarded" is so heavily used in today's culture, but I urge you to try and understand while that word might not directly affect you and your situation in life, it has been used against other people in a means to "put people in their place". 

Ableism is a very real issue that Autism Awareness Day aims to bring to light
It is NOT about making you aware of the horrors that come with Autism. It is about helping people understand that this is not a disability, it is a different way of processing the world around us. 

This is really only scratching the surface of the many ways to become better aware of how we all interact with Autism (and other different kinds of abled-ness). So, you may be wondering what you can do, someone who may not have Autism. Reading this blog, and other blogs like mine, is a great way to start! Educate yourself. And then...pass the information you know around. Stand up when you hear fallacies in people's statements. Think outside of yourself and attempt to acknowledge the differences and similarities between autistics and neuro-typical people.  

Thanks for reading this, and hopefully becoming more aware :-)

xoxo- Maddie (not gossip girl...well...ok that's debatable.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Few Words From "The Supposedly Deranged" Chick

Greetings from Ellensburg, WA, home of  Central Washington University!

(go wildcats.)
Amidst my college adventures, I have had a sudden spark of inspiration to blog this week...and not necessarily in a good way.
I don't want to start off on a negative note, however, so let me first say that I am transitioning nicely to university life!
I decided this past May that I was ready to go to school after a year of graduating with my AA from Bellevue College. I was done working in jobs that weren't leaving me fulfilled in ways that I want to be. So many due dates had passed for college applications, and I knew I was late into the game. I was talking to a good friend of mine about wanting to go back to school, but most likely would have to wait another year. Another year of a possible job that wouldn't really be exactly what I want to be doing. He told me that Central Washington University was taking applications. One visit and one week later,  I was accepted and decided to attend for this fall. This school had the right programs, the right kinds of people, and, big bonus, the affordable tuition that I was looking for. All around, a great life step for Maddie!
I am about to end my 3rd week here, and, for the most part, things have been amazing. I have met some wonderful people, I have joined an a cappella group, and I am enjoying my classes.
Well...I was enjoying one of them. Until this past Tuesday...
Ok, I'm being a little over dramatic.
 But, ladies and gentlemen, I left class on Tuesday PISSED.
I am a person who can hear pretty controversial things and not want to get into huge, heated debates around them. Things will spark my interest and I will want to discuss it, but few things get me really fired up.
I'll explain what happened.
To put it simply...
The world is so much more ignorant about Autism than I thought.
Before class had really begun, we were all sitting around, waiting for the last few people to get into class. The professor and some students were talking about really smart old guys (I am assuming, honestly, I was pretty focused on level 347 of Candy Crush Saga, but I was still some-what listening). Albert Einstein came up, and a student had asked if Albert Einstein had Asperger's. My teacher scoffed at him, and I looked up and commented on the fact that there have been many theories on certain historical figures having Asperger's.
My teacher then says...
wait for it...
"They probably did. They were pretty deranged."
I'm sorry...
Did that really just come OUT OF YOUR MOUTH?!
The majority of the class burst out laughing. They then proceeded to make jokes about "those crazy Asperger people" and how "Asperger's is just an excuse to be an asshole". Never mind that just the week before, in an assignment about showing vulnerable life moments on stage, I talked about my Autism diagnosis as a kid. I'm just sitting there, with some eyes of my peers on me, who could probably guess how I was feeling in that moment.
Look, people, I understand that sometimes jokes get a little carried away, and that we don't mean hate or harm when we make certain jokes at groups of people...
but seriously...
I have heard many people talking about how our society has become way to politically correct. How people now spend so much time and effort being sensitive to others that no topic is safe to laugh at anymore. Comedy has become narrowed down, and people don't like it. I get it.  However, what was said wasn't funny. Nothing about being called "deranged" is funny.
I don't have a freaking puzzle piece tattoo on my forearm because I enjoy being labeled "deranged".
I have it because it is a badge of honor, and I'm damn proud of my experiences. 
As you can probably guess by now, I was pretty upset. Myself and many people close to me were the target of ignorant humor, and I'm here to say today that IT IS NOT OK. Of all the things to laugh about in this world, a group of people, with many born natural talents and gifts, do not deserve to be the subject of your laughter. In that moment when things were being said, I felt like yelling, I felt like crying, I felt like telling them all to STFU. But none of those things would have helped. Their ignorance would not have been addressed positively if I had lashed out in anger. In that moment, I was too angry to really find appropriate phrasing to address what they were saying. I wish I had, but I didn't. So here I am, blogging to all of you reading this. Why? Because it needs to be talked about. We need to stop letting things slide when words are said at the expense of someone else's being. Whether it was an indirect attack or not, what happened was still a form of BULLYING.
Being mindful of the things you say doesn't just apply to Autism.
It applies to race, gender, sexuality, mental illness, rape, weight, abuse, and on and on and on...
My overall point, is that you never know what people around you may have gone through. You might not be aware of all of the insecurities, hurt, past and present issues that someone may be going through. What you may find funny is probably not if it at the expense of someone else. What we go through behind closed doors is our own business, and we shouldn't have to wear giant signs on our foreheads exposing the "skeletons" in our closets. Especially when it comes to Autism, when so many people in our society are now affected by it, you don't know who in the room around you might have some kind of experience with it. I am pretty confident that I wasn't the only person in that classroom with some kind of relation to Autism in some way. I was not only insulted for me, but insulted for my peers who are Autistic, for all of the kids I have met in my job experiences who are on the spectrum, and for historical figures who have shared their intelligence and passions with the world. It shouldn't take away from their impact on the world because they may or may not have had Autism.
I can't be angry at people for being ignorant, but I can be angry when things are said that can potentially bring hurt feelings to someone in the room, whether they "meant to" or not. It's ok to not know a lot about a subject. To quote a certain little rabbit, "If you don't have something nice to say...", you know the drill. Have good judgment. Think before you speak, and speak when you're well being is being compromised by the jokes of someone who may not know better.
Call me overly sensitive, call me short fused, but I'm not going to stay quiet about this, and neither should you.
Guys...just don't be a dick.
Maddie :) <3



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Coming From The Dusty Bookshelf

Why HELLO THERE, blogging world! It is I...Maddie...back to blog. 

I know, I know, it's been quite a long time since I have posted. I will not be surprised if no one reads this..this blog has kind of been sitting on a dusty bookshelf while I've figured a lot of life out.
Life has kind of taken priority over the internet the past year or so, so there hasn't been a ton of room for blogging inspiration.

BUT WAIT...I DO have some inspiration!

Up until this past month, I was working at a non-profit in Seattle for children and adults with moderate to severe mental and physical "disabilities" (I don't like the word disability, so I try to use it as little as possible). I recently left because I moved to the Spokane area
(Eastern Washington). Now I am back in Bellevue teaching pre-schoolers!
The time spent at the non-profit was a pretty incredible, eye opening to say I have no inspiration after these past few months is just a straight up LIE. I have SO much to share with you, my (hopefully) loyal readers. 

While I will not give any specific information as far as names and individual stories, I will share what I generally learned and experienced from working with people of many different abilities, primarily Autism. 

Let me say this first...I know SO much more now about Autism than I did when I began this blog. I will admit, I went into my job feeling like an Autism could I not? I HAD Autism...I thought I had once been in a position that these kids were all in...

 Little did I know, that they would wind up teaching me more than I wound up teaching them. 

So, my job was to be a teaching assistant, working with students on their individual education programs. I first worked with children ages 5-21 with a wide variety of abilities, the most common one being Autism. I then switched over to working with adults (21 and over) for the first part of my day, and then with the kiddos the second. To say the least, my job was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time. It took a lot of energy out of me emotionally. I came across children with VERY severe behavioral problems. Multiple times I was hit, pinched, yelled/screamed at, and left with many dirty diapers to clean.

 Again, it was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time.

It was pretty rough to adjust to at first, but after a while you become desensitized to the negative behaviors because you cling on to the behaviors that showed progress. I would get beams of excitement when I would find small solutions to difficult problems. Whether or not the progress would be consistent varied by student. Lots of skills took a lot of practice. But when you saw your assistance clicking in a student's mind, it was honestly one of the coolest experiences I could possibly describe. 

Among all of the work that went on, there were so many fun times that were had. We went on field trips, sang songs, did crafts (some were better than others, either way it made for great amusement), science projects, and so much more.

What I loved about this agency was that they would find inexpensive, creative ways to get students actively involved in group activities. Everyone was included, no student was left out. At times it reminded me of ways I was left out of activities in my child much of a stretch it would be for teachers or counselors to reach out to me and make sure I was ok while sitting in a corner, watching other students socialize and get along. I never felt like I was going out of my way to include a student in an activity while working at this agency. I almost made it a personal mission to try and find ways to involve the students and make them feel included. Not only did I do this, but other staff did this as well. It really was an agency effort that I really admired.

This is all to say that this job really proved to me 2 things: 

1. It is pretty much impossible to say "Oh yeah, Autism! I completely understand what that's like, my child has that/I know someone who has that!" and have it be accurate.

They call it a "spectrum" for a reason. No person I worked with, who had Autism, was completely like another person who had Autism. There were certain varying characteristics that would be similar, but each student's needs were completely unique to that student. I would really like to try and get people to understand this as much as and general care NEEDS to be individual, based on the needs of that student. More adults working with a student with disabilities need to stop treating students based on how they have seen a person with autism beforehand, or their idea of what Autism is. They need to genuinely get on that student's level and progressively discover their likes, dislikes, etc. You need to actually GET TO KNOW THE STUDENT, not just what a file might say or what you *assume* will be a solution to a behavioral issue. 

2. I am no expert on Autism.

I am only blogging based on my own experience with Autism, and things I learned while working with people with Autsim. I still do not know everything there is to know about it. 

Oh yeah, I guess there is a 3rd thing I learned...

3. This is what I want to be doing. 

I want to be in a career where I am doing exactly this...working with children, learning more than I ever imagined about working with people with different abilities, and then helping to educate the world. say the least...there is more to come. 

I'm currently on the job search in Spokane, WA, before heading to Eastern Washington University to get my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Disability Studies...with, of course, a minor in theater arts. But before school, I want more work experience...hopefully doing something similar to what I was doing back in Seattle. So...we'll see what happens! Send good job seeking vibes my way, please!!! Oh...and keep an eye out on the blog, more free time means more posts ;).

And for now...I finish this blog, eat some ramen, and watch the final season of How I Met Your Mother. 


<3 Maddie

Friday, January 18, 2013

1,2,3,4, Rejection

Flash back...

Seeing the cool group of kids in elementary school, hanging out by the kickball field, trying to join in...worse than getting picked last, I didn't get picked at all...funny looks, whispering in ears, the strut away, rejection.

Alright, flash back...

Inviting kids to my birthday parties, everyone off doing their own thing, funny looks, whispering, ignoring me blowing out the candles, rejection.

Let's try this again...flash back...

Inviting a friend over to my house after school, friend says yes that day, says she is sick the next day, mom catches my "friend" walking home after school with another, more popular girl...scolding, shock, missed opportunities, rejection.

You get the idea. Ouch, right?

Elementary school was pretty much just a miserable time all around. I know I've touched on this time in my life a lot, because it's the one that hits the hardest for me and the one where a lot of my pain has stemmed from. It's also where my autism had the biggest affect on me. I notice more and more the older I get. I don't trust. I run away when I sense rejection coming.Sometimes I feel as if my rejection in the past has given me a split personality. It has made me either overcompensate my fear by being over-the-top and the fun person everyone wants to being around (sometimes overwhelmingly so), or the girl who shuts down and avoids her feelings and the people around her.
It almost caused me more pain to learn about this rejection as I got older...I can't say I noticed all of it all the time as a kid, but I certainly got the idea that I was not wanted among my peers. I wonder if I had some static bubble around me where if anyone tried to get close to me, they'd just get shocked and run off. I don't believe I intentionally did things to scare people off, but I was different...quirky, awkward, kind of into my own thing, going to the beat of my own drum. The times I tried leaving the static bubble left me vulnerable, and then later hurt.

What's sad, is that I remember in 5th grade getting my first hug from one of the popular girls...first hug from someone my age, but then they just happened to be popular. I felt like a million bucks. I couldn't believe someone would go out of their way to hug me. It only kept up for a week...then the next, I was back to sitting ontop of monkey bars throwing bark at boys walking by, hoping they'd notice me. I don't know if that girl would remember what she did back then...I was in all 3 stages of school through high school with her, and later on we became civilized acquaintances. I feel silly looking back at how much that hug meant to much that one week of acceptance boosted my self worth. It's funny to me how much that has stuck in my mind all these years...for goodness sake, they weren't even long hugs or anything, they were extremely tame and polite,

Light patting on the back, a quick 4 seconds...yes, I counted. I remember counting. 

1, 2, 3, 4, done.

It mattered that much to me. 

4 seconds.

That's all it took to make me feel wanted, to feel normal...

4 stupid seconds.

There is something simply amazing about college...all of a sudden, it doesn't matter how weird and quirky I am. In fact, there are much weirder, quirkier, outlandish people I have encountered who I love and adore. The drama department is full of these people. I don't need to conform myself to be like anyone else...I'm me, and now, as an adult, it's cool being me. 

And guess what?

I get sung to on my birthday...

I invite friends over...sometimes multiple ones at a time, and everyone sticks to their word...

I get hugs...

And I have friends...for much longer than 4 seconds.

What's important in all of this? Being a kid sucked, yes. I sometimes forget how good I've got it with the friends I have different of a person I am now than I was then. I worked through my social awkwardness, but I didn't conform to being just like everyone else at the same time. I kept true to who I am, but I learned how to relate to people, and learned how to be a true friend and learned what it looks like to have one. Friendship is one of the greatest gifts of my life, and I have close friends who I can depend on and trust. They know I'm weird, and quirky, and outlandish...but now it's what I use to draw people closer, not push them away. My rejection has brought me an amazing ability to reach out to those who seem unreachable. I know what it's like being different and being the it's clear as day to me when I see it in other people now. Instead of giving the quick, polite and unmeaningful hug like I was shown back in the day, I sit and talk with people and get to know them. It makes a big difference, and brings people into my life I might not have expected to be there before. 

I'm probably that broken record blog by now, but guess what? Blogs aren't only a reminder for you readers, but for me, the blogger. I keep myself in check by reflection to certain parts of my life...
There is still much progress for me in trusting others who want to come into my bubble...
Best way to do that is to be a bubble popper for other people I see, showing them I want in.


<3 Maddie

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's the First Blog of the Year!

4 am, and I'm still awake, writing a blog...

Apparently it's been too long since my last post...

Guess it's time to blog :) Welcome back.

 Everyone likes to start the year off with resolutions like giving up that addiction (again), or losing those pounds that always seem to find their way back, or being the first white guy to achieve true "wangster" status.  

I have so many bittersweet feelings about 2012. So many amazing things happened to me, and I found myself growing in a lot of ways, and I have come to love so many new people. I started a weight-loss journey that has been fairly consistent for the first time ever, I was in amazing shows at school, and I had straight A's all year basically. But, some crap has gone on, too. I won't get into the nitty grtitty, but life has thrown a lot my way, and now, 2013 is going to be a year when I look at life in a whole new way...I've had a lot of changes happen to me recently...a lot of things come and hit me all at once, it seemed like.

You know that generic question on personality surveys, the one that asks you if you see life with the "glass" half empty or half full?

I wish there were an option to select where you see life as a spilt glass, but then you can try scooping up the falling water before it it's the ground.

What do I mean? I'm not sure exactly...I think I see life being full of surprises, and sometimes your glass of water tips over, and you have to think on your feet about what to do next. Or you could just let it spill and watch the water soak into the ground and never do anything about it...that option doesn't sound as fun, though. 

I felt like, the past couple of months, like I had a glass filled to the top with water, and I was trying to walk on a tight rope...oh, and I was balancing the glass on my nose. Obstacles kept getting me from my end goal, and life situations caused me to be caught off-guard. To save the water that spills out, to not save the water...the never ending question.

With my Autism, a lot of people basically congratulate me for "over coming" it over the years. I have had to work extremely hard to be able to cope with a lot of my difficulties and persevere. The thing that I haven't overcome, is acceptance of my other flaws that are non-autism related. I don't like admitting my fault in a situation that happens to me, and I have a hard time not finding excuses for things that happen in my life. I still have a lot of growing up to do, and 2013 is going to be one of those years when my awareness of all of this is extremely heightened. I don't want to continue the pattern in my life of taking an easy way out...I want to know that when a problem came my way, I faced it head-on and I felt accomplished afterwords...just like how I did with Autism. As much as it is a gift, I'm not going to lie, it can be a huge pain in the ass, even still today for me. I cope, and I've had to fight for the things I wanted in life but people never thought I'd ever be able to have...and I got there with shining glory. But it didn't happen over night...and I seem to forget that. That's probably my biggest obstacle in my way, the thing that makes things hard when my glass of water wants to tip over...I'm impatient...and impulsive. I like to see immediate results. When things don't happen for me right away, or I find myself unable to solve a problem with quick thinking, I run away from it, or do something irrationally that winds up screwing me over later.

I know this is that point in the post when the cheesy and generic line comes up about not wanting to live that way anymore, and that 2013 is going to be different, and that I'm a new person now and won't let anything stop me because I'm strong...I AM WOMAN!!! *Insert roaring applause, confetti, and white guys with sagging pants and gold chains screaming YEAH BOIIIIII here*

Well...yeah. That is true. I do want all of that. But it won't happen the way I want it to.

I have a lot of work I need to do...and my impulsivity and impatience may not even be fixed within the year...or any of my other "resolutions". I may not end 2013 a flawless person...and I don't want to. I want to look back knowing that I worked on the things I needed to work on for myself, and that I made progress despite my flaws. The glass I am carrying called life is going to want to tip over, over and over again. I am going to want to tip the thing over myself's ok, we all have those days, right? Even if you don't. I know that I do occasionally, but I'm not going to let it get the better of me. There's still a lot for me to be proud of all at the same time. I made some mistakes during 2012, and I may make similar mistakes again, and completely new mistakes I didn't see coming, but the point is, is that life is always going to want to throw us off our game, and it's how we look at if afterwords that determines if we truly want to meet our goals and face it head on instead of just accepting it and not doing anything about may not happen in the time that you want it to, but that doesn't make it unachievable. 

Life Lessons with Maddie...maybe life would make more sense if it were in the form of a pop-up book. It sure would be a lot prettier, and colorful, and there would be hot men that save the day and bring you margaritas with bendy straws...

Ok, maybe the pop-up books I read are a little too extravagant.

Have a great 2013, everyone...cheers to you and your resolutions...even if they are life resolutions that are going to take a while. Have a seat on the train, I'm right there with ya.

<3 Maddie

Sunday, December 2, 2012


My last post was WAY too long ago...

The stresses of life have kept me away from my art, my outlet, my connection to all of you reading this! No longer...I'm back and ready to rumble :)

I miss my coping mechanisms...growing up, I was given little ways, tricks if you will, of ways to handle any kind of intense emotion...yes, I had them even when I was ridiculously happy and excited.

Yesterday, I saw a good example why I still need them. I'm stage managing/producing a show at my school at the moment (a 10 minute play festival with 7 shows in them), and it was opening night last night. I had multiple directors coming up to me at once asking me questions, not giving me time to respond to any of them...them being circled around me and talking to me with stressed tones made me literally grab at the back of my head as if I were to pull my hair out, letting out a grunt of frustration.  My peers looked at me with complete confusion, not really ever seeing this side of me. I was SUPER embarrassed at my lack of control in the moment, but then I was able to take a deep breath and get back to work and answer all of their questions. Looking back, the correct thing to do would have been to ask them all to meet me outside of the theater we were standing in, away from all of the other noise going on around us with actors moving set pieces and talking. Luckily, the people I work with are all like family to me and were able to help me in the moment to breathe, but I can only imagine what would happen in a real work situation and this happened to me...

"So...yeah. About that whole "freak out" incident...let's not do that. And by that, I mean, leave the building and don't come back. Preferably ever. Uh...yeah...thanks a lot."

Apparently I imagine my future boss being much more passive than what would realistically happen...

My brain can only handle so much stimulation at one's something that I am completely aware about myself, and yet, I find that moments like these come at me when I am stressed out and have a lot of anxiety.

I remember as a child being given little things during class or social situations to relieve my anxiety/over and under stimulation/ general lack of focus. I had a stress ball I would hold in my hand if we had to sit and listen to lecture sessions to give me something to do, I would draw cartoon strips of social situations that I didn't know how to process otherwise (I actually did this through high school, too), many things I did to get myself out of my own head. I think that's why I love theater so gets me out of my own head and into something else to focus on. Sometimes, my mind doesn't know how to process all the information flowing through it at once, and it can be hard to break down what exactly is going on around me. I feel like I must know what schizophrenics go through...hearing voices in your head all at once, and having them consume your thoughts...only I'm not making up the voices, I can just literally hear every conversation happening in a room, and I visually can have a detailed observation of everything around me, all of this happening at the same time, typically. To this day, sometimes I will get so stressed that I have involuntary tics (facially) that I hadn't actually realized were tics until recently. I am constantly challenged by overwhelming emotion...I actually wound up walking out of a class in college recently because I had such bad test anxiety and couldn't focus. I wound up going back and working it out with the teacher, but it was clear to me that I still have many challenges in myself that haven't gone away. I used to do that all the time as a child...and the fact that it happened in college makes me realize that I have things I need to work on.

I know that many children on the spectrum are given tools to cope.  I know a newer trend going around are animal aids that are by your side and are trained to sense stress and anxiety. Petting animals is a physically calming action. I'm starting to think that it shouldn't just be us with the mechanisms...everyone should have something to help them focus or calm down. Some people work out, some people take baths, some people punch things (hopefully not people and hopefully wearing a boxing glove or something). Not only that, but people in general need to have a better sense of their triggers. If you know a certain thing really bothers you or stresses you out...just tell people! No one can help you if you aren't open about certain things.

I need to take my own advice...I try so hard to appear like I have things together in my life to people all the time...I hate seeming weak, or limited. I take on a million different things in my schedule, and I often find myself burned out, which leads me to lash out at times. I think I am somewhat ahead of the game though and can at least acknowledge that. I don't do enough to cope with everything going on in my head and in stressful life situations. Writing about all of this has actually helped...vulnerability can be healing. Find what gives you relief...we, as people, keep so many things pent up inside and try and handle the world by pretending there is no problem. It can literally physically harm you...we carry stress in our muscles. We all need to find things that can get us to a mentally healthy place to be able to do the things we need to do.

Don't be a tool, just use tools.

...It sounded better in my head. 

<3 Maddie

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I have come to the conclusion recently that I have a hard time accepting help from others.

Well, OK, I've always known this...

And it's not because I'm trying to show off what strong guns I have when things need to be lifted.

I know this doesn't sound like an uncommon trait to have, but it has really been coming to my attention recently as to how I approach situations...

Imagine spending your life bound to a wheel chair (I don't mean that you are a robot and are part human/part wheel chair...although the image of that sounds pretty amazing). You need constant support and assistance from people around you, even when it is things you really CAN manage to do yourself. Then, with enough of physical therapy, you miraculously learn how to walk on your own...which would feel great and you would feel unstoppable, right? You feel like you can do anything...but the people around you still feel the need to help you...and you get back to feeling incapable again, even though you have done all of this work to get where you are.

So, take out the wheel chair in this scenario and replace it with Autism...and that is my life. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate having people in my life that are willing to support me...there are just some people who assume that I need help with things I have actually worked hard to become capable at (which actually turns out to be people who know me the least...) after telling them I am autistic. It actually REALLY irks me, and is probably my 2nd biggest pet peeve...the 1st will always be high pitched noises...*SHUDDER*.

Many people have a hard time receiving help from people. It's one wants to be seen as incapable or incompetent. I certainly don't...many years of my life have been spent not ever feeling good enough to accomplish certain things. I still can't cut with scissors in a straight line. There are obviously things I don't do perfectly. I feel as if I have to prove myself more to people...I want them to see that I can handle a lot more than what my circumstances have allowed me to accomplish in the past. 
I don't want to be a charity case, and I've never wanted people to look at me, hear I am autistic  and then assume that I am limited. Autism makes me the opposite of gives me strength in so many ways. I have worked hard to get to the places I am. 

Here's the problem: I spend so much time trying to prove my competency that I shut out people who actually want to help me out of the kindness of their heart, not because they don't think I can. I could potentially damage relationships in my life if I don't learn to let people in. It's hard to remember that in the moment..

I would love to go around in life with a cape on my back feeling like super woman all the time...but I'm not super woman.
I'm a human, and all kryptonite does is hurt my eyes from all of the bright glowing. Oh, sensory jokes...

I've worked too hard to be able to form relationships with people, and the last thing I want to do is deny their love because I feel like I don't need anyone. I have to remember that I couldn't have gotten to the point I am at without people in my life supporting me. I didn't have everything done for me, but when I felt stuck with no end in sight, there were people there to cheer for me and encourage me. I've hit a lot of dark spots in my life where I didn't know how to move on to the next day...sometimes it still happens. I couldn't move out of those places if I had no one around me...
I am the girl who is never defeated...but that doesn't mean that I can do it all on my own...and that isn't Autism's fault. I will NEVER use Autism as an excuse. I haven't over come every obstacle in my life, to this day there are still things that get in my way of being successful.  I hope other people on the spectrum have a support system...not servants, or people who will take care of the things you don't want to face, but people who want to see you at your best and are willing to help you get there with their words of encouragement. We all need people in our lives to turn to when things get rough.

Trust me...I would rather turn to people than vodka.