Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Not everything is possible (And I get a lot more done when I admit this)

There are, in fact, things I can't do, no matter what mindset I am in. There are, in fact, things where it is not worth my time to try it again and bang my head against that (metaphorical) wall one more time, just to satisfy people who say I won't know until I try. (Usually I have tried the specific task already, which means I should get to know by their logic? The rest of the times, I've tried enough sufficiently similar things that I can predict what the problem will be.)

Now, this is probably the part where you want to tell me not to be so hard on myself. You might want to tell me that the only disability in life is a bad attitude. (Maybe, just maybe, I'll shoot back that my primary disability is y'alls bad attitude about my realities.) Maybe you want to tell me that anything is possible, and tell (not ask) me how much I'm limiting myself this way.

Because I used to think that if I just tried harder I could, in fact, do anything, I actually know what my abilities look like that way. I'm still working on the details of what my abilities look like when I recognize my limits (which is not the same thing as limiting myself, to be clear. I do not bring these limitations into existence by recognizing them.) But I can tell you this: Overall, I get more done  (not less!) when I admit that there are things I can't do. 

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to gain the ability to independently organize my space on the n+1st try, and that I should wait to try this whole organization thing until the person helping me is ready, because I don't spend all my energy on it until there's someone there to help make sure I'm spending it in useful ways. (Organizing my room still costs all my energy for the day, but it at least ends with organization.)

I get more done when I recognize that my exception handling is not suddenly going to work normally just because that would be convenient. (Weirdly enough, this exception handling issue as it relates to sudden schedule changes is one reason that pushing through pain or illness to finish whatever I was planning on doing is actually the smarter choice. Which sounds like the opposite of limiting myself, at least to an outside observer, I think? That I'm doing a thing while sick or tired or injured because I know my limits even sounds counter-intuitive to me, and I know it's sometimes true.)

I get more done when I recognize that this exception handling issue (plus whatever else is going on with certain kinds of questions that cause them to create an exception in the first place) will, in fact, prevent me from doing many surveys and evaluations. If I'm not burning out most or all of my energy for the day on some survey my program asked me to do (and which they thought would be a 5 minute easy thing), I still have that energy for literally anything else.

I get more done when I recognize that I can't actually stay in a room with a flickering fluorescent light or troubleshoot a circuit with an LED flashing at 5-20 Hz. That's because said flashing lights will, given time, knock out my ability to speak, possibly my sense of direction, and definitely my ability to concentrate on anything other than make it stop. Turn off the light. Unplug the circuit while I try to determine what's wrong with it. Replace the 0.1 microfarad capacitor with the 1 microfarad capacitor to get a .5-2Hz flash rate on the LED, or with 0.01 microfarad for 50-200Hz that I can't see flashing. 

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to be able to cook three meals a day for myself (and not even one consistently if I'm working from scratch) because I can plan around this. At university, I have a meal plan. That keeps me fed. At home, I cook a large pot of something once or twice a week and eat it until it's gone (then stare sadly at the pot which no longer contains food because I am hungry and there is not a food.) This doesn't work as well as the meal plan does, but it works much better than believing that if I just try one more time, I can cook three meals a day. Because I am spending less time trying to make food happen and more time fed, I can get more other things done too!

I get more done when I recognize that I do, in fact, need to stim and probably shouldn't be faking eye contact all the time. (No, really. Letting myself flap and rock made the difference between always absolutely needing 10 hours of sleep per night with people being able to tell the difference if I got "only" 8-9 hours of sleep one night and my being completely fine with 9 hours as a regular thing and OK with 7-8 occasionally.)

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to work 40 hours in a week. (I'm going to suggest that anyone who's ever seen my class schedule not run the numbers for this statement, because you will be at least as confused as I am by how this works. I'm pretty confused even while knowing from experience that it somehow does.) I get more done because I'm not staring at whatever my work should be and not recovering when I burn through my mental energy in two to three hours. I rest for several hours and can sometimes (not always, but sometimes) get a second good shift of an hour or three writing things that needed to be written, doing homework, reading for classes, preparing to teach, editing work before I submit it somewhere, or reading for the purposes of my writing. That's more done than when I tried to work straight through, just to be clear. Less time total that looks like work, but quite a bit more done and similar amounts of time that are actually work.

I get more done when I recognize that I can't do a hackathon or any other kind of event that involves working for a marathon amount of time at a sprint level of intensity while going short on sleep. (Actually any event or combination of events that puts me short on sleep for more than a night or two is usually out regardless of intensity, and it's definitely not happening during the semester.) Making myself ill over the weekend by burning myself out to the tune of needing two or three days completely off to recover... when the next day is Monday? Yeah, I can't do that. (Seriously, do you think I'm going to gain the ability to work a 40 hour week by putting all 40 hours onto 2 days?) A more extreme version of the work model that already doesn't work for me only fails more obviously. 

I have better class participation when I don't try to force speech until it's gone, then fall silent because if I had something to say I'd be able to say it. Switching to writing when speech gives out means I can keep participating, that I can show what I know and help my classmates when they are having trouble, and that I can ask questions if I need help. Switching to writing at the point that writing is simply easier overall lets me save energy so that speech might not even give out entirely! That comes in handy if I have sports practice after class, or if I'm going anywhere that doesn't have a white board. 

I have a better time on vacation when I recognize that I'm not going to enjoy speeding from activity to activity at a breakneck pace and will eventually melt down if I try. I still want a calm hour alone on my computer in the morning and similar at night. (I also wake up earlier than my family by enough that it's really easy for me to get that morning hour.) So I bring my laptop on vacation, even if I'm not planning to work, even though the others don't. 

I can't stop you from believing that I'm limiting myself (as opposed to recognizing limits that are already there and being happier and healthier while doing more things I care about because I'm not banging my head against the stuff I can't do.) I can, however, explain so that 1) I remind myself that I'm doing what works for me, and 2) others like me can read that they are not alone.

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1 comment:

  1. Thankyou for writing this, it's put into words something I struggle with so much and always have, and its extremely helpful to have it explained this well. As when you're always on the receiving end of the "you're limiting yourself, don't you see?*patronisesmile*" comments (well meaning or not), you can have a lot of self doubt and end up in a seemingly endless, confused vicious circle of trying to do everything everyone wants, not being able to and probable meltdown, thinking you might be able to do it next time as that's what everyone keeps saying, and same happens again! If you keep being told you mustn't have tried hard enough, that does wonders for your self worth *sarcasm*
    Awesome article ��


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