Monday, May 15, 2017

on being aspie

On being an Aspie..

When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning disorder and PTSD. I think most people know about the later, so allow me to discuss the former.  Basically, the long and the short of it is somehow along the way I stopped learning how to communicate correctly. No one really knew when this happened, just that it did. My earliest memories are being beaten up in the school yard for “not wanting to play the games the other kids did.” So I am guessing preschool? But I digress. As I have gotten older, I have had a few therapists who have said they felt I was more Asperger’s than NLD. As a result, I have come more to identify as that diagnosis than the prior one.

What is Asperger’s syndrome? Basically, it’s a high functioning form of autism. From Autism Speaks:
Asperger syndrome was generally considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated motor movements. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.

Going to guess anyone that knows me knows that sounds kind of familiar. But oh wait there is more:

The following behaviors are often associated with Asperger syndrome. However, they are seldom all present in any one individual and vary widely in degree:
• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• "robotic" or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms
Again, if you know me in real life; you know some of this stuff is me. My friends will say “Jacqui has her own way of doing things. Get out of the way; things get done. She is also very direct and doesn’t do well with too much fluff.” My co-workers who don’t know me well will tell you “Jacqui is rude. She asks too many questions. She seems like she is always questioning any decisions that are made. She talks herself into her own hole”

For much of my life after the diagnosis, my treatment was talk therapy and reading books on the topic.  I was too old for the treatments that kids today get so I had to improvise. Future OT heal thy self, I read up on how to “fake it till I made it.” I taught myself to decipher facial expressions (by watching movies on mute).  I learned to adapt and learn how long I could handle in social interactions before I would get overwhelmed by the stimulus (about 90 mins in a setting of 5 or more people). I taught myself techniques to help me when I needed to be interview situations. But more importantly, I became a decent writer because I knew people don’t always understand my directness in spoken word. So, text made it easier.  

Almost like being a mutant from the X-Men or inhuman from everything else Marvel, all I wanted to do in my daily life was pass. I just wanted to be what we in the Autism community call “Neurotypical” or NT for short. One of the things that allows me to pass is my ability to understand and perform sarcasm. Understand, I can’t always “get” it (again, aspie typical) but when I am not overstimulated; I have a better chance of understanding it.   

At times, I can keep up that façade 6 months to a year. But I have learned over time that familiarity breeds a special kind of contempt for me among other people. After a while, I stop guarding myself and the Aspie me comes out.   It usually happens when I am under extreme stress. At one company I worked at, my therapist and I traced it to having too much activity around me.  Combine it with PTSD flashbacks, I basically become an overstimulated mess. At same company, my answer was frequent breaks and walks. Oh yeah, I should also mention unlike people that scream and yell when they are angry, I cry. Just the way I have always been (another Jacqui thing and also a symptom of autism). Sometimes I would go to my car and cry to let out my frustration (evidently this isn’t socially acceptable behavior).

We’ll say for the past 2 years I was able to fake it. Then, the familiarity breeds contempt idea came roaring back with a vengeance. Up until December, I thought I was well liked and respected where I worked. It turns out, per management, everyone hates me. Therapists think I overstep my boundaries, co-workers say I don’t communicate well, always asking questions and questioning systems. Basically, the Aspie has come out to roost its greatest hits. I know from other evidence this may not be entirely true. But it is still triggering and makes me question about a great deal of the progress I thought I had made in the past few years.

In a few weeks, I leave for school. I’ll begin a journey I worked really hard to make happen. Through being kicked out of my house, through bad grades, through this job. However, I feel like my confidence is busted. I am wondering given this obvious disability if I will make a good OT, if I was fooling myself to think I could ever be “normal”. This is the internal dialogue I have had my whole that I wish I could just shut down. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

And with the first rejection...

Well tonight I got my first rejection from one of the OT schools. So, here is the first draft of my OT school essay. This is really really rough but I feel best explains why I chose the path I did.

Why I want to become an Occupational Therapist starts with a confession: I made a mistake. You see when I was 22, I walked away from a profession that gave me the type of fulfillment I could not get from my actual major in college. And it set me on a journey that ends with you, admission committee, reading this essay.
 When I was 22, I had a choice. By now, I am sure you have reviewed my resume and my transcripts and you can see what it was. I made the decision to not spend my senior year on campus at Elmira College. Instead, I did what was considered the smart thing and started my career in operative politics. And I had some fun on the campaign trail and had some trials as well. In the end, I decided to do what all operatives do when they burn out from moving every 3-6 months, I decided to go to graduate school and take what should have been the next step in my career. Instead, I woke up.
 You see, Admission Committee, when I was up at Rochester Institute of Technology I ended up in a familiar job. The grant I was promised fell through; there was no position available in my department so I turned to a place where I knew I would be successful, RIT’s Sports Medicine training room.  As you can see from my resume, that was where I worked in Undergraduate and where while I had stressful days, I never had a truly bad one.
 At RIT, I worked with the Certified Athletic trainers much as I did at Elmira. I also helped them to formulate a manual for training future Sports Medicine Student Assistants. The training room got me through some hard times, the death of my mom the first quarter of my first year and then a bad breakup with a longtime boyfriend at start of my second . All the while, I started to feel something, a thing I hadn’t felt since the Training Room at Elmira: I felt happy. I started to think “why am I not doing this full time? Why am I not helping people get better?” Alas, I would remind myself I was on the path to help people through policy analysis and fixing the internet, so it would even out in the end.
 I ended up leaving RIT to attempt to finish my thesis at home in New Jersey so I could job search. I ended up finding a job and a really good one with a company called Bloomberg. The job mixed many of my existing skills into a nice little bow. While it was a great job, it was not great for me. I was not a fit for the high stress office environment. “But I had loans to pay”, I told myself every morning as I got up and drove the hour to Skillman. And it was slowly killing me. I got sick with stress-related illnesses, migraines and stomach issues. Suffice to say the job made me a mess.
 My final wakeup call occurred because of a tragedy that befell a friend. During the Jewish high holidays, he was walking home with his parents from synagogue.  On their walk, a car hit his parents, family friends and him. His parents were killed instantly and he survived with a shattered arm and broken ankle. I wish the wakeup call had been more mild.
 I would spend months with him first in the hospital and then the rehabilitation center. I was back in a training room and I was helping someone get better. I had not felt this fulfilled since I was in the RIT/Elmira rooms. I decided then, I was done at Bloomberg. I was going to take all the money I saved up.  That money was supposed to be to help me move out and go back to school to fulfill what I believed my purpose to be.
 My friends thought I was crazy. I have to admit, I think I was too and a little naïve. I thought I would have an easy path. I would go back and do the pre-requisites and apply in under a year to Physical Therapy and Occupational therapy programs. Evidently, years of doing project-based classwork had spoiled me and I forgot how hard science classes can be. I struggled with Anatomy and Physiology mainly because I am horrible at multiple-choice tests. I get test anxiety and I blank. Kind of shocking for someone who could handle an athlete injured during a game and need to figure out how quickly (if they could) go back out on the field. I also had another foe: math and chemistry. I really tried hard in both of those classes, I guess some people just do not get chemistry.
 I found a job with Virtua as a perdiem physical therapy aide. First I worked outpatient and then was crossed trained to work acute care as well. I have been at Virtua for over a year and I can honestly say despite getting pooped on, peed on and thrown up on; I have never had a truly bad day. There is a look that patients get when they stand up after surgery with less pain or you show them how to use a sockaid. It is that look that tells me no matter what I am doing something worthwhile.
 So you see, Admission Committee, I took a roundabout way of getting here to you. I believe you will not find a more dedicated and studious want-to-be Occupational Therapist. From my outpatient, acute care and personal exposure, I believe I know exactly what I am getting myself into and what it takes to succeed. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Damn You Rachel Maddow- Another DL e-mail

I have a confession to make.. I wrote this e-mail last night after a ruminating on a conversation I had with someone over the weekend. And then Rachel Maddow stole it from my brain. Makes me sad and happy all at the same time. So for you Maddow watchers: here is her version, which starts around 10:25:

For those who are unaware, the first Republican primary debate will be 08/06 at 9pm. (For those of you who usually play quizzo, we apologize now.)  However, did you know that unlike the clown car version that appeared in 2008 and 2012, Faux News will be cutting the field. In some ways, this makes sense. You can’t have (I have honestly lost track of what number we are up to) 15 people on stage at once answering questions one-by-one; there is 30 minutes right there wasted on opening statements. So Faux and the Republican party has decided to make their car appear more spacious by kicking out the crazy. Or so they hoped.

You see Faux news will decide their Top 10 by using  polling data from 5 national polls averaged. Now the problem with (in theory) 15 people and 10 spots is when you factor in the margin of error (assuming +/- 5%), the bottom kind of falls out. Statistically speaking no difference exists between 10 and 11 in their ranking. So basically this system allows the channel and the party to play favorites. Again, not so much a bad thing as this is intended to keep the supposed tea party rif-raf down to a minimum.

It was all going along so well until every late night show host favorite punch line decided to enter the race. Yes, Donald you fucked it up for everyone. It was supposed to be so easy, they could pick and choose who they wanted among the third tier because of Math and no one could argue because of Math. Then you, Donald had to come in with your insane comments and your earned media. Trump is second right now in most national polling. SECOND. (see this fun little tool by huffpo: They can’t just ignore him. Which I guess sucks for some of the candidates that deserved to be there like a Lindsey Graham, John Kasich or even Chris Christie. 

It seems like every time I open twitter someone new is running from Trump or they are asking the other candidates about him.  Its like inverse Tinkerbell with this guy, for every person who says they don’t believe in Donald Trump his power just grows. And so does his poll numbers. Which is the most important thing to appear as legitimate in the republican (or really any candidate) field. A sad state for the Republicans who created this monster and now have to defeat it. For everyone else, lets grab a beer and watch the show.