All Posts By

Lauren

Autism

My One Year Autism Diagnosis Anniversary

Today, it has been one year since I got my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age 21. Before I sought a diagnosis, I had already known for a few months that I was indeed autistic, but I needed the official paperwork to get the care I require. Since then, a lot has changed in my life.

The research process

I had to fight hard for my diagnosis. One year ago, I had just started at a treatment center for personality disorders when it felt like something was missing. I couldn’t relate to any of the people in my group, nor did my supposed personality disorders (avoidant and obsessive-compulsive) feel like they fit me completely.

When I brought this up in individual therapy, my therapist seemed wary at first. I then opened up my backpack and took out a pile of books about autism, full of sticky tabs and highlighted passages. “I read these books and it seems too coincidental to not be true. I would like a second opinion autism assessment, please.”

The good news: the therapist was able to do my assessment in the next few weeks. The bad news: as someone specialized in personality disorders only, she didn’t know shit about autism. I basically had to do a Powerpoint presentation ‘convincing’ her I was autistic.
The fact that my assessment happened this way made me doubt myself for a while. Was I really autistic or was I just copying behaviors I’d read about in these books and blogs? Did I manipulate my therapist into diagnosing me? Was I just looking for a way to get better care?
Luckily, my current (autism-specialized) therapists and carers have reassured me that I am very much autistic, and that this insecurity is common amongst late-diagnosed autistic adults.

I wish I had better documented what it was like to first learn about autism, and when I suspected I might be autistic. All I remember is that before I started researching autism, I didn’t know anything about it. If someone had asked me, “What do you know about autism?” My answer would’ve been, “Absolutely nothing.” I guess I knew it was some sort of disorder, but I had no thoughts or opinions about it. Autism didn’t exist to me.
That weirds me out a little bit. Autism is such an integral part of who I am, and I didn’t even know what it was until age 21. I always knew I was different, I knew I struggled more than many of my peers, but the adults always just said: “Lauren is different, and that is fine.”

After I first started suspecting I was autistic, I noticed I was starting to… act a lot more autistic. This made me feel like I was exaggerating or faking it, until I came across blog posts written by late-diagnosed autistic adults. It’s very normal to suddenly ‘act very autistic’ after finding out — it’s only logical if you think about it. You get confirmation that you are in fact different — something you have suspected for years — and you can finally take off the neurotypical mask and display your natural autistic behavior. It sure saves a lot of mental energy.

One year after diagnosis

In the year since my diagnosis, I have been focusing on figuring out what being autistic means for me, and how I can set up my life in a way that works for me. I have to accept that my autism disables me, and that I need accommodations. (Note: Not all autistic people are disabled by their autism, I just happen to be.)

Before, I forced myself to go to school because my peers seemed to have no problem with that, so neither should I. Now I know my autism affects everything from my social skills to my senses to my ability to concentrate — all things that could potentially be a problem in a school setting. With the knowledge I now have about autism, I can look for different ways to learn. For example, I know that I don’t hold information well if I’m in a group, or if there is too much noise, light, or visual clutter around me. I learn better when I try things out with my hands, and if I have someone to ask questions when I start to panic. I need to be taught by someone with a lot of patience and creativity.

Before, I forced myself to shake people’s hands and look them in the eye because that’s the ‘normal’ thing to do. These things make me highly uncomfortable, and I am done with making myself feel like shit for the sake of other people. Now I can tell them that I’m autistic and I prefer waving (for example), and they’ll accept that much more quickly than when I just say I don’t want to shake their hand. It comes across as rude, and that’s the last thing I want people to think I am.

I am learning how to manage my energy levels and sensory input. Before, I thought I was just lazy, overreacting, and going deaf. Now I know it’s part of my neurology, I can’t help it, and I need to find ways to either avoid situations that overstimulate me, or learn techniques to not be affected by them as strongly. Before, I would not have invested in noise-cancelling headphones, prescription sunglasses, or fidget ‘toys’. Now I accept that these are tools I need to manage my disability, just as other disabled people might need a cane, a wheelchair, or a hearing aid. I’m excited to look more into weighted blankets, service dog tasks, communication necklaces, and earplugs.

Before, some people around me blamed me for the fact that I had been in therapy for years but was still as mentally unstable as ever. They thought I wasn’t trying hard enough, or didn’t want to be helped. Now I can tell them that it wasn’t my fault, the doctors were just working with a wrong diagnosis.
I haven’t been suicidal nearly as often as before, because I can (learn to) accept myself now. My depression, anxiety, and eating disorder all stem from my autism, and they will most likely never go away. Regular therapies for these co-morbid conditions will not work unless they keep my autism in mind, as has been made obvious by my years of useless therapy. I will have to do a lot of experimenting in therapy to figure out what coping mechanisms work for me, with the help of people who have experience with autism and know where my difficulties may lie.

I’m still in the middle of the acceptance process. It comes with ups and downs. I still have moments when I wish I was neurotypical, when I wish things could just be easy for once. But if someone offered me a pill that made me neurotypical, I would not take it. Without autism, I would be a completely different person, and I’m happy with who I am.

I’m slowly working my way through the autism books, and who knows, maybe I’ll get to help other autistic people someday.

Resources

These resources helped me a lot when I was figuring it all out. If you suspect you might be autistic, or if you want to learn more about autism, these are all great things to check out:

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Books Minimalism

Books I’m Getting Rid Of

I’ve been putting this off for the longest time, but I may finally apply minimalism to my book collection (at least a little bit).

I’ve always said that my book collection is excluded from my minimalist lifestyle. I was working hard towards a massive home library that had each and every book I had read in my lifetime, whether I enjoyed the book or not. I spent hours hunting down the books I read in childhood, so I could add them to my Goodreads profile and have the number of books I’d read be complete.

I no longer feel like this fits me. I still want to have a massive home library, but when I look at my shelves, I want to see books that I remember having read. Books that I rated at least 3 stars, books I enjoyed. Books that mean something to me. Books I’d consider re-reading. It may take me a little longer to have my three IKEA Billy shelves all filled up, but it’s worth it if it means I can look at my book collection and feel joy.

I will make sure all of these books find a good home, whether that’s through selling them, or donating them to Better World Books.

If you’re curious about why I got rid of certain books, keep reading.

Continue Reading

Books

Winter Book Reviews

This post includes affiliate links.

In the winter of 2017-2018, I didn’t read nearly as many books as I did last season. I’m afraid I might have gotten into another reading slump… Still, I managed to read 1 book in December, 3 in January, and 3 in February.

I’m okay with that. One of my goals for 2018 was to read more consciously. When I first discovered young adult fiction, I read between seventy and a hundred books a year, and I barely remember anything from those books. It’s too early to tell now, but I hope that in a year from now, I’ll still remember enough to be able to talk about them with people. I’m also reading more non-fiction, with the goal to learn something new every once in a while.

Continue Reading

Bullet Journal

Two Months Into My 2018 Bullet Journal

I was going to do a ‘one month into my bullet journal’ post but then procrastination happened, so now you get to see January and February all wrapped up, and my set-up for March.

In my previous post about bullet journaling, I showed you how I kept a sort-of bullet journal in a yearly Moleskine planner. For 2018, I decided I liked the system enough to invest in a Leuchtturm 1917 journal. It’s an expensive journal especially if it only lasts you 6 months, but it’s proven to work much better for me than a cheap, low-quality journal.

My personal bullet journaling system has changed a lot as I moved into the new journal. Previously, I only had weekly to-dos, and did daily journaling. Now I make a to-do list almost every day, and journal only when something significant happens. The daily to-do list is essential to manage my executive functioning issues.

Continue Reading

Books Minimalism

Book Review: Goodbye, Things

This post includes affiliate links.

Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living
by Fumio Sasaki

Age Group/Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication date: April 11th, 2017 (first published in Japan on June 12th, 2015)
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback

Add to Goodreads | Buy from The Book Depository

Synopsis

Fumio Sasaki is a writer in his thirties who lives in a tiny studio in Tokyo with three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and not much else. A few years ago, he realized that owning so much stuff was weighing him down — so he started to get rid of it.

In this hit Japanese bestseller, Sasaki explores the philosophy behind minimalism and offers a set of straightforward rules — discard it if you haven’t used it in a year; be a borrower; find your uniform; keep photos of the things you love — that can help all of us lead simpler, happier, more fulfilled lives.

Continue Reading

Books

Book Review: Together at Midnight

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This post includes affiliate links.

Together at Midnight
by Jennifer Castle

Age Group/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication date: January 2nd, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 352
Format: ARC

Add to Goodreads | Buy from The Book Depository

Synopsis

What does it really mean to be kind… and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do?

High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

Continue Reading

Videos

Document Your Life: October 2017

In which I go to the cat shelter, visit contemporary & modern art museum Voorlinden, have internet friend Ainsley visit, and go to the cat café. It’s basically just a cat documentary.

Music:
Joshua Hyslop – I Wish I Was (iTunes – Spotify)

Uncategorized

2018 Goals and Resolutions

I bet you weren’t expecting a new year’s resolutions blog post 4 weeks into the new year! I feel like I’m running behind on pretty much everything in my life at the moment, but I really wanted to get this post up anyway. Better late than never!

I didn’t feel like making resolutions at all this year because I don’t have a clear idea of what the year is going to look like yet. The plan is to start therapy again (mental health waiting lists are my mortal enemy) and get my service puppy, but I don’t know when each thing is going to happen. When the schedule is vague like this, I find it difficult to set any goals. I’m afraid that I won’t achieve them if I’m focusing on therapy or dog training… so I’ve set some very specific, measurable goals that are a bit more manageable than previous years’ goals.

Continue Reading

Autism Mental Health

Learning to be Okay With Antidepressants

I’ve slowly been lowering the dosage of my antidepressants for over a year now because I no longer wanted to be dependent on medication. I no longer wanted the struggle of making sure I took the right brand of apple juice with me to wherever I had dinner so I could mix the 20 drops of escitalopram with the strong taste of Appelsientje. I no longer wanted to have to take it late in the evening — when my IBS is at its worst — because I forgot to take it during dinner, when I’m supposed to.
But most of all, I wanted to see whether after 4 years of taking this same antidepressant it actually made a difference.

Continue Reading