It’s a Process…

woman with painted faceThe Meh-nopausal action continues… And while it might not seem all that exciting, just you wait… 😉

Over at Auptima Press, we’re talking about the whole process, especially starting with perimenopause (peri- means before… menopause means the ending of menses, the monthly hormonal and tissue recycling that so many of us know and — cough, cough — {don’t} love).

Perimenopause is the natural transition that your body goes through before reaching “official” menopause (which is defined as 12 consecutive months without having a menstrual period). During this process, your hormones begin to fluctuate, and these changes can play a major role in how you function and feel.

So, take note, all you women and men who are affected by women’s cycling… oh, wait, that would be all of us. Perimenopause is a natural transition, meaning it’s what happens as part of the natural course of women’s lives. Certainly, there are many women who have different experiences — some have hysterectomies, some may have been born with a different configuration of organs, some may have medical conditions which cause the change(s) to happen in a variety of ways that stray from the path laid out by OB-Gyn textbooks. But by and large, perimenopause is the rule, rather than the exception for women who live long enough for it to happen.

When I was growing up, precious little was openly discussed about menopause. It was “the change”… something to be whispered about in women-only circles. And the whole perimenopause thing wasn’t talked about at all. In fact, the word “menopause” (and all permutations thereof) was cringeworthy… shrouded in confusion and misinformation and the conviction that it was the last stage before mental and physical decline. Once menopause showed up, your life as a woman was over — according to how I was raised. Once you couldn’t have any more children, your usefulness as a woman was severely diminished, and you stopped being interesting to the rest of the world.

That should tell you a lot about the world I was raised in. And thank heavens things have changed, since then. I mean, just getting the word “perimenopause” out there is a step in the right direction, IMHO. It increases the occurence of “menopause” in popular vocabulary, and it also widens our understanding of the process — because that’s what it is. A process.

And gentlemen, that includes you, too. When I was a kid, men just rolled their eyes and made themselves scarce till “the Change” was over. But you can’t do that anymore. Women are much more integrated into society and the workplace than before, and there’s a lot more distribution of labor on both sides of the gender divide. So, when women cycle around to a state of hormonal WooHoo!-ness, the guys get drawn into it, as well.

Rest assured, as it’s a process, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Sadly — especially for Autistic folks — it’s incredibly difficult to predict with 100% accuracy. One day you’re fine… the next, you’re not. One moment, everything’s cool… the next, you’re mulling over whether to flirt with a 25-to-life felony against your fellow humans. (Note: I know it’s tricky to mention Autism and violent crime in the same paragraph, but talk confidentially to any post-menopausal woman on or off the Spectrum, and you’ll find that our ideation can indeed go to some scary places — which is why it’s so lucky that this happens when we’re old enough to keep ourselves in check and realize that Thoughts Are Not Things.)

But I’ve digressed. This whole female “Change of Life” business is a process. Our hormones fluctuate. There’s no avoiding it. Our moods, behaviors, thinking, bodies… they get churned up on a sort of spin cycle, and it can be quite the roller coaster ride, for as long as it lasts.

So, if you’re headed in that direction, brace yourself. And get educated. Because the combination of (peri)menopause and Autism can be a potent combination that spells distress and anguish for many of us. I know it did for me. But understanding what’s happening (which I didn’t, because nobody explained it to me clearly) can help immensely — if only by dispelling the distress that comes from getting blindsided by your body’s natural changes. And for you guys out there, it can also be comforting to know that the abrupt and jarring changes to women’s demeanor are part of a larger pattern that’s been happening for aeons.

And yet, we’ve survived.

Yep, we’ve survived. Millions of women have gone through this before us. We’re not the first, and we certainly won’t be the last.

So, take heart. If you’re (peri)menopausal, you’re in good company.

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#AutisticWomen and #Menopause – it’s about more than “reproductive health”

grain seed closeupIf there’s one thing that frays my last nerve, it’s talking about women’s health solely in terms of reproduction. Not all of us choose to have kids, and even the ones who do, are more than the sum of their offspring. Classifying our hormonal and female-specific well-being under “reproduction”, to my mind, reduces us to vessels for the emergence of the future human race.

Which is overly simplistic in ways that short-change both women and the healthcare providers who view us through that lens.

Sigh.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m not kinderfeindlich, with an aversion to kids. But talking and thinking about women as only child-bearers and child-rearers is a huge problem — from the very moment we enter into the world in our female bodies. As babies we’re treated differently, as little girls, we’re handled a certain way, as prepubescents, we’re seen as not-yet-human creatures which have just a few years to go before our bodies start serving a “useful” purpose. Throw Autism into the “mix”, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for… a very interesting life.

And then into puberty, young adulthood, “childbearing (aaauuuuggghhhhh!) years”, and on to perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause (which I am fondly referring to as “Meh-nopause”, since the hormones which cause me to give a shit about everyone and everything outside of me have bottomed out and left me with a more than welcome sense of not really giving a f*ck about all the stuff that got me torqued up, all those years ago. Again, add Autism, and there’s your cocktail for major disruption, inside and out.

Logistically, it can be one hot mess. And conceptually, even moreso. While reproductive classification might be fine for non-autistic folks (who seem to have a general predelection for coupling — sorry for overgeneralizing, but you probably know what I mean), I think casting us as mainly reproductive agents really has serious drawbacks for Autistic women and girls. Why? Because we tend to have a whole lot more going on with us, than non-autistic females. We’ve got all these sensory issues, not to mention a whole slew of passionate areas of driven specialized focus (the fascinations formerly known as “special interests”), and a whole lot of us don’t even relate to the whole “boy thing”, the “mating games”, and so forth, as we grow up. We may be fascinated by dolls and boys, but we may not. And even if we are, that fascination can be drowned out at any moment by a sensory onslaught.

Plus, there’s the social disconnect thing. When you’re not that adept at social interaction, you can find yourself pretty much out of the whole standard-issue selection-pairing-mating reproductive loop. You don’t necessarily get socialized the way non-autistic girls and young women do, learning the rules for interacting with the opposite sex. On top of that, since the mainstream healthcare system is so geared towards “treating” us and our health along stereotypical lines, which assume a certain developmental trajectory, there’s a massive conceptual disconnect between “reproductive health” and Autistic women’s health. We may be way ahead of the curve, or we may be behind. But rarely are we treated just as who we are, how we are, because… we are.

At least, that’s my perception of it.

The other issue I have with the whole “reproductive health” focus on women, is that our monthly cycles serve a variety of purposes, not just conception, but they’re typically treated as just another way to get pregnant. Our monthly cycles affect how we heal, how we think, how we function, how extreme our sensory issues are, how we experience every aspect of our lives. But does the mainstream healthcare establishment get that? Nope. They’re so locked on the target of making sure women are able to have healthy children (which is certainly a good and needed goal), that the rest of our complex makeup gets lost in the process.

This frustrates me to no end. Not only because it treats the most significant aspects of me like side-issues (I’ve chosen to not have children, because those other parts of my life are so all-consuming, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone, to bring kids into the equation)… but also because it misleads and dismisses countless other Autistic women and girls who may have a wide variety of issues and a whole bunch of concerns which are directly related to their female physiology, but are just lumped into the conceptual holding bin of “reproductive health”.

Make no mistake — our monthly cycles are good for a lot of things. The hormonal changes we go through both give us access to different ways of knowing and seeing and sensing, and also heighten and lessen our experiences of live. And for Autistic women, this is highly, highly impactful.

For example: Back when I was still having a monthly cycle, I would have the most intense sensory experiences pretty much every month, many times leading to meltdowns. For about a week before my cycle started (and my cycles were like clockwork – 32 days apart, every single month), my  hormone levels would drop, get suppressed, and really drag me down into a pit of despair. When I think about all the times I wanted to just die… when I wished I’d never been born… when I just wanted the pain to stop… If I hadn’t been keenly aware of how fickle I am — and how I was likely to change my mind within a few days — I definitely would have committed suicide. But I knew from watching myself, that those feelings passed. And in a few days, I wouldn’t feel anything like that. I’d be pretty darned glad I didn’t end my life.

Those crashes were brutal. They took a lot out of me, and the meltdowns set me back in so many ways. They eroded my relationship with my partner, they kicked the crap out of me emotionally and physically. Meltdowns on top of hormone blockage… not much fun.

But there was another side to it all that you probably won’t read about in a gynecological textbook — the incredible flashes of insight that only came after all the suppressed hormones rushed back in. Some of those “crashes” also led to some of the most brilliant connections of ideas I’d been working on in the weeks and months prior. Some of the insights were truly transformational and laid the groundwork for a philosophy and approach to life that has literally super-powered my life in important ways.

Those ups and downs correlated closely with the hormonal fluctuations of my monthly cycle, and now that I look back, had I actually realized this — and realized just how much it would affect me — I would have handled myself and managed my life very differently.

It wasn’t until I was well into the perimenopausal process that I got a clue about managing my life to match my hormonal ups and downs, but by that time, things were so irregular and even more extreme, that it cancelled out a lot of the benefit I could have gotten from being more proactive about managing my life.

And I’m sure I’m not alone.

I mean, it just burns me up, when I think about how many Autistic women and girls are struggling with not only gender issues, but also the healthcare system that sees them only as delivery agents for the next generation. Again, no judgment towards mothers. Absolutely, positively not. We need you. Where would we be without you? Nowhere. But when it comes to our hormonal health, reproduction is just one of many considerations. And the repercussions of our fluctuations and our cycles affects far more than our ability to conceive and bear children.

All this being said, I’d love it if we could deepen the discussion of Autistic women (and girls) and our health as women and girls. I want to stop using the word “reproductive” as the main point in the discussion and find other ways to talk about the cycles that make us. My hope is also that researchers and healthcare providers will “get hip” to this discussion and widen their thinking about how Autistic women and girls experience lives from with the cycling bodies we have.

Oh, and also, over at Auptima Press, we’ve got more info and resources on women experiencing the (peri)menopausal process. Check out our article Perimenopause? The Transition Stage Before Menopause, to see where we’re going with this. It’s really the start of a whole conversation we need to have within our own Autistic community — and frankly, it could be helpful for Autistic men who are wondering what menopause did with their wives/partners, and when will they return them to their once-stable state (and yes, I can joke about this, because I’ve been through it myself, as well as stuck with my partner while she was going through menopause 10 years before me – believe me, I wondered what had become of her, and if she was ever going to return).

This whole topic has been near and dear to my heart for many years, especially over the past 10 years of going through the menopausal and coming out on the other side in much better shape than when I went in. I’ve learned a whole lot about the process, what’s happening, what to expect. And now with my more intent focus on Autism, I’m putting all the pieces together to understand — and share — how women’s cycles impact (and are impacted by) Autism.

Because, I swear to gawd, the two factors are so central to our being and experience, that you cannot consider one without the other. Literally… doing so, shortchanges the whole inquiry and renders null and void any one-dimensional pronouncements about what makes us the way we are, and what makes us experience the things we do.

It’s important.

And for the sake of our health, safety, and sanity, we need to start connecting these dots. Too many of us have suffered for no good reason.

And that needs to change. So, I’m going to change it. 🙂

Whoah – now *this* is a welcome change!

autism journal cover before after showing old puzzle piece and new circles motif

So, this is refreshing!

It’s not everyday we #ActuallyAutistic folx get some good news, especially from within the realm of research. But it’s a new year, and it appears that — somewhere, somehow — people have been listening. And what’s more, they’re willing to act.

But lo and behold, this is exactly what’s happened. Just got the news yesterday from the journal Autism:

A new era for autism research, and for our journal

… autism research is a shared endeavour. Precisely because it is a common endeavour, autism research requires the participation of that broad community on fair terms. It is not right that one group holds all of the influence and power. If any group, or collection of groups is unattended or their opinions discounted, then they are being treated unfairly and in a way that does damage to autism research itself. The core ethos of this journal must include ensuring that everyone who participates in autism research has their views taken into account.

This takes us, of course, to the symbol that used to occupy the cover of this journal – the puzzle piece. Others have written at length about the history of that symbol, how it was initially deployed by the UK’s National Autistic Society (NAS) in 1963, and how it has become increasingly controversial as the years have progressed (Grinker and Mandell, 2015; see also Gernsbacher et al., 2017). But what has become much clearer recently is that autistic selfadvocates and many who support them have not only felt that the puzzle piece does not capture their view of autism itself, but that the failure of organisations such as this journal to act in response constitutes a core disrespect, as if their voices and opinions did not matter equally to other people’s (Brook, 2016).

Oh, my… I’m feeling a little choked up, actually. The fact that people in positions of influence have actually been listening… and have taken substantive, public action… that’s huge.

What’s more, the new design makes total sense. They say they developed the design with input from Autistic people, which in itself is amazing. And the red circles — overlapping, yet separate, similar yet slightly different… that pretty much says it all to me.

Plus, no blue. #Redinstead. Always a nice change.

So, I’m feeling like I can breathe a little easier. Not until I saw the new design, did I realize just how I hold my breath and brace for a conceptual … infringement… whenever I encounter official outlets for Autism research and thinking. Even with publishers and organizations who are very much “on our side”, I brace myself, every time I read their tweets or publications. I’m always on the defensive with the official outlets, no matter how well-intentioned they are. Because they so often just don’t get it… and I have to go to considerable lengths to rectify everything in my mind and convince myself — yet again — that they are not the enemy, they just don’t get it 100%… yet… and they’re trying.

Of course, the bulk of the conceptual work is on my shoulders, because I’m in the minority and on the receiving end. I don’t have the time and leisure and money and stature to do much of anything about it. Me taking the giants of the Autism industry to task about their unwitting slights and oversights, is like piloting a jet-ski through an iceberg field, trying to avoid the chunks of floating ice out of the way so I don’t wreck on them… as well as trying to nudge them out of the way, so others less speedy and attentive than I don’t run into them and wreck themselves.

The peril of poor word choices and dismissive language, I feel, is so much more severe for Autistic individuals, because we can experience language so viscerally, so physically, so deeply. Handing over Autism vocabulary to non-autistics, is a little like handing a gangly teenager a razor-sharp katana. They just don’t have the coordination and maturity to handle it well. And somebody’s gonna get hurt. Of course, the person wielding the weapon(s) isn’t going to suffer. They won’t feel a thing, when they draw blood from others.

And that’s precisely the problem. Because, well… double-empathy. Yet again.

For a less gruesome comparison, how ’bout this — asking non-autistics to research and address Autism on their own, is like asking a color-blind person to pick out a coordinated outfit out of your wardrobe of colorful prints for your big job interview. Nothing against the color-blind person. They’re still valuable and valid as a human being. But you’re better off having someone who can detect a lot more colors in the spectrum, if you’re going to present your best for The Big Job.

Fortunately, it looks like things are shifting. Changing. With any luck, improving. Big thanks goes to the researchers who have been raising the alert about how … er, screwed up, er, incredibly deficient , er, lacking the old route has proven. And hey — how ’bout all these profoundly insightful Autistic adults who know firsthand what it’s like to actually BE Autistic… mightn’t they have something to contribute.

We might, indeed.

So, I’m supposed to be resting today. Reading. Taking a break. But hell, this is big news, and I’m not about to sit this one out, when there’s so much to be lauded about it.

I could go on for hours about how the circle motif makes SO . MUCH . MORE . SENSE. But I’ll leave that to another blog post, after I’ve regained my strength. I’m still struggling after last week. And on top of that, I had a big get-together with 16 very chatty friends (old and new) packed into a 10×10 foot space.

Can you say sensory overload? Uh… yup. I will definitely blog more about my experience of hearing seven simultaneous conversations at top volume for four hours… and my ensuing glee that I didn’t completely melt down in the  mist of it.

Oh, but I digress. Let the record simply show that I approve of this new direction that the journal Autism is taking. And I suspect a lot of other Autistic people like me do, as well.

Oh, except for those who hate it. We’ll always have some of those 😉

Sharing from ‘Autism’: A new era for autism research, and for our journal

No more puzzle piece used on the cover of the journal 'Autism'

Big news – The journal Autism will no longer be using the puzzle piece on their cover.

Plus, they’re shifting their approach to research:

… Precisely because it is a common endeavour, autism research requires the participation of that broad community on fair terms. It is not right that one group holds all of the influence and power. If any group, or collection of groups is unattended or their opinions discounted, then they are being treated unfairly and in a way that does damage to autism research itself. The core ethos of this journal must include ensuring that everyone who participates in autism research has their views taken into account.

This, in my view, is huge.

And it’s a welcome change. I encourage you to read the whole announcement. It’s not long, but it’s chock-full of encouraging signs.

Read it by clicking here.

Sunday – reading day

flower growing out of a book
So, I’ve been going-going-going for months and months on a number of writing projects. There’s been a ton of logistics to figure out, and it’s been fun in its own way. Additionally, I’ve been really busy with my day-job, to the point of exhaustion, which has its aspects of twisted pleasure — mmmmm! stress!!! Tasty…

In all honesty, there’s a certain sweetness to the steady pump of stress hormones in my system. They focus me. They make things seem much simpler than they actually are. They wake me up and provide energy, motivation, a sense of purpose.

But I’m feeling wrung out, these days. I’m feeling a bit… “thinned”. I need to feed myself, build myself up in ways that really work for me, so I can continue at the pace I need to keep, these days. Life won’t slow down for me, that’s for certain. I need to keep up. So, that means I need to do a bit more for myself. I need to be my own best friend.

So… Sundays. Yeah, Sundays. I’ve structured my life such that I don’t have anything happening on that last/first day of the week, and I need to put some more thought into how I use that time. I haven’t been reading like I should. I’ve been skimming and browsing and surfing, following links off Twitter and so forth. But I haven’t sat down with a book and worked my way through it from start to finish, in quite some time. I’ve started books, yes. Finished? Very seldom, in the past couple of years.

bookshelf packed with booksI really want to change that. So, I shall. I’ve got a study full of books that I haven’t read — I tend to “bookpile”, acquiring all kinds of books that I would love to read (and want to read at the time I buy them), but then don’t get around to reading. I can’t even count how many of these kinds of books I have in my collection. And yet, my first impulse is to get more books — often at the library — when I feel like reading something.

I’m a little tired of having to make runs to the library, though. I don’t have easy access to one, anymore. It’s a “long way around” trip to the nearest one in my library system, and I’ve become really possessive of my time. Plus, it takes planning to request a book, pick it up, and then return it at the right time, and with everything that’s been going on, I have less time and energy to spare for that executive function extravaganza. I’d rather not have to plan.

So, I have a way around that. And it fits really well into my plans. With all the really good books I have, I can keep myself well occupied for the foreseeable future. A lot of them are books I would have checked out of the library, anyway. And they’re (mostly) classics of their fields — texts which are often cited by others. So, I’m going to be getting enduring value from them.

Of course, there’s always the sensed “danger” of missing out on what’s going on in the world around me. What cutting-edge research am I overlooking? What new developments am I not paying attention to? But honestly, so much research (especially autism research) is based on flawed assumptions and arrogant presumptions, that it makes more sense for me to settle into the embrace of timeless wisdom and make myself comfortable there.

The research will be there, when I resurface… if I ever do.

Hm…

This line of thinking actually speaks to a larger theme in my life, these days — the need for substance, which I seem to be missing a lot, lately. I’ve got a lot of ideas running through my head, but I don’t seem to be finding a lot of… parity… in my world. There’s a lot of outrage, a lot of getting worked-up going on around me, but there’s not a lot of objective reasoning about things that have lasting value. Sure, there’s lots of chatter about present-day politics and office dynamics and what’s going to become of us all, but those seem to be couched in ephemera, centering around the here-and-now, not looking into the distant past, or imagining a whole new future.

Or maybe it’s just me. I’m tired, after all. And when I’m tired, my mind starts to do interesting things that lead to stories which don’t always correlate with the truth of the matter. I still have a lot to do, today — run a bunch of errands, then go to a friend’s birthday party (god help me), where I have to be social. Sure, I care about the people there. Yep, I enjoy their company. But after a long week of business travel, being all amped-up and tweaking my sensory issues to extremes? Yeah, the proverbial milk of human kindness isn’t exactly coursing through my veins, right now.

Well, so it goes. I’ll do what I have to do, then I have the day OFF tomorrow. It’s something to look forward to, something to work towards.

Reading. Just reading. And sleeping. And reading some more.

Sweet, sweet relief.

The belief in theory of mind is a disability

Yes! Reblogging.

Nice

Semiotic Spectrumite

“On the walls of the cave, only the shadows are the truth”

‑ Plato ‑

There is a fable attributed to the Chinese philosopher, Zhuāng Zǐ, entitled “The frog at the bottom of the well”, or alternatively, “Glancing at the sky from the bottom of the well”. The fable concerns a frog who, seated in a deep well, has a very limited perception of the sky and, being unable to see anything beyond his well, is not even aware that more sky or even the great ocean exists. He is content paddling in the water at the bottom of his well and cavorting around its edges, feeling very secure in the belief that this is all there is to the world, or at the very least, all that really matters.

In modern Chinese and Japanese, this has become a metaphor for a person with a naïve…

View original post 1,547 more words

So good to be home again

House outline with a door, two windows, pitched roof, chimney
Well, that’s done. I got my business trip handled, and I got home about 1 a.m. this morning. Wouldn’t you know, I had an early conference call I had to participate in, and it wasn’t one of those “Uh-huh, yeah, uh-huh” kind of participations where I could be half-asleep. I had to do a demo of a contentious piece of software I “own” and am rolling out across the whole company). Fun! People either love it or hate it, and they have all kinds of questions and complaints I have to work pretty hard to not take personally.

I’ve been working on that… And I’m much better at it now, than I was when I started this job 2.5 years ago.

So, that’s positive. And as long as I can keep myself grounded and using my common sense, I’m fine.

I’m just incredibly tired, right now. Gawd, am I tired.

Overall, I think it was a good trip. That’s my version of the story, anyway — from a business standpoint. When people ask me how it was, I don’t dare say, “Oh, it was a grueling gauntlet of inane conversations, vacuous activities, and tiresome office politics. I never want to do it again. Ever.” That would be the truth, but that will never “fly” in the business environment.

Oh, my God… the more I think about it, the more I realize the most annoying thing about where I work now, is how positivity is compulsory. It’s not optional. Nobody — but NOBODY — is allowed to be critical or “negative” out loud. You’re not allowed to have any misgivings, you’re not allowed to have any reservations. You’re not allowed to be cautiously optimistic. Everybody’s GOT to “be on board” and working pro-actively towards a positive future.

You can get honest behind closed doors, but out in public, you have to be all gung-ho and go-team-go. That’s about as UNlike me, as you can get.

And that’s probably the most tiring thing of all. Just keeping up that level of forced enthusiasm, having a firm handshake and making confident eye contact. OMG, I just feel like a caricature of some frat-house “good buddy” when I do that.

But everyone around me loves it.

So, yeah, it’s good to be home. Where I can drop the whole go-team-go act and just be my version of normal. Not “negative”, not “positive”, just me. Neutral as neutral can be. Which is how I like my emotional states.

Okay, one more meeting, then I get to lie down and take a nap.

I’m due…

Saturated – losing my mojo, & the question of embodied existence as an autistic person.

“… what I do think is that our daily efforts are largely a blank to most people, and the intelligence behind our multiple coping strategies is overlooked. All that’s often visible is the ‘getting things wrong’. Ingenuity, inventiveness, resilience and the sheer courage involved in managing our lives is an unseen entity, and indeed a valuable resource.”

This is the story of my life, lately. Non-autistic people don’t have a clue — and why should they? It’s a rare neurotypical soul who can put themselves in our “shoes” and really imagine what it must be like.

And it’s not just about imagining how horrible it must be, but also how amazing it is… and how much we have to offer. Sometimes I think we’re living in a parallel universe, and since by definition parallels don’t intersect…

Well, there you have it.

The other side

STU_1404DPP4_001Photograph by Stu Allsopp 2018

Don’t bother reading this. Yes – probably this blog post has been written before. Possibly even by me? I’ve written so very many posts since my diagnosis that even I can’t keep up!

Deja vu, reinventing the wheel, this is what comes to mind when I hit the web these days. Voices that have been silenced for a lifetime are compelled to speak, and in so many ways blogging is the perfect mouthpiece.

But I’ve become weary about sharing my life online.

Suddenly – as I approach my two year diagnosis anniversary – the plane is tanking. I’m not giving up on activism. There’s probably just a limit to how long a person can keep going without burning out a little, or even getting burned (which indeed I did in 2017).

Also there is overwhelm. It’s brilliant that the blogging scene keeps mushrooming – but…

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Oh, how I would love to talk about ideas…

sunrise behind clouds over the oceanSo, this trip has been interesting. I have 11 hours to go (and yes, I am counting), till I get to leave the office, get in my car, and drive to the airport. Then, I’ll have yet another bite to eat, board the plane, and fly home.

I can’t wait. I’m done here. I was supposed to have dinner with an Aspie friend, last night, but I ended up having to do a work team-building thing — going out to dinner with my coworkers, and then having ice cream afterwards. It was a good time, and I enjoyed hanging out with them. Just like I’ve enjoyed spending time with other folks, discussing work and other subjects, and everything that goes along with networking for work.

Sure, I enjoy spending time with these people, but when do I get time to decompress? All this peopling has been incredibly taxing. It’s exhausting, no matter how much I enjoy it. There’s too much to take in, too much to process, and all of it’s happening in an environment that’s inherently hostile to me and my sensibilities on a profound level. Everything around me is too too loud, too bright, too frenetic, too superficial, too political, too… everything.

And not an in-depth idea in sight, from what I can tell.

I’ve spent the last four days skimming the surface of life, and it’s about as much as I’m prepared to indulge. Everybody’s saying I should stay longer. I should spend more time. I should even move out here. They like me. I like them. We get along. There’s a fair amount of love between me and my coworkers here, and they enjoy working with me.

But it’s a one-way street, social and mentally speaking. I’m the one working overtime to fit in and adapt to their ways. I’m the one putting out the effort to blend and be a responsible individual who cultivates positive social interactions. I’m the one who’s bending over backwards (metaphorically) and putting a cramp in my back (literally) to adapt to their schedules, their food choices, their priorities, their values.

Very, very little of what goes on here and what people care about appeals to me. Living a classic American conspicuous hyper-consumer lifestyle in ways that support and further the dominant paradigm (as well as  the economy), and structuring your life around your popularity, social standing, and political connections are about as far from my main priorities, and you can get.

It’s just so vacuous… I feel like I’ve been living at an extremely high altitude for the past week, with very little oxygen, no trees, and no signs of diverse life to be found.

And nobody around me seems to notice, which worries me.

I mean, I like the people I work with. But at some point, I need to talk about more than office politics, as well as their mainstream lives. I need to discuss more than what people had for dinner the night before, or what the school schedules are. I’m out of  place, but I’m the only one who notices, because I follow other people’s leads, and I play to their strengths. It’s much easier to interact with people, when I make them the center of attention. They love it. They love to talk about their lives, their cars, their kids, their hobbies. But very, very little of it has anything to do with queer little ole me.

Which is pretty much the story of my life. Not much around me has anything to do with me or my values, my priorities, my interests. Never mind what I would have talked about, if I’d been able to go to dinner with my friend last night. We would have riffed on abstract concepts for hours. But alas… alack… All I have to show for dinner last night is a dessicated, intellectually barren experience, where I’ve worn myself out interacting with people nothing like me at all, doing things that don’t interest me… and there’s always the chance I’ve insulted someone without intending to.

Ah, well.

I get to go home today. Back to my books, back to my routine, back to my regular eating and exercise schedule. Back to my house, my partner, my queerness, my nonbinary, noncompliant ways, and the life that I’ve structured exactly the way I want it. Back to my quiet, my peace, my steady cadence. Back to my ideas. Back to a place where I can actually think, instead of being rushed and pushed and cajoled and coerced into meeting someone else’s cookie-cutter social needs, on someone else’s time, according to someone else’s idea about how things should be done.

Well, I’m sure I’ll get some insight from this trip, on down the line, but for now, I’m just really relieved to be finishing up my stay here and going home this afternoon. I’m sure I’ll be back here, sometime in the not-so-distant future, but for now, I’m looking forward to getting my life back to how I want and need it to be.

The day is starting. Let the games begin. Again. For the time being.

Because this #postmenopausal #ActuallyAutistic #woman knows better

sun shining through tree branches
If there’s one thing this trip is teaching me, it’s that I know better than I’ve been giving myself credit for. I know more. I am more capable. I am better equipped. I am better prepared. I haven’t been expecting much of myself, but I realize now that I can expect much, much more than I’ve been allowing for.

And it occurs to me that, once again, alexithymia is getting the better of me. It’s just too bizarre, how it happens… and how convinced I am that I am beyond hope, beyond hopeless… absolutely positive that I can’t deal with sh*t… when all that’s really going on, is that I have no internal sense of confidence, no internal sense of capability, no internal sense of mastery. It’s just not there. Like all the times I have no internal sense of being happy, sad, upset, mourning, elated, frustrated… pick an emotion of your choice. So, so many times, I just can’t feel it.

At all.

And that throws me off. Very much so.

But what does this have to do with menopause? Ha! Everything.

Because the lower hormonal levels in my system seem to heighten my lack of feeling for… stuff. It’s harder for me to detect what I’m feeling, these days, than when I was 10 years younger and I was feeling every damn’ thing so intensely. Going through menopause both dialed up my experience of physical and emotional sensations — way up — to where they kind of spiked… only to be followed by a veritable trough of emotion in the years after…. an extended experience of meh-ness that dulled and confused my emotional detection even more.

And ironically, even when I’m in a really good place — a place of mastery, a place of expertise — I can’t sense it, so it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel genuine. And that messes with my head. ‘Cause obvious things like knowing what you’re talking about is supposed to give you a palpable feeling of rightness… right?

Alas and alack, it doesn’t work that way with me. And that messes with my head.

So, I have to fall back on logic. And remind myself factually of the details of my expertise — that I’ve been doing what I do for decades. That I’ve paid my dues. That I’m a trusted subject matter expert. That I have good “street cred” with the right people at work. And so on.

I have to rely on logic. Because my meh-nopausal system can’t be bothered to work up the energy to sense all those things and sort through them.

Fortunately, I have logic. It’s logically impossible that I would do as much as I’ve done in my life, and still have no clue about anything. Even though it feels that way — or at least, very much like a void — even though I can’t detect any sensation of expertise… I know objectively it must be there. And I also have friends and colleagues who can (and do) offer feedback that I cue in on and then process. They’re much nicer to me, than I am to myself, so I take their word for it, when they tell me I’m smart, or they tell me how much they value my opinion.

So, I override my sense of doom and unremitting failure, and just get on with my life. I really wish it weren’t this way, but is… so there we are.