Quit Calling Me High-Functioning

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The two ends of my Autism Spectrum described in an infographic

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of “executive functioning,” where I explained that my inability to get basic chores done isn’t necessarily from laziness, but from a condition of my mind where I get overwhelmed by life itself and choose to conquer that anxiety by doing nothing at all.

Today, we’re focusing on a different type of functioning: high-functioning Autism and how I do NOT agree with the term. 

You see, scientists seem to like to branch us off into two binary (or black and white) categories of Autism: high-functioning and low-functioning.  High-functioning implies that you are able to appear as a neurotypical (an individual who doesn’t have a mental disorder).  Low-functioning implies that someone has an intellectual disability. 

While someone in a white lab coat and a stethoscope could argue that this is all there is to the high-functioning v. low-functioning conundrum, I would like to argue something entirely different: I am not high-functioning. 

I am also not low-functioning either. 

You see, Autism exists on a spectrum. It’s literally in the full name of Autism ─ Autism Spectrum Disorder.  There are a million different ways Autism can manifest itself in individuals. And within each individual comes a wide spectrum of ways that Autism can be experienced. 

I’m going to use myself as a first-person example.  I was initially diagnosed as having “Asperger’s syndrome.” Asperger’s has often been tagged as mild Autism.  This never made any sense to me. My experiences as an Autistic person is an omnipresent experience. I constantly have to remind myself that I am Autistic.  This is not a bad thing, in my world. It’s no different than reminding myself that I have horrible astigmatism, and therefore need to put on my glasses first thing in the morning to be able to see.

However, by calling me high-functioning, someone is essentially making a complete series of assumptions that have little to no connection with the Truth ─ the Truth being that I don’t always feel like I’m a truly high-functioning individual. Going back to my blog on executive functioning, I’m not always able to function as a “normal” human being.  

Here are a few main reasons why I hate the term high-functioning:

  • SELF CARE: I miss out on taking regular showers, seldom change out my socks everyday, and consider brushing my teeth to be as difficult of a chore as cleaning the bathroom is.
  • BRAIN FUNCTION: Anxiety is real when it comes to me and my Autism.  In fact, for all I know, you can’t have Autism without Anxiety.  It’s like Oregon without rain ─ when Anxiety is not present at every single second of the day, something’s just not right.
  • APPEARANCE: I often get the comments of “you don’t seem like you’re Autistic” after I announce my Autism.  It gets really annoying after a while, but you get used to it. Sort of like how tall people are fed up with being asked how the weather is up there.  But I’d like to take the time to remind you that I am not good at being neurotypical. I am good at masking ─ the art of acting as a neurotypical person. 
  • MASKING: Masking is a form of survival, and I believe that “being good at masking” isn’t really that good of a talent to have.  As an autistic individual, I am forced to find that perfect balance of “being normal” verses “being your genuine Autistic self.” This is something I have had an extremely hard time doing.  I credit my love of fashion, my self-confidence, and the ability of celebrating my uniqueness in getting me to the point where I am right now in life. 

In continuation of being frank, calling my Autism “high-functioning” is only good for the neurotypical’s point of view, if that.  I don’t think that someone who knows nothing whatsoever about my life should have the ability to determine exactly who I am in two hyphenated words. Besides, this “high-functioning” term is only good for the neurotypicals who are trying to wrap their brains around “this complex thing called Autism.” 

After doing a little research on the subject, it appears that the term high-functioning comes from using IQ scores as means of defining where a person lands on the Autism spectrum. Again, I would argue that this is looking at Autism in that black and white, binary way. This is definitely not okay in my book, when Autism is a wonderful spectrum of colors and diversity.  (Because of this fact, Actually Autistic folks have adapted the rainbow infinity symbol as their sign of Autism.)

Consulting an Expert… 

Katherine K.M. Stavropoulos, Ph.D. (Neuroscience in Transition), takes a closer look at the term high-functioning for Psychology Today.  She took a look at a study of 2,000 Autistic individuals that determined IQ was a poor indicator of an Autistic person’s “behavior skills.”  

“…we should not be using IQ as a proxy for adaptive behavior skills. We should not assume that just because a given individual with ASD has cognitive skills in the average range that he or she will automatically have adaptive behavior skills in that same range.” 

Dr.  Stavropoulos goes onto explain that when we use this system, we may not be fairly allocating services to the Autistic people that actually need services.  In other words, if an individual isn’t “Autistic” enough ─ that is, they don’t show signs of an intellectual disability ─ they don’t get the help they need to lead successful lives.  

Her conclusion is simple: “If ‘high-functioning ASD’ is based on cognitive abilities ─ as is often the case ─ it doesn’t accurately capture the experiences, needs, strengths, or weaknesses of a given individual. Not only might this term limit supports or services for those who might need them, but it can also be inherently offensive to individuals who would be considered ‘low functioning.’” 

Perhaps the best example I have found is from an online comic: 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'UNDERSTANDINg The SPECTRUM Introduced by Archie! 2 Language can be conFusing for me. It takes me longer than the average person process conversations. And although I am good at making conversation, take me longer then then normal to respond. But, neurotypical people Find language confusing too. And it can lead to some people mispercie mispercieving who I am.'

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Image may contain: possible text that says 'The truth is though, someone who is neurodiverse in some areas of their brain, will also be no different to your average person in other areas of their brain. Language Motor stils P executive fucsion You see, the autistic spectrum looks something more like this.'

Image may contain: possible text that says 'The spectrum consists Some traits create many different difficulties or ways every day life. which the brain Chence being diagnosed) processes information. Language Motor stil FTE 10 arecutive Futtion But also many traits are useful in every day life. Each person with autism set different areas the spectrum. The areas where they don't have trait Function no to neurotypical brain, affected by circumstance In example, good at making conversation (language). But get sensory overload in crowded spaces, which makes conversation very for me.'

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It’s NOT Laziness: Executive Functioning and my Autism

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Back when I was living at home, my Mom, like any parent, would leave me with a list of chores to do for the day. The list is short and simple, some people would argue. It’s not like I’m required to have the house tidied up and dinner set on the table by 6:00 p.m., as if I was Cinderella. My Mother simply asks me to do a few simple tasks that might take me an hour to do at the most.

I stare at this list of chores my Mom has left for me on the kitchen counter. Again, the chores are straightforward, and it usually looked something like this: 


Load the dishes & run the dishwasher
Clean the counters 
Sweep
Unload dishwasher
Take a shower 
Walk Chocolate at the park

In theory, the list isn’t strenuous, and I’m aware of this.  It’s just a list of tasks one should do everyday in order to keep a clean house.  But to me, the list looks like it’s a mile long. My anxiety disorder transforms the list into a mile-long to-do task list instead of six basic chores. I can’t help it, I wish I could help it.

I make attempts to do the list throughout the day, but instead, I go to the couch. I prop my legs up on the recliner, insist to myself that I’m only going to watch an episode or two of a sitcom, and then all of a sudden, I find myself drifting away to sleep…   

Hours pass by, and it instantly becomes 4 o’clock in what seems like a matter of seconds. I freak out, frantically trying to get something done in less than an hour.  Grab out chicken, plop it in hot water. Shove dishes in the dishwasher and run it, completely neglecting about a quarter of the dirty dishes that are sitting there by the sink in plain sight. Let the dog out front, hoping my parents won’t notice that the leash in the garage hasn’t moved an inch all day long. 

In short, I’m a hot mess. 

I have been asked so many times, “why are you so lazy?”  I hate this. It’s an implication that I’m purposefully wasting hours doing nothing productive or contributing for my family. See, the fact of the matter is that I’m not necessarily lazy. The reality is, I have an executive functioning disorder.

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'Aleksandr Wilde @aswilde1 My Daily Routine w ADHD: -Wake Up -Do Fucking Nothing For 5 hours -Panic -Do Stuff In A Panic for 1-2 hours -Hyperfixate on doing one thing for 4 hours (the wrong thing) -Existential Dread -Make pact with myself to break out of of this pattern tomorrow -repeat pattern tomorrow'

So, what does executive functioning mean? 

According to Harvard, “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. ”  This skillset is important because “the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.” 

With Autism Spectrum Disorder (alongside other mental disorders such as ADHD), it can be quite difficult to make everyday goals. After all, the Harvard article goes onto state that we aren’t given this skill set at birth.  Instead, it’s something that must be learned over time. But much like learning how to socialize, it’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally to Autistic people. 

I personally define executive functioning to mean “the ability to do everyday tasks ─ such as making goals, taking showers, doing your chores, and other tasks of adulthood ─ without thinking twice about it.”  Executive functioning is a verb ─ perhaps the most important one out there ─ and the fact that it doesn’t come naturally to me puts me at a huge, unseen disadvantage in my life. 

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So, how do you try to overcome your executive functioning disorder?

I don’t really know if there’s a one-size-fits-all solution for this, because humans are obviously not one-size-fits-all beings. (You’ll know this is true when I rant about using the term “high-functioning” to define Autism.) 

For me, personally, there are several factors that go into improving my personal executive functioning skills that include:

  • Getting enough sleep and drinking enough coffee in the morning.
  • Taking my medication, so that I’m happy and alert for the day’s festivities.
  • Talking about how I am feeling to Mom, so that we’re on the same page.
  • Somehow scrounging up the courage to get up and go do the damn thing. 
  • Feeling accomplished by only doing one or two small tasks.
  • Arranging a routine that best works for me, and sticking to it.
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Ask the professional… 

I found myself being misunderstood by so many people about my executive functioning disorder.  It got to the point where even my former counselor essentially asked me why I was being so lazy. 

My new counselor, Dr. Wendela Marsh, took a less-degrading approach to addressing my executive functioning issues.  Instead of calling it a problem of apathy, she considered it an obstacle I had to navigate around. 

“Autistic people thrive with routine,” she said. 

Her biggest suggestion: write out a schedule of my day and stick to it. In addition, she also reminded me of all the positive things that happen when I do these chores. For example: I feel better after I take a shower. My dog is happy and worn out after a walk in the park.  My parents smile when they see their kitchen nice and clean, and dinner is already made for them as they come in the door. What my mom said is true: what takes me maybe an hour to do makes the household community I am apart of work better.

I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better at working on my executive functioning skills since my teenage years, but I have a lot of work left to do.  I credit being in the transitional living program with helping me get a routine down, requiring me to stick to that routine. 

But that doesn’t mean everyday is perfect for me right now.  I’m still working on some basic things such as brushing my teeth and taking showers regularly. 

Having said that, I don’t let these little negativities bring me down altogether.  It’s important that I keep reminding myself of how far I’ve come ─ and how far I have yet to go.  

My penultimate piece of advice for anyone who is also struggling to do the little everyday tasks of life is as follows: 

  • Celebrate the tiniest of victories.  This can be something as little as waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth before you head out for the day, walking your dog on a proper walk, or even getting out of bed when you’ve gotten zero hours of sleep. Adulting can be so hard when you have a mental disorder, and it can be even harder when you feel like you have a million things to do in a single day.
  • Even the people we think are professionals at Adulthood struggle with adulthood.  I cannot tell you how reassuring it was when my favorite aunt asked me if it was really necessary to take a full shower when all she wanted to do was clean yesterday’s makeup off her face.
  • You’re still human ─ and you’re doing a great job of being human.  If you got up and volunteered all day, good for you! If you simply got up and went to work out of necessity, good for you! No matter how much or little  you got done today, you woke up, you got dressed, and you made an effort to be human. So long as that’s not a huge pattern in your life, it’s okay to have days where you just want life to be as easy as it gets.

Cut yourself some slack.  Adulting is hard, but you’ve got this thing.

I believe in you!

…but what will we do when we're sober?

“Sober” by LORDE

Last year, in 2019, I found myself turning to alcohol as a means of faking the sensation of dopamine in my body.  For me, the mentality always was, “Let’s do shots!”  Rarely did I feel like I was good with a beer, let alone sticking to water.  At clubs, I would drink until the world started spinning and I walked with a waddle like a penguin.  For all these reasons and more, I had convinced my mother that I was an alcoholic.

This was most definitely not something I took easily.  I was simply trying to feel happy. Let go and have a fun time. Surely drinking was a better choice than … other substances? 

Regardless of whether or not I was ─ or wasn’t ─ an alcoholic, something had to change. It did: I got my medications adjusted, adding 20mg of Prozac and 2mg of Abilify (which makes the Prozac stronger) to my prescriptions. With my long-lost optimism and confidence renewed and restored, I decided to take my life back. To me, that process implied introducing myself to the Transitional Living Program (TLP) and apply for the program. Three days later, I was accepted. On the 25th, I would have my first case manager meeting. The case manager said that if I was trying to cut back on the drinking, I should consider SMART Recovery (SR), a non-religious alternative to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.

HIERARCHY OF VALUES

Later in the day, I promptly went back into the art room at one p.m. and  sat down with a leader who also struggled with alcohol use.the first assignment I received was called Hierarchy of Values

“How appropriate,” I thought. At the beginning of my TLP journey, I was going to inspect my values and goals, and see where I am at in life. 

My values were straightforward: I treasured my friends and my family and the invaluable relationships we’ve created. Having meaningful conversations with these trusted humans is even more important. I love the power that writing gives me. But more than anything, I wanted to make sure that I was always growing and striving to be a better person. I cannot afford to go back to who I felt like I was in 2019.

After writing down my values, the worksheet asked me three straightforward questions that were going to be a bit challenging to ask:

What do I want for my future? That question is simple: I’m wanting to see growth, improvement, happiness, independence, and success.  I want to conquer this program and be proud of the hard work I’ve put into it at the end of my year. 

What am I doing now? I’m enrolled in the TLP and I’m doing my best to talk with the leaders about how I am doing and feeling. I’m also meeting with a case manager about how to move my life forward.

How do I feel about what I’m doing? I feel extremely optimistic, even right now ─ about a month and a half into the program ─ about how I’ll do. Thus far, I’ve been getting a lot of good reports back from the leaders, and I have been told I am a delight to have as part of this TLP community.

I will admit that I was nervous about this SMART Recovery program, and the necessary changes I would need to make, but nothing could damper my optimism. If I was going to make changes, I was going to have to talk about my struggles to trusted allies. Being open and honest about my feelings to others is a direct result from the feelings of despair that came from ignoring my problems altogether in 2019.  Simply put, I know what happens when I don’t talk about my problems ─ I ward myself away from others and I feel alone. Hence why I thrive off of meaningful conversations with loved ones.

CHANGE PLAN

On the second day of December, I was at SR once again, filling out a “Change Plan” worksheet. The changes I wanted to make were straightforward: Get better sleep, avoid smoking and using alcohol, and talk with my leaders more often about my wellness. My confidence to achieve the goals was a bit staggering, but it was detrimental that I put aside my nerves for change. I wasn’t doing this for my health, but my wellness. 

One key thing I was forgetting at the time of filling out the Change Plan worksheet was the fact that I had friends and family there to help me whenever an ally was needed.  It was time to confide in my true allies and finally do away with anyone holding me back. The friends whose only ambition was to smoke or drink all the time have been nixed from my close friends circle. And although I don’t think they’re bad people, I only have time for people who are going places with their life instead of to the store to waste their money on sweet nothings.

MYTHBUSTING

On the 16th of December, the SR leader handed me a list of unrealistic expectations we can have about urges. I underlined the points that stood out to me:

  1. Urges are uncomfortable, but you can bear them.  If you keep telling yourself that you can’t, you’re setting yourself up to use.
  2. Urges always go away. Your nervous system eventually stops noticing stimuli. You can teach yourself to ride out urges; it does get easier over time. (Wait one hour)
  3. Using is always a choice. When an urge hits, you have two choices: to use or ride it until it subsides.
  4. Urges are a normal part of recovery. They may be stronger at first, but you can have a life without urges.
  5. If you scratch a rash occasionally, but use healthy remedies the rest of the time, the occasional scratching still increases the healing time. Likewise, if you occasionally give into your urges, you simply prolong your dependence on the substance or behavior as a way out when you believe the pain is unbearable. 
  6. You cannot control urges, but you can control how you respond to them.
  7. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out things that provide pleasure. Substances and behaviors that light up the pleasure centers in our brains can be destructive if the desire for them turns into a need.  Oh, and as human beings, we all do stupid things.
  8. Your rational brain can’t ignore that the short term “pleasures” are incompatible with your long-term goals.

MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS I wrote down were simple. A lot of material was covered (I summarized the material as it was over a page long), but a few points stuck out. 

Having urges is a normal part of recovery. We are addicted to things that make us happy, which would explain why alcohol became my go-to drug of choice when I was deeply depressed. Another point the leader made was to consider the cost, as my beloved mixed drinks easily went for $8 a pop, or $30 by the time I was drunk.

Having urges will always be annoying and uncomfortable, but that next week, we would be learning how to handle urges.

“DEADS”

It was just two days before Christmas. As it was Monday, I marched myself into SR. this time, the worksheet he gave us was an acronym: DEADS. On the second page, I wrote my notes I had in response to each part of the acronym.

Deny/Delay/Don’t give into the urge

  • Urges last for about an hour before they’re gone, or I can ignore them.  I have this common false mentality that urges are “impossible” to get through. That is not the case. I can distract myself with an activity, such as playing a game, and then I can also have a caffeinated beverage instead.

Escape the trigger 

  • Do I really need to have a drink? Is there an alternative to drinking I can pursue instead of something with alcohol? Or is there someone who always pressures me into using?

Avoid the trigger, attack the urge, accept the urge

  • Give yourself limits and be staunch about it. Acknowledge the stressors you have going on in your body, and find healthy, alternative ways to cope. Say no passionately, and tell your friends about your choice to stay sober for this event. Identify places where you know you will use.

Distract yourself with an activity

  • Read a good, engrossing book, or write a letter to a loved one. Play games with your friends. Write something for your blog. Do something productive, such as complete your chores.

Substitute for addictive thinking 

  • It’s okay to be addicted to something that makes you “happy.”  But because alcohol is extremely addicting, and it can make you feel weak, it’s best to avoid it.  Recovery is a project, and it’s okay if you mess up sometimes.

TO DRINK, OR NOT TO DRINK?

AS I WENT THROUGH all my SMART Recovery notes, I started noticing a reoccuring theme:  I don’t abuse alcohol; rather, I was using it as a crutch for my depression. My goal for myself throughout these courses has always had an underlying theme: Establish a healthy relationship with a substance that will always be present in life. Especially as I enjoy going to drag shows and nightclubs.  My goal was to simply learn how to enjoy alcohol instead of drowning my intense emotions with it.

This is exactly what I’ve been trying to do: I have limited my alcohol intake to just a few drinks per month this far. Just the other day, I had a shot of blueberry vodka with lemonade. Two hours later, I had another cocktail with food. At my grandma’s 80th birthday celebration, I enjoyed two glasses of rosé ─ it made me feel light and bubbly all throughout the party. (Mom made sure that this was the only alcohol I consumed.) 

In each scenario, alcohol was never a drug, but something that made me feel happy and relaxed.

WHEN I TALKED TO MY MOM over Facebook messenger, I was almost certain she would hate my plan. To my great surprise, she was all for it. “It’s your choice!!” she said to me. 

“I believe that I need to teach myself to have very limited drinks per month. Otherwise, I’m going to grab a liquor bottle the second I get away from the program,” I replied.

“I think in all aspects (eating, drinking, sex) it is [about] focusing on being healthy. My goal for the rest of my life is to make choices that help me be healthy ─ emotionally, physically, spiritually. I’m taking it moment by moment, day by day.” 

I’m not sure what reminded me that I had bodily autonomy ─ okay, it probably was the first time my mom saw my new hairdo and said, “I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love it.” 

I want to drink. This doesn’t mean playing “shots” by Lil Jon while I drink an entire glass of Fireball in one go. It just means that I want to enjoy a cocktail every now and then.

Say what you want, but I truly think this is the right way to look at it.

Twenty Introductory Questions for 2020

I wanted to do a bit of soul searching for this introduction.  I really wanted to ask the questions I thought any new readers would like to know, therefore using this post as a way to allow readers to get into my mind. 

It is my hope that these twenty questions will allow you to pick my brain and see what I really think about my life as a slightly-dysfunctional Autistic woman. 

  1. Why did you choose the name Confessions of an Autistic Freak?
    I like to think that I have a healthy, albeit controversial, sense of self-awareness.  I know that I’m unconventional, and that I’m not everyone’s type. As I mentioned before, the name came from a blog generator, so I can’t take full credit for this awesome, eye-catching name. But I would like to say that if I am going to take this blog and turn it into my brand ─ and that’s exactly what I really hope will happen ─ why not call said blog-brand something bold?


  2. What person or people got you to start a blog?
    I’ve gotten so many requests for a blog that it almost turned into a kind of begging. Not that I mind ─ I felt flattered that so many people want to learn more about Autism from a first-person source with my hope that I can educate them about why Morgan is Morgan.  But if I recall correctly, I started up the blog when I started going to my current counselor. It was there that I realized that this was the medium I needed to have a voice that would be heard, understood, and responded to.


  3. What are the biggest messages you want your readers to take away from this blog?
    Firstly, all my blogs come from a blogger who wants people to feel related to. By no means do I want people thinking I think I’m holier-than-thou or better than you. Quite the opposite! Secondly, I think a lot of people my age (young millenials and the eldest of the Generation Z) are open to talking about their mental health. It’s extremely inspiring that it’s becoming more appropriate for mental wellness to be appropriate to discuss in your everyday conversation. For Autism alone, its estimated that about 1 in 50 Americans are Autistic. Add the countless other disorders that exist, and I’m pretty sure that it’d be impossible to not know someone who has a mental disorder.


  4. Who was the person that made consider writing a memoir?
    Again, there have been so many people who have wondered if I had ever considered writing a book, and I thank them for believing in me so strongly. But the most important person is my counselor, who is a published author herself. This isn’t to discredit those of you who pushed me to write a book; I just know that publishing a book is an upward battle that requires a lot of determination and talent.  Talent that I apparently have in spades. (Yay me!)


  5. 2019 was a hard year for you. Were there any highlights that made it less bitter?
    The most essential moment of my year ─ and perhaps my life ─ was getting to go shopping with my mama. Her fighting for me to the point where my life plot-twisted ─ that is, I got into the Transitional Living Program ─ cannot be understated as being lifesaving.

    Another essential highlight for me was the time my family and friends, old and new, reminded me of how much I am loved.

    Finally, I personally believe the most fun highlight of my year was the fact that Latrice Royale, A RuPaul’s Drag Race queen I love and worship, loved the poster I created for her. (In fact, she was genuinely flabbergasted!)


  6. What is the biggest lesson your Autism taught you in 2019? How did you stay grounded in spite of the challenges you faced?
    Your brain, perhaps the most important part of your body, doesn’t always agree with you. It makes up potential situations that makes the rest of your body tense up and hurt.  That anxiety turns into depression ─ a depression that sometimes is damning. But once I took my medications and got a strong support structure of people who want to help me, I got my signature sense of passion back, a sparkle in my eye, and a smile that didn’t feel forceful or painful to show.


  7. Which event of 2019 are you most proud of?
    I am so blessed that I found out about the HOST program and got accepted so quickly. (They accepted me just two days after introducing myself for the very first time.) Being in this program has meant security, a place for me to lay my head, and getting to establish friendships with the other residents. I’m making goals, achieving them little by little, and growing at a rate I never thought was possible. Again, I cannot stress enough that I have a lot of work to do, but I’m proud of how far I have come from.


  8. How did you grow as a person last year?
    I’m not going to lie ─ at this time last year, I was briefly optimistic for 2019 at the beginning of the year. But then, as the pressures of school and life itself took over, I felt defeated. Going to school felt like hell. Nevermind having to go to my tiny dog walking gig ─ I just wanted to take a depression nap for eternity.

    Right now, I’m confident without being cocky. I feel like I’m at a good place in my life that allows for growth. I am also reminding myself that it’s okay to celebrate your accomplishments and your journey.


  9. Who are the people who have helped remind you of your purpose?
    There’s a Costco-sized grocery list of people I need to thank. But I reserve specific shout-outs to

    Mom, who did everything she could to keep me alive

    Grandma, who always encouraged me to be optimistic and see the light at the end of the tunnel

    My friends, who keep me spiritually inspired and encouraged.

    And anyone else who has believed in me.


  10. What are some of the goals that you were working on in 2019 that you would like to complete in 2020?
    The end of 2019 was definitely the “Orientation Phase” of the TLP and my life itself. I definitely reoriented my life by talking with my case manager to make goals and going to life skills groups such as Smart Recovery. Remembering that daily tiny changes are much better than no change whatsoever has also helped me to keep my eye on the prize, instead of looking back in the past.


  11. What is the biggest fear you have?
    I still stand by my biggest fear being dying, especially after a year of suicidal thoughts ─ a year that almost left me dead. When you get so close to death and overcome those demons, you start to remind yourself of your talents and strengths. And once you remember why you were put on this planet for, you start remembering why you were once so optimistic.

  12. Who are your favorite people?
    My mother, grandmothers, friends, aunts and uncles (there’s too many to name!), and family friends who have become honorary aunts and uncles.

  1. What do your tattoos mean, and what tattoos do you want in the future?
    Semicolon (on wrist):
    this is the suicide awareness emblem. “I could have stopped my story; instead, I chose to persevere.”

    Dog (on ankle): for my precious puppy mutt, Chocolate, and for my love of dogs.

    Puzzle Piece (back of shoulder): At the time, I believed that the puzzle piece was a simple, universal symbol of Autism. I still stand by that, despite its controversial origins.

    Penguins (middle of my back):
    To represent the special love and bond I share with my Mama. (And because my Mama will always have my back.)

    In the future, I’d love a robot with flowers around it that extend up to my shoulder. I’d also love Carrie Fisher’s portrait on my thigh (she’s the ultimate mental health advocate), and GIRL IT TAKES GUTS JUST TO SURVIVE on the side of my wrist by my semicolon tattoo.

  2. How does your dog, Chocolate, impact you?
    I will forever credit Chocolate with being a light in my life. I look toward him to cheer me up, be my snuggle buddy, and my best friend. It’ll be very hard to get another dog in the future, but if and when I do, I’m going to always rescue my next best friend because I feel it’s such an important thing to do.


  3. What is the one thing you want people to learn from your blog?
    Autism is real. It’s not a disease, and we Autistic people aren’t trying to make up excuses or act out on purpose. All we want is love and acceptance ─ just like every other human. I also hope that my writing style entertains, educates, and inspires the reader to continue learning more about things they may not know about.


  4. What’s the one song that saved you last year?
    “Giver” by K. Flay. Every single line of that song resonates so strongly in me. 

Every day’s another shot
But all I do is f*** it up
Screaming ’cause I’ve got it too good to cry
I put the medicine inside my head
Apologize for all the things I said
Girl it takes guts to just survive

  1. What is your dream job?
    Fashion stylist. I want people to feel the way I feel when I put on a cute outfit, or discover a unique piece for their wardrobes. There’s too much of a misconception that fashion is equal to vanity. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Fashion is a way we can express ourselves or feel better about the way we look. I want people to feel the way I feel when I put on my favorite 3” booties, or when I’m wearing my favorite grey leather jacket.


  2. How would you summarize your life in a paragraph or less?
    I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, and I’m not sure where the future is taking me. But I’m thankful that I have friends and family who love me, special talents and skills that help to make me who I am, and a future I get to look forward to earning. Oh, and as a side note, drag shows and hanging out with my friends are also important.


  3. Are there any other goals you have for 2020 that you haven’t really talked about?
    I have a secret relationship with smoking cigarettes and drinking too much.  I vowed that after the New Years party, I wouldn’t be taking a sip of alcohol or a puff from a cigarette for a very long time. For me, I want to have complete wellness and control over my body, and not having alcohol and cigarettes on a regular basis is an easy change I can make.

  4. What is your ultimate job with this blog?
    I want this blog to gain traction. Hopefully, this will become a lifestyle brand where I get to display all aspects of my life and present Autism as normal. It’s essential that I am helping to represent my community in the positive light it deserves and needs.

It's 2020. We're Making Goals, Not Resolutions.

It’s pretty surreal what today, the 30th of December 2019, entails. 

In less than six hours, it’ll be the last day of the year ─ the decade! ─ and I’m proud to state that I feel like I’m in a pretty good place in my life right now. 

2019 is finally OVER!  While that doesn’t automatically mean all my pains and woes of life will be gone by the drop of the Times Square crystal ball, I personally think it means that I get a brand new start to get to continue doing all the good things I have done ─ and try to permanently nix all the bad habits I’ve collected. 

But as I said in my last blog, New Year’s Resolutions are so damn wishy-washy.  They just feel like they’re words you say to get you psyched up for our planet’s next trip around the Sun. It’s not a mantra, but a wish. And to change, I need goals

One of my favorite Facebook friends, Cat, seemed to agree with my belief, and posted the following:

ANTI NEW YEARS RESOLUTION THREAD
Resolutions are bulls***! Make changes at your pace, NOT from some arbitrary date in some calendar.
What’s one thing you learned in 2019 that’s going to help you kick the world’s ass in 2020? Mine is that I have a strong intuition with regards to whether or not people are going to harm or hurt me, so i’m gonna listen to that s*** in 2020.

Cat Carnes, Facebook friend

My biggest life lesson I learned is the fact that if I’m not actively taking care of myself ─ or if I’m not taking the time to better myself ─ I’m wasting away. Now that I’m (hopefully) about to enter the first Phase of this Transitional Living Program, it’s time for me to get busy, give back to the community, and make sure that when I do hang out with friends, it becomes meaningful time spent with long-term friends who love me just as much as I love them back.

For me, I put my new years goals in the form of a vision board. Each one has a very special importance to me, but equally important is the fact that they’re obtainable. And I definitely don’t want them to reside in cliches, but things that need to happen in order for me to be successful.

I have learned that when I’m not writing, I’m not doing something that benefits my self-care. I want to work on writing my memoir and continuing blogging about my Autism and about my experiences of growth within the TLP program.  I want to make it a point to write a little bit everyday and make my blog posts meaningful. 

Goal: Make sure I am regularly writing in one form or another. It’s therapeutic, and really helps to keep me grounded.

I’ve learned that not taking my medicine is absolutely detrimental. I want to take my medications and take care of my mental wellness. Being healthy has never meant obsessing over my diet, weight, and physical health, I want to have wellness. Simply put,  I don’t want to lose weight; I want to be healthy. I want to take my medications and get good sleep.

Goal: Make sure I’m constantly taking my medicine, talking about how I feel, and making sure I’m getting the help I need to keep up this feeling of realistic happiness.

Spending time with loved ones is a huge spiritual need for me to the point where I had to dedicate two spaces on my Vision Board for it. While I do make it a priority to spend as much time as possible having spiritual conversations with Mama over lunch, I have been meaning to message the cousins, aunts, and uncles I consider to be close friends along with our familial relationships.  

Secondly comes my friends. I am the absolute worst at making sure I am spending the time I should be with my close, long term friends that feel more like siblings than they do someone I’ve met at school years ago.

Goal: Make it a point to schedule hang-out sessions with friends, and mark them on the calendar.  Talk to family and friends via Facebook to let them know how I am doing. (After all, these are the people who cheer for me, pray for me, and are my ultimate “#1 fans.”) 

A key important step in early 2020 is to start volunteering on a regular basis for causes I love.  Since I get limited animal time due to being in a place that doesn’t allow personal pets to live with its residents ─ tragically! ─ I would love to try and volunteer for Salem Friends for Felines and other rescue organizations. 

Goal: Reach out to various rescue groups about how I can help with their rescue group.

Finally, I have been meaning to find a solid, part-time job.  (I’ve tried to work full time, but my mental health just doesn’t agree with it.)  While I at first thought this process would be dauntless, my case manager reminded me that I can work with Vocational Rehabilitation to get trained, learn what my assets and my challenges are (because of my Autism), and help me be on my way. 

Goal: Make sure I get into Vocational Rehabilitation by next week. Start working with them, and try to complete the process by February.

So, here are my goals. I don’t write this as a way to demand that you do the same thing ─ far from that!  I simply hope that you make strong, impactful goals for the new year, and new decade, that you can plan out and really accomplish.

Happy New Year ─ and Happy New Decade! I hope you have loads of fun celebrating with your friends and family.

Thank u, next.

In 2019, I thought I was going to end my life.  Depression and inner demons were starting to win the battle, but they would never win the war. 

The most important part of this year was Friday the 28th of June. When my only two options that I thought I had were end this thing or, move somewhere far away and hope that at the end of a five-hour plane ride, I can find a new life of peace and happiness.

I wish you could make this stuff up. 

Thank God, Mom verbally pimp-slapped me into reality when she essentially said, “Why don’t you stay, and we’ll have a girls’ day? We can get you help.” 


Come the evening of July 1, we had a successful day of shopping with a trunk full of clothes ─ and the most important relationship of my life restored.

Needless to say, I have had plenty of minor bumps in the road, and I took several detours to get to a place of security that I now call my second home.  My acceptance into Northwest Human Services’ transitional living program (TLP) was not where I thought I would end up, but where I need to be.  

Since my admittance into the program, I’ve felt like I was on this rapid path to make progress.  I never thought something as little as getting up, taking my meds, getting dressed, and doing a daily chore would be a life changer, but they have been. I’ve been required to have a curfew, make sure I’m taking care of myself, and set goals for the long term.  Getting assigned a case manager meant that I was keeping myself accountable, but also getting some of the help I needed to succeed. (Our current project is tackling the SSI disability application process.)

For my benefit only, and to additionally prove that I’m trying to grow ─ every little bit helps! ─ I attend weekly SMART Recovery program meetings to focus on making my relationship with alcohol a “let’s enjoy a drink with dinner” thing, rather than a matter of “let’s see how many shots we can do before we’re cut off.”  It’s like AA without the religious aspect ─ the “thou shalt never drink alcohol” mentality. something that really mattered to me. During my down time, I have picked up my hobby of reading again, and I have certainly missed my romance novels. 

And as I go about making this all happen, I have this sense of release that this year I achieved my sole resolution of making sure I did some growing.  I just had to accept the growing pains that come with the process.

Even now, when my confidence is at an all time high, I still get jealous. I still wonder if I should have been onto my second serious boyfriend, graduating from college, or having a job that lasts longer than a few months. But this is vanity talking. Not reality. I’m perfectly okay with where I am at. Just yesterday I talked with one of my Mom’s friends, and she applauded me for having the guts to acknowledge my problems, then do something about  it.

I personally think back to the K. Flay saying I held so dear this year ─ GIRL IT TAKES GUTS JUST TO SURVIVE.  It’s my mantra, my slogan.  Hell, I’ve even thought about getting it tattooed as a permanent reminder that I’m a survivor. 

By no means do I think I am done, but only just starting. Fresh into the new year, I have a meeting January 2 with the director of the program: I essentially will be providing evidence that states I am ready to move on to the first Phase of this program ─ and that I’m going to continue making progress throughout. 

And when I do make resolutions, they’ll be goals with intention ─ not just words I say because it’s the beginning of the year and it’s “just what you do.” 

For now, I simply hope that my best friend becomes my boyfriend, I get more opportunities to volunteer, I actually take time to hang out with friends, and I continue doing my best to be my best. ♥

Image may contain: Morgan Marie

Jumpsuits and Jolly Lolly-Jo (Getting dressed up to celebrate my Grandma)

Image may contain: Morgan Marie, standing

I’d like to think that one of my talents includes lucking out at thrift stores. Granted, at the time of purchasing the  jumpsuit I wore to my Grandma’s 80th birthday, I would like to say that working at Goodwill at the time certainly helped with my luck. Instead of wearing a dress to what I considered to be the most important party of the year, I lucked out with a jumpsuit that fit me like a glove.

I should probably preface this story by saying that there was the slightest possibility of me not even going to this party.  With how many battles I have been facing with my mental health, Morgan from earlier on in the year would most certainly tell you that it’s a miracle I was there in the first place.  But, thanks to so many people’s hardworking efforts ─ especially those of my mother and my grandmother ─ I was there, getting to wear that cute little jumpsuit, a big smile on my face. This was my victory outfit. My celebration of a woman who was instrumental in getting me back to health. And for that matter, a woman who also has been my lifelong best friend. So of course I had to dress up.

To say the least, a woman as awesome as my Grandma has a lot of admirers and fans ─ from her extended family, to friends, to chosen family members and more. I felt tears seep up under my eyes as I gave her my toast: 

I am beyond honored to be able to join so many of Loretta’s family and friends to celebrate the incredible person that I get to call my Grandmother.
Grandma’s legacy in my life started when I was just a young toddler. Our adventures were highlighted by trips to the library, sleepovers at her house, and mac-n-cheese dinners as we’d watch the 5 o’clock news.  Little did I know this would instill my love of reading, writing, and journalism. 
Today, my adventures with my Gram are highlighted by lunch dates and good company.  Thanks to her career as a counselor, Grandma has always provided a unique perspective at looking at my problems, always choosing optimism.  Each time we get to have lunch, she provides the kind of beautiful wisdom that comes with so much life experience. 
But life isn’t all sunny skies and smooth sailing.  Grandma has seen me at the darkest moments of my life, when I was vulnerable, broken, and scared for my future. She has this wonderful way of reminding me that she loves and cares for me, no matter what.  To say this compassion has been life-saving is the understatement of the century. 
Grandma is the person we turn to when we want to be spoiled. She’s the one who goes out of her way to make sure we’re not just happy, but thriving.  Gram is always there to offer me sound advice, make me a bite to eat, or give the best hugs. Despite a 58 year difference between us, Gram has always been my best friend and beloved ally throughout my life. 
Today, I’d like to raise my glass to my Grandma. Thank you so much for 22 years of your endless love, mercy, and every memory in between!

Family has always been an important value to my Gram, and I could always see why. Despite a year that has given me many trials and setbacks, I always had my family to remind me I’m loved and treasured. I know for a fact that each person that has been an active part of Grandma’s life has told her that she’s more than a friend or a family member. In many ways, she’s the ultimate hero. 

I’ll admit that I choked up a bit when Grandpa Sir said it’s been the greatest honor to spend 36 years together with my Grandma. We often look to elderly couples for hope that “true love” does exist, and my maternal grandparents are a perfect example of that. 

This upcoming week, she promised that we would do our signature lunchtime together. It is my hope that I get to intimately talk about how much she means to me once more, as we reminisce about our favorite shared memories. 

I cannot stress enough the important values Grandma’s taught me over the years.

  • To work hard for what you have, and love what you do. 
  • To be a loving family member ─ whether that be a mother, sister, cousin, or auntie.
  • To always be optimistic, despite the trials you face. 
  • To find someone you love and remind them of your love through actions.
  • To make great food and always have room for one more at the table.
  • To have a strong relationship with the Lord and to always be spiritual ─ not just religious. 
  • To always have your nose in your book, and your eye on current events. 
  • To always be well dressed and take the time to treat yourself to something sweet.
  • To treasure your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

As we approach Christmas week, I am excited to make cookies with Grandma as we listen to Christmas carols on the radio.  I’m excited to repeat our holiday traditions and exchange well wishes and presents.  

More than that, I am glad I am loved by my Grandma, and am excited more than ever that I get to celebrate Christmastime with her ─ her favorite holiday.  

I am glad I have a Grandma who shows me God’s love and grace. 

I am glad to be able to have an occasion where I get to dress up for my Grandma and use fashion as a way to say “thank you.” 


Image may contain: 14 people smiling on a staircase, including Morgan Marie, Stefani Crocker Wolfington, Lori Wolfington Connelly, Loretta Morgan, Becka Morgan and Mark Wolfington, people smiling, people standing