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New Person, Same Ol’ Mistakes

I don’t always screw my life over, but when I do, it’s always to epic proportions.

I am writing this after spending exactly seven weeks and one day with a guy I initially fell head over heels over.  It went well…at first.  We were instantly enamored with each other and “felt a special energy” about each other.  Before even meeting him, he offered to take care of my bills for a little while in exchange for spending some time with him.  This was at a time when my gas station job was unstable at best, with fuel shipments not coming in or the gas pumps’ systems constantly going offline.  So when he made the offer to quit my job and be his adventure buddy, I gave it all of one hour to think about how exciting it would be to not have to deal with a dysfunctional work environment and I enthusiastically said “yes” to his offer.  Never did I give much thought into thinking about what would happen when shit hit the fan.

A couple weeks went by, and he was set to travel to Louisiana for an event.  At the very last second, he gave me the offer to come travel with him and his 38-foot 1991 Monaco RV.  After all, what else did I have to do, he said.  With only three seconds to make the choice, I decided to come with him on the journey. 

The trip there was long, but getting to travel to different states initially felt exhilarating.  For a bit of context, my travel adventures were limited to multiple yearly trips to the Oregon coast, the state of Washington for extended maternal family events, a ten-day immediate family excursion to my grandmother’s Kona, HI condominium, and California to check out Disneyland, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco.  Much of the trip there (and back) was staring at desert horizons and flat grounds ─ definitely a far cry to the luscious green trees and hilly roads that I was used to with Oregon. But the highlight of the journey was a quick day-trip to The Grand Canyon.  

May be an image of Morgan Marie, standing and outdoors

Once there, I got a week to myself in a Covington, LA RV park to write, be alone while my friend attended his event, and have plenty of time to sit down and relax after traveling for thousands of miles.  I tried to get started on my memoir without much luck.  But overall, it wasn’t too bad.  The RV has a decent surround sound system, and I always had someone to talk to via the wonders of social media. 

Things started going south (pun somewhat intended given my Louisiana location) when my partner came back from his event.  I won’t say too much, but there were a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of red flags that I felt came up during his return.  On our way home, things escalated to the point where he felt like I wasn’t wanting to be on this journey at all.  But the fact of the matter was that I was just homesick.  Regardless of his belief that “the RV is our home” ─ It wasn’t.  It was his home. ─ the fact of the matter was that I hadn’t been home in ages.  I missed its comforts, I missed my friends and family, and I was worried about not being able to make it to my aunt’s Father’s Day celebration.  Especially when I heard reports from home that my grandfather’s health wasn’t the best.  

No description available.

At the end of the day, there were just too many differences.  The partner had quit all prospects of working for the man at a Subaru sales representative to be a nomad (I refuse to use the word he used as it’s a slur).  While he trusted that the Universe would take care of him, I had a more realistic approach to life.  I needed money to survive.  To pay bills and hopefully have a little money leftover for myself.  I had done the “kindness of strangers” route strictly out of necessity whilst homeless, and I vowed never to go down that route again.  And yet here I am, sitting down at my laptop and finding myself in a similar predicament.  I am jobless, I just got back from seven weeks of fucking around only to find out that I am now empty.  If this journey was successful, I would have had something to write home about.  But since the trip’s only highlight was thirty minutes at the Grand Canyon, my first “gentleman’s club” experience at some sleazy Oklahoma strip club the partner was adamant about revisiting (he had Basic Training in the city years ago), and a couple of Whataburger trips, I don’t have anything to say for myself other than the fact that I feel that I have failed myself.

I arrived home via a gracious friend who offered to take me from Vancouver to Wilsonville without questioning me. Upon getting to my apartment, my roommate was, to my luck, too exhausted to talk.  I have since been collecting my thoughts, catching up with loved ones, and trying to think of a game plan for what comes next after my complete and utter failure.  

So, what comes next?

Well, for starters, I am meditating on this experience.  I am taking it all in and mentally taking notes on what I did wrong so I know to never walk down that path again.  To acknowledge red flags.  To make sure I have back up plans in case things take a turn for the worst.  

Secondly, I am also thinking about the next steps I need to take in order to get myself back up on my feet, getting away from this feeling of utter failure.  I have a list of all the potential jobs I would like to apply for, such as 7-Eleven or Costco.  It may not be the office job I would like to have, but I need something ─ anything ─ to get me working again and get a paycheck coming in on a regular basis.  And to be frank, as much as I dreaded my gas station job, I do miss the feeling of working hard in order to pay for my apartment and other needs.

Thirdly, I am not going to just date anyone from here on out.  I am going to actually take the time to really get to know people and not let emotions get in the way.  But more than that, I need to invest time in my friends.  I’ll admit that I am bad at devoting time to have lunch or simply hang out with the people who I consider my favorites.  My ride-or-die dear friends.  People who will actually be there at the end of the day.  

Fourthly, I am not letting failure define me.  Yes, I feel as though I threw away seven weeks of my life for something that ended in a disaster, but I also am trying to learn from it.  And that’s all I can do right now: learn from my mistakes. 

“You haven’t failed,” a dear girl-friend of mine said.  “It may feel like you did but you honestly didn’t. You’re taking the approach that many others don’t.  You’re doing everything you can for yourself and that’s what counts. Some people will use a toxic form of radical acceptance to stay stagnant in a life they feel miserable in. You’re doing everything in your power to not stay stuck and I’m proud of you for it.”  

So, where am I right now?  How do I ultimately feel about all of this? 

For starters, I am angry with myself, but also understanding.  Angry because I was stupid; understanding because I feel like I was doing what I wanted to do that felt right at the time.  But ultimately, I think taking lessons away from this (mis)adventure is better than crawling up in a ball and screaming profanities and other unkind things to myself for hours on end.

The thing is, I am scared.  Scared of adulthood.  Scared of not knowing when I will be able to return to community college and earn a degree in order to get one step closer to a well-paying dream job.  Scared that I won’t be able to find the proper mental healthcare I need in order to thrive, nevermind dealing with my physical maladies.  Scared that I am not doing what I should be doing to be a proper adult.  Scared of being left out of all the fun activities and other milestones that others are achieving and doing in their lives.

And as I type this, I have to realize that I cannot be alone in this feeling of terrified-ness.  Cliche as it is to say, what I see on social media is the glossy, sugar-coated lives that people live when I see posts of drag shows and other events, or announcements of pregnancies, engagements, and college graduations.  I try to remind myself that social media is a demon I will always have to battle with, but it is so damn easy to get lost in the likes, the praise, the bullshit.  In fact, a recent 30-day ban on my Facebook account has me thinking that it’ll be a good thing to be forced to step away from “doom scrolling” my way down my Facebook newsfeed. 

My friend has a point:  I am trying to not feel stuck.  I am trying to find my place in the world.  Did I need to find my divine realization via a seven-week-long failed relationship? Probably not.  But the reality is, I made that choice.  And it’s teaching me so much.  

I am facing the music right now.  The song that comes to mind: Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”  Its lyrics perfectly encapsulate how I felt throughout this entire post-journey recap. 

I can just hear them now

“How could you let us down?”

But they don’t know what I found

Or see it from this way around

Feeling it overtake

All that I used to hate

Wonder what if we trade

I tried but it’s way too late

All the signs I don’t read

Two sides of me can’t agree

When I breathe in too deep

Going with what I always longed for

There will constantly be a struggle within myself to do what I feel is right.  And another struggle within that struggle to try and define, on my terms, what it means to “do the right thing.”  But for right now, I am trying to be gentle with myself.  Take some time for self-care, visit family and friends, and really make sure I am healing from this huge trauma I am going through.  

I mean, if I am being realistic, I’m not dead.  Yet.  (This is just a morbid joke and I do not intend to die until I feel 100% accomplished with my life.)  

I have the opportunity to find a new job and work at some place that I feel will at least appreciate my hard work.

I get to be back in my apartment, where I feel I am finally at home. 

It is the end of a really miserable chapter of my life, but not the end of the book.  I have the opportunity to start over and reinvent myself into a stronger human.  

For now, I am just treasuring my time back at home and thinking about doing the next right thing over and over again until I get to my end goal of being employed and getting back to business as usual.

Phoenix Fire Bird Illustration And Character Design. Hand Drawn Phoenix  Tattoo Stock Vector - Illustration of graphic, feather: 99492720
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The Art of Saying “No”

It was the eve of Friday the 9th of April.  I was going back and forth between two dresses to wear to dinner tonight ─ the one I had on, or a different dress that I had in my wardrobe.  Mom, being the fashionista that she was, seemed determined to have me wear a polka dot top that I got with her at the beach the month prior.  “There’s only one problem,” I said, “and that’s the fact that I don’t have any pants to wear with it.” 

I eventually settled on the dress I originally wore and decided to call it a day.  When we got to the restaurant, I got out of the car and started marching downtown, ready to take a bus back home to my apartment.  But Dad interjected, and for that I was thankful.  He asked what was on my mind, and I let him have it. 

“Why the fuck does Mom think it’s okay to dress me?  I am 24 for fucks sake!  I am a grown ass adult!” 

“That’s just the way Mom is and will always be,” he reminded me.  “She doesn’t mean anything bad by that.” 

I took a deep breath and joined them for dinner.  I had a glass of rosé slushie upon sitting down, and I shook off any ill will I had toward my mother’s interjection.  Once the “frosé” came to me, I raised my glass and I toasted to family and the upcoming year ahead of me.

It has taken me 23 and a half years to finally feel like an adult human being.  And at the end of being 23, I realized that I had every right to put up boundaries.  So, what does that look like?  Well, for starters, I should start by describing the relationship I have with my mother.  

Mom and I have always considered each other mother and daughter, but also best friends.  I would talk to her about everything, hoping to gain her motherly insights on whatever was going on in my life.  And now that I am an adult, she would also ask for my opinions and get my insights as well.  

However, in the past few seasons of life, I have come to realize that I am in no obligation to tell her about everything.  Now that I am no longer living under her roof, who was stopping me from dating who I want and doing my own thing in life? Nobody!  

I talked to my Mom today over Messenger about my current adventures.  I didn’t say too much ─ only what I wanted her to know, and that I was safely traveling with a trusted friend.  And after addressing her basic (and expected) concerns in regards to her wanting to make sure her baby was safe, taken care of, and doing well in life, she reassured me that she took no issue with this. 

Collectively, Mom and I have been in long talks about boundaries not just in relevance to our relationship but with other family members as well.  If we do not feel like talking to someone, we don’t have to.  If right now is a bad time to call for any reason ─ even if that reason is simply, “I don’t want to,” ─ we can set that boundary. 

I am so thankful to live in an era where more and more people are coming out and saying, “Why do we owe family our time when we don’t have a good relationship with that family member?”  This hypothetical bad relationship can be anything from disagreeing with someone’s politics to not tolerating their disrespect.  Whatever the case is, we have the right to not answer calls or attend family functions.  We have the right to say “NO!” loud and clear.

And when we say “NO,” I believe we are allowing ourselves to not be enslaved to that person’s expectations.  After all, if you dislike someone or do not wish for them to be part of your life in a certain way, why would you go out of your way to make sure you make them happy when you don’t even care about their opinions in the first place?  

I have several relatives who I love dearly but have kept at a distance.  Most of these relatives have had general expectations of what I should do and what makes someone a successful, complete human being.  In my experience, these general expectations often look like having your own apartment, having a full-time job, working hard no matter what, and keeping up with your physical health.  I have felt overwhelmed by other family members’ unwritten desires to be a Christian.  I have felt ashamed of being a college dropout.  In short, I haven’t felt like I was enough in their eyes. 

But that’s just it: why am I investing so much energy into performing at the expectations of others?  They don’t control my destiny ─ I do.  It is long overdue that I decide what is best for me.  And sometimes that involves me saying “no” when it is expected I will live my life a certain way or attend a family function.  Saying “no” is healthy, liberating, and freeing. 

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that I am well overdue to write down my expectations of what I consider to be good, healthy boundaries.  A basic, but not comprehensive, list includes the following: 

  • I don’t need to show up to family functions if I do not have the desire or energy for it. 
  • I do not have to answer calls or messages from loved ones trying to communicate with me unless I want to converse with them.  
  • I don’t have to listen to the voices in my head that say, “your grandma would be disappointed!” Or, “What would your aunties and uncles think of your blog posts?”
  • I don’t owe anyone my presence. I do not need to be surrounding myself near people who are rude, disrespectful, or have been disrespectful of me in the past.
  • I don’t owe information to people; I can tell people what I want and whatever I deem is necessary or desired. 
  • Unless it is my desire, I only exist to make myself happy, proud, and healthy in a way that I deem is best for me.
  • I will honor my body and refuse access to anyone who chooses not to respect this. 

In writing this list and post, it is my hope that you take some time to create some boundaries if you feel like you need to do that.  I don’t mean to give you “homework,” but a little peace of mind.  We all deserve to feel free from the negativity of holding a burden that isn’t necessary to bear.  To draw thick lines, build walls, and protect ourselves from having to feel obligated to please someone we don’t wish to please.  To quote RuPaul, “If they ain’t paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind!”  

I must admit that this process of wall building and line drawing isn’t going to be easy.  For me, I am in the process of unlearning lifelong lessons of being family oriented.  (I am privileged to say that my Mom’s extended family believes in large family gatherings where we all set aside differences and come together and celebrate each other.)  While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think my beloved aunties and uncles will understand my right to autonomy ─ making choices for myself that affect me directly.  

What my biggest hope is that as we move forward and continue the discussion of boundaries in our lives, we also consider the fact that the most important person we need to be mindful of is ourselves.  It’s okay to want to protect ourselves from things that hurt or don’t feel good.  And if setting boundaries means you don’t have to deal with your jerk of an uncle whose right-winged beliefs don’t match your democratic values, or if you’d rather not deal with the hatred a grandparent spews, you have the right to put up that wall and protect yourself from that hate and pain. 

I think it is high time we decide to take care of ourselves and make sure we are constantly practicing Self Love.  And what better way of doing that is to make sure the people we surround ourselves with are one-hundred percent on your team. 

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Disabled People Deserve Love Too

Wheelchair Love Disability - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

I, Morgan, have had the pleasure of being in several romantic relationships lasting from just a few weeks, to casually dating for several months.  Never has there been a minute where my disability has been a detriment to my relationship. 

But that does not seem to be the case with a certain television personality and “psychologist.”  

On his synonymous television show, Dr. Phil interviewed a woman and her disabled boyfriend.  The clip he shared onto his YouTube channel is three minutes long and has approximately five thousand dislikes to one thousand likes.  That alone reassured me that the majority of individuals who watched this particular clip saw Dr. Phil’s advice for what it is: damning, generalized advice aimed at a woman who just wanted to find a happy medium between caring for her boyfriend and being his lover. 

To summarize, a woman and her boyfriend started out by her stepping in for the lackluster caregivers the boyfriend was receiving.  She volunteered to step in for some of the shifts missed by said caregivers and put in the hard work.  Over time, a romantic relationship developed.  After a while, it seems that the woman started becoming exhausted from stepping in as his personal caregiver.  It was starting to put a strain on their relationship, so they agreed to appear on Dr. Phil. 

The advice Dr. Phil gave in the clip was blunt, as is his signature, but it was also misleading and, to be honest, disheartening.  Phil claims that “100 out of 100 caregiving relationships fail” and that the girlfriend “had to make a choice: are you going to be his lover or caregiver?”  The girlfriend chose “lover.” 

But why does she have to make that choice?  Why does she have to choose between being his boyfriend or caring for him within her means?  And what does Phil’s basic message say about those of us who are disabled?  Are we not worthy of love?

In every relationship I have been in since high school, I have always made my partners know about my Autism, and now that I am (safely) exploring online dating, I put in each of my bios that I am Autistic.  If they take an issue to that, I delete them and move on; if they find that I am not the right person or vice versa, we unmatch or pursue a friendship instead.  

Should me and a potential partner choose to be in some kind of relationship, we will have discussions along the way about my neurodiversity.  With my ex-boyfriend (now roommate), I have told him that I am going to have executive functioning issues and anxiety about the most random things, whether it be seeing a balloon (I have an extreme dislike of loud noises), hearing a child scream, or exhaustion from grocery shopping. With anyone I date for the first time, I will explain how my mental disabilities affect me on a daily basis and how I work to overcome those disabilities.  Disclosure is so important for me with the hopes of seeing if a relationship is right for us, and if one is, I will let the partner know along the way with what I am comfortable and not comfortable with. 

Having said that, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Dr. Phil did state that in their situation, they needed to seek professional help for his disability that the girlfriend was not qualified to provide. I would agree: I don’t expect any partner to fulfil the role of a professional psychiatric nurse or a therapist.  Having a partner who understands neurodiversity is a plus, especially if they themselves are disabled, but there does come a time where me and a hypothetical neurodiverse partner will need professional care for one reason or another.


What I don’t agree with is how he is giving this couple a black-and-white option about their relationship: She can either be his lover or caregiver.  There is no room for a healthy balance of both.  But I have a question for Dr. Phil himself: What kind of psychologist with “years and years of experience” implies disabled people are unworthy of love?  This may not have been directly said, but as a disabled viewer of this clip, this is what my biggest takeaway was. 

Dr. Phil’s basic message of having to choose between being a lover or a caregiver is wrong outright.  A huge way of how we show love is through caregiving to some degree.  Sometimes it can be as traditional and romantic as sending flowers, or treating a lover to a nice meal. Perhaps caregiving is shown by reminding someone to be healthy and keep up with their wellness.  Or maybe someone shows caregiving through other means, such as sex or affection.

It’s okay to be a basic caregiver in a loving, healthy relationship with someone who is disabled. In fact, as the disabled blogger Suffering the Silence, who brought this issue to my attention, put it, “EVERY SINGLE LASTING RELATIONSHIP INVOLVES CARETAKING (sic).”

My parents are a great example of this one.  These lovebirds always encourage each other to be the best version of themselves possible.  Dad encourages my mom to be happy and healthy, showing his love by changing the oil in her car, taking care of the yardwork, and creating a beautiful “creek” in their backyard.  Mom shows her love by working hard, showing affection, talking to Dad about how he is doing, and making sure he is taking care of himself.  It is my opinion that this is typical of any healthy relationship: hard work dedicated toward building each other up and making one another better human beings.  

It’s not a bad thing to be disabled; I don’t ever want to be seen as a “burden” to someone. I am a big personality to take in, but I am also completely worthy of being loved, cared for, and admired.  

So, what does a healthy relationship with a disabled person look like?  Suffering the Silence describes her relationship of over four years as such: 

Micah and I have been together for almost 5 years. Last night, after doing our ever growing stretching routine, as we were falling asleep, Micah said, “I like doing stretches with you. I get to hold you, and I can feel it helping your body. I wonder how many couples get to feel that together?” I knew just what he meant. There’s a vulnerability, a tenderness, a particular brand of humor, a tangible expression of care captured in that routine. I felt the other side of care when Micah broke his femur a year ago. I remember feeling so grateful for a way to express my love — by playing with his hair, reminding him to take his meds, helping him make his way to the toilet. These are extreme versions of what we do for each other everyday — leaning, holding, giving, receiving, caring. Some of it involves paralyzed legs, some of it includes untangling messy feelings, much of it requires creating space for each other.

I recently caught up with a dear friend of mine with whom I haven’t seen in a year.  We have dated on and off and have expressed interest in really investing in each other and being friends (or otherwise) for a long time.  When we have discussed our expectations for each other, we have been very clear about what we want from our relationship such as taking the time to balance our relationship with a healthy social life and making sure our Maslov’s Needs are met.  What ultimately made me smile was him saying “we will have years and years to spend together.”  And that’s exactly what I needed to hear.  I want to have friendships that last a long time and eventually make their way offline (should it be possible to do so). 

It’s not too much to expect someone to be my caregiver.  Some may call that selfish; I call it having high standards.  That said, I also hope to be an incredible caregiver.  I want someone to be there for me, cheering me on, calming me down when I have panic attacks, reminding me to take my pills and shower regularly.  On the other hand, I also want to be able to offer some basic assistance in providing my partner with a warm helping hand to hold. I want to help lift them up when they are in a challenging place in life. 

I am not unlovable just because I have a disability.  No disabled person is.  A relationship with a disabled person does require work, but what relationship doesn’t require work?  

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April is for Acceptance

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Happy Autism Acceptance month! 

Here at Confessions of an Autistic Freak, I have a different approach to April, the month formerly called Autism Awareness month.  The first major change: I am not advocating for awareness anymore.  I personally think it is safe to say that everyone knows the condition Autism, and most of that generalized “everyone” population can give a decent description of what Autism is.  We are at the beginning of the 2020’s, and I think it’s safe to say that we can move past advocating for awareness and start advocating for acceptance.  

Awareness is concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.  Contrastly, Acceptance is the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.  But I am here to make sure the reception of Autism isn’t just adequate but normalized. 

In the past few years, April brings forth so many mixed emotions regarding Autism Acceptance month, as well as bringing a time of reflection and optimism as I celebrate turning a year older.  I like that Autism is being talked about, but I don’t want to limit the conversation around Autistic lives to last during the thirty days that make up April, or even just the “official” awareness day, April 2.  My Autism doesn’t just affect me during the month of April, and I make sure I am discussing my mental wellness constantly.  

My biggest concern I have had for the longest time is that I will have friends and family wish to post something in my honor, but not know where to start.  So, I wanted to create a blog post that talks in depth about how Autism is typically discussed and represented, and create counterpoints for how we can address it in a way that empowers the Actually Autistic community.  It’s going to be a long ride ─ all my posts are, as this loud mouth has a lot to say ─ but as always, if you stick around, I hope you will learn a little something about what we can do to better represent Autism during April and the other eleven months of the year.

SYMBOLISM

In October of 2016, I got my first tattoo: a simple black outline of a puzzle piece.  I didn’t want anything too flashy; I just wanted a universal symbol that took pride in such a core piece of my identity.  

But I need to make it clear: the puzzle piece isn’t the way to go when it comes to advocacy. And this is why: 

The puzzle piece was created by neurotypicals.  In 1963, the UK-based National Autistic Society determined Autism Spectrum Disorder to be “puzzling.”  Because they considered it puzzling, they essentially treated ASD as a “disease” and Autistic people were given some very unwanted “treatments.” 

Decades later, in 1999, the Autism Society of America designed the infamous puzzle piece awareness ribbon, which includes puzzle pieces in the colors blue, cyan, red and yellow.  It is seen as the “universal symbol of Autism” and the hopes of the Autism Society of America was for increased awareness, early intervention, and access to appropriate services so Autistic folks could thrive.  However, the work they have actually done has resulted in increased research of ways to cure Autism.  This includes the controversial Applied Behavior Analysis therapy that has been shunned by the Actually Autistic community for its attempts to cure Autism and put a heavy strain on an Autistic individual’s well being.

Another famous puzzle piece comes from the organization Autism Speaks, whose logo is a light blue outline.  The color blue is intentional: it emphasizes the fact that they believe Autism is mostly diagnosed in males.  Autism Speaks claims search for answers that will lead to greater acceptance of Autism as a whole.  But what they have been recorded to do is much more different.  Let’s start with their namesake: Autism Speaks has not had any Autistic person on their board of directors up until recently.  And to make matters worse, they have been recorded to call Autism a “disease,” a “burden,” and a “tragedy.”  They even want a test to be made available so that expecting mothers can see whether or not their unborn baby has Autism.  

To learn more about the horrors of Autism Speaks, please check out this video which goes more in depth about what Autism Speaks actually represents and why we shouldn’t be supporting their efforts: 

So, what symbols do Actually Autistic use?  While there is an Autism Pride flag, I personally think the colors and design look like something whipped up in Microsoft Paint.  It’s not exactly something I want to wear as a pin, or use as a bumper sticker.  Many Autistic people enjoy using the Neurodiversity Pride icon of a rainbow infinity symbol to emphasize that there are an infinite ways one can identify as being Neurodiverse, and being Autistic is something everyone experiences.  (I personally find a puzzle piece to infantilize my Autism; simply put, Autistic children grow up to be Autistic adults.)

And if you wish to support a charity that actually advocates for Autistic individuals, I highly recommend Autism Self Advocacy Network. Their slogan speaks for itself: NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US. 

As for my puzzle piece tattoo, I have plans to get it covered with someone who has been a mental health advocate her entire life: the late Carrie Fisher. Her Star Wars character was a pure heroine, and she herself was extremely vocal about her life with Bipolar Disorder.

WORDS MATTER

Language is important.  By language, I don’t mean the origin of the language that you speak, but the words and phrases we use to describe Autism. 

It is thought that the most politically correct way to address an Autistc person is by saying something along the lines of, “Morgan is a person with Autism,” or “they have Autism.”  The intention of people who use the phrase person with autism is that they want to state that a person being Autistic doesn’t mean they are any less of a human being.  

While these do address the fact that an individual is Autistic, many Autistic individuals see this language as demeaning.  There is a popular infographic, linked below, that describes why certain phrases do not work, and why “Autistic” is the best way to go.  Simply put, Autistics believe that “person with Autism” implicates that Autism is some kind of baggage we carry around.  But “Autistic” says that Autism is a core part of our identities.  I am not a person with femaleness; I am a woman.   Likewise, I am not a person with Autism; I am Autistic. 

Having said that, many Autistic individuals will have a preference to what they like their neurodiversity to be addressed as, and it is important to ask the Autistic person themselves what their preference is.  But as a general rule, “Autistic” is a safe bet. 

ADVOCACY & AUTISM IN THE MEDIA

I have talked about Autism Warrior Mothers in a blog post titled, “Don’t Be An Autism Warrior Mom.” In it, I go over what I feel is detrimental advocacy versus positive advocacy.  

To summarize: making your child’s Autism to be a burden to your overall livelihood and speaking up over Autistic people is negative advocacy.  But if you are like my Mom and celebrate your Autistic loved one’s Autism as their identity ─ something you refuse to change about them ─ you are advocating for them properly. 

I think the best example that exists right now of how NOT to advocate for Autism is the hotly controversial film Music, created and directed by the singer-songwriter Sia.  To summarize, Music is about the titular character, Music, who is Autistic.  Music recently lost her parents, and someone contacted her older sister to step down from her life of partying to help raise Music.  The sister seems to be heralded for leaving her personal life behind to help care for Music, but why?  Why is being a decent human being considered heroic?  Nevermind the fact that Music could have gone to a proper care facility where her anxiety attacks and specific needs could have been met by professionals who know how to care for an Autistic person.  Combined with overwhelming bright colors and flashing lights ─ all of which many Autistic people have said are very overwhelming ─ this movie also doesn’t highlight how we can properly assist Autistic people in times of crisis and instead highlights how Autism is typically treated.  

But how can we be good advocates?  Firstly, I think we need to start with intention.  It is my strongly-held opinion that Sia made the movie Music with the intention of giving herself a gold star.  After all, she refused to use an Autistic actor for the titular character in favor of using her beloved muse, Maddie Ziegler.  (I do not fault Ziegler for participating in Music as she was a minor when casted.  Maddie has also voiced her concern for how Autism was going to be portrayed throughout the creation of this film.)  But let’s take a look at a television series that I believe actually portrays neurodiversity in a positive light: Young Sheldon

A spin-off of one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon chronicles the life of a titular tweenaged Sheldon Cooper as he comes to terms with identity while balancing high school, looking into colleges, and trying to figure out a neurotypical world as someone who has distinctly Autistic characteristics.  (The producers do not diagnose him as being neurodivergent.) Throughout the series, I see his parents as being hotly supportive of their son.  Despite the fact that the society Sheldon lives in often sees this young Mr. Cooper as a nuisance, Sheldon’s parents tirelessly fight for him to be able to pursue his love and passion for science, especially physics.  

It’s this fervent desire for their son to succeed that I think makes for an exceptional parent of an Autistic child.  I see it within my own mother ─ a mother who went to countless IEP meetings to make sure I got the right help I needed to thrive in school.  A mother who made sure I was taken care of and happy.  And while we may not agree on everything, one thing remains clear: If it weren’t for my mother’s advocacy, I would not be driven to be the woman I am today.  I am so privileged to have her as my Mama.

MY HOPE FOR THE FUTURE 

Acceptance is important now more than ever.  We all have heard of Autism, and that’s great.  But I think now more than ever we need to talk about Acceptance not just of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but of neurodiversity as a whole.  On my side of the internet, I see so many of my friends post memes of what it’s like to be neurodivergent in their unique, individual perspectives.  I know I post a lot about it myself.   But overall, I think we are seeing a revolution of people who are tired of having to hide their Autistic identities and live in the shadows of being antagonized and ridiculed.  

On a personal, firsthand basis, I am able to hold down a job, live somewhat independently (I do receive support from a roommate), and present myself as a functioning human being.  But at the same time, my Autism shows itself in ways that neurotypicality deems as weird or even unnatural.  I will sing or move my fingers when I need to “stim.”  Because I also have bipolar disorder, my emotions are dramatic and change by the minute.  And the anxiety of having a job and presenting myself as “high-functioning” can be exhausting.  (Please note that Autistic people have forsaken functioning labels as they do not properly indicate who we are.) 

I want to see more and more Autistic people have a say in their own conversations.  I want more than just “lighting it up blue” and insisting Autism has to look one certain way, when Autism can look like anyone. And more than anything, I want the Actually Autistic community to be accepted as who we are. 

I personally call myself the Autistic Freak because I want to take charge of the narration of my story.  And I think every single Autistic person should reserve the right to have a say in how they are treated, what kind of care they receive, and how society is going to treat them.  Let us keep advocating for better mental health resources and a better understanding and respect for those of us who do not align with what society deems us as normal. 

Let’s advocate for ACCEPTANCE.

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Just Another Manic-Morgan Day

I am not a stranger to telling people my life’s stories.  At best, it’s an opportunity to help destigmatize autism and prove that I, personally, am not a complete freak; at worst, you give me a funny look, I fill up your gas, and we both move on with our lives.

Allow me to backtrack a little back: I had moved in with my then-boyfriend (now roommate) with the hopes of escaping homelessness ─ escaping the tent I had spent much of summer 2020 in, escaping the endless cycle of couch hopping, of cheap sex, cheap weed, binge drinking and thinking that most of your problems literally could be solved with money.  Not much, but just the bare minimum needed to survive.  Food, water, shelter, maybe a little treat for yourself if you happen to have the money for it.  And when September rolled around and brought around the worst forest fires of recent memory, reddened the skies, and saw ash fall from the sky, I knew that the wonderful days of living in a tent and shitting behind blackberry bushes had come to an end.

The weeks succeeding my arrival at my roommate’s apartment came with stress to find a job that would hire and keep me hired. I refused to do any and all temporary work. Restaurants were not an option not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of my inability to keep up with the high-pace stress environment of such jobs. Likewise, fast food was also out the window. I needed a job, but I kind of also need my sanity more. 

Eventually, I found myself interviewing for the fuel clerk position with Fred Meyer, getting the job, and actually enjoying the work. They started me on four-hour days and I eventually went to fuller shifts and volunteering for more hours when I could. 

I find myself liking work overall. It’s a little fast pace without being too out of control, and I find that most customers are nice and just want to get what they need (gas, maybe something from the adjacent convenience store) and go. Angry customers do happen ─ it is retail, so it is inevitable ─ and managers can be demanding, but that could be said about a lot of jobs.

On paper, the job requirements of a fuel clerk is straightforward: request payment, hook up the hose, ask for rewards, and make sure they get a sufficient amount of fuel. But the devil is in the dozens of details and dozens of ways things can fail. Customers get mad at you for not being able to reach the house around the car. Credit cards and rewards phone numbers decline or take too long to process. Midwest gas cans “overfill” at just one click.  And despite my job being essential ─ who doesn’t need gas, even in the midst of a pandemic? ─ people treat us like anyone can do this job. (I just told a disrespectful customer, who demanded that he be served first, that he could pump his own gas and left in order to avoid saying something that could jeopardize my job.) 

Despite the chaos, work does come with brief, sixty-second moments that allow me to try and socialize with customers and make the work feel more like fun than a chore. So, when appropriate, I talk to customers. It helps when they have a dog in their car, a bumper sticker that catches my eye, or we just make small talk. 

I have gotten just a few windows to talk about my mental health in brief, ten second statements. One customer talked to me about his time as an Air Force pilot in Vietnam, and when his wife asked me if I ever wanted to serve, I wholeheartedly joked that the military might not take a girl with a list of mental disorders, but I would have joined the Navy if health wasn’t an issue. The biggest moment I shared was with a veteran who commented on my semicolon tattoo peeking out from the end of my sleeve. We shared a brief moment of understanding in silence as I made sure he had been fueled up. I wish I could have bought him a drink of his choice and talked about our respective mental health experiences.

While work obviously requires a certain level of professionalism, I do find myself being able to joke around with the right customers while making brief one-minute conversations with others. It also helps to have supportive coworkers who know about your disability and respect it. I am able to get rides home when I need it, talk honestly about how I feel on any given day, and even joke about my ever-unstable mental health. My reality is that even though I am back on my medication and have taken it for about a month straight, I still am feeling emotional, still feeling mania, but in this case it is less severe. 

I trudge through this battlefield of making sure I am behaving in a socially acceptable way (autism). I fight through general work busyness and angst (anxiety). Ward off the cold winter blues and defeat I may feel from not doing a “good enough job” (depression). But the ultimate beast I face is mania. 

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” (Edgar Allen Poe)

From Mayo Clinic:

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.

Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.

Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

On January 23, 2021, I was formally diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. 

I had a telemedicine appointment with a new psychiatric nurse who suggested I was bipolar just ten minutes into the appointment. By the end, she said she could confidently diagnose me as having bipolar disorder. It was hard to hold back tears of overwhelming relief. 

Over the past few years, my emotions weren’t cohesive. While each day has a distinct atmosphere about it, each moment, each second can be so unpredictable. With so many mental disorders, the brain becomes so overwhelmed that it can shut down. Yes, I am able to go to work part time, ask for more hours (if only for a bigger paycheck that week), and socialize with friends when I can. But on the other hand, work drains the life out of me. Preparing a proper dinner is something that rarely happens; I frequently buy microwaveable meals and indulge in chips and Cheez Its. Showering is often done as the final hour. And neglecting regular healthcare appointments becomes common when I find phone calls to be laborious and the appointments never matching up with my randomized work schedules. Even though I try to be frank with my social media posts, as evident by the countless memes I share, my rare selfie doesn’t always tell the tale of a woman who is trying so hard to make sure her life feels put together. While basic Maslow’s needs are met, I still often find that I am still so close to going back to being homeless. 

Nearly two and a half weeks later, I sat down for yet another telemedicine appointment with a psychologist representing Social Security’s disability services. Our appointment felt like an audition for the most important “role” in my life: qualifying for disability assistance.

It took me a bit of self-coaxing and a last-minute schedule adjustment for me to go through with that appointment in the first place. Validating one’s disability is hell enough; having to give details about my family history and my childhood upbringing was something else. Telling the counselor that I grew up in a privileged environment with two married parents who have good careers and a loving environment made me feel like I was disqualifying myself from their requirements. 

But what stung the most was when this counselor, who allegedly had 30 years experience to his name, gave his definition of mania and how I didn’t match it. Mania, he said, was periods of time where someone feels like they are unstoppable followed by a down period of deep depression. I collected my thoughts, stressed out from making my answers respectful, honest, and brief. My explanation was that I did go through cycles of high confidence to moments of helplessness and lethargy.  But it didn’t compete with the fact that he observed individuals in psychological hospitals whose experiences were extreme and obvious. I don’t mean to condemn other disabled individuals’ experiences; mental disorders are a spectrum. However, did I have to be on such an extreme level to be validated of my legitimate, all too real experiences? Surely I knew more about myself than he did!

It was at that moment where I realized that he was a psychologist who did things by the book: the Diagnostic Statistical Manual to be exact. I prefer my mental health professionals to use the DSM as a guideline while putting the emphasis on individualized care. This recalled one of the ER nurses I was assigned whilst hospitalized: mental health could be learned on a scientific, technical level, but was never taught about on a personal level.

Nevertheless, I ignored his remarks about him questioning my new psychiatric nurse’s diagnosis. After all, he only had the basic details being presented to him after asking his questions and didn’t have time to personalize my experiences. I have been taking the time since that appointment to make sure I told myself that, again, I know who I am.

My identity in relation to being disabled has been a big thing for me in these past few years. I am autistic and experience anxiety, depression, and now bipolar disorder. While the formal diagnosis for bipolar didn’t stop me from knowing in my soul that I experienced mania, it certainly was confirmational. 

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How To Care For Your Autistic Partner

It is my opinion that because I have autism and anxiety, I am going to process my emotions, feelings, and environment in a way that a non-autistic person may not.  Personally, I like to think of autistic vs. not-autistic people in the same way I think of Apple Mac’s vs. Microsoft’s personal computers (PC’s).  They both operate in different ways, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are both computers.  Likewise, an autistic human is still a human; they just operate a little differently than most.  (I wish this simple fact was understood by the majority of the population!) 

Likewise, I think it’s absolutely necessary to emphasize the fact that autistic individuals feel emotions.  To put it bluntly, we aren’t robots!  The emotions we feel are big, powerful, and often overwhelming.  It can even cause panic attacks.  

Relationships, like any other form of bonded socialization ─ I.E., friendships ─ take a bit more work for us sometimes.  That said, I would argue that any good relationship ─ neurotypical or autistic, romantic or platonic ─ requires some serious dedication for that matter. 

While every autistic individual’s experience is completely unique due to autism’s mighty diversity, I want to take some time to address common experiences mixed with some very personal examples to create a helpful ─ but in no way “exhaustive” ─ guide for any non-Autistic person out there.  My next blog post will be for the autistic person: how we can return our partner’s care and meet their needs as they ought to meet our’s.  (Relationships, after all, are about “give and take.”) 

1) Your autistic partner may need constant reassurance. Please give it to them!

There have been several times in a single, five-minute moment where I will sit there and ask my partner, “how are you feeling?”  This is usually followed up by questions like, “am I doing this task correctly?”  Or, “Are you thirsty? Can I get you a bite to eat?”  Of course, most folks will often get annoyed at the fact that the autistic partner is asking too many questions, or the same question repeatedly.  This is not our intention!  In my experience, I want my boyfriend to be happy and cared for.  In fact, “I care for you,” is something we have been saying in lieu of “the L-word” due to the fact that its far too early to say “I love you” ─ plus, “I care for you” is much more personable.  

2) Autistic people often have special interests ─ topics or subjects that they are super passionate about.  Respect those passions!

Perhaps the healthiest thing you can do for your autistic partner is to listen.  I know for a fact that my jeans-and-a-shirt boyfriend doesn’t share my love and passion for fashion in the slightest.  Where I see fashion as a means of feeling confident ─ a silent statement, a means of feeling confident ─ my boyfriend sees vanity.  If he’s getting a compliment on his shirt, it’s likely because of the anime character embalmed on it.  

Having said that, he meets me in the middle, and for that I am thankful.  Daniel will engage in this passion of mine by helping me scour the racks for things I may like.  He suggests I should shop practically instead of impulsively.  I completely doubt this is his idea of a universally fun outing, but he takes the time to care.  

My Mama always said that Dad seldom buys her flowers.  Instead, he gives my Mama the gift of changing the oil in the car, mowing the lawn, working hard for our family, and making a pretty sweet creek in our backyard.  Likewise, Daniel’s way of caring for me is by taking the time to make sure I have cute clothes to wear.  He sits there and lets me play my favorite love songs to him, as, I hope, he knows that I’m quite the soppy romantic.  Everyone will tell you “I care for you” in different ways. My boyfriend displays it by taking the time to let me vent, let me go shopping (on a budget), and let me be Morgan.

3) Sensory overload is a real thing. 

Respect us when we say that we are physically, mentally, and/or emotionally overstimulated.  We aren’t “snowflakes” ─ and I’m tired of that ableist term being thrown around in politics.  As I said previously, we are humans with big emotions.  We can often feel things to a point where it starts to become painful and confusing.  

Early on in the relationship, I told Daniel that loud noises trigger me to a point where the anxiety attacks feel like heart attacks. Triggers include screaming children, balloons, and fireworks.  I have gotten better about learning to calm myself down whenever I see or hear a trigger of mine, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a trigger.

Daniel owns a Soda Stream, a device that allows you to make your own soda at home.  The device uses CO2 canisters to carbonate water for the soda.  One time, Daniel let out some of the CO2 gas for a few seconds, creating a triggering hissing sound.  In response, my heartbeat escalated and anger seeped out of my voice. “Can you please never do that again?  My autism doesn’t like that!”  I snapped.  Daniel abruptly apologized at the sight of a distraught Morgan, vowing never to do it again.  He also gave me a hug, my way of signifying that I am sorry or that I have forgiven someone.

Similarly, it can be all too easy for an autistic person ─ or any neurodiverse individual ─ to have sudden panic attacks.  These can be traced from obvious sources, such as a busy party, or a grocery store with industrial lighting, too many noisy shoppers, and a million colorful objects for sale on the shelves.  Other times, panic attacks are random; they just happen.  I have had moments where my environment was completely calm and collected, and all of a sudden my mind starts to race and my heartbeat picks up.  Finally, even the smallest things can be overwhelming to us.  Having to do a chore or take a shower may seem like a basic part of being an adult human being, but to those who have executive functioning struggles, these “simple” tasks can be damning.  Whatever the source or whatever situation your partner may have a panic attack over, it should be in your best interest to be their supporter during that stressful time.  I personally suggest you take a moment to “TALK” to them:

T ─ Talk in a calm, soothing manner.

A ─ Ask them what is wrong and how you can help them. 

L ─ Listen to what they need.  Talk only to confirm what they need. (“Do you want a glass of water or your stimming toy?”)(

K ─ Know their needs.  We all have different ways of reacting to stress.  Perhaps your autistic partner has a favorite plush toy they take with them everywhere?  Maybe they want someone to hold their hand or give them a hug? 

By knowing your partner’s preferred way of destressing, you are able to help get them to a calmer state of mind, and a happier them. 

4) Sarcasm or teasing can often go “over our heads,” being misunderstood as something to be taken literally. 

If you are going to say something you think is sarcastic, witty, or in good humor, make sure to clarify that you’re being funny or sarcastic. 

On this very night, I told Daniel that the two large mugs of coffee I had made me feel “pleasantly warm and buzzed.”  My boyfriend, translating this statement to equal drunkenness,  asked if I added a bit of Bailey’s to my coffee.  I insisted I did no such thing.  My boyfriend cracked a joke that was in reference to a video game we both loved, called Among Us.  “Ur acting kinda sus,” he replied to me over Messenger.  When I took him literally, Daniel made sure that I knew he was just having fun ─ and using the opportunity to make the perfect Among Us joke.  While I was about 75% sure he was just teasing me, it took all of three seconds for him to type, “I’m just joking, I trust you.” 

(To explain the joke, in the game, the “crewmates” ask each other a series of questions to find out who the two “imposters” are. “Ur acting kinda sus” essentially translates to “you are acting suspiciously.”)

Again, its the little things that help the autistic partner out so much! 

5) “Don’t let the elephant sit in the room for too long” ─ Daniel

(Translation: Don’t let your burning questions go unanswered!)

I am very happy to be in a serious relationship with a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.  If there is something I need to work on, Daniel always addresses it.  Likewise, when I have a serious question, I am able to ask Daniel without it being “awkward” or without feeling like I have asked a ridiculous question.  Already in our three months of dating, we have talked about a wide range of subjects.  These include finances and money, me moving in with him, what our plans are for the upcoming holiday season, and what chores we both need to work on during Daniel’s weekends.  Sometimes the conversations are easy; other times it feels like you’re, well, asking an awkward question.  No matter what, communication is key.  If you’re in a steady, healthy relationship, you should be able to have those difficult conversations without fear of retaliation or awkwardness.

I know I just threw a lot of information at you, so allow me to recap some of the main points.

  1. Constant reassurance will ease any anxiety your autistic partner has.
  2. Respect their special interests and passions.
  3. Acknowledge an autistic person’s sensory processing issues — especially if they have a panic attack. TALK to them.
  4. Sarcasm and “playful jokes” do not always sound like sarcasm and playful jokes to an autistic person.
  5. Don’t be afraid to address the tough subjects and ask controversial questions!
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Am I Adulting Yet?

For the first time ever, I visited my childhood home not as a resident but as a guest. I walked into a living room that now had brown leather couches and a kitchen that had been decorated for the autumn season. Since it had been a while since I last saw my Chocolate, I sat down on the floor to pet an old boy who had so much physical age to his otherwise puppy demeanor. To say I nearly sobbed is an understatement! 

After my visit back home, I noted to Daniel how it felt so unreal that I no longer could consider that beautiful tri level house my home ─ my place of residency. In a way, that moment put so many things into perspective. This wasn’t a moment of shame as in times past, when I was only at home to live there temporarily as a desperate last resort. I am living with my boyfriend in his beautiful one-bedroom apartment, I have a job lined up working as a fuel clerk for Fred Meyer, and I didn’t feel like an epic failure for once in my life. As we descended down the hill my house is on, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was doing something right. 

Having said that, I still have this fight within myself wherein I consider myself to still be that doe-eyed 18-year-old adolescent who’s still struggling with her identity. I’ve made mistakes ─ little, yet significant ones ─ that I should have learned from eons ago.  This started to make me feel defeated.  What real adult just slams a bunch of dishes in the dishwasher, puts the machine on start, then walks away only to find that she missed a bunch of cups sitting on the side tables of the couch? Nevermind the childish mentality that I can rely on the good graces and welfare of Mommy and Daddy whenever I find myself in a rut.

It’s in this moment, as I am sitting down to write this that I realize I’m letting my anxiety get the better of me.  Life, to me, is a balancing act.  If you don’t have anything you are trying to accomplish, nor a series of goals set for yourself, you probably aren’t going to get very far in it.

Perhaps the number one way I have been combating this negative energy is to give myself complements alongside those critiques, followed by a way to encourage myself to remember to do better in the future.

Example: I’ve been having one hell of a time trying to convince myself to was my face twice a day.  This may seem arbitrary to you, but to me, it’s quite the struggle.  So I shun myself for my inherent apathy. I bought the acne cream, so it’s in my best interest to use it as directed.  But then, I always follow up that criticism with a bit of love and encouragement.  I’ve been getting so much better about forcing myself to shower regularly.  In fact, I’ve been getting good about doing it on a near-daily basis.  And alongside my self-care needs comes the fact that I’ve been religious about taking my pills and a multivitamin daily, resulting in a Morgan that feels good about herself. 

Similarly, chores can be, well, a chore. As I’ve said in a previous blog post, my executive functioning (or “dysfunctioning” as I put it) can make a list of basic, everyday chores feel like a mile-long to-do list.  “I am the worst at getting off the sofa and doing some basic stuff around the apartment,” I’ll tell myself.  What truly helps with this mentality are a couple of factors: 

  1. I am doing chores to help contribute to the apartment, especially as Daniel works 36 to 48 hour weeks.
  2. It will feel so good to get the chores done and see the results of my hard work via the sound of a washing machine, whirring of a washing machine, or looking at all of the clean clothes I have to wear.

Now, these constructive criticisms aren’t without self praise and a bit of celebration.  I have mutually chosen and have been with the most wonderful human being I get to call my boyfriend. He has encouraged me to better myself in every way and in response, I thank him just about everyday for letting me be his best friend and roommate. Only in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be applying for an apartment, securing a decent-paying job, eating more mindfully, and as of yesterday, exercising on a regular basis.  I no longer have to feel as though happiness is a fleeting feeling. It’s no longer just a temporary sensation that’s just here for a good time, not a long time.  This newfound type of happiness is here for the long haul, and thank God that I have this opportunity to actually work towards this happiness and optimism.

So, maybe this whole adulting thing is being addressed and approached appropriately?  (How’s that for a tongue twister!)  After all, what is life without trial and error, making goals you find to be difficult to keep track of, and falling down a few hundred times?  The way I see it, I think I’m doing alright.  I just have to keep working hard on these goals.  It is, after all, a marathon ─ not a sprint. 

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Rules of the Road Trip

It had been a strong desire of mine for some time to take my boyfriend to the Oregon Coast. What I envisioned was a fairly romanticized interpretation on a classic day-trip, bgut what actually happened was something of an adventure filled with a little bit of controlled chaos mixed with poor Google maps directions and ultimately learning more about my partner than ever before. And while there was undoubtedly several moments where my antics likely wanted to to make Daniel drive his Volkswagen GTI off a cliff, I’d still argue that the trip was a crucial part of our relationship. Simply put, if you want to test the strength of any relationship, take your partner on a road trip.

Two hours of deriving gives a human a lot to talk about. We took turns playing D.J. with Daniel’s smartphone with Daniel introducing me to a slew of country music songs he grew up with while I selected things that brought back memories from middle school and high school days. Our conversations ranged from waxing nostalgic about my childhood years, to more serious talks of depression and my recent brush with homelessness. Only Morgan could manage to cry at listening to “Save A Horse,” recalling the fond Shotski’s memories of male revues and drag shows. Daniel confessed that he could also relate to feelings of depression as I told him what eventually led to a tedious twelve hour stay in a “stale” emergency room. Daniel ultimately saw what made me tick, and I, in return, learned what made him Daniel.

Upon our first sighting of the Pacific Ocean, I knew that I was up against making a Cali boy fall in love with a local girl’s passion for the Oregon Coast. However, we decided that to compare Californian landmarks like the San Francisco bay to the likes of Newport was a matter of comparing a Gala apple to a Granny Smith. It was two similar environments with their own perks.

That still didn’t stop me from giving him hell when Daniel had the audacity to say that a clear-skied, 66 degree day was considered “cold” in comparison to his 90 degree California beach trips.

More than anything, I think Daniel got to learn a lot about me and my Autism. Any concerns or criticisms Daniel had for me have always come from a caring nature. Whenever I apologized for something that was completely out of my control, he kindly reminded me that I didn’t do anything to merit the apology. When I spoke my mind, he told me that I probably should save those (controversial) comments for the privacy of the car. Daniel has this exceptional ability to hold me accountable. But when he ─ righteously ─ points the finger at me, he is good about holding himself responsible as well.

Perhaps my favorite moments of the trip were when Daniel and I lovingly had “negotiations.” Upon arriving at the beach, we made a “pit stop” at a local Fred Meyer’s, spending some time examining paint samples in their home improvement section. We disputed over potential house colors he likes, many of which weren’t to my taste. 

Setting aside our clashing tastes on home decor, we proceeded to Newport to grab a bite to eat. The meal itself was mediocre, not meeting up to the expectation of a great value meal for a reasonable price. (His bread bowl for his soup tasted a day old, while I received tiny portions of a $14 fish and chips basket. 

By the end of the day, we were both happy but exhausted campers. We stopped in Depoe Bay for a nice dinner at Chowder Bowl, its fluffy fish and chips and soup-saturated bread bowl more than exceeding our requirements for a proper seafood meal. Following our lovely dinner, we headed across the street for sunset. Jack Johnson serenaded us as we concluded our beach time with Daniel holding me in his arms as we watched the sun disappear on the horizon.

That trip obviously wasn’t without its faults and mistakes, but its never a road trip without a few bumps along the way. I will never forget our first beach trip together, and I look forward to doing it all again in the near future.

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Thank You For Being A Friend

I never wanted summer to end… 

Laying down on a gray sleeping bag in my friend’s tent, I spent much of my summer homeless. The days seemed to endlessly drag together, but I always had an idea of what day of the week it was. And each day that passed by meant I was one day closer to Oregon’s signature rainy months. 

I wasn’t a complete nihilist at that point, but I wasn’t exactly optimistic either. Somewhere in the middle stood an empty shell of a creature whose only aspiration was to make it through another day of her life without indulging in her bad thoughts. If I’m being completely frank, I didn’t have much motivation or a will to live. I just knew I made a blood oath to myself that I wouldn’t ever give up hope in the way I did in May.

This year has been hell for all of us, but I’d selfishly argue that nobody hates 2020 more than I do. COVID-19 delayed many of my plans to get an internship that could have led to permanent employment opportunities. On top of that, I lost my place at a transitional living program and found myself couch surfing. My coping mechanisms were far from healthy, but they sure did help ease the emotional burden of being homeless. I didn’t really care about how much fast food I consumed, how quickly I could smoke my way through a pack of cigarettes, or how…promiscuous I was feeling. Mentol’s, McDonald’s, and sweet, sweet misery replaced my medications. I just wanted to get through the day. I just was trying to feel something other than complete hopelessness. 

Summer did come to an end for me. Its date was September 8, 2020. A Tuesday. Two days before, on the sixth, I went off and had cocktails with a friend from high school with whom I never talked to but wanted to befriend. Sitting in the patio area of a bar, I wouldn’t have guessed for a second that the next day, September 7, would bring crimson skies and a gnarly windstorm. That cruel night, the air was filled with ash and smoke. I could hear the sirens of first responders in the distance. “Was this the apocalypse?” I asked on Facebook after setting the scene of what I was surrounded by.

The winds rocked the tent, and eventually half of the tent folded in on itself, its pegs buckling under the pressure of the wind. I didn’t give much thought into what had happened. In hindsight, should I have taken a closer look at it? At the time, I was too exhausted by 2020’s mayhem to mind the imploding tent situation. I just wanted to rest. And rest I did right into the morning. I checked Facebook on my phone, the tent’s owner came outside to inspect the damage. To give some context, he was a very quiet man, but outspoken when he was furious. Righteous anger he was entitled to ─ his property was damaged after all ─ but ultimately, I cited the damage as a two-way street. 

Yes, I should have probably asked to have come inside and stay in his room. But at the same time, I wasn’t exactly invited, and he took no precautions to ensure that the tent would survive the storm. For that reason, I continued to scroll on Facebook, ignoring his anger. At that moment, I had bigger fish to fry than a couple of broken plastic pegs. Meteorologist, I am not, but I knew one thing about smoke: it sticks around for quite some time. Scared about not having a safe place to sleep, I scrolled through Facebook in the hopes of coming up with an idea of where I’d be staying. And when the former friend retreated back to his bedroom, I decided to quickly pack my things and catch the next bus downtown to meet Mom at her work.

It was roughly 11:30 when I arrived downtown, and at noon, mom and I would try to figure out what we’d be doing for lunch. With the pandemic closing down most restaurants and the smoky air closing out the ones that managed to stay open, Mom took me to her house. There, I made myself a sandwich, pet Chocolate, and watched a lot of TV. That evening, I decided to take the plunge. At that point, I had been dating Daniel for about two months. I asked him if I could stay with him, and he agreed. 

A month has passed since Daniel agreed to give me a hand-up. I recall vividly the goals he had me make for myself and how much progress has been made since then. Cutting out carbs and sugars have been the biggest jumpstart to my overall wellness. A recent blended coffee drink made me realize just how much sugar was truly in my once-favorite Dutch Bros order. Regular showers have gotten rid of the acne on my upper back and help me feel refreshed for just about every day that comes by. I find myself having more energy, and I actually have a will to live. 

I don’t take for granted a single day. In fact, I make sure that I take a moment to treasure what has been so generously gifted to me. 

Too often, us autistic folks are seen as antisocial abnormalities. I don’t think that’s the case, at least not for me.  I treasure my friendships so dearly, even though I’m the worst at calling people up and asking them to hang out. I think it’s so important that we all get a little help to thrive in life. I’m just thankful that the generosity of my friends has been so abundant and graceful.

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My Quarter Life Crisis

“I may have not gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”  ─ Douglas Adams, author

“As cliche as it might sound, to make it through 23, you have to become good friends with yourself, and practice being in the moment. Whenever you feel like you aren’t ‘adulting’ yet, just remember no one really knows what they’re doing, no matter how old you get.” ─ My friend from the community college newspaper

When I was working for a community college newspaper, one of my fellow journalists asked the question, “Am I Adulting Yet?” She was 23 years old, and I was just 19.

Four years later, I find myself asking the same question.  I am a college dropout due to my Autism acting as a learning disorder.  And if I were to attend college regardless of the stress college brings to me as an Autistic person, I would have a very vague idea of what I want to do with my journalism career, meaning I would just be going to college for the sake of going to college.

Like many people my age, I have a horrible addiction to social media, especially Facebook.  The hours I have wasted away in front of the screen scrolling down newsfeeds and timelines, liking statuses, and staring at the accomplishments of others is rather damning to one’s self-esteem. Especially when I have been told by good, honest, successful people that there is no law that says I have to have done something dramatically successful exactly five years after graduating from high school.  

While I know better than to compare myself to someone who went to a four-year university right away, a different person who got married right after high school, or another former peer who had given birth to a child (or two), there is still that insecurity that exists that says I am not doing it right.  

Even amongst my best friends, I feel like there’s something missing from my post-high school accomplishments list.  One dear friend is a double-major and is about to transfer from community college to a university to complete her degree. Another is a nursing student who will make for an amazing registered nurse.  Meanwhile, I, Morgan Marie, can barely hold a job for longer than a month or two.  Attending college has been put on the back-burner while I figure out what exactly I want my major to focus on.   

And that is just my college dilemmas, which make up just a tiny fraction of my problems. This doesn’t include the fact that I have treated my Mom ─ the one person who loves me more than anyone else on this planet ─ like shit.  That I decided I was tired of living at the transitional living program and decided to give up on proceeding through the program ─ and my future.  It doesn’t mention all the one-time dates I have been on that turned out to be something of a hit-and-run experience, the alcohol I have drinked in excess to drown out my sorrows, or the pot I have smoked with the intention of literally getting “higher than a kite.”

Remind me again why I’m not supposed to feel depressed?

Nineteen-year-old Morgan wrote a reply column to the “Am I Adulting Yet?” article.  At first, I thought she was so naive, so unprepared for what her future held, but then I got to thinking.  This is a letter from my past that I can use to give myself advice as a now-23-year-old woman. 

“…that’s not what life is supposed to be about,” I wrote back in 2016. “You’re not supposed to have your head stuck in the ground like an ostrich. You’re not supposed to be envious of a person who has it going for them. It’s a literal matter of comparing apples to oranges.” 

A lot of people have taught me a lot of solid life lessons some three weeks after my hospitalization.  The biggest one that I will take away: “Don’t let your emotions control you.  You must control your emotions.”  In other words, when depression strikes, or when I feel yet another intense wave of anxiety, I have to conquer my saboteur ─ my Narrator ─ and replace these thoughts with facts.

The lady who told me to not let my emotions control me is the lady who has generously offered to mentor me.  Yesterday, June 2, we met up for the first time.  She didn’t look at my resume the way I looked at my resume. Instead, she saw a lot of skills accumulated over my miscellaneous jobs and saw someone who was a skilled worker.  

I consider myself to be incredibly privileged to have gotten this opportunity to be mentored by this incredible, successful woman.  I consider myself also privileged that my parents have given me my 100th second chance. And I am beyond thankful that I don’t have to go through this “quarter-life crisis” alone. 

I still don’t know what I am going to do within the next month or year, or even next week. But what I find comfort in is the fact that I am able to make goals and go through life with an awesome support team. I just have to put in the work and effort into wanting something big for my future ─ something that doesn’t need to include a four year degree from a university, marriage, or children.