Vertigo and Sensory Disorder

I’m writing this post from my iPad. I can’t use the desktop for long because I get car sick. Car sick?! Well, it feels like motion sickness, even when I’m doing no more than looking at the computer monitors. Because of the work I do, I have two monitors, but I suspect that this would be difficult just one one. The iPad, however, seems to be okay.

Why would the iPad and my Droid phone be okay even though I can’t use the computer? My guess is that because the screens are small, my eyes don’t have to move around so much. Even then, I can’t play certain games with a lot of movement (Bejeweled Blitz, for one). At least I can watch Blackhawks hockey tonight!

So, what does this have to do with spectrum issues? Vertigo can be debilitating for anyone. My, you’re full of questions today! Well, the answer is that I am experiencing this, it’s my

blog, and I feel like it.

It comes down to tolerance of an unusual situation. I cannot imagine how The Munchie would deal with this. She’d probably scream, cry, and throw up. A lot. For me, I’m only dealing this “well” because I have support in the form of the part time nanny who is dealing with the kids, and the same with Xife (the husband).

It’s extremely frustrating to be sidelined. I can’t even drive right now. I drove yesterday to pick up some Antivert from Walgreens. It’s not that far, but I already felt ill by the time I got there.

Well, I’m going to read to the Munchie. She has a cold and stayed home from school today. Hopefully that will not be a problem!

It’s a Perfect Day… Right?

Right now, the Cubs game is starting on the radio in a minute, a perfect breeze is blowing the curtains back and forth, the sky is a deep gorgeous blue, and I hear the occasional reaction fromneighbors watching the Bears game. It’s a perfect day.

Except I’m literally flat on my back, and the kids are apparently driving Xife nuts. He’s stuck with them while I split my time between playing on my Droid while laying down, desperately trying to catch up on homework, sleeping, and trying to move around enough to avoid losing strength.

Why? Herniated discs. Two of them, one small and one “huge.” Fun stuff. Sitting hurts. Walking hurts. Doing anything other than laying down hurts. I had a cortisone injection this past Wednesday. It took the pain down from excruitiating to doable. It feels like it’s wearing off already.

I feel utterly useless. I went from wondering if I’d get back to hockey this season to wondering how I’ll manage to take good care of the kids during the week and get caught up with my class. I’m a week behind in a class that lasts 5.5 weeks.

I feel pretty low right now. Family is too far away to help, and my friends have their own responsibilities. I need to be able to work at the computer. Money is getting tighter, and I’m a money sink. Like a ramshackle house.

So, it’s a perfect day. And all I’m doing is wallowing. But hey, at least I’m not dead!

It will feel better when it stops hurting

I remember my grandpa saying that when I was little. If I called right now to whine about my back, he’d probably say the same thing. And he’d be right.

A pinched nerve due to herniated discs is no fun, but neither is it the end of the world. Most people have a good shot at recovery. Painkillers, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and a handful of therpy options, when utilized properly, bring relief in four to six weeks.

Valium is on my agenda this weekend. The Curious Case of Benjamen Button is here from Netflix, as well as Coraline, so that may be interesting once the Valium kicks in.

Pain has been a constant for most of my life. I thought for a long time that it was fibromyalgia, and that could be. However, the more I learn about Sensory Processing Disorder, the more I realize that my sensitivity to pain could be related to that.

My family would tell you I always complained about things hurting. It got to be that they were only concerned when there was blood, bruising, or they saw an injury happen. That used to upset me something fierce, but now I understand. Of all the times something hurt, only a few pains were worthy of attention. Recognizing my feelings and fears would have been better than brushing them off, but I think the lack of education about SPDs in the 1980s and 90s had a lot to do with their handling of it.

Playing ice hockey for the past year and a half seems to have eased many of my aches and pains. Sitting at the computer for hours on end has the opposite effect. I haven’t been able to skate since May because of my back, so I’m worried about the random aches returning.

I also wonder how a nuero-typical person would deal with my current situation. One of the guys I skated with at the beginning of the summer session had the same herniations as me at about the same time. When I saw him last, he was lacing up to go skate (just skate-not play) with his son. I am nowhere near that level of recovery. It seems like I always heal slower than people with similar injuries. Fibromyalgia or sensory issue? I don’t know. It’s probably both.

My daughter recently started complaining about things hurting. I can’t tell if she’s really in pain, or if she is trying to get attention. Mommy hurts, so The Munchie clearly must too, right? I remember being told I was just trying to get attention when I was her age. Telling the difference is difficult.

Well, it’s time to go pick up that Valium. Someone has just upset me, so I’m angry. Not helpful. There is SO much more I want to say at the moment, but I can’t. I’ll avoid the issue until 8 can properly address it. So there. (It’s my blog, so I’m allowed to be snarky once in a while!)

So… have a good weekend.

Egocentric much?

Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) are seen as being egocentric. Or aloof. Or arrogant. There’s a distinctive tendency to focus on one’s own experience, sometimes to the exclusion of everyone else. As one of the hallmark traits of AS, this is a social difficulty that has had a profound effect on my life. In my case, it’s more subtle, but it’s had no less impact than on people like my brothers, both of them social misfits.

I won’t speak to my brothers’ experiences right now–Deep Thought (the younger brother) told me he’d be interested in guest blogging later–but I can speak to mine. I’ve never been a social butterfly, but I can talk to people. Then again, that’s often the problem. I can talk to people. With? Well… Read the rest of this entry »

Without a diagnosis…

I will not hide that, at this time, I do not have an official Asperger’s Diagnosis. This came up while meeting with my therapist today (hey, we all need therapists at some point!). The argument is whether there’s a point to getting a diagnosis, and whether I even have AS. I strike her as being too empathetic toward other people’s feelings, and that people with ADHD have social interaction issues, sensory issues, and other similar things to AS.

Let me be clear: I respect and like my therapist. It’s not an easy profession. However, I have to disagree on this one. No, I’m not the expert, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading on AS, and I feel like it’s describing me in many ways. I am also learning that there are some fundamental differences between boys/men with AS and girls/women with AS. I am very interested in researching the extent of these differences, and to examine the nature vs. nurture aspect. For all of society’s advances, boys and girls continue to be raised with different social expectations. Girls are supposed to be “little mommies”–the caregivers. Boys are supposed to “man up” and be strong.

I’ve been examining my perspective lately. I’m responsive to people’s emotions, but is it through training and practice, or is it natural? I’m inclined to think that it’s a learned thing for me. It’s more natural nowadays, but only after years of it going over my head. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.

Whether I get diagnosed with AS or not, my experiences are valid. I am not “normal” by a long shot. I have a hard time with ADHD being the only explanation. My therapist and the doctor who works with her insist it’s depression and ADHD, nothing more. I have to say that I don’t know many ADD/ADHD people who are my level of “strange.” There is a lot of AS/autism/ADHD in my family. There is no bipolar or other disorders, and we know I do not suffer from these.

Maybe I’m going about this all wrong, and I should focus on my daughter instead. Her future is still in flux. Then again, maybe one way to truly help her is to help myself. True?

I might get a job… IF I can get past the interview!

It surprises people I know when I tell them I am socially inept. They point out that I am outgoing and willing to speak with anyone. Well, that’s the problem. I can and will talk with just about anyone. And talk, and talk, and talk. I can usually cover the ineptitude with my quirky sense of humor. This works in most social settings, but job interviews aren’t “most” situations.

I blew one interview for a well-paying job by getting diarrhea of the mouth. It seemed to be going well, and I got excited. I was interviewing to be an admissions counselor for an online university, something I felt good about. When it was my turn to ask some questions, I let my enthusiasm get the better of me. The online university had programs that I found interesting, so I asked about taking classes while working with them. Then I inserted my foot by saying that I wanted to take web design classes and eventually move on to working with their website.

Oops. Wrong answer.

“You don’t want to advance through the admissions department?” Meaning, “We’re not good enough for you?”

I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t good enough. I did not get the job. I knew it as soon as his smile froze and posture changed. I was no longer in consideration, all because of my big mouth.

I’m going to go on a tangent here…

When I say I recognize this from his body language, you need to understand that I don’t read it on an intuitive level. Somewhere in my mind, there’s a dictionary that says “____ set of the eyes means ____” or “That posture means he’s pissed.” It took me a long, long time to realize that I achieve similar social reads through a different means from other people. In other words, I don’t just do like most people. I have to focus on reading people and do it in a conscious manner. Until recently, it seemed normal. At least I don’t think the way I look at it is “normal.” Do “normal” people have to consciously think about reading people? They just kind of get it somehow, right?

</end tangent>

I blew another interview just before I got pregnant with the Munchie. At the time, I wanted to sell cars, and there was an opening at a Mercedes Benz dealership. I still don’t know for sure what ruined it, but I had a bad feeling about it by the time it was over. I felt like there was a trick question in the interview, but I wasn’t getting it. It probably didn’t help that it’s very hard for me to look like a professional. My hair is ridiculously fine and thin, I have a goofy-looking jaw, and I tower over many people. I don’t have the money to have clothes tailored to me, so business wear looks stupid on me, as well.

Somehow, I was able to get a couple decent positions by convincing them at the interviews that I was competent and enthusiastic. Neither one lasted. I felt like I was acting the role they wanted to hire, but when the time came to be good at the job, I wasn’t. I felt like the Pretender called in to surgery. This leads to a larger topic as far as work goes, but that will have to wait until later. In a nutshell, I am terrible at second-guessing myself. This undermines my performance, as my mind goes blank, and stuff doesn’t get done. It’s frustrating because I think I’m better than that–but I could be wrong. Very wrong.

Luckily, I have found what I am good at doing. Now it will be okay. The question is: Can I get past that all-important interview process? I don’t know anymore. The job I may get sounds like a good fit, right up my alley. I just hope I don’t throw it away by screwing up the interview.

*Don’t worry, I’ll have more upbeat posts before you know it!

Yes, I’m Picky. What’s your point?

Don’t expect me to get anywhere near coconut. If you cook onions in the house, give me fair warning. Keep those damn beets away from me! ::shudder::

It always drove my parents to distraction. Today, my long-suffering husband can’t make dinner without wondering if I’ll eat it. I am your classic picky eater. Some food literally make me feel sick to my stomach. And when I say “literally,” I mean it. As a young child, I would not put certain foods in my mouth, and if anyone tried to trick me, I would taste the offending stuff. I was the only one who noticed a faint trace of coconut when a popular cereal included it for a while. This pattern continued throughout my childhood and, to a large degree, it continues today. In fact, I believe there is something inherently evil about coconut…

“Selective eating” seems to be common among children on the autism spectrum. According to one article, “While most children outgrow their tendency to be picky about what they eat, children with ASD often carry the trait into adulthood.”1 As one might imagine, unchecked pickiness can lead to nutritional deficits. Studies cited in the same article suggest that levels of Vitamins A, C, and D, as well as zinc, calcium, and fiber are lower in these children. If the pickiness persists into adulthood, one might infer that these deficiencies will, too.

I can attest to the deficiencies, as I have to be conscious to get enough calcium and fiber. Low levels of calcium can result in muscle cramps in the short term, and osteoporosis in the long run. When I don’t consume enough milk or take calcium instead, my calves and feet start cramping. Fiber can be another issue, but I’m too nice to get into that in this setting.

One article suggests an interesting correlation between an ASD child’s pickiness and the family’s regular menu: “…their food selectivity may be due to restrictive familial diets rather than to the severity of their autism symptoms… findings indicate that children with ASDs eat a more narrow range of foods that includes high-energy dense foods. Eating a narrow range of foods with high energy density may put children with ASDs at increased risk for excessive weight gain and chronic diseases, as high energy dense diets are typically high in fat and low in fiber.”2

Is selective eating a nature or nurture issue? Taking from these two articles and my own experience, I say “both.” I still don’t like for certain things to touch on my plate, but at least I’ll eat many of those things. I’ve even learned to try new things–without making a face! One of the things my parents did do right was to insist I try foods I “didn’t like.” Most of the time, I truly didn’t, but I tried them. My keen sense of smell is generally on target, so I have a fair idea of whether I’ll like something or not. There are a few exceptions. I love the smell of gourmet coffee, for example, but I definitely do not like the taste. I know this because I have sipped these flavors even though I know I don’t like coffee in general. If I have to choke the stuff down, I’ll take it either black or a French vanilla cappuccino.

There are some things that I found out, many years later, that I don’t hate after all. These are the foods that had the misfortune to be improperly prepared by my parents. Iced tea, for example, should never, ever, ever be despoiled by sugar! I don’t mind some fruit flavoring, but sugar?!?! Considering my impossibly sweet tooth, this is remarkable. I love iced tea, but not sweet tea, and definitely not that Nestea crap my dad always mixed!

By now, you should get the idea: I’m picky. However, it could be worse. My parents did a good thing by refusing to indulge me. I ate what they made or went hungry. Of course, I learned to sneak food later–often white bread that I’d decrust and ball up to eat like a lump of Play-Doh (no, I didn’t eat Play-Doh, but I wanted to), or I’d sneak Nestle Quick and dunk 4-8 slices of bread in it like a donut in coffee. I digress.

From my perspective, I can tell you that there are degrees within the selectiveness. There’s the “I’m not familiar with this” type of pickiness. Then there’s the “I really, really hate this” kind of pickiness. If you are caring for someone with this issue, I encourage you to insist they try new foods, but don’t force it on them. Offer a payoff if they refuse: “You can have FoodA if you try one bite of FoodB.” And it has to be bigger than a sand grain. I tried that one frequently as a kid. At minimum, make it the size of a pea. A spoon- or forkful would be better. If your picky eater won’t do it still, they don’t get FoodA, or their sticker, token, whatever incentive. Plain and simple. Okay, not so plain and simple in some cases, but you’d be surprised what will happen with consistency. Muchie (my daughter) can usually be bribed in this manner. So can I. 😉

If you can get a handle on picky eating on your own, there are dietitians who can help. Don’t let the picky eater win, because, in the end, you both lose.

.

works cited

1 Reynolds, Denise. “Picky Eating Risks Autistic Kids.” Emax Health. eMax Health.com. 19 April 2010. Web: 21 June 2010. <http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/picky-eating-common-autistic-children-may-be-nutritional-risk.html>

2 Evans, Erin Whitney. “Selective Eating and Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Behavioral Health Nutrition. BHNDPG. Web: 21 June 2010

Well THAT was inappropriate!

My family always taught us kids to be polite. Please and Thank You and all of that. Today, I teach my kids the same. In fact, my son says “No thanks” whenever he doesn’t want to do something. [“Thank you for being so polite, you little stinker, but you will do what you were told!”] Yet, good social skills aren’t always about your pleases and thank yous. Tact, heck, common sense, need to kick in once in a while.

Now that I’m an adult, I think I behave pretty well around other people. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, but I can’t think of any huge faux pas I’ve made lately. Small ones, sure, but nothing as embarrassing as a night at my Catholic Youth Group in high school. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m not broken, I’m just different. Or: Tap Shoes and Phones

I used to think I was broken. My mind has always worked in different ways from the people around me. Even now, I make connections that other people might not expect. Give me some random objects or concepts, and I am sure to find a way to bring them together. It doesn’t matter if there’s no inherent link, I can make them relate.

Example: I looked around my desk and chose two random things: a telephone and tap shoes in a photo. Shoes have nothing to do with phones (unless you need to go down a street with sharp stones to get to a pay phone), but tap shoes could be very cool if you’re on the phone. Say you have a child who does a little tapping, and you can’t get a photo to a grandparent. Lucky you! Have your prodigy stand on a smooth surface next to the phone and tap her/his heart out. Said grandparent knows what the kid looks like and can now imagine them tapping out that clattering beat (assuming there’s a discernible beat from a three-year-old).

Want to throw me some more random things? Go for it.

I digress. Often. Back to feeling broken. I’m not sure how to explain it in a way normals might understand. So let’s try it this way…

You’re in high school, and it’s your open study hall period. All your homework is done because you finished before class was over. The teacher’s lecture didn’t matter because they just regurgitated the material you already read in the book. This is true of most classes. So now you have nothing pressing and are bored. You wish you had someone to talk to, but the few people you count as friends are in class. The library is open, and you wander in. Mrs. S is behind the counter checking in books. You say “hi” and hope she’s in a mood to visit. You suspect that she finds you annoying, but you are craving interaction with someone. She’s nice enough.

Mrs. S sees you and lets you start talking. The words gush out even as you get the feeling she couldn’t care less. She’s not rude, but you can somehow tell she’d rather not be listening. You don’t know what gives you that impression, but it’s there. Now you want to disengage, but you don’t know how without being rude to her. Also, the words demand to be spoken. It’s a compulsion over which you have little control. You desperately hope for a natural break in your thoughts so you can break away. Finally, you find a pause in the stream and use that to say, “I’ll let you get back to it!” and then walk away.

The experience has left you feeling worse than you did when you wandered in. Now you feel angry at yourself, agitated that you screwed up again and mad that you did exactly what you told yourself you wouldn’t do. It’s almost lunch time, so you head down the hall in that direction. The agitation is building up and demanding a release. You duck into the bathroom and escape to a stall. You don’t think anyone is in there, but you lock the stall door, just in case. There, you let the agitation out by shivering, flapping your hands, and bouncing or jumping. You wish you could yell, but you at least have control over that. Right now, anyway.

You shake it out and take some deep breaths, ready to face the world again. Time for lunch, and you feel a little better. You leave the bathroom and go to the cafeteria. Once you’ve gone through the line, have filled your tray in the “right” order, paid, and sat down at your usual table, all is well.


This kind of thing still happens many years later, although much less frequently. I hardly every do the hand flapping, but I do tend to have some sort of motion going at any given time. I get fidgety if I don’t have something to do with my hands.

As far as the awkward talking, that still happens. Like the flapping, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but hey, it still happens. At least I can explain why to the people I know. The great thing is that I have found friends who accept me as I am and are used to it. A few have even gotten good at pulling me out of it without either party getting irritated. The key here is that I’ve learned to cut off the chatter a lot sooner and to recognize what I’m doing. I’ll probably never get completely past this behavior, but it’s a far cry from how I was fifteen years ago.

These are things that contributed to my sense that I was “broken.” Now I know I’m not broken at all. It’s how I am, and it’s how the world perceives me. I’m not “normal,” I’m different. But without “different,” the world would be a bland place. Hooray for the Differents!

Getting annoyed when people “get it wrong”

From my journal today. It seemed appropriate. I didn’t edit it like I usually do when writing for the blog, as I feel like I want to keep it genuine.

As a kid, I got annoyed when people got things wrong. I got in trouble for correcting adults. Mom and Dad hated that! But it REALLY bugged me, especially when people mispronounced words or used poor grammar.

Eventually, I had to learn that if it wasn’t important to let it go. Today, I’m much better with this. If I can’t stand it, I at least try to remove the sting.

Why does this bother me? Who cares if another person butchers a spoken sentence? I think it’s because I want them to get it right, so they don’t sound less intelligent. Of course, they probably don’t see it that way. It’s hard to remember that. Read the rest of this entry »