Monthly Archives: October 2012

Learning to be Unorganized

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When I was a young child, I didn’t fully realize that I would really rather play by myself than anyone else, because I was an only child. I didn’t have a lot of options, save some cousins and a few neighborhood friends. I found my happiness in many outdoor activities, art, and building my dolls houses. I never had a real doll house. “Awww…poor Erin.” No, no…..I didn’t WANT a plastic, boring doll house that all the other little girls had. My mother was an Avon lady. I got many things from Avon as a child, but my favorite things were the boxes the merchandise came in. SO sturdy. The perfect size. The perfect shape. I would stack them… one on top of the other…and side by side. I would spend hours constructing the homes…coloring their “doors and windows”….pasting magazine clippings as pictures on the walls….perfectly placing strips of cut fabric for rugs. I had little use for anything store bought (I am still this way). I was in a zone. Don’t talk to me….don’t touch me…don’t tell me lunch is ready. I didn’t want to do anything except build and design and see the thing through. “Oh you must have had so much fun playing with your Barbies in these masterpieces you poured your little heart into!” No….No I did not. I tried. It seemed the next logical step. I built the darn thing FOR my Barbies…..WHY didn’t I want to use them for their intended purposes? Because the construction and design, as I now understand, was what I wanted to do. That was what I loved. That was what held my attention.

I grew up and became an adult and didn’t really think much about those doll house building moments much more. What I did think about was the fact that every time I had a project I needed to work on, I had to go through the entire house and organize everything before I could focus. I have four children that I homeschool. I have an online vintage business that I run. I have books, merchandise, toys galore in this house that take days to organize. I KNOW that I have to focus on the task at hand. I HAVE to list my items online, if I plan on making money. I HAVE to sit down and sew if I’m going to be a part of this craft fair. I HAVE to paint this picture that my mom asked for 6 years ago. BUT….in my mind, none of this is even close to possible unless I have complete organization. So…I organize. DON’T talk to me. DON’T touch me. DON’T ask for lunch yet. DON’T make me listen to your stories. I am on a mission and I can’t be bothered. I HAVE to see this through or I won’t sleep…I won’t EVER be able to cook again. I won’t ever be able to teach you what you need to know, if I DON’T get this place organized…..again. “Mommy, you just organized last week.” It wasn’t until I started hearing these statements from my little girl that I realized I had a problem. My Aspie mind saw this as a logical step. Organize first. Work later. But work rarely came. I felt I had done what I needed to do.

After the realization that this was an obsession, I have worked very hard to live how I need to live. To focus on what’s really important instead of what my brain tells me is most important. I’m not quite sure I’ll ever get over the devastation of not having everything in it’s place, but I do know I’m trying. I do know that I look up from my stacks of papers, art supplies, and mounds of fabric and see four sets of eyes that need their mommy to “let it go” and enjoy life….not just the process of working through life. I will have too much laundry. I will have too many crumbs on the floor. I will be disorganized sometimes…..but I will have memories….I will have hugs…I will have happy, well loved children. And THAT’S what it’s all about.

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The First Week of the Rest of My Life

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It’s not as if I didn’t know I was different all along. There was the isolated feeling in the middle of a crowded room….never relating to anyone no matter how many people I “tried on for size”…never liking the same kind of boys my friends did. I mean sure, I dated the same guys… but the boys who captured my heart were always a little strange. There were uncomfortable silences after I would make a joke. I had friends become angry and ignore me for weeks/months at a time, and I didn’t even know what I had done. (A problem that happens for me still) My friends would be so excited about an upcoming event they had all planned and I would either dread it or find an excuse to stay home. I had friends, don’t get me wrong….good friends…..but I knew in order to remain their friend, there were parts of me that I had to keep hidden.

One of my earliest memories of what would be a long string of confusing friendships was when I was 5. I spent the night with a friend and, like so many little ones, I got homesick. I told my friend that I wanted to go home….that I needed to call my mom. I have blocked alot of the details out, but what I do remember is her refusing me the use of her phone, beating me with a TV antenna and spraying room spray in my eyes. OBVIOUSLY, she didn’t want me leave. Not only did I stay that night, I went back….and back again….and back again. I’ve thought about that night so many times in the last 28 years and wondered why I was so pathetic. I never had an answer. Never. I didn’t just like her a little. I craved being near her. I “needed” her.

In middle school, I had to move schools mid-year. I had a problem with another friend that wouldn’t work itself out. It ended in typical preteen fashion. He said/she said mess and alot of alienated feelings on my end. The trouble was well known in my small, Christian school, and I felt like everybody was always against me. I felt eyes burning into me when I walked the halls. I felt the “you’re a trouble maker” looks everywhere I turned. My parents had always taught me to fix what was broken and give it my best shot….to apologize even when it wasn’t my fault to end it and be the better person. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t fix it. There was ,in my mind, a school wide boycott of me. My parents transferred me to another small, private school. I was elated….for a while. Inevitably, trouble followed. Within a few weeks, there were already problems. I was working hard to stay under the radar. I talked to whoever seemed nice and eventually gained confidence from finding a few friends, but I couldn’t seem to dodge issues with other people. All my moves were wrong.

In high school, I wasn’t part of a particular crowd. I found myself floating from group to group looking for acceptance that I only found in a couple of girls. By the time I hit 15, I had gotten a much bolder attitude about me and ditched some of my timid ways. I began experimenting with styles and felt like every day was a different costume party. I was a chameleon. Blending and meshing everywhere I went. I had a feeling of “fakeness” no matter what I tried….like I was never me, but always imitating someone else. Towards my Junior year, I began to not really care if I fit or not. I was fed up with trying. I couldn’t find the fit anyhow, and it seemed too hard to make it happen. I got in fights with teacher after teacher. I wasn’t a trouble maker, mind you, I was a good student…3rd in my class….but I only remember not arguing with one teacher out of every one that I had. I did it because I felt I was well within my rights to correct anything wrong….whether it be papers graded incorrectly or things said to me in tones I didn’t like. I couldn’t understand why *I* was always the one getting into trouble when THEY were the ones that were being unjust. There was a common theme in my life….Blow up and then apologize like mad afterwards. Eventually people got sick of hearing it and I was never so happy to leave an establishment in my life.

After graduation, I took a year off from school. I worked three jobs because I couldn’t stand just being home. I was always “on”. I couldn’t just do nothing. I couldn’t just relax. There was always a plan…always something I HAD to be doing. I decided it was time to hit the books, after that first year…dive into college…only I couldn’t pick just one thing that interested me. Everything sounded fascinating in way or another….I was scared to pick “just one”. Having a logical paramedic father, I decided nursing was a good choice. I was smart. I made the grades in high school. “No problem.”, I thought. I enjoyed the information in my Literature and Art History classes. I never made any friends though. I sat in the back….always came in right before class started, so that I wouldn’t have to speak to anyone…. Then came the chemistry class catastrophe. No matter how hard I listened, I couldn’t focus. No matter how much it was explained to me, I couldn’t get it. I was barely making it. The day the professor said, “Everyone follow me into the lab. Time to get hands on.”, I walked…..not into the lab, but out the door. I never went back. Not to Chemistry. Not to Art History. Not to Literature. I didn’t care about the money spent on the classes. I couldn’t do it anymore. One lab class that I never attended ruined my entire college experience. I was done. I felt like a complete failure. I began turning to drugs and alcohol to numb my low self esteem.

I eventually met a guy, and for the sake of his feelings and my children’s feelings, I will simply state that we got married, had 3 kids…and, like every other relationship/friendship I tried, it ended. Badly. Another failure under my belt. Depression overcame me. I had zero direction. I hated everything and everybody….especially myself. I gave into the depression. I gave into the self doubt. I drank my problems away. I lied to everybody about who I was, what I thought, and what I did. Noone wanted that truth. Nobody wanted to know that when I put my kids to bed at night, I curled up with any bottle that would make me numb. I didn’t want to know it. I didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t stand people, life or me. I didn’t have the strength or confidence to anything right. I was at the lowest point I had ever been.

After many horrible relationships and failed attemps at dating, I met this guy. I couldn’t explain the rush I got around him. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It scared me… and excited me at the same time. We began spending every waking minute together…and I fell in love. Hard. I ditched the bottles of booze. I had found the one person that gave me strength to be better. I found the one person I was scared to lose, apart from my kids. It was perfect. We were perfect. We had another child and got married. We were living my dream. I FINALLY had it together…….so why couldn’t I FEEL better. I had God. I had church. I had a great family. I had an incredible husband that supported my every breath. Still……I was alone in my mind. Still I was different. There were problems I couldn’t put my finger on. I was supposed to be happy, yet I couldn’t get over feeling like I was from another planet and had been dropped here by mistake. I continued to lose friends left and right. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. WHY did I feel so isolated?? WHY did people find it so easy to run from me? WHY was always saying and doing the wrong things to everyone?? Why was I attacking my husband and collapsing in tears every month or so?? I had no reason for it.

As a mom of four, who hates doctors and medication, I didn’t want to go. I had a son who was being tested for Apergers and I needed to devote all of my time and attention to him. I could put me on the back burner. I was a walking issue all my life, no sense in talking it out now, right? Just keep coping like always. Up. Down. Up. Down. I researched every minute I had about Aspergers. I wanted the best doctor for my son. I wanted to be well educated, so that I could mold him and help him grow into a successful young man that OWNED Aspergers. HE would be the poster boy. HE was gonna shine. I would make sure of it. I read and I read and I read until I passed out many nights. I began joining online support groups for other moms of Aspies. I had questions. They had answers. By accident, I joined a page that I thought was for moms of Aspies. I quickly found out, it was for the mom WITH Aspergers. Awesome. I wanted to see what they have to say too. It was in the next few days that things began to unfold for me. My heart raced as I read post after post of women describing ME…..MY life. My most intimate, dark secrets. I took a random internet test. I awaited the results calculating with as much anticipation and nervousness as all the times I had waited those daunting three minutes it takes for a pregnancy test to show that second pink line………”Calculating, calculating, calculating….POSITIVE.” I took another…and another…..and another. ONE of these #*$@ things has GOT to say I’m normal. Nope. All signs point to Asperland. I wasn’t the type to simply trust online tests I had found, so I started talking personally with an online psychologist friend and other Aspie moms. I had never been more sure of anything in my entire life. I had Aspergers. For a week, my mind raced and recalled events that suddenly made so much sense. I wasn’t mean….I wasn’t attacking anybody on purpose…nobody was really attacking me either. We were speaking different languages!

During the first week, I analyzed, obsessed (like us Aspies do), and relived so much of my life in my head. I laughed. I cried. I threw up. I got angry. I got determined. I got overwhelmed. I wanted answers…..and boy, did I get them.

At the end of this first week, I can tell you that I am tired, above all…but I am ready to be who I was meant to be. This is…..the first week of the rest of my life.