Sunday, March 30, 2014

Go shawty, it's MAH birfday!

I'm having a fantastic bday, and it's only going to get better. The best part so far is my brother coming home from his vacation! My mom, grandma and I are about to head to Erie, PA for some shopping and dinner at this incredible restaurant called O'Charley's. Life is good :D

Saturday, March 29, 2014

So it begins...

I've reached a "discovery" in my life as you'd call it, and I figured I'd start a blog to tell my story and perhaps share some interesting, funny and exciting experiences along the way. Here goes...

On Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. For those of you who look at this and think "huh, what the heck does that mean?" I'll make it simple. It's a part of the autism spectrum. No, it does not mean I'm like Rain Man or any of the stereotypical impressions you see about autism in the media. It simply means my brain is hardwired a little differently than most.

See, I was a little "different" from day one. It became apparent when I was in preschool that I wasn't quite like the other kids. While they would sit and follow the lesson and listen to the teacher, I'd be off doing whatever my heart led me to at the moment. I remember running around, playing in the playhouse, sitting on the slide....I was one rambunctious little kid! My teacher suggested my parents and I meet with a psychologist to look into my hyperactive behaviors. This ended up fruitless, as after a handful of appointments, the doctor lost touch with my parents. I was also a lot more well-behaved starting in about 1st grade after still continuing to "do what I wanted to do" as my kindergarten teacher reported, so no one really gave it any second thought.

The rest of elementary school went without incident, and I had no difficulty with my grades. Something still seemed just a bit different, tho. I'd try and joke with the other kids, yet there was something that just didn't click. I managed to have friends and acquaintances, however. I just felt like I wasn't always in on some of the things they were. One thing I went through was what I would later learn to be OCD, as I would deal with endless worrying on and off. I'll save this for another post so as not to make this any longer than it's already going to be.

Fast forward to middle school. It was then I started to get picked on for my interests, especially video games. Because you know, playing Sonic the Hedgehog at 12 is such an abrnomal thing to do...(insert sarcasm)...anyway, I again did very well in school, and was one of the kids the teachers appreciated. I was conscientious and eager to learn. I did begin to recognize, though, that it seemed difficult to remember the things I needed to bring home to complete my homework and I would get things mixed up. I learned of something called ADD, and thought right away, "that's me." Since I was doing well, though, everyone around me was convinced that nothing was wrong. I was a little unique. In 7th grade, I was the kid who sat at the lab table with the animals in my science class. Doing what the other kids did just didn't always appeal to me. I remember learning about peer pressure and why I should avoid it, all the time wondering "why would I want to do these things just because everyone else is, anyway?" There was just something about my place amongst my peers that was a little off, and this would continue to be more evident the older I got.

I'll move on to high school. What I observed was that more than ever, I was not concerned with being like the other kids or fitting in. It seemed like the other girls were suddenly preoccupied with how they looked, being "cool," self-consciousness, and what boys thought of them. I stood back, on the outside looking in, wondering "WHY?" Why is everyone suddenly changing? What happened to when things were simple? Why are they worrying about this stuff if it makes them miserable? A lot of this fueled my OCD as I took it to mean my friends weren't interested in the same things as I was anymore and were moving on without me. To this day, I still can't figure it out. I've never worried about my appearance. As long as the clothes FELT comfortable, what else mattered? So what if they're a little wrinkled? So they don't match. Big deal? My hair doesn't have to be perfect. Makeup? I wouldn't be caught dead in that stuff! You get the idea. I've always been more of a tomboy, anyway. I've also never been concerned with dating or being in a relationship. It's something I have absolutely no desire for. I continued to do well in class, and graduated high school in 2001.

Now on to my late teens/early 20s. College went relatively well, and I changed my major from Bio Ed to Social Work after my third year. It was the best decision I could have made. I did notice that I still struggled with what I recognized as ADD characteristics, but I managed to keep my GPA in the high range. I was still the kid who always sat in the front of the class and took care to do my best. I graduated with my Bachelor's in Social Work in 2006.

It was when I started working full-time that my difficulties became more apparent to me. I reached a point when after forgetting to do tasks and being confused time and time again, I finally investigated whether or not I had ADHD, as I later learned was the correct term for it. I went to get evaluated, and sure enough, I was right! I started medication and saw a difference right away. It has been very helpful and allowed me to stay "in the zone." I've been working in the mental health and developmental disabilities fields and absolutely love it! I've met a lot of people who are very accepting of me for who I am, and with whom I can relate to.

It was about 4 or 5 years ago when I stumbled upon a blog written by my now friend on Facebook, who has Asperger's and was writing about her experiences. Now, I had heard of the disorder when I was about 22, and all I knew was that it was a mild form of autism, and sure sounded a lot like asparagus to me! Upon reading my friend's blog, I started to realize "this sounds a lot like me. I understand this stuff." I connected with her and have been in contact with her ever since, and we share a LOT in common. Through talking to her and meeting others on the spectrum via Facebook groups and in person, as well as doing a lot of research, I concluded that I was most likely on the spectrum. I finally decided to investigate it, and went to the same psychologist who diagnosed me with ADHD just 6 years ago.
He determined that I am indeed on the spectrum, in the Asperger's range as I suspected! What a feeling of confirmation I had after learning that I was right! I'm pretty good at figuring myself out, eh? ;)

So this is where I'm at. I have the knowledge that I am where I thought I was after all. I have no shame in telling people about my discovery, and see it as a part of the person I am. I'm proud of who I am, and wouldn't want to be any other way! I wouldn't be me if I was :) Stay tuned for future posts! Catch ya on the flip side!