Friday, July 29, 2011

Anxiety + Voicemail: how I deal

Being a visual, socially anxious person, nothing makes me more tense than the need to check voice mail. Having my mom tell me, "Pink, did you get my message?" is WAY too stressful for me, almost as stressful as listening to voicemail itself.

Voicemail freaks me out because there is virtually no control behind it. You log into it through your phone, listen to painful beeping noises, and have no control over when the messages are shouted into your ear. The voice commands are stressful too, I hate having to wait to listen for which number to press. Furthermore, if a message is particularly sinister-sounding, it will give me a mini panic attack. Traditional voice mail removes all free will, and leaves you vulnerable to potential abuse being shouted at your ear.

Of course, I know most of the time it will not be abuse, but my ears need a break. This is why I'm so terrible at listening to voicemail. I tell everyone to text me because text messages are something I can handle - they're visual, silent, and can be opened at the viewer's discretion. Furthermore, text doesn't seem to pack as much of a punch as speech. Letters are just lines on a screen with meaning applied; speech, on the other hand, is created with sound waves resonating from an individual's vocal cords, with varying degrees of intensity. Text can also be intense, but the intensity can be controlled, while the intensity of another person's speech is out of your control.

As you can tell, the anxiety really gets to me here. I already spend more time around people than I can emotionally handle, having to put on a friendly face all day. I can deal, but just barely. This overstimulation causes me to retreat into my room 2/3 of the time (yes, I did the math there), attempting to recover from the long day. I can only handle so much unexpected stress. What to do?

Well, I can't take the voice out of voicemail, so I did something to gain a little control: I got YouMail. Youmail is a program which replaces your default voice mailbox on your phone. Not only does it have more storage space than a traditional voicemail system, but you can view your messages in an inbox-like setting online. It tells you who called when, and you can play the message as a clip at your own will. You can also organize and delete messages much like e-mail. How cool is that?!

In addition, I also set it up so it will text me when I get a voicemail, telling me who called and when. This removes another stressor from voice mail: I never know when people call and am always confused. This feature helps eliminate that issue. I also have an app to check it on my iPod touch when there's wireless - the messages show up in a visual setting there. It's way awesome, and while this doesn't alleviate all my anxiety, it's definitely a relief.

Of course, there are other features (personalized greetings, blocking callers, sharing messages online) but I don't care much about those. The only thing I care about is the fact that YouMail helps me feel more in control of a communication tool that NT's take for granted, and expect everyone else to take for granted as well.

As you can tell, I'm absolutely ecstatic about this program. While free speech-to-text would be ideal, I'm not paying shit for that. So this is the next best thing, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Today I started knitting a hat. I've got about two inches done thus far.

The part I've done has two colors, arranged in a mathematical sequence. I've designed it so that it can gradually transition from one color to the next, in a gradient. I think it's some variation of the fibonacci sequence. Here's how the transitional part goes:

knit 1 row
knit 7 stitches, knit 1 stitch -repeat for entire row
knit 3 stitches, knit 1 stitch - repeat
knit 1, knit 1 - repeat

(repeat in inverse order to transition to the other color)

I love knitting because it allows me to appear as a normal girl, yet it gives me free license to be a complete nerd. And let's face it, I'm in the arts - I don't get to be mathematical that often. Though I'm an aspie, and aspies are expected to be math-obsessed literal thinkers, I don't get to salivate over mathematical sequences often.

I'm so excited, that this is what I'd expect an orgasm to be like had I not been born asexual. This is like crack to me. This must be like the high Snooki gets from being punched - no exaggeration whatsoever.

I swear, I'm not putting down this hat until it's done. Mathematical sequences and all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kickboxing = Death Sentence

Today I tried kickboxing. My friend encouraged me to join her, since it's an exercise class that she loves... Let's just say I lack the coordination for it. It's too fast for me, and mid-air punching to the sound of a dude belching over Lady Gaga songs isn't my cup of tea.

Perhaps this is because I'd never done it before, but it was too fast - I spent half the time watching the instructor and standing there like some idiot. Plus, the moves come up too fast, and I have NO CLUE what I am supposed to expect. Granted, we did end up doing some yoga moves at the end, but the bouncing techno prevented me from truly relaxing.

My neurologist first encouraged me to start exercising again to ease my headaches and exhaustion, because he said I wouldn't feel any better unless I try it. I'm pretty content doing yoga or some sort of meditative exercise, like running, because it can be done more or less at your own pace. While this isn't the case with yoga, it is so slow that I have no trouble keeping up. It also helps me with my anxiety.

Kickboxing, on the other hand, is like asking for a panic attack. My brain gets overloaded so easily that the hyperactive remixes of radio songs aren't exactly helping me. I'll admit that it was a good workout, but I don't think I'll be going back. It's too much for me, and I'm just not cut out for it.

Aspies, what do you like to do for exercise?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Good Things About Being Socially Awkward: Fewer Unwanted Interactions

One thing I don't like is how other people have been brainwashed by society. Granted, one of the main keys to a successful life is companionship. It may not be in the same form for everybody, and it is important to be respectful of this fact, but the relationships with the people we care about bring significance to our lives- Aspie or not.

The frustrating thing is, however, how people assume you are unhappy if you are not in a romantic relationship. I constantly have people question why I am not in a relationship. My response to them is always the same: I don't know why I'm not, but I don't need to be in one to be happy. I love my job, I love my family and friends, I graduated at the top of my class, and I have a lot to look forward to. I don't need a significant other to validate my existence.

One thing that I'm beginning to realize though, is that I may be asexual. I'm trying to grapple with this fact, and realize whether I'm actually asexual or if I just have an aversion to sexually-intended interactions. I tried telling this to a friend, and she immediately responded with, "no, you're not asexual". But I think I am. I don't crave sex, I just crave affection and companionship. I still have crushes, and I may be sexually active someday, but it won't be the end of the world if I'm not.

Because of this, and the fact that I've only had one boyfriend (I don't even know if it counts), I am very awkward around the opposite sex. I never know what to say, and at first I find it stressful, but then realize that it may be a blessing in disguise. Plus, it's not my fault if a guy only wants one thing, right? Once I realize his intentions, I immediately become cold. It's like a switch that turns off in my head. If I see a guy glancing at my chest, staring at me too much and smiling excessively, or using a bad pick-up line, I become uncomfortable and distance myself. I look down, close myself off, and begin responding with short, flat sentences. This is like a reflex that I have no control over. In a few minutes the guy gets the message and backs off.

Some people may be frustrated by this, but I feel like it's a blessing in disguise. Granted, it's made me extremely uncomfortable around men, but I feel lucky. I don't need to worry about birth control. As of now, it is also impossible for me to get knocked up or contract an STD. I say "as of now" because, who knows? I may want sex in the future, I just don't right now. But let me tell you, it's such a load off. I used to know a girl who would have a panic attack every week about how she thought she was pregnant. I also know people who have had children far too early in life that were "mistakes". I may be jumping ahead of myself here, but it's nice to not have to worry about that happening to me.

Also, being socially awkward will help protect me against unwanted sexual situations. Granted, if a person wants to rape then they will, but in my case some of the interactions leading up to that point are virtually nonexistent. Of course, protecting yourself and being educated are extremely important, I'm not lessening the significance of this. I'm just stating that awkwardness can serve as a barrier from unwanted interactions, which can be a wonderful thing.

I know some people will tell me that I'm missing out on a lot by not dating, but let me tell you, I just don't care. I don't feel like I'm missing out on much. Does that mean that I will never be sexually active? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not closed off to the idea in the future, but I just don't want it right now. Do I question my intentions constantly? Absolutely. Nothing is definite, things can change. All I know is that as far as I can tell, my standoffishness protects me from unwanted situations. At least, it has thus far, and this is something that I am very fortunate for.

So, regardless of what people tell you, it is okay to be awkward! It can even be a good thing. Embrace it! However, as an extra method of protection it is important to be educated. Here are some links that are useful:

S0, read up, and be aware of interactions. Respect yourselves, do your best to understand what you need, and if something unfortunate does happen, then don't be afraid to talk about it. And if you get in an unwanted interaction, then don't be afraid to move into awkward mode. Hell, if you really don't want to talk, then just throw 'em the face!

Ridiculous, but same idea. Enjoy, and love yourselves!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Awkward Non-Aspies, Part II

In continuation with a recent post, Don't Forget, I've decided to revisit the theme of neurotypical people with awkward or strange tendencies.


Miranda is a girl I've known since we were toddlers. Our mothers are best friends, so it was expected that we would be, as well. Miranda is a few months older than me, and I remember her house was like a second home to me growing up. Miranda's mother is a wonderful person, very warm and welcoming- she would give up everything for the sake of your comfort. When we were moving they opened up their house to us for a good part of a summer. With such a nice family, I wonder where Miranda's bitter disposition came from.

I remember playing Power Rangers with her and her brother, and I was always shafted - though I wanted to be the Pink Ranger, Miranda always insisted on being the Pink Ranger, while I was the Yellow Ranger. Nothing against the Yellow Ranger (she was pretty awesome), but any diplomatic friend would have happily taken turns.

There's one perfect word to describe Miranda: she's cold. In all of the time I've spent with her, I could never read her emotions. Strikingly beautiful, everything about her was sharp, like ice. Her speech inflection could cut around jagged corners and poke someone's eye out. Though I was isolated in a mental bubble due to my Asperger's, my presence was very warm and soft. Even as a child I was told I had a meditative, zen-like presence.

So out of convenience, I spent a lot of time at Miranda's house growing up. She was never the type of person you could just "hang out" with - we'd always have the TV on, or we'd be playing video games. There would be some outside distraction to build a wall between us. That was fine with me. I always liked going over her house because her mom would give me all the junk food my parents wouldn't let me eat. I remember happily filling up on sugar over there - I think this is why I now have an insatiable sweet tooth.

Still, the TV couldn't create a wall between us forever. Little by little I became aware of Miranda's personality. I could never understand her sarcasm, and she'd roll her eyes at me when I was confused. She'd respond to my clueless comments with snappy retorts, and of course this confused me. I know now that her mother had told her about my Asperger's, but Miranda didn't seem to be willing to give me a chance.

I did many extracurriculur activities with Miranda while we were growing up - Girl Scouts, Ballet, Soccer, Theater Camp. In our spare time there would be many awkward pauses in conversation with her. Though at the time, I hadn't mastered the art of non-awkward conversation (and I still have a long way to go), I didn't have that hard of a time making friends. I did manage to gain superficial friendships with a few bubbly theatre geeks - that type of friendship is one I could handle just fine. But when society forced kids into cliques, I had trouble.

The summer before my Sophomore year of high school, we were at that same theatre camp, and Miranda and I found ourselves friends with a group of girls. There were five of us, and my naivete was overwhelmed by their uninhibited cattiness. Our group even had a name, that's how bad it was. They would talk about other kids behind their backs. There was a group of kids who were decidedly different - one boy who I later learned was also an aspie, a girl with a speech impediment, and one girl who was painfully shy. These girls were brutal to them. I didn't partake in making fun of these kids, but I didn't defend them either. I regret this.

I remember being upset by the way the girls were treating the other kids. Even though I was friends with a few of the kids that my so-called "friends" made fun of, I felt a distinct separation between us because I was "in". This was the exact mentality that I hated - I remember being on the other side at my public school, I was the one being bullied! What sort of messed-up world is this?

In time, things came between us. I had started dating one of her friends from her school, Miranda got upset, and even after her friend and I broke up (it was short-lived, anyway), she continued to ignore me, and wouldn't respond to my efforts at being friendly. Though this was easy to ignore since I had moved to another town, it was frustrating. What was so different about Miranda? There was just something I couldn't put my finger on. Her friendships with people at school revolved around obnoxious jokes and loudness, while mine revolved around shared interests. She had found a close group of friends from her school, and though I was acquainted with some of them and welcome to hang out with them, I still felt largely out of place.

We ended up growing apart, but it isn't something I regret. We'd occasionally talk throughout college, but Miranda remained her flat, emotionless self. To this day I have no clue if Miranda was consciously mean, or if she was just lacking emotion and warmth. Hell, I couldn't even tell if she was just cold or if I was turning her away with my awkwardness. Regardless of the cause of our drift, I am now aware of the type of person I get along with, and growing up with Miranda has helped me realize what traits that person has.

While I wish Miranda happiness, she isn't someone I will be turning to in times of distress. I have much warmer and more deserving friends for that. That's just life.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aspies in the Media: Mary and Max

The other night I finally got around to watching this movie... Mary and Max, a 2009 Claymation Film directed by Adam Elliot. I'd been meaning to see this movie forever because of the Aspie protagonist, but I hadn't gotten a chance, until now. And I'm happy I did.

The movie is about a young Australian girl, Mary Dinkle, who is unhappy with the state of her life - she has a neglectful father and an alcoholic, kleptomaniac mother who tells her that she was a "mistake". She is insecure about her appearance and is very lonely. Hoping to make a new friend, she pulls the name Max Horowitz out of a phone book at the post office. It is listed that he lives in New York City, so she writes a letter to him asking about life in America, explaining how she wants a friend.

Max responds, explaining the state of his life. He is an obese older man who is sensitive to stimuli, is confused by social cues, and lives a quiet, controlled life with his goldfish Henry and his chocolate hot dogs. He doesn't have any friends, and writes to Mary that he is glad she is his friend.

While the movie progresses, more letters are exchanged, and we learn more about both Mary and Max. In one scene where Mary asks Max about how to talk to a boy she likes, Max has a meltdown, is institutionalized for many months, and it is revealed that he has Asperger's Syndrome. He expresses frustration that his psychiatrist feels sorry for him, and that he wants to "cure" him. Max expresses the belief that Asperger's is just one way of defining who he is, and that it is not a disease or disorder.

This movie is wonderful because it shows the importance of friendship and connection, even by society's so-called "freaks". While parts of this film are very depressing, the film itself has a beautiful message of connection and friendship. The visuals are very well done - Max's world is gray, Mary's is beige, and they are connected by little pieces of red. Max's bluntless and Mary's silly questions make this an enjoyable and amusing film, combining black humor and a bittersweet story to make for a flawless, rich experience that I'm sure everyone will be able to connect to. Mary and Max is certainly a must-see.

Here is a trailer:

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