Fidget Spinners

I got a fidget spinner last week. I’d heard a lot about them but I’d never encountered one in real life. When I saw a kiosk at the mall was selling them I decided I had to have one. The first thing I asked was if the batteries were included. Turns out fidget spinners don’t need batteries. Oops. Since I have manual dexterity issues my mother questioned whether I would be able to spin a fidget spinner. I did a test spin on a Batman fidget spinner and I managed well enough. I’m not a Batman fan so I did not want that particular fidget spinner. The guy who was selling the fidget spinner asked what my favorite color was and I settled on a purple one.

At first I was underwhelmed by the fidget spinner but as the minutes and hours wore on I grew to appreciate it. There’s something hypnotic, comforting and satisfying about the feel of its centerpiece in your hand, the vision of its blades spinning in a graceful arc, the gentle whirring sound it makes (can you tell I’m having a hard time describing it?) I soon found myself faced with the ultimate first world autistic problem: When you get a fidget spinner and you want to show off your shiny new toy on the internet but you lack the coordination it takes to spin with one hand and record a video on your phone with the other hand.

It took me a few tries but eventually I was able to upload a video of my fidget spinner on to social media. One of my friends commented that she was bothered that fidget spinners had become the next hot commodity because they were designed for a specific purpose and she felt that making them a toy for everyone was disrespectful to those with mental health conditions that required them. Another friend pointed out that perhaps with the introduction of toys like fidget spinners those with mental health issues and special needs would  no longer be seen as different and the stigma surrounding them would be lessened.

I can’t complain about fidget spinners being a hot commodity when that’s what enabled me to find them in a kiosk at the mall. I’m more annoyed by the schools that ban them because they’ve been deemed to be too much of a distraction. If they’re going to do that they should make exceptions for kids who have conditions such as ADHD and autism.  If fidget spinners are going to reduce the stigma surrounding special needs and mental illness, let’s make them as hot a commodity as possible.

For most of my life fidget spinners have not been a thing but I’ve found my own versions of fidget spinners. My fidget spinners have been leaves, weeds, wild onions and rubber bands. I’ve twirled them in my hands and flapped them in front of my face. I’ve enjoyed fidgeting with those objects but some people have not enjoyed watching me do so. They find it annoying, bothersome and baffling. One of my babysitters thought the onions I played with were snakes at first. These ‘snakes’ tended to give off an odor that some did not appreciate.

When I buy rubber bands I am not buying them for their usual functional purpose. I am buying them for fidgeting purposes. One time I was twirling a rubber band in a college algebra class when the professor said to me in an irritated voice in front of the whole class “Why are you always playing with that piece of string? It drives me crazy!” This was far from the first time in my life I’d been criticized for fidgeting but it was a particularly upsetting and embarrassing instance of it. I was angry that my professor had done that to me so I decided to write him an e-mail. I wrote that I had a physiological need to fidget as a result of being on the autism spectrum. I figured the professor would feel bad about what he said to me and would apologize.  The response I got from him was “Thanks for explaining.”

I hate that I owe the world an explanation for my fidgeting. For the longest time I didn’t know how to explain it. All I knew was that for as long as I could remember I had been driven to fidget in the same way I was driven to eat and sleep. I was driven to seek objects to fidget with in the same way my peers were driven to seek friendships with each other. My fidgeting and flapping  (along with my lack of peer interaction) were among the first signs that something was ‘not quite right’ with me. They were what led certain professionals to first suggest that I be taken out of mainstream educational settings and placed in special education.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves me, age four or five, sitting in the bathtub flapping my hands and my mother saying to me “Kira, why are you always flapping? Are you afraid something bad will happen if you don’t do that?

“No, I just like flapping and I like playing with things that are long” I replied.

“You like playing with things that are wrong?”

That was a pretty Freudian mishearing if you ask me. More than I hate that I owe the world an explanation for my fidgeting behaviors, I hate the way the world tells me such behaviors are wrong. I hate seeing my natural way of being described as ‘baffling’, ‘weird’ and ‘nonfunctional’. Trust me, I’m as baffled by the fact that other people don’t fidget as they are baffled by the fact that I do. For whatever reason my nervous system is wired in a way that makes me crave and need constant stimulation.  It would be pretty weird for me not to be respond by seeking that stimulation.

I hate being told that fidgeting behaviors that I find soothing and pleasurable need to be suppressed or eliminated because others are bothered by it. I do not think that by fidgeting I am infringing on anyone’s rights or liberties. I will play anyone who is annoyed by it a violin smaller than a fidget spinner.

What I hate most of all is that certain people feel entitled to be rude, cruel and insulting to me over my fidgeting. They feel entitled to mock, taunt and threaten me over it, to forcibly grab me to prevent me from doing it. Under the guise of helping me they remind me that what I’m doing is not normal, that it will get me locked up in an institution, that people would like me more if I stopped. Suffice it to say, no one is helping me by saying or doing those things.  To say that it’s taken a huge toll on my self esteem would be a huge understatement.

So many people with disabilities and differences suffer from low self esteem as a result of all the negative messages society gives them about themselves and their behavior. What we really need is a new spin on differences and disabilities in terms of the way they’re talked about, written about and hence perceived. We all know the best way to draw peoples’ attention to anything is through shiny objects so perhaps fidget spinners are a step in the right direction.

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Someone was wrong on the internet

Actually several someones were wrong on the internet. Allow me to share my latest encounters with people on the internet who were wrong.  They are both amusing and horrifying.

People periodically come in to my Facebook autism spectrum disorder group to post articles claiming that vaccines cause autism. There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism but there is plenty of evidence that not vaccinating causes potentially devastating and fatal diseases such as polio and measles. Therefore I have little tolerance for people who refuse to vaccinate their children and who spread lies and misinformation about vaccines. I have even less tolerance for these people when the articles they post claim that Andrew Wakefield is a truth crusader (that doctor who lost his medical license after his study linking vaccines and autism was deemed to be a fraud) and that holistic foods cure autism.

When I told that person her article was crap she told me to get woke and see Vaxxed. I’m not sure what exactly ‘get woke’ means but I know that Vaxxed is some bullshit anti-vaccine propaganda documentary. I will not be seeing it. I was also told that if I knew my stuff I’d know that measles is caused by a lack of Vitamin A and was asked when the last time I’d heard of anyone having polio. She’s right, it has been a while since I’ve heard of anyone having polio. Do you think that could have anything to do with the fact that there’s a vaccine for it? When I took a research methods class in college one of the points that was frequently drilled in to our heads was that correlation does not equal causation. I cannot tell you how many times I want to shout CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION through the internet at all the morons whose inane arguments prove they do not grasp this concept.

My Facebook ECT support group is generally supportive and there are rarely fights there but the other day someone came in to the group to share links to his ECT group and blog. Since this was an ECT support group we all clicked on the links thinking they would be supportive of ECT but they were strongly anti-ECT. They claimed that ECT was traumatic, inhumane and caused brain damage. I’ve heard all of that before but the guy also said some things about ECT that I’d never heard before.

Apparently ECT causes a state of coffea.  I didn’t know what coffea was. I figured it had to do with coffee but I also wondered if it might have something to do with covfefe. The guy claims that ECT affects your body in a similar way to coffee and makes you like coffee less. It also makes you like bondage and 50 Shades of Grey less. I guess it’s a good thing I was never a fan of those things to begin with.

The restraints that are used to hold you down during ECT result in at least six invisible scars and the bite block that’s used results in dental problems such as bruxism. Is this guy trapped in 1952 or something? I’m proud to say that in addition to my six invisible scars from ECT, I also have a visible scar from it on my chest. This guy compared ECT to date rape and although he said the doctors who perform ECT inflict cruel punishment, he forgot to compare them to Hitler.

I’m pretty sure my brain sustained more trauma and damage trying to make sense of the nonsense that guy spewed on his blog than it did from ECT. He links to the blog of a woman named Alycia who underwent ECT. Even though she says ECT was helpful to her, that’s just because she’s ‘imprinted’ and is unable to recognize the trauma and damage it’s caused her. I kind of hope this guy finds my blogs on ECT and makes me the next Alycia. Regardless, to him I say ‘Bye Felicia.’

Now back to autism related assholery. Another guy claimed on his blog that all people on the autism spectrum are disqualified from being pilots and that there’s not a single flight organization in the world that gives clearance to fly to anyone with an ASD diagnosis. When I told him this was untrue, he said his personal experience showed it was true and that until I could provide a counterexample I needed to shut the fuck up. Then he called me a fucking bitch and said if I wanted to play hardball we would play hardball. To him hardball involved citing FAA regulations that referenced personality disorders. I pointed out that autism is not a personality disorder but that since he’d responded to me telling him he had his facts wrong by calling me a fucking bitch, he might have a personality disorder in addition to autism.

I decided to take him up on his challenge and link to counterexamples showing that people on the autism spectrum could obtain their pilot’s license. He said that the chance of anyone on the autism spectrum obtaining a pilot’s license was less than 1% and he was doing everyone a favor by claiming there was a categorical ban on piloting with an ASD diagnosis.

After deleting my comments and threatening to ‘blacklist’ me, he wrote a blog saying that due to the verbal abuse I’d directed at him, he would now be moderating his blog comments. That’s right, the guy who called me a fucking bitch accused me of being verbally abusive. Apparently self awareness is as rare a commodity on the internet as subtlety. This guy went on to say that he can handle people disagreeing with his opinions. It’s too bad he can’t also handle people saying he hasn’t got his facts straight. Maybe they were alternative facts.

For our final example of someone being wrong on the internet, let us turn to the Philando Castile case. My friend posted a Facebook status about what a travesty the verdict that acquitted the cop who shot and killed Castile was. This friend of hers comes in to say that the cop had a tough decision to make and was afraid for his life after Castile told him he had a gun that he was licensed to carry. According to him there was no reason for him to say he had a gun and once he did say it he should have allowed the police officer to reach in to his pocket and retrieve it for him.

I said that sounded like victim blaming. Castile was following the officer’s instructions when he reached for his ID. He couldn’t have been expected to know that the proper protocol was to let the officer retrieve his ID if that even is proper protocol. He obviously told the officer he was licensed to carry so that the officer wouldn’t freak out and think he was a dangerous criminal when he saw the firearm.  If someone was intent on shooting you it’s unlikely they would tell you they had a gun. It seems you just can’t win when you have a gun.

This guy responded that if you’re going to possess something as dangerous as a gun you need to educate yourself on the proper precautions to take. He then added “By the way, I’m part black.” This guy was white as paste.

So those were my most recent encounters with people on the internet who were wrong.  There is no shortage of people on the internet who are wrong so I’m sure I will have many more encounters of the idiotic kind. I know you’re never supposed to argue with an idiot because they’ll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience but there’s a part of me that kind of enjoys arguing with idiots. It’s true that most of them are too stupid to realize how stupid they’re being and they rarely if ever admit they’re wrong or change their mind as a result of anything you say.  In many ways arguing with idiots is a frustrating and futile sport but there is fun to be had in it. I’m rather proud of some of the zingers I shot at the idiots. I’m amused by the memes my friends posted in response to the idiots and arguing against the idiots has been a bonding experience for us. My encounters with people on the internet who were wrong has also made for an interesting blog.

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Adventures in Mental Illness: Part 11

Although ECT had taken away some of my bad memories, there were some things I would never be able to forget and all the experiences I’d had throughout my adventures in mental illness had left emotional scars on me that were as prominent and indelible as the physical scar my ECT port had left. All the stupid, gross, terrible things I had done and been through had become a part of me. They had affected and altered my self image.

I’ve struggled with low self esteem and poor self image my whole life. These adventures in mental illness had taken away feelings of self worth that I couldn’t really afford to lose. I was now someone who had dropped out of school multiple times, been sent to a residential treatment facility and spent time in the back ward of a mental hospital because I was deemed unfit to fraternize with other mental patients. I was someone who had masturbated in front of other people, spit in peoples’ faces both literally and figuratively and eaten out of garbage cans. I was someone who had been put on antisychotics and diagnosed as being delusional. I had baffled, horrified and frustrated many people including myself. Now I was left living with my parents with no job and no social life. I saw myself as a loser, a failure and a fucked up person.

A few months ago I read a book that pointed out that if your cancer went in to remission, you wouldn’t be ashamed of yourself if it came back so you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself if your depression comes back after it goes in to remission. It seems like such a simple concept but it had never occurred to me even though I was familiar with the concept of treating mental illness like physical illness.

I was deeply ashamed of the fact that I had thought and acted as though I had defeated my depression for good and then sunk in to the worst depressive episode of my life. I was ashamed of the things I had done during my depressive episode and the resulting consequences of my actions. That shame spread to the things I had done before and after my depressive episode as well. Shame became the predominant theme of my life. It was a destructive force and a major obstacle for me.

On the surface it might seem like feeling shame about one’s life circumstances would motivate you to make changes and improvements but shame rarely works that way. It actually tends to have the opposite effect. It makes you feel hopeless, helpless and worthless, it damages the mechanism in you that’s capable of change.

Depression deprives you of energy and makes even the simplest of tasks seem overwhelming. ECT had lifted my depression and renewed my energy to the extent that it was no longer difficult for me to get out of bed, eat meals or read books but doing things like making plans with friends or looking for a job were still very intimidating.  It meant having to interact with people and for me interacting with people meant awkwardness, humiliation and judgement.

I felt so inferior to other people, not just to people who were in good mental health but also to other people who were mentally ill. It seemed like most people hadn’t allowed their mental illness to destroy their lives the way I’d allowed my mental illness to destroy mine. I knew there were people who had done worse things and ended up in worse situations than I had but I decided those people had some kind of reason or excuse for it whereas I didn’t.

I felt a distinct otherness from the people in my therapy groups and the people I read about in self help books. What did those people know about being a loser and a failure when they had jobs, marriages and children, things I would never have? I bet those people never masturbated in front of other people, ate out of garbage cans or spent time in the back ward of a mental hospital. There was hope for those other people but there was no hope for someone like me.

I fell in to the ‘I’m unique’ trap. All those suggestions for improving your mental health and life would work for other people but they would not work for me because I was fucked up in a way that those other people weren’t.  I thought back to the the time I’d asked Marlene if she’d ever had a client like me and she’d replied “No, you’re pretty unique.”

The word unique is such a double edged sword, especially when it comes to mental illness.  We’re all unique, just like everyone else. We shouldn’t judge anyone until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes and for the most part we have not walked a mile in another person’s shoes even if we suffer from the same mental illness they do because everyone’s circumstances are different.  Yet at the same time we shouldn’t get so wrapped up in the idea of our own uniqueness that we decide no one else can possibly understand us, relate to us or help us.

Mental illness often gives rise to a host of other problems, which are exacerbated and reinforced by the mental illness and vice versa, leaving the sufferer feeling trapped in a vicious circle. I’ve been on the autism spectrum my whole life and I’ve suffered from mental illness for a good portion of my life. I’ve heard of many people with one or both of those conditions being horrifically bullied throughout their childhoods and in to adulthood. Although there had always been a few people who disliked me and treated me cruelly, for the most part I had escaped bullying. That changed in the aftermath of my mental breakdown. I was cyber bullied by a large group of people on the internet and emotionally bullied by one person in real life.

My depression caused me to behave in ways that others found annoying and off-putting, as did my autism spectrum issues, both of which interacted with each other. My situation also left me vulnerable and made it hard for me to get away from the bullies. I knew that the things the bullies were saying to and about me were wrong and that they had issues of their own. Usually when they attacked me I outwardly defended myself but inwardly I suspected they were right about me (I’m vagueblogging about the situation now but the details will be revealed in time.)

There was also other life crap that got in my way. I experienced loss. My stepbrother died tragically and unexpectedly, my dog died tragically and unexpectedly, my grandmother died. I moved away to another state thinking I was getting away from a toxic environment and a month later I had to move back. Those situations weren’t caused by my depression but they made it worse.

I had good people in my life who encouraged me and tried to help me but they could only do so much. They could lead me to water but they could not make me drink. I had to take certain steps that I was unwilling or unable to take. I was encouraged to reach out to people, to reconnect with old friends and make new friends. I refused. A few of my old friends tried to call me and e-mail me but I did not respond. It had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. The thought of having to explain my humiliating life experiences and circumstances to them and compare it with their much more positive experiences and circumstances was too much for me.

The thing about depression is that everything you see, hear and experience while depressed will be filtered through the lens of depression. If you suffer from low self esteem, everything you see, hear and experience will be interpreted to reflect the way you feel about yourself.  When people would tell me I was smart, funny and beautiful my mind would tell me that if I was smart, funny and beautiful my life shouldn’t have turned out as badly as it did and it must have turned out this way because I was such an awful, fucked up person.

I was still relatively young so I didn’t need to think my life had ‘turned out’ any particular way. I was told to let go of the past, to focus on the present, to create the future I wanted for myself.  I just couldn’t seem to do that though. Along with sadness and shame, another theme of my life was regret. I regretted so many of the decisions I’d made in the past. I tortured myself trying to come up with logical reasons for why I did what I did but the only reason I could ever come up with was that I was mentally ill.

All I could focus on were the bridges I’d burned and the opportunities I’d lost. I’d fantasize about what my life could have been like before if I’d made different choices and what it would be like now. I did not want to work with the circumstances I had now to build a future for myself because I was sure that now I could not create a fulfilling life.I wanted the life I could have had. I guess that by refusing to move forward with my life, I was in a way denying the painful reality of it and by dwelling on the past keeping alive the fantasy that it could be changed.

When I went back to school I did not feel proud of myself . Instead I was ashamed of myself for dropping out in the first place. I was embarrassed that I had been to three different schools on four separate occasions. Being back on the campus of the first college I had attended was a painful reminder of the ‘college experience’ I had ‘thrown away.’

One of the classes I took was Theories of Psychotherapy and one of the assignments for the class involved writing a personal essay. In my personal essay I shared some of the details of my adventures in mental illness and my struggles with it. When the professor handed back the essays, he’d written on mine “Finding happiness isn’t easy. It’s a process. Now begin the process because you do deserve it.”

I wasn’t sure I did deserve it.

Vagueblogging

I’ve discovered that it’s only a matter of time before I become every annoying, obnoxious type of Facebooker I can’t stand and swore I’d never be. I rolled my eyes at people who posted tons of selfies. Now I’m known as the selfie queen. I scoffed at people who posted pictures of their food. Now most of my desserts are photographed before they’re eaten. I didn’t understand why people felt the need to post pointless uninteresting statuses such as “My nose itches”or “It’s hot out today”. Now my statuses include “I love ice cream” and “Lily is a very good dog”.

The social media trend that bothered me the most was vaguebooking. Urban Dictionary defines vaguebooking as an “Intentional or unintentional vague or ambiguous facebook status message, which people have no clue as to what the heck you are talking about.” I considered vaguebooking to be attention seeking nonsense and I had the utmost scorn for anyone who engaged in it. The way I saw it you should either say what you were talking about or say nothing at all.

Well, I’ve now been bitten by the vaguebooking bug and I understand the motivations for engaging in it. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it’s unwise to reveal the details of the situation you’re facing on the internet but it’s having such a profound effect on you that you want to give your friends some indication of what’s happening and the resulting emotions you’re feeling.

All of the vaguebooking I’ve engaged in has been a variation on one overarching theme in my life, a situation that has been causing me emotional distress for several years. The first time I vaguebooked about it, my friend Dick, who you may remember from a previous blog, called me out on it. A lot of people are annoyed by vaguebooking and a lot of people gripe about it but most people do not do so publicly on the walls of their vaguebooking friends. However, as you may also recall, Dick is rather abrasive and lacking in tact. He responded to my status with “Um, less vaguebooking please. What happened?” When I told him I wasn’t giving any more details he busted out some ridiculous simile that involved having sex on the floor of a condom factory (Of course Dick later criticized me for revealing too much information on Facebook, which goes to show that you just can’t win with the dicks of the internet.)

Most of my friends are not as rude or pretentious as Dick so they don’t publicly chastise me for my vaguebooking but I feel so self conscious that I publicly apologize for it. My most egregious instance of vaguebooking was when I wrote a status that said “Help help help”. As expected, that status got me “What’s going on?” and “Are your okay?” responses.  After assuring everyone that I was okay, I deleted the status.

Up until yesterday all my vaguebooking statuses had been negative ones.  I had expressed my anger, frustration, sadness, fear and disappointment.  The other day I posted that it sucks when a good day turns bad. When someone asked if I was okay I replied that I was just disappointed that the thing we’d talked about yesterday hadn’t worked out (and that I was vaguebooking in such an obnoxious manner.)

I had gotten news that indicated that the thing I was hoping would happen wasn’t going to happen. A few days later it ended up happening after all and I made my first positive vaguebooking status. I said I was feeling joyful and posted every joyful, celebratory emoji I could find.  I then wrote “Please savor my happiness, ask no questions and excuse the vaguebooking.”

Clearly I’ve now become such a fan of vaguebooking that I’ve ventured in to vagueblogging. Even though most of you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I hope you’re all happy for me (And don’t worry, the details of the situation will be revealed soon enough.)

A Florida Vacation: Homeward Bound

To my father’s credit, in Miami he was mostly Dr. Jekyll and he did a good job of keeping Mr. Hyde in check. However, on the morning we were to leave Miami he snapped at me after becoming frustrated by the mess I’d made in the hotel room, my lack of organization when it came to packing and my hand flapping. My disorganization and stereotyped movements have long been a source of conflict between the two of us.

That afternoon as we pulled in to a drug store parking lot on our way to the airport I dozed in the backseat. I heard my father speaking to Gabrielle in the front seat. He said he was afraid I was sleeping because I was upset by him yelling at me that morning and he felt guilty about it. Then he declared that he would have to be careful about what he said to me because people with my disability were prone to suicide. I had really just been sleeping in the backseat because I was tired but it was nice to hear that acknowledgement from my father. I later got out of the car to pace and flap in the empty side of the parking lot. My father had seen me doing it but rather than lecture me about how it was abnormal and I needed to stop doing it, he just said “Looks like you got some good exercise!’

Earlier in the vacation I’d overheard another conversation between my father and Gabrielle as I was drifting off to sleep.  My father was telling Gabrielle how his first wife had told him that the vacations she took with him were among her most treasured memories. My friend Delilah had sent me an article reporting that when asked about favorite childhood memories, 49% of adults name family vacation memories.  When we were in Disney World, in honor of throwback Thursday on Facebook I had posted a picture of a previous family vacation to Disney World that had included my stepbrother. At the time he was a 12-year-old with spiky hair. One day when we’d been having a family meal at a restaurant surrounded by Disney characters, Alice from Alice in Wonderland pointed to Brandon’s hair and said “Is that a porcupine?” Brandon has since passed away and that remains one of my most cherished memories of him.

The last vacation I went on with my father was to Europe. At the time I was a member of a message board and I posted on that message board about my vacation while I was on it. In the comments section of a blog I found that a member of that message board had written “That imbecile Kira is on a European vacation and is spending the whole time on the internet. Most members of that forum could only dream of going on such a vacation but Kira’s using up all the bandwidth in Romania. Maybe someone should plunk her down at McDonalds so she can know what it’s like to earn something for once in her life. What a spoiled, ungrateful brat!”

I’m sure that person thinks the hotel I stayed at in Miami has more bandwidth than the entire country of Romania but I did use the internet on my Florida vacation and if they don’t like it they can kiss my spoiled, ungrateful ass. The last time I went on vacation I was posting about it on the internet to an audience full of jerks who judged me for it. This time I posted about my vacation to an audience full of friends who appreciated it. Now instead of just reading nasty comments about how I spend my vacation on other peoples’ blogs I’m writing about it on my own blog.

Even though I know the person who made that comment about me on the blog is an asshole and a moron, it still hurt my feelings. I’m used to being shamed for being unemployed but it still upsets me every time.  It’s made me wary of social interactions and inclined to avoid them whenever possible. When I agreed to get together with Jack in Miami I knew there was a good chance he would ask me if I had a job but since I’d already gotten together with friends twice on this vacation, I figured I might as well push myself even further out of my social comfort zone.

I found out that Jack is also currently unemployed. I opened up to him about how judged I feel by others for not having a job.  He pointed out that many people who judge others for not having jobs and who have jobs themselves also have plenty of things they themselves could be judged for. Maybe the kind of people who insult me and call me names for being unemployed belong next to those people I saw marching on the streets of Miami with their signs announcing that atheists and homosexuals are going to hell.

On our journey back to the Orlando airport we passed through Brevard county. It was a real blast from the past for me. For two years I had attended a program for young adults on the autism spectrum in Melbourne, Florida.  My memories of my time in that program are very bittersweet and passing through Brevard county again was a bittersweet experience. I thought back over the good times and the bad times I’d had in Melbourne, the times I’d laughed, the times I’d cried, the fun I’d had and the trauma I’d suffered. I thought of all the interesting people I’d met, the times they’d been kind to me and the times they’d been cruel to me. I thought of the ways in which the program had helped me and the ways in which it had harmed me.

When I decided to attend that program one of its main selling points for me was that it was in Florida. I was enchanted by that land of sunshine, hurricanes, beaches, swamps, alligators, manatees, theme parks, tourists and retirees. When I attended that program in Melbourne I got to experience what central Florida had to offer. When I went to a university in Tallahassee, I got to experience northern Florida. When my mother and stepfather purchased a vacation house in the Fort Meyers area I experienced southwest Florida. With this vacation I had experienced the southernmost parts of Florida.

Florida is a rather controversial and polarizing state. Some love it, others hate it.  Some consider it to be paradise, others consider it hell on earth. Some people can’t wait to move to Florida, others can’t wait to escape. Some consider it to be the best state in the U.S., others consider it to be the worst. Some people just can’t get enough of Florida, others would love nothing more than to saw its’ panhandle off of the continental U.S. and watch the entire state float away.

What everyone can agree on is that Florida is a unique state, a state like no other, a state you have to see to believe. It is a state filled with wonder, weirdness, horror and hilarity. The same could be said about me as a person as well as a few of my family members and several of my life experiences, many of which took place in Florida. Maybe that explains why I love Florida so much, why I have such an appreciation for it, why I keep coming back for more.

That article my friend Delilah shared with me about the impact of family vacations on kids’ happiness said that family vacations have the potential to enhance kids’ brain development by providing new environments that are rich in cognitive, physical, social and sensory interactions. These experiences activate key brain fertilizers that improve executive functioning such as stress regulation, good planning and the ability to learn as well as physical and mental health. Memories of family vacations can also serve as ‘happiness anchors’ during dark times.  While I’m no longer a child, I’d like to think I’m still growing as a person and that I will reap some of those same benefits from this family vacation. At the very least it will be a cherished memory of mine.

At one point when I was texting Delilah about my experiences on this Florida vacation she told me it would make for an interesting blog post. It ended up making for 10 interesting blog posts. I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading about my Florida vacation as much as I enjoyed going on it.

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A Florida Vacation: Miami

How do I describe a city like Miami? I think my reaction to it can best be summed up with a certain Facebook status I wrote while I was there: “Never before have I had the urge to go up to so many strangers and ask if I can take their (or their dog’s) picture”.

There were a lot of interesting people in Miami who made some interesting fashion choices. To say they were scantily clad would be an understatement. It was as if they were trying to see how little clothing they could get away with wearing without being arrested for public nudity. Remember how I said that in Key West there were some things that were a little tacky but nothing so far out of the bounds of good taste as to be horrifying? That was not the case in Miami. In Miami there were things so far out of the bounds of good taste, good taste wouldn’t even be able to get their phone calls.

Many people in Miami behaved in interesting ways and by interesting I mostly mean obnoxious. We had a tour bus guide who kept squawking and catcalling at people on the street. He screamed at a woman exiting the courthouse “Your husband told us to pick you up!” When my father asked if he should give the guy a tip I said no, which is also what I said when he suggested riding a bus with that guy again the next day.  The guide we got the next day was much more pleasant. He gave a Florida trivia quiz. I aced it and was very proud of myself.

While walking the streets we encountered protesters holding up signs announcing that homosexuals, witches, atheists, abortionists, drunks, liars, thieves, adulturers, idolaters and fornicators were all going to hell. At least I’ll be in good company in the afterlife.  I was horrified by the number of people I saw riding motorcycles without helmets. Then I saw someone riding a motorcycle without a helmet while taking a selfie.

Miami certainly has its good points though. For one thing, it has the some of most beautiful and vibrant art I’ve ever seen. Vibrant is how I would describe Miami in general. It’s a city that’s full of life and that knows how to party. I don’t care for that partying at 3 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep but I do have to admire the joi de vivre.

There are parts of Miami that are beautiful. Our trivia quiz tour guide told us that Miami is one of the cleanest cities in the U.S. and one of the few U.S cities with a tropical climate. The rip tides made the beaches unsafe for swimming but I got to swim in our hotel’s rooftop pool. Miami also has good food. I was skeptical of Cuban food at first because I figured I would find it too spicy but once I tried it I liked it  Same goes for the pina colada I had with it.

There was a place called The Sugar Factory that had some of the most decadent, delicious looking desserts I have ever seen in my life. Unfortunately the night we went there I wasn’t feeling too well, so wanting to avoid a repeat of the Key West vomiting incident I decided to just leave it at spaghetti with butter (despite the fact that I specifically requested no meatballs, it was initially brought to me with meatballs. Everyone seems unable to believe that I could possibly want spaghetti with just butter) and forgo dessert. That was one of the hardest, most mature decisions of my life.

My favorite part of any vacation destination is usually the animals I encounter there. Like Key West, Miami had chickens running through its streets. While waiting for our tour bus we got to observe chicken families with cute little baby chicks. There was an interactive animal park that advertised the opportunity to get sloth-ed. I would have loved to have gotten sloth-ed but unfortunately for me my father and Gabrielle were not so eager to get sloth-ed.

We ventured out of Miami to take a trip to an everglades park. There we went on an air boat ride on which we encountered several alligators. Many of them were named some variation of Lily. None of them were as cute or cuddly as my dog Lily. In addition to alligators the reptile show had tortoises and toads. The tortoises wore signs on their backs that said “Stay back, I bite” and “Rent this space, call 1-800-Go Slow.” A woman in the audience was selected to kiss the toad. It did not turn in to a prince.

I consider Miami to be a fun place to visit but probably not the kind of place where I’d want to live. However, I know there are a lot of people who happily live in Miami. One of those people is my friend Jack.  I had not seen Jack since high school so I was a bit nervous and apprehensive when he first contacted me about getting together. Six months before I had been a recluse and there was no way I would have considered getting together with someone from my past but I’m not the same person I was six months ago so I agreed to have dinner with Jack at my hotel. I’m glad I did.

After our dinner when I was lounging by the pool I got a text from him that read: “It was very nice to see you. I can hardly believe almost 14 years have passed now since high school. Thank you for the dinner and nostalgic Northerner conversation. I miss New Jersey said no one ever. Lol”

I replied with: “It was good to see you too. I had fun. I would have been too shy to reach out to you and suggest getting together so thank you for reaching out to me.”

When I left the pool and returned to the hotel room my father told me to start packing because tomorrow we would be leaving Miami and flying home. Our Florida vacation was coming to an end.

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On being unemployed and dependent

Society makes it very hard for adults who are unemployed and/or dependent on parents/caregivers to have any self esteem or self worth. If you are an unemployed and /or dependent adult and you have some modicum of self esteem or self worth please tell me how you manage to do it because I still haven’t figured out the secret.

I doubt I’ll get any takers on that though because I doubt it’s possible for someone in my situation to feel good about themselves and I doubt there are many other people in my situation. When I say I’m unemployed I do not mean I am temporarily unemployed or that I got laid off from my last job. I mean I’ve never had paid employment of any kind and my prospects of future employment are dim. I do not mean that in lieu of employment I raise children or go to school full time. I feel sad that I’ll never have children and regretful that I fucked up so much in school.

When I say I live with my parents, I do not mean I am living with them to help take care of them. I mean I am living with them so that they can take care of me. I do not mean that I’m living with my parents temporarily because I’ve hit a rough patch in life and that I’ll be moving out as soon as I get back on my feet. The truth is my whole life has been a rough patch and I’ve never been on my feet.  I do not mean that I’m a young adult who’s learning to adjust to new adulthood. Despite my youthful appearance, I am well in to adulthood.

Because of my joblessness and dependence I have been labeled a leech, a parasite and a spoiled, ungrateful brat. I have been called lazy more times than I can count. I’ve been treated like crap and told that parasitic people don’t deserve to be treated nicely.  I have been referred to as an adjunct. I wasn’t exactly sure what was meant by that last one but the dictionary definition of adjunct is  “a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.”

I can deal with being called lazy because there’s a lot of truth in those accusations but I could really do without the name calling. Even if there is some truth in the comparisons to disgusting blood sucking creatures, they’re very hurtful and not at all helpful.

I try to tell myself that the people who say those kinds of things to me have some serious issues of their own and that those comments are more of a negative reflection on them than on me but I hear that kind of message constantly from all kinds of people and places even if it’s not usually voiced so bluntly, rudely or directly.

Most political discussions I read, hear about or witness eventually  devolve in to complaints about those despicable lazy freeloaders who are mooching off the government rather than getting off their asses and finding jobs. The stereotypical description of the kind of loser you would never want to be or associate with involves a perpetually unemployed 30-year-old virgin who lives in their parents’ basement and plays video games all day.  The fact that I have a room on the second floor and have no interest in video games doesn’t give me much comfort.

I get the message both implicitly and explicitly that since I am unemployed and dependent, I am not a real adult.  I am not entitled to adult privileges. I don’t get a say in my own life. I am powerless and beholden to others. I am a child in an adult’s body.

I am told that I contribute nothing to society and that I should go do something with my life. I try to tell myself that you can contribute to society and do something with your life without getting paid for it but many people do not see contributions as valid unless they are accompanied by a paycheck. It’s as though I must earn money in order to earn dignity.

Kids are often asked what they want to be when they grow up.  ‘Happy’ is not considered to be an acceptable answer. They’re expected to say what career they want to have. When you meet someone new as an adult one of the first questions you’re asked is “What do you do?”  “I eat, sleep, breathe, read and play with my dog” is not considered to be an acceptable answer. You’re expected to say what you do for a job. It feels as though without a job I am considered to do nothing and to be nothing.

Independence and self sufficiency are seen as the ultimate goals of and the be all end all of adulthood. If you fail to achieve those goals you are seen as having failed at adulthood, if not life itself. At best you might get pity from people. More often you will get scorn. One thing you will rarely get is respect.

In addition to not being entitled to dignity or respect, some people seem to think that if you don’t have a job or “earn your keep” you are not entitled to luxuries or pleasures. How dare you eat good food, wear fancy clothes or go on fun vacations!

I am literally financially worthless because I have never earned a single cent in my life but worse than being financially worthless is feeling like because I’m dependent and unemployed I am worthless as a human being.

A few months ago I figured out a way to make a valuable contribution to society without having a job. I would donate blood. As a leech I’d obviously sucked a lot of blood from other people so it was time for me to allow others to suck my blood. I know some view me as unimportant because I don’t have a job but my blood might save the life of someone who has a very important job. My first blood donation went well but by the time I was eligible to donate again I had lost my ID. When I set out to get a replacement ID I discovered that you are now required to present bills addressed to you as proof of your identity. Since I am not financially independent and do not live on my own, I do not have any bills addressed to me. It felt like yet another way society has of telling me that without having a job and without being independent, I do not have a valid identity.

I’m sure a lot of people are thinking “Why don’t you just get a job?” The answer to that question is a story for another blog.

My blog and my Facebook are getting a divorce

It pains me to end this marriage because it’s been a rewarding one. I’ve gotten a lot of views on my blog from Facebook. I frequently see it mentioned that social media is one of the best ways to increase traffic on your blog. I like the way Facebook has allowed me to easily share my blog with my family and friends.

There were things about my life that I wanted my family and friends to know but that I’d never told them because I could not find the courage to speak out or the words to express what I had to say. When I wrote a blog the words came to me so much more easily than they would have if I’d expressed them in speech. Indirectly sharing my thoughts, feelings and experiences through my blog was so much less scary than directly talking about them with people, even though in doing so I was sharing my story not just with my family and friends but with the whole world.

However, the marriage between my blog and my Facebook has caused me and some of my loved ones too much stress and drama and I see too much potential for future stress and drama if I allow the marriage to continue.  Remember how I said in a previous blog that the issue with someone getting upset over how a loved one of theirs was portrayed in this blog had been resolved? Well, um, let’s just say I spoke too soon. And of course the guy I referred to as Dick in that blog made a guest appearance in the comments section, where he threatened me and my friends with legal consequences for what we’d said about him on my blog.

All that drama came about as a result of me sharing my blog on Facebook and certain Facebook friends of mine making an issue out of the things I wrote in it or sharing them with friends of theirs who made an issue out of it. Dick’s threats don’t exactly have me shaking in my shoes because I know he’s full of shit (I also know he’s reading this blog. You’re free to do that, Dick, but please don’t leave any more comments. Same goes for your “friends”) but I’d prefer to avoid that kind of drama if at all possible.

I’ve learned the hard way that some of the people on my Facebook friends list were really not my friends at all. I’ve been accused of being an asshole for unfriending some of these people. I am an asshole for many reasons but unfriending those people is not one of them.

I tend to get hurt when anyone unfriends me and I’m not big on unfriending people myself. I do not unfriend people because they annoy me, because I disagree with them politically or because I don’t interact with them much. However, if you are going to stir up drama and stress in my life as a result of being my Facebook friend without also enriching my life through your Facebook friendship, you can bet your ass I will unfriend you and I will not consider myself an ass for doing so.

Although my blog and my Facebook will be ending their marriage, they will not be ending their relationship.  After this blog post I will be disconnecting that button that automatically shares all my blog posts to my Facebook feed but I may still manually share some of my blog posts on Facebook. The more personal, potentially drama stirring blog posts will not be shared but the truth is you never know what’s going to cause a shit storm on the internet. One of the worst internet fights I’ve ever seen was over napkins.

If you’ve been following my blog through Facebook, I invite you to bookmark it, to subscribe to it through WordPress or through e-mail because I still want to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences with you.

I’ve heard it said that people tend to give a false impression of their lives on Facebook, to make them seem better than they actually are and that comparing your own life to the lives your friends present on Facebook can lead to lowered self esteem. My therapist refers to Faceebook as the year-round Christmas letter.

Some people seem to think based on my Facebook profile that I’m happy, successful and well-liked. A friend said to me that on Facebook I enjoy life more than anyone she knows but she knows Facebook is not real life.

So lest you think based on my Facebook profile that my life is all cute dogs, funny jokes, ridiculous selfies, delicious desserts and fabulous vacations, I invite you to my blog to read the full story and get to know the real me.

A Florida Vacation: Theater of the Sea

On our way to Miami we passed a marine animal park called Theater of the Sea. I was still bitter about not getting to go to Animal Kingdom so I asked my father if we could go to Theater of the Sea. He agreed. They offered a swim with dolphins program that I would have loved to have participated in but it cost over $200 so it wasn’t going to happen. The animal performance shows were more reasonably priced.

Let me say up front that it was not without a certain amount of guilt that I went to Theater of the Sea. I’ve seen the documentary Blackfish and I do not entirely approve of keeping marine mammals in captivity and forcing them to perform for humans but damn it, the performing animals are so cute!

The dolphins at Theater of the Sea that danced to music and balanced hoops on their noses were indeed very cute, as were the sea lions that slid down slides and balanced balls on their noses. The reptiles were less amenable to performance. A trainer seemed surprised that an alligator did not come to her when she called it. I would have been more surprised if it had responded to her command.

At the reptile show I learned that a lot of the animals at Theater of The Sea have been rescued and cannot be released in to the wild, which assuaged my guilt over patronizing a facility that was holding them in captivity. There was a turtle that had lost its eyes in a dog attack and a turtle named Quasimodo that had a spinal deformity requiring it to wear a life jacket in order to swim. The trainer told us not to feel too bad for these turtles because they have a happy life at Theater of the Sea. As the names and stories of the reptiles were shared, I found myself annoyed by the male reptiles that had female names and the female reptiles that had male names. Name nerd problems.

At the parrot show the parrots impressed us with their ability to do math and recognize colors and shapes. Many of the parrots were former pets that had been rescued. The trainer doing the show said that she loves the parrots she works with very much and they’re very fun, interesting, intelligent creatures but she would not recommend parrots as pets because they’re very demanding and require a lot of work. They live a long time and are like 2-year-olds that never age. My parents might say the same thing about me.

As we exited Theater of the Sea my father commented that it was a tourist trap. I couldn’t really disagree with him there but it was a fun tourist trap. I told my dad I was hungry and he suggested having a meal of soda, cheese and crackers in the car. At first I protested but when he pointed out that since I’d thrown up the previous night, stopping at McDonalds might not be the best idea, I agreed. It actually wasn’t a bad meal.

The hotel we checked in to on the way to Miami was right on the water and had a lovely view. Once we’d settled in the next order of business was obtaining dinner.Unfortunately for us the grocery stores and restaurants were all several miles away. We were originally going to obtain dinner at a Walgreens but when my father noticed a dollar store next door he decided we might as well get the best possible bargain on our dinner. I was skeptical of his ability to obtain an adequate dinner at the dollar store but he managed to do pretty well for us. Okay, I know most people would not consider yogurt, saltines and popsicles to be an adequate dinner but it was enough to satisfy me at that point. Those popsicles were good. (And let me tell you, on the way out of that dollar store I noticed the strangest looking books I’ve ever seen.)

That night as I fell asleep the moon over the water and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore set a scene of beauty, peacefulness and tranquility. The sound of my father snoring like a chainsaw did not. My father then had the nerve to complain to Gabrielle about her cough, which he deemed to be so unappealing and disgusting. The next morning when I told my father that my Kindle was broken he said it was my fault because I’d left it on the floor and someone must have stepped on it.

I’d had enough of my father blaming Gabrielle and me for our problems so I snapped. I said “It’s a good thing you’re a medical scientist rather than a practicing doctor because the patients that came to you would be blamed and shamed for their illnesses. ‘Hey, patient with a stomach bug, you vomited because you ate too much! Hey, patient with bronchitis, that cough of yours is so unappealing and disgusting! Hey, patient with a broken leg, you shouldn’t have been so careless’!” My father couldn’t help but laugh and acknowledge that I had a point.

Later that morning my father approached me and asked me if he was a good father. “Yes, of course you’re a good father” I replied.

“Then why were you complaining to your mother about me on the phone?”

“Because you have this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on. Most of the time you’re Dr. Jekyll but lately Mr. Hyde has been coming out. It would be nice to see less Hyde and more Jekyll from you for the rest of this vacation.”

My father agreed to try to keep Mr. Hyde in check in Miami.

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I didn’t know this would happen

I recently wrote a blog about how someone in my life objected to something I wrote in this blog (thankfully that issue seems to have been resolved.) I’d expected someone to eventually take issue with the way I portrayed them or their loved ones in this blog. Previously someone insulted me in a nasty manner because of opinions I expressed on this blog. I’d expected that to happen too. What I did not expect to happen was for a Facebook friend to publicly chastise me for posting a blog that had absolutely nothing to do with them but that’s exactly what a former Facebook friend of mine we’ll call Dick decided to do yesterday.

The day before yesterday I posted a Facebook status about a certain difficult situation I’ve been facing in my life. Dick responded to my status by chastising me for posting about the situation on Facebook and for writing a blog related to the situation a little over a month ago because he felt that posting about the situation could potentially have negative consequences. I did not want to deal with any more obnoxious comments from Dick on that status and I decided better safe than sorry so I deleted the status and adjusted the privacy settings on the blog he referenced.

Dick just couldn’t let it go though. The next day he posts a status saying that you do not own what you post on Facebook and that you should not post anything on your wall that you would not yell at the top of your lungs in a lunch room. He also says that you should not delete anything you post on Facebook or on your blog because attempting to cover your tracks by deleting makes you look bad, it does not wipe all traces of your post from the internet and that people who want to find the information can still find it if they know where to look. He mentioned that he had searched for a recently deleted WordPress post and had found it through the internet archives.

Dick is certainly entitled to his opinion and if that’s the standard he wants to hold for his own internet postings that is fine. That is not the standard I hold for my internet postings though. I post plenty of stuff on the internet that I would not scream at the top of my lungs in a lunch room and I do not feel bad about doing so.  I occasionally delete things I’ve posted. I feel it is my right to do so and I feel that sometimes it is the best choice for me and for other people. I realize that deleting my posts does not necessarily delete all traces of them from the internet and that determined stalkers will still be able to find them but deleting posts makes it a lot harder for the general public to find them.

The problem is that Dick seems to think he has the right to dictate what other people post on their own blogs and Facebook pages. Dick seems to think that his word is law, his opinion is a universal truth and that anyone who does not post according to his standards is wrong and worthy of scorn.

His status did not mention me by name but it seemed obvious that he was referring to me. When I asked him if his status referred to me he confirmed that it did. I replied that I found it rather rude and creepy of him to write a passive aggressive status announcing that he was stalking my blog. He then proceeded to reveal the details of the situation I’d posted about on my blog and Facebook on his own wall. The fact that he did that shows that he really was not at all concerned about the potential negative consequences revealing my situation on the internet would have for me or anyone else.

Then he gave me a condescending lecture about how he’s right and I’m wrong complete with ridiculous, nonsensical  reasoning that shows how overinflated his ego is.  Apparently he has the ability to read my mind and knows that me deleting anything is an admission of my guilt. He also knows that the entire world and all of Facebook would agree that he’s right and I’m wrong. He threw in some references as to how the law was on his side and how I was responsible for all reactions people have to my writing.

I had no idea the world and Facebook had one unanimous opinion and that that opinion is that Dick is always right. People delete things all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with guilt. I do not agree that a writer is responsible for all the reactions others have to their writing. There are a lot of crazy people out there and people can have all kinds of bizarre reactions  that the writer could never have anticipated. The reactions people have to the writing of others are not always fair or justified.  The actions people take as a result of the writing they have read are not to be entirely blamed on the writer. The reader shares at least some of the blame.

All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t exercise some caution and discretion when it comes to the details you reveal online. If someone is genuinely concerned for you or someone else, I do not think it is out of line for them to suggest that you not post about certain situations or limit the details you share. However, when someone is not genuinely concerned about you, when they are just concern trolling you for the sake of being arrogant and judgmental in an effort to make themselves feel superior, that rubs me the wrong way.

If that blog or that Facebook post do get me in trouble I’m about 95% sure it will be because Dick himself tried to stir up drama over it and cause trouble for me. He would be responsible for that but I’m not sure Dick is capable of taking responsibility for his actions or admitting he did anything wrong.

Dick and I exchanged some harsh words. Then his friends showed up to say they were getting out their popcorn. I did not want to be a source of entertainment for Dick’s friends so I said my final words, bowed out of the conversation and blocked Dick. Dick is clearly invested in stalking me across the internet and judging the things I post so he may find a way to stalk my profile despite being blocked but at least I won’t have to look at his obnoxious comments on Facebook anymore.

I have no doubt that Dick is continuing to read this blog and continuing to judge me for the things I choose to post. He may be posting negative things about me somewhere on the internet but what he thinks of me is none of my business at this point.

A lot of people tell me I’m brave for posting the things I do on this blog. I imagine a lot of people think I’m stupid for posting the things that I do. Sometimes the line between bravery and stupidity is a fine one. I’m guessing about 90% of what I post on my blog is generally considered inadvisable to post on a public blog and it’s certainly not anything I’d yell at the top of my lungs in a lunch room. I realize that I’m putting myself at risk with some of the things I post and that some of the things I reveal may result in negative consequences for me. I’ve also seen and imagined the actual and potential positive effects this blog has or could have on myself and others. I’ve decided the risk is worth it. Only I get to make that call. No one else does.

Sometimes I may delete things I’ve posted. That doesn’t necessarily mean I feel guilty about the things I posted or that I regret posting them in the first place. If I do actually feel guilty or regretful about posting something, I maintain that deleting is the right thing to do.

I’m sick to death of feeling like I have to defend the things I choose to post on the internet but the truth is I don’t have to defend myself and I don’t owe anyone an explanation or justification for posting, not posting or deleting anything. I just feel compelled to defend myself when I’m attacked or criticized by the dicks of the internet. However, I realize that arguing with them about what I shouldn’t or shouldn’t post or delete on the internet is as much of a waste of my time and energy as them trying to dictate what other people post is a waste of theirs.