Most of the time when I write, whether it be for the newspaper or for a blog post, I do it because I want to offer hope to others. This time, I just want to write because quite frankly, I’m feeling down about some stuff. I’m up most of the time because life remains a routine for me. I wake up at the same time. I take my daughter to school. I eat and the rest of my day is my routine of writing, photography, errands that I am familiar with, and anything I NORMALLY do. BUT, when one thing gets out of place, I can feel my insides begin to panic.
Now, I have been doing this a lot of years. I’m not a kid. And yes, I do know that people with FASD are a lot younger than their physical years…lol. I know that very well as I sit and watch cartoons and eat my Apple Jacks. But, in a lot of ways, I am very much an adult. Maybe not in my 40’s where I should be, but in my 20’s, at least.
I have learned how to adjust and compensate with a lot that comes with being FASD, but every now and then, I feel different than the average Joe…or I guess I should say Jo-ette.
I really am okay with being different. I have learned to go off on my own when I need a break in a crowd. I have learned a routine that works for me. I have learned ways to communicate when my mouth does not work for me. I have found external brains that are good for me when I go out in a new area or crowd I’m not sure of. I really am okay with all of that because I can still LIVE with this thing they call FASD.
I remember my body going into shock many times, growing up. Shock …that’s what I call it…it’s like a change of routine and my body doesn’t know what to do with it, so it goes into…shock. It’s like a freezing. Whereas most people can just say, oh okay…no problem and they just go on with their day.
My body goes into this shock/freeze and I go into this panic and I have no idea how to release it. I have blown up, hit things, and the opposite of all that…shut down. Which I do NOT call LIVING.
It’s like my body has no idea what to do with the smallest of change so I just completely do nothing. I get stuck, I guess you could say, when I get over the initial shock.
I knew that we had Bingo tonight. I never go to Bingo. It is a fundraiser for my external brain’s camp that she is director for. She asked me to go and I wanted to go. I like Bingo. My daughter is going to so I thought okay, no problem. I have it set in my head what is going to happen. My external brain is going to come home like routine, we are going to eat and then go to Bingo.
She tells me that she has to go straight to Bingo from school, her other job, and that she won’t be coming home at all and my daughter and I have to go to Bingo by ourselves. She has to help set up and get things ready for tonight. Now, this is a new place,over 400 people that I don’t know. And I have to find my way to our table and figure out what to do,…
Besides that, my day, today, was going to be completely out of routine. I was going to go to a flea market, for the first time, and sell my photography.
AND I’m to speak on a call with Jeff Noble, FASDforever tonight with like 50 people on a conference call that he asked me to do.
I started to panic. NONE OF IT WAS MY ROUTINE!
PLUS I was to do the call from Bingo and Not in my comfortable home where I can mentally prepare.
I honestly felt how different I am. I watched my daughter and Kerri just go with the flow of life while I shut down because little things are different. Well, to a neurotypical (NT) this would be nothing, maybe. For someone with autism or FASD, these are huge changes.
I was trying to deal with the changes that were presented to me and I went to go pick up baskets for the Bingo raffle, etc. I watched these two neurotypicals talk. I stood back, in the distance, mouth shut, and just observed their interactions. They were so free. They were so full of words. They interacted as if it was nothing. They were comfortable. They were fun. They knew how to communicate.
I didn’t join in. My mouth would not work and I just observed.
It really was like being on the outside, looking in.
We were pretty busy last night and we came home and I just sat on the couch reflecting on the day. Changes in routine. Unable to communicate with others. I really did realize just different I am. I was pretty sad.
Yes, I do know that I have a lot to offer. Yes, I do know that I have gifts and talents and I offer a lot to others, but sometimes, when I sit back and watch others, I really do see just how different I am.
I also know that not everybody is the best communicator. I do know that I have had to find creative ways to make up for it. I am an awesome artist. I can draw, write, and do photography like any professional. I know that I am a great swimmer. I know that I have persistence and determination and a love and passion for life.
I know all of this, but sometimes…I just feel different…and it sucks!
I have been in many social situations where everyone is talking and I stay back because I don’t understand all the words being said. I get overwhelmed easily. I don’t know how to fit in. My sensory stuff is kicking in. I just stay quiet and shut down more. These are times I feel different.
Changes in routine. Crowds. Social situations. If you know of someone who is FASD or autistic. This is the time to just sit with them. Let them be quiet. Know they are having a rough time at that moment and just be quiet with them, if that is what they need.
Let them have time to process. If you know a change in routine is coming…tell the person who is FASD or autistic so they have plenty of time to prepare. I appreciated my external brain telling me over 24 hours before the change. That did make a huge difference. I am much better today with the changes than yesterday, when I first heard.
Make sure that they are told with caution, slowly, and in bits they can handle. Make sure one thing is processed before you move too quickly into another change.
AND, dont get angry with them when they get upset about change. Let them be who they have to be while they process.
My external brain told me the changes. She knew I would have a period of acceptance. She knew I could throw a fit knowing I was going into a strange place with a lot of people I didnt know and have to figure things out. She knew I might panic over realizing I would be at a strange place doing a conference call with 50 people. Maybe I would shut down. She let me be who I needed to be for that time and she didn’t get mad.
My brain instantly started to work after I shut down. Okay, I can go into a private room and do the conference call. Not ideal, but I can do it. I can rely on my 16-year-old for an external brain when I have to. I don’t like to do it very often because she is my daughter, but she does know when to kick it up cuz mom is confused. My external brain, Kerri, told me she would meet me in the parking lot and show me what to do so I’m not confused. I started having more confidence and told myself I will figure out what to do by watching.
Watching is a specialty for me. It’s like I can’t hear great. My senses go haywire in crowds, but I can watch to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. I will just go, watch, and do my best.
I told myself I can do it.
I have learned to make expectations for myself be a little different than the normal NT. I have learned to be proud of myself when I do things that I could have avoided just cuz it would have been easier.
I have learned to adjust to things quickly.
Every single FASDer has to find their ways of surviving in a world with neurotypcals. We are used to having to adjust to their world more than they do ours.