School

Do I HAVE to do a Thesis in the Master’s Program?

It depends on your program.

When people think of Master’s degrees, they may think “thesis”. Even my university’s commencement page says that a thesis and oral examination are usually required. However, you may not be required to do a thesis. Let’s talk about the Computer Science Master’s program at my university first. Note that my options may be different from your school’s options.

At my university, my major has a thesis option, or non-thesis options. If you pick the non-thesis option, you will either choose to do a project or an internship. I am doing the project option next semester and am currently working on my project proposal as I cannot register for the project class until my proposal gets approved by the program director. Why did I pick the project option? I didn’t want to write. Turns out I still have to write a report on what I did for my project. I have a full-time IT job so I wasn’t going to do the internship option. Some people said I could just have my supervisor sign it off as an “internship”, but I would have to talk about what I did at that job which I would not be allowed to do.

However, at my university, some programs only give you a thesis option. This is the case for Women’s Studies majors. Other majors may also have a thesis or non-thesis option. For the Communication Management program, you will have a thesis or non-thesis option, but your non-thesis options are a graduate project or comprehensive exams. You may have to do clinical work or a practicum if you are in a health-based major or do a showcase of your work in art-based majors.

I have an aunt who got her Master’s degree at a different institution long before I was born. I believe it was a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, but she only had the thesis option. Looking things up, that program has a Capstone now.

To wrap up this kind of short post, no two schools do their programs the same way. What’s required for one program at one school may be different from what another school requires for their program. Just go on the school’s website to tell you your degree requirements.

Uncategorized

The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation: Part 2 (Contacting and Intake)

Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 1 mainly talks about the timeline of noticing different neurodivergent aspects of myself.

I thought it would be much longer before I continued this series, but luckily cancellations exist so I don’t have to wait as long! More on that later.

The last time we talked about my path to an evaluation, my therapist gave me a list of people I could pick. To give a quick recap, these were the following requirements for who made it on the list:

  • The evaluator has an understanding about how AFAB people present differently
  • The neuropsychology center must test adults
  • The neuropsychology center must do autism evaluations

With the list in hand (or email), I started looking at each web site. Any web site that did not explicitly mention autism evaluations were eliminated. After more searching, I came across the one I wanted. Why did I pick this place despite it being so far away? The evaluators tailor the neuropsych evaluation based on what may be suspected. They can add or remove testing based on the reason why you’re seeking an evaluation. I waited to contact the place since my therapist planned to talk with me about things and sent an email during the next therapy session (April 7th). I heard back about 10 minutes later asking about my timeline as there is a bit of a waitlist and we could talk about the logistics of everything. We scheduled a phone call for the next day.

Note to anyone else seeking an evaluation for autism, ADHD, or other neuropsychological conditions: Waitlists are typical, and may be much longer due to the backlog created when Covid shut down many evaluation centers.

April 8 rolls around and finally my phone rings. I checked yesterday’s email to see the phone numbers listed in the signature so I wouldn’t accidentally ignore the phone call. The director of the program that does evaluations called me on her cell phone. We talked and discussed testing options and I went for the autism-focused evaluation instead of the super complete evaluation that tests for everything because the autism-focused test is a lot cheaper ($2500 at this place) compared to the super evaluation (up to $4700 at this place). Prices may vary depending on where you go, and some places will either not accept insurance or give you a “superbill” to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. I was tentatively given summer at the earliest time for an evaluation, maybe as late as September.

But 10 minutes later, I get another phone call finding out that someone canceled and I am getting a much sooner evaluation date! My evaluation day is May 1st, with May 2nd scheduled as well in case my mental stamina required me to take an additional day for testing. Luckily this place tests on the weekends so I don’t have to take off from work. But first, an intake session.

My intake session was on April 20th. It was done in a virtual setting to keep as little people in the office as possible. Especially good since the testing center is on the southern part of my state while I live in the northern part of my state. It’s about an hour and a half drive down there assuming I don’t encounter heavy traffic. So what was my intake like?

Before the actual intake session, I had to fill out the intake forms that people typically fill out when starting at a new therapy place. However, I feel like this place has an excessively long intake form. If I were to fill it out on paper instead of electronically, that would have been a total of 12 pages. This also was not a specific autism evaluation intake form, which I would have preferred. Other evaluation centers may have intake forms specific to what is being evaluated. On the day of my intake session, I discussed with my evaluator about getting tested for autism and went over a history of the issues that made me and my therapist think I am on the spectrum. I was told about what will be happening during my evaluation and that my evaluation will be six hours long. Breaks are given when necessary for the person being evaluated. I’m going to do my absolute best to finish the evaluation in one day so I won’t have to commute over an hour two days in a row. Will I finish my evaluation in one day?

I also shared part one (linked above) of this blog post with my evaluator so she can get a better timeline of when people started noticing things being wrong with me. I don’t know if she’ll look at more of my blog posts, but if she’s looking at this part now, hi. She found it really helpful to get a better understanding of my experiences and I suggest that you have some way to fully explain all of your neurodivergent-related issues. An intake session may not give you enough time and you may forget to include things to talk about during your intake or interview time during the evaluation. However, I got the idea to have some type of report of my personal history from another blogger. It helped the blogger get an autism diagnosis.

Next time on The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation (I thought of this in the Dragonball Z narrator voice), I will talk about what was a part of my evaluation. However, I won’t go into detail about what happened in each part because I don’t want to cause a reader to copy me to get the same diagnosis. If an evaluator notices that you prepped ahead of time, they can stop the test and discard all answers.

Rant

Dear Black People (Regarding Covid Vaccinations)

Note: I have disabled comments on this blog post as this is a racial political post. I am writing this as a black person who seems to be the only one to notice this.

I wasn’t going to write this as this is now a neurodivergent-themed blog, but I can no longer stay silent about this.

It seems like I’m the only black person who is getting the Covid vaccine (I got my first Pfizer vaccine on April 16th). I may be a naïve person due to what may be autism, but I believe in science and medicine. I know black people who aren’t getting the vaccine due to various stupid reasons.

Saturday Night Live made fun of us black people because the black community doesn’t want to get vaccinated. In reality, many of us are being prevented from getting the vaccine even though we should have in line for priority after first responders due to how our community has been disproportionately affected compared to Asians and white people. It’s no secret that there are institutions that want to eradicate black people for the fact that we exist. Whether we like it or not, our existence is a political act.

Black people are seen as stupid, and refusing to get the vaccine is one reason why we are seen as stupid. Heck, even I think you’re stupid for not wanting to get the vaccine. As I mentioned before, society wants us dead and our existence is seen as a political act. Us getting the vaccine is a great way to rebel against our white supremacist country. Wouldn’t it feel great to perform an act of political rebellion that doesn’t get us arrested or prevent us from having security clearances? This is one way we can do it.

Black Lives Matter. They have always mattered, and Black Lives Still Matter despite people reacting faster to anti-Asian hate despite black people experiencing hate centuries before Asians did. Black Health Matters. This is not up for debate.

Black Lives Matter. Black Health Matters. Black Mental Health Matters.

#StopBlackHate

Uncategorized

Why Autism Awareness is Still Needed

Happy Autism Acceptance Month! The month of April is known as Autism Awareness Month, but many autistic people are advocating for acceptance. Wearing read for acceptance instead of blue for awareness. Plus, Autism Awareness started with Autism Speaks, which is an organization not liked by autistic people, due to many different factors.

Side note: some people refer to Autism Speaks as Autism $peaks since Autism Speaks seems to care more about money than helping autistic people, but I will never use the dollar sign since I may have readers who use screen readers and the screen reader may translate it to “dollar peaks” or “dollar sign peaks”.

Anyways, I have the opinion that there needs to be more awareness about different aspects of autism. People have outdated knowledge of autism, such as “girls can’t be autistic” or “autism is only a childhood condition that goes away when the child becomes an adult”. People also only see the typical presentations of autism, whether it’s due to only knowing autism as it was decades ago or only know the signs that come from research studies with only boys as participants. This is what prevented anyone from noticing my autistic traits and caused my mom to not think I was autistic. I would have been diagnosed years ago if this wasn’t the case. Now I’m waiting for an evaluation.

There are also autism centers that focus on treating or curing people of their autism. Therapies like ABA are considered abusive due to forced compliance training and the use of punishments to discourage unwanted actions. The goal of ABA is to make an autistic person act neurotypical. People even say they wouldn’t treat their dogs this way. Think about it. An autistic person being treated more poorly than a pet. Autism never goes away, despite visits to Defeat Autism Now doctors (if they still exist) or a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Support and accommodations are needed to help thrive in a world that assumes everyone is neurotypical.

There needs to be awareness of the strengths and gifts that come with autism. Too often does society, and even autistic people or families of autistic people, focus too much on the negative aspects of autism. Sure, we should be realistic of the challenges that are faced by autistic people, but we shouldn’t focus so much of the negative aspects that we leave autistic people feeling broken. How can we change society’s perception of autism if we ourselves treat it like a death sentence? Autistic people may have unique insights and ideas regarding their interest that neurotypical people may not notice. A list of possible strengths can be found in the AANE article Asperger Profiles: The Big Picture – Strengths. If people were more aware of the strengths and lost their implicit biases, less people would be afraid to disclose their diagnoses at work. People should be given the tools they need to be successful in school, work, and life.

Why aren’t there more supports and resources for adults? Despite old myths, autistic children grow up into autistic adults, many of whom don’t get diagnosed until they are adults. We may have missed a critical period to learn skills to improve our deficits (I feel like my social skills are getting worse), especially since we often hear “early intervention is the key to success”. However, the early intervention phrase we hear may also highlight the problem that mental health professionals aren’t really aware of the signs. It shouldn’t have taken me 5 therapists to have my social skills problems noticed and it shouldn’t have taken me 6 therapists to have someone notice that I may be on the autism spectrum. Yes, the understanding of autism has been and still is evolving. Many adults on the spectrum get diagnosed because their child is diagnosed. Parents think certain behaviors and anxieties are typical because they exhibited the same behaviors and anxieties. I think my mom is starting to question whether she is on the autism spectrum herself now that I’m getting my autism evaluation (which explains why she never thought anything was wrong with me). My favorite autistic YouTuber Purple Ella was diagnosed when her oldest daughter was diagnosed. With more supports and resources for adults, it wouldn’t be so hard to find an evaluation center that evaluates adults. Adults can play catch up on improving skill deficits.

Make our neurotypical society aware of the ways autistic people have (and can) contribute to society and allow us the chance to succeed.

Uncategorized

The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation: Part 1 (Timeline, Waiting, and Referral)

Hey everyone. We are now that the point of my neurodivergent discovery journey where we start finding out what neurodivergent condition(s) I have. Here’s an approximate timeline of when things became a problem in the eyes of other people.

2001: In third grade, I started speech therapy due to a rapid speaking pace and pausing in weird spots when talking. I also had problems completing classwork as quickly as other people and having a messy desk. I used workarounds to finish reading after that was noted and I was able to keep a clean desk. I usually (even to this day) end up not talking when I get called on and don’t know the answer. I almost got a note sent home for that in music class during pull-out group piano lessons with someone who is not the main music teacher. That experience left me silently crying because I didn’t want to get in trouble at school or home.

9 years old: I started skin picking due to what I would later learn is dermatillomania. Years later, my mom would punish me for it to shame me into stopping. She told me I was the only person in the world with this problem and blamed me for getting my friend to start skin picking too (she was originally picking her hair). It wasn’t until my current therapist when I learned that I may be doing it for fidgeting purposes and that many of her neurodivergent patients also pick their skin. I still skin pick to this day.

Middle school: Reading class was always hard for me, not because I couldn’t read, but I have difficulties answering questions based on what I read. I was moved to a lower reading class for eighth grade.

10th grade: Mom informed me that my social skills are not up to par because I didn’t say hi to this one guy when we were getting measured for our class rings (which I only wore 5 times my entire life). Later that school year, mom thought I was bothering a friend during the Tri-M Music Honor Society induction reception, so she had me sit down with her. That was very embarrassing as it felt like I was publicly in time out. When creating my schedule for 11th grade, I was asked to move down to college prep English from Honors English.

11th Grade: Pre-calculus and chemistry were hard. Then again, my math teacher was often absent to take care of a sick mother. My dad tried to have me only use the computer for fun for only up to two hours after getting home to help bring my grades up, but that failed. That should have keyed them in that something was wrong. The English class I was in was taught by a teacher who also teaches students whose reading level is 2 to 4 years below grade level, so I didn’t like that we had to do the county library’s reading program. I had already stopped finishing with reading the books I had to for English class and since I didn’t read for fun, I wrote down random manga for the reading program.

University: I struggled during my freshman and junior years. Full story in this blog post. A guy I liked at the time pointed out my eye contact issues during my freshman year. This is the first time this was brought up.

2014: A therapist noticed I wasn’t making eye contact and had me make eye contact. I wonder why she didn’t start suspecting things.

2015: I had to get a job as a software developer because I couldn’t find any other IT jobs. I never wanted to be a developer. It was hard and someone who is diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities asked me if I had any learning disabilities because it seems like I did. I lost that job in 2016 and started with a new company in October 2016.

2017: After some struggles at work as a developer, I talked to my doctor and was told I have very mild ADHD based on a questionnaire. I made a blog post about it, but I will delete it if the diagnosis was wrong. (More on that later)

2018: I got kicked off a project due to lack of Java knowledge. I feel like my neurodivergence was a big part of it (I heard there was a racism issue too), and I was considering pursuing legal action for not accepting my disability. I started realizing that being a developer isn’t for me. The disABILITIES forum section of Disboards helped me gain modern-day knowledge of autism later this year.

2019: An incident at work due to my (lack of) social skills and appropriateness almost cost me my job. My sexual orientation saved me from it, likely. This is when I seriously started considering that I’m on the autism spectrum. My test engineering lead said I think differently. However, this has helped me become a successful test engineer. I also started therapy again to try it one more time.

2020: The pieces are starting to come together. I lost one therapist due to her daytime job at the hospital causing things to become overwhelming for her time-wise. I got a new therapist who on the first visit noticed my social skills problems. After a comment she made, I felt like she hinted that I may be on the autism spectrum. She got a new daytime job that required her to relocate, so I lost her after only 4 sessions. Due to losing two therapists in the same year, I changed therapy places later in 2020 for stability. I know 2020 sucked for everyone, but I feel like Covid allowed me to find a new therapy place that treated things other than anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. My current therapist noticed in the first visit that I’m neurodivergent. However, the neuropsychologists that my therapist typically refers people to were still closed. The waiting game begins. I also discovered YouTuber Purple Ella, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism due to having two autistic kids and one with both ADHD and autism. I also started learning about how girls present with ADHD and autism differently and that some autistic women were misdiagnosed with ADHD (could this be my case?)

2021: I finally had the time to read books “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone who now goes by the name Artemisia Xene and “Divergent Mind” by Jenara Nerenberg. “Aspergirls” almost completely captured my experience as a woman with undiagnosed autism. We have ruled out Borderline Personality Disorder as a diagnosis (I made some mental health blog posts where I said I felt like I have BPD, which some autistic women get misdiagnosed with this before getting a proper diagnosis). Last month, I found out that neuropsychological centers are starting to open. My therapist picked neuropsychology centers based on the following criteria:

  • The evaluator has an understanding of how girls and women present differently. Women are often undiagnosed until they are adults because autism and ADHD studies focus on male presentation. Women may have learned to hide their symptoms to be socially accepted or may have spent a lot of time studying neurotypical people to pretend to be like them.
  • The neuropsychology center must test adults. Fun fact: Autistic people grow up. Autism was thought to only occur in childhood and the kids would grow out of it. Therefore, there are very few resources for adults to seek help and evaluations. The authors of the books I read are self-diagnosed autistic women. Artemisia could not find anyone who could evaluate her or believe her and many adults choose to not seek a diagnosis due to their age. learning ways to cope, or finding that there would be no added benefit to a diagnosis.
  • The neuropsychology center must do autism evaluations. I was looking for centers months ago and found one that explicitly said they don’t do autism evaluations. I’ve been living for 28 years without a proper diagnosis and I can’t slip through the cracks again. I want to get the proper help I need and find accommodations that can help me at work.

Now that I have a list of referrals, my therapist and I will discuss this next week and I can start the next phase.

Mental Health

If Therapy Fails, It’s Not Your Fault

Many years ago, I felt beyond help because therapy wasn’t working. After three therapists, dad wanted me on medication because it wasn’t normal for therapy to fail after three therapists. I gave up on therapy. I tried again near the end of 2019. Didn’t seem like it was working either. Some psychology articles about therapy not working blame the client for not putting in the effort. (You’re not trying. Does that sentence sound familiar, neurodivergent people?) However, I’m learning that it wasn’t my fault. Yes, I started being more honest in therapy with therapist #4, but we’re going to talk about why therapy may fail even after “therapist shopping”, which is when you go from therapist to therapist to find the right one for you, or putting in the effort.

I was talking to my therapist about this and she told me two reasons why therapy truly doesn’t work for people: the therapist failed you (yes, happened to me) or the type of therapy isn’t right for you (I’ll be exploring a new therapy modality in May). In this blog, I will later propose a third reason.

Let’s talk about the first reason: the therapist failed you. As I learned from personal experience, not every therapist has up-to-date knowledge of mental health treatments. This is especially true of older or more experienced therapists. They will solely use talk therapy or older treatment modalities. They likely will not understand neurodivergent conditions, which is also the case for some newer therapists, or may treat it the way it was treated many many years ago (ADHD? Take some pills and you should be fine. Autistic? Make them fit in by teaching them not to stim). I should not have to learn about modern mental health treatments from my ex-boyfriend. Some therapists are just crappy, like my third therapist who didn’t think therapy would work for me if it didn’t work the first two times. Then again, having a rare mental health insurance separate from regular health insurance when I was on my parents’ health insurance limited who I could see when workplace bullying caused more mental health problems. Whether your therapist thinks that treatment is one size fits all or they have outdated knowledge, you’re not going to make much progress.

Second reason: the type of therapy isn’t right for you. Talk therapy is just that. Talking. You don’t get homework assignments to do or skills to practice. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is popular, but doesn’t always work. I don’t think I need to always talk about my negative views on mindfulness. Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) work for every person with Borderline Personality Disorder? Generalized Anxiety Disorder is supposed to be best treated with CBT, but CBT failed to work for me after having many therapists use it. When I switched to a new therapy center, I chose a place that has many therapists who use DBT and also has a DBT skills group that I will start in mid-May. I felt that if CBT and talk therapy failed, I should try DBT. Then again, I thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and some of their therapists actually treat BPD patients, but my therapist has ruled out BPD. I have also seen that DBT can be utilized for people with various diagnoses, even therapy-resistant Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Not only does my therapist utilize DBT with her patients, but she runs the DBT skills group. We will try DBT to see if I have better long-term success.

However, there is a possible third reason that therapy could not work for you: you may either have an incorrect diagnosis or another underlying diagnosis that is causing or includes another diagnosis.

My previous therapy center only has therapists who treat patients with anxiety, depression, and/or learning disabilities. However, if you have a more serious mental illness, they didn’t treat it. Very few therapists worked with clients with ADHD. I chose my current therapy center because they treated more serious illnesses and actually treated BPD, which was what I used to think I had. BPD bloggers have talked about how stigmatized BPD is in mental health communities and some therapists refuse to treat BPD patients. This therapy center also has many therapists who work with autistic clients, which is very important because both my therapist and I feel like I’m on the autism spectrum. Not many therapists have knowledge of autism other than basic discussion taught in one lesson in one course, and they might not be taught accurate information as professors don’t utilize sources written by autistic people.

Autistic people, especially autistic women, are not always given the right diagnosis. Some autistic women are diagnosed with BPD before getting the correct autism diagnosis. On a monthly basis, I talk to an autistic man who was given the incorrect diagnosis of schizophrenia before getting his proper autism diagnosis. Some people diagnosed with ADHD are actually on the autism spectrum, whether the person has been misdiagnosed with ADHD or the autistic person also has ADHD. A wrong diagnosis means a delay in proper treatment. People talk about how early intervention is the key to successful treatment, but getting treated for the wrong thing can be either ineffective or harmful.

Some autistic people think Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a misdiagnosis, but that anxiety disorder is a comorbid diagnosis caused by autistic people having to fit into a neurotypical world or are naturally predisposed to be more sensitive to anxiety triggers. This also leads us to anxiety and depression being comorbidities or even symptoms of another mental illness or a neurodivergent condition. Anxiety and depression are common comorbidities for ADHD, autism, and other mental illnesses. Symptoms may overlap. Not only do ADHD and autism have many of the same symptoms, so does Bipolar 2 and BPD.

Going so long without having a therapist suspect me to be on the autism spectrum means that I lost many years of critical coping and social skills work, especially since social skills and social appropriateness are the aspects of autism that I struggle with the most. Now that I did a screening questionnaire with my therapist, she now knows what things to work on. While I’m not sure if my anxiety can be treated in a way that I would no longer qualify for a Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, I can learn about how my “differently-wired brain” impacts my life and how to better cope with living in a world that was not made for people who are not neurotypical.

School

More Support Needed for Master’s Degree Students

a.k.a. Grad school isn’t only for doctoral degrees.

If you’re like me, you may know very little people (or no one) who went on to get a degree more advanced than a Bachelor’s degree. This means you can’t seek mentorship to learn about what happens during the grad school experience.

Nowadays, you can go to your favorite search engine or blog site to search for and read about experiences people had in grad school. However, if you are one of my older readers who went to grad school before the internet became widely used, you were out of luck and would have to learn from your own experience.

My experience: I didn’t know many people who went on to get Master’s degrees. The only family member with a Master’s degree is someone from my mom’s side of the family, but the family member married a guy who came from a country where women don’t work. I have another family member who is a lawyer, but he would be of no help since I wasn’t going to law school. At this point, I searched for stuff about grad school on WordPress and Google (this was before I switched to DuckDuckGo). However, it seemed like the only results I would get for grad school would be about Doctoral programs. When looking at scholarships, I only saw scholarships in the form of grants for Doctoral students. I went to a graduate student open house in 2017 so I could get a waiver so I wouldn’t have to pay the $45 application fee. That was a waste of time and I learned the only way Master’s students can get financial aid is through student loans. No thank you, I still have loans from undergrad (should be paid off before I legally change my last name) and I picked a public university for grad school was because I went private for undergrad.

Hey. Did you know that grad school includes Master’s and Doctoral students? So why do so many blogs and website articles exclude Master’s student experiences? It’s almost like grad school is exclusive to future Doctors.

Then there is the problem I’ve noticed through my time in grad school (pre-Covid): The lack of a sense of community for graduate students. I work full-time and the Computer Science Master’s program at my school has all classes offered in the evening. When I attended classes in-person, I would just arrive to the campus, go to my class, and go home. I was not able to utilize services as those office hours would be during work hours. While I telework most of the time, there are plans for my graduate university to return to 100% in-person activities next semester. Heck, even services and groups meant for graduate students meet during work hours. This assumes that the graduate student is not working while obtaining an advanced degree or that the graduate student has courses during the day.

If graduate students include Master’s and Doctoral students, then why are Master’s students being excluded from online conversations? Why do campuses lack services for graduate students who aren’t full-time non-working students?

And so I’m not just complaining about issues… what can we do about this?

Self-Reflection

Goal Check In #2

Spring Break! We just stole this boat! (I didn’t. Stealing is wrong. This is from Charlie teh Unicron 2, not to be mistaken with Charlie the Unicorn 2)

It really is Spring Break for me, though. While I spend more time in the kickboxing gym and study for my Software Testing and Maintenance midterm exam, this is probably a good time to check in on the goals I made back in August. Goal-setting blog here, and first check in blog here.

Goal #1: Write one poem every one to two months.

Synopsis: In August 2020, I started a personal writing project where I write one poem every month or two with my final poem being written by June 2021.

Progress: So I discovered that the annual poetry service might not happen in July. When I looked at the archives of church newsletters, I discovered that sometimes the annual poetry service is in June and sometimes it is in August. This means I may have to modify the end of my writing challenge. It could end in May or July now. Only time will tell. I’ll find out around May what month I will recite my poem. Wrote some more poems, though inspiration is getting a little hard to find.

Goal #2: Recite one of my poems at this year’s annual poetry service.

Synopsis: I will present a poem I wrote during my personal writing challenge at my Unitarian Universalist church’s annual poetry service in July 2021.

Progress: Due to the uncertainty of when I will present my poem, I have modified my goal to reflect the uncertainty. I’m pretty sure I have decided on a poem already to present in the poetry service, but I still plan on continuing with my writing challenge in case I want to share a poem in a future service. As soon as the poetry service is announced, I will email the person in charge of the annual poetry service to express interest. I also plan on buying a shirt to wear that is relevant to my poem.

Goal #3: Do a lay-led service this year.

Synopsis: I wish to do a lay-led service at my church with the topic being “You’re Never Too Old to be a Changemaker”.

Progress: I honestly don’t know if this will happen. There are some people who do lay-led services every year and they’re getting first dibs on the dates for this summer. We’ll talk about this more in next month’s worship committee meeting, but there is a possibility that spots run out before new people or people who don’t do it every year can sign up. If I can’t do it this year, I will try for next year. However, my 2022 lay-led sermon may deal with a different topic. I will start working on what I will say in the Call to Worship and the Sermon part once I find out if I’ll be able to do it this year. I may do a call and response reading between the offering and my actual sermon. I took a look at some orders of service from last year’s lay-led service to get an idea on the flow. I am also a member of the worship committee so I know I can rely on them for help.

Goal #4: Keep my grades up

Synopsis: In the Master’s program, I need to keep my GPA to at least 3.0 because that is the minimum GPA requirement for graduating with your Master’s degree.

Progress: I’m making sure to keep my grades up. Unlike at my undergraduate university, this school does not display midterm grades to check on our progress. I know assignment grades are posted to Blackboard, but Blackboard doesn’t have the grades weighted so I don’t know exactly what grade I have.

Goal #5: Getting proper mental health help

Synopsis: Therapy has failed me in the past and I want to figure out why.

Progress: I feel like I haven’t really made any progress, though my dad and therapist feel like I’ve made progress. With me not getting help sooner (due to my parents not getting me help), learning and mastering takes a lot longer. My therapist is the facilitator of DBT group therapy, so under her recommendation, I start DBT group in mid-May. I feel the intensity of DBT group therapy (2 hours per group meeting once a week for 24 weeks) will help me have a chance at getting better. DBT is also good for people with therapy-resistant anxiety (like I have). If anyone wants to tell me what group therapy (preferably DBT group therapy is like, you can). Still don’t want to be on medication due to fear of being on another lifelong medication and my difficulty swallowing pills. Neuropsychological centers are starting to open up here, so I’ll get myself on a waitlist.

Self-Reflection

My Dream Job

…is not in IT.

If I could define 2021 for me right now, it is the year of reflection. I didn’t mean for it to be, but I’m now living somewhere that I can safely start figuring myself out. Of course, I’m not 100% safe to fully be myself due to family, but I can start healing from forced expectations.

With my unique neurodivergent profile of strengths and weaknesses (which I’ll one day find out what that profile is), I don’t always fit the typical neurodivergent mold when it comes to jobs. As discussed in my Best Jobs for Neurodivergent People blog post, I am horrible at software development. People with ADHD and autism are considered to make the best programmers. I was most successful as a test engineer, which is a job that is slowly going away due to efforts for tests to be automated. I have not had the same success with any other technology-related job, and it is completely due to my need to be helped when there are no clear step-by-step directions or repetitive, simple tasks. After attending an autism support within the past month, someone pointed out that self employment may be a better option for autistic people. However, I live in the US and need insurance (I’m not on my husband’s health insurance due to not many therapists accepting Tricare), so that’s not an option.

I don’t know how I started thinking about dream jobs, but I realized my dream job last month. It combines what I’ve been learning about neurodivergence with my experience as an assistant kickboxing coach:

I want to own an auditory sensory-friendly boxing and kickboxing gym.

But Cara (not my real name)! Don’t those already exist? Maybe. I honestly don’t know. I have only been to one boxing/kickboxing gym (the one I have been going to for 4 years) and it would be a sensory nightmare for people whose sensory sensitivities are auditory-based. Loud music playing that has at times been so loud that you can’t hear me coaching and a loud timer that goes off to signify the start, last 30 seconds, and end of a round. If your brain is trying to process the coach’s instructions with all of that auditory stimuli going on, it could be tough.

When I thought of this dream job, it was with autistic people in mind. However, an auditory sensory-friendly gym can be helpful for non-autistic people too. Do you get startled or triggered by sudden loud noises due to past trauma? Do you struggle to regulate your attention around music? Is it hard for you to hear someone when there’s background noise?

This dream job will not prevent me from working a full-time job in IT. My coaches have day jobs outside of the kickboxing gym. The coach I mainly work with has his own used car lot and the coach I work with on self-defense works a job in security.

I don’t want this blog post to be too long, so I’ll talk in more detail about what I’d do with this gym to make things auditory sensory friendly as well as staff requirements.

Mental Health

Seeing Your Therapist in Public

I don’t know how often this happens, but I wanted to write about it anyway. While it hasn’t happened to me before, it may happen in the future.

My therapist and I got our Bachelor’s degree from the same university in the same year. I didn’t have any classes with her since we majored in completely unrelated fields and we were never roommates. I have heard of her (via her maiden name), but that’s about it.

When I was searching for therapists nearly two years ago, I read the rules that one therapist at a different therapy practice had posted. The therapist said that if a client saw her in public (for example, at a grocery store), she will not acknowledge the client unless the client says hi first. The therapist will then make up a lie about how they know each other, because of privacy laws.

Due to plans for my grad school to allow in-person classes and events again, I decided to ask my therapist about the rules for if we saw each other at an alumni event. She has a similar rule of not acknowledging the client unless the client acknowledges her. However, she won’t lie about how we know each other. We actually did evening yoga together one semester, so we can use that excuse if we see each other at an alumni event. I live nowhere near the therapy practice I go to, so I likely would not see her outside of an alumni event.

Honestly, I’m a very shy person in social situations so I’ll either be a wallflower or look for my friend who came out as a guy in 2012 to see how he’s doing. I haven’t talked to him since graduation day and shortly before he got rid of all social media, he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I hope he’s doing okay and was able to start testosterone after graduation as planned.

If you think you may see your therapist outside of therapy, it would be a good idea to ask what to do.