Workplace

What Truly Are the Best Jobs for Neurodivergent People?

Short Answer: Look at your (or your child’s) gifts and challenges.

One day at work, a co-worker said that autistic people and people with ADHD make the best programmers. I suck at programming so I knew that statement is false. This caused me to look online for the best jobs for autistic people to see how many lists mention computer programming. Many different lists had different answers for the best jobs for autistic people, but those lists failed to account for the varying gifts and challenges autistic people have.

There is a sentence I have encountered in autism resources that everyone should understand: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person.” This means that no two autistic people have the same gifts and challenges. Actually, no two people with the same diagnosis (regardless of if a diagnosis falls under the neurodivergent label or not) have the same gifts and challenges. However, it seems like many of the articles about the best jobs for autistic people have the same answers for “What are the best jobs for autistic people?” Articles talking about the best jobs for people with ADHD have done better to emphasize that the best jobs depend on the strengths and challenges that someone with ADHD faces.

How come these ideas of jobs that work best for us come in a one-size-fits-all package if we don’t have the same gifts and challenges? Well, I don’t know. The articles can be a good starting point to figuring out what jobs fit your strengths while being accommodating to your challenges. There are also online quizzes that you can take that will take your strengths and display jobs that may work well for you. I remember doing those quizzes once or twice in school. It might take some trial and error to figure out what job is best for you.

For me, the jobs that work best for me are administrative jobs and test engineering. Both of these jobs typically have repetitive tasks and test engineers may have tests that need to be run multiple times during a project’s life span and those tests will have you following clear step by step directions. I have also rewritten test cases for clarity and to add additional test steps to test validation. I was very successful as a test engineer, especially when writing automated software tests. I miss being a test engineer. It played to my strengths and I wasn’t being micromanaged.

The job that is the absolute worst for me is software developer. I don’t have good problem solving skills, and you have to be able to solve problems when programming. I can’t think the way developers need to think and there are no step by step instructions on how to do a task. I also felt like developer jobs forced you to be micromanaged, which was anxiety-inducing. I have lost a job and got kicked off a project due to my inability to code. It was over 5 years ago when someone at work who has been diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities noticed that I may have a learning disability, long before therapists figured out something was up. I have ultimately realized that being a software developer is not for me and I have no desire to be a software developer again.

To summarize, the best jobs for me involve:

  • Clear step-by-step directions
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Writing clear directions once I figure out how to do something

and the worst jobs for me involve:

  • Being micromanaged
  • Problem solving
  • Programming
Self-Reflection

(Re)Discovering Me (Part 3: New Blog Purpose?)

Happy 2021, everyone! To all who come to this blog, welcome. Welcome to old friends who may have been here from the beginning, and welcome new friends who may have found me from the Actually Autistic Blogs List. Since it’s the new year, I thought I’d think about this blog.

I started this blog on April 1, 2017 when I was trying to discover who I am after feeling too old to not know who I am. Seriously, people much younger than I am figured out who they are already. I felt lost in a world where everyone else knew themselves and where they belong. The goal of the blog was to chronicle my journey to figuring out who I am and what my purpose in life is. While my first year of blogging found me talking about people and things that weren’t related to my experiences (I reeled it back in), I discovered my purpose in life nearly two years ago and the theme of finding my purpose was dropped.

I started talking about grad school in 2018 when I applied and subsequently got accepted into a Master of Science in Computer Science program. Blogs about this will stop after this year once I get my Master’s degree, but I’m considering working towards a Doctorate after a break from school so the grad school theme may still continue. Honestly, I worry that people won’t believe that I can do it because I’m neurodivergent.

Speaking of neurodivergence, I have been making many blog posts a lot about neurodivergence and my experiences as a neurodivergent person lately. I guess it’s my way of processing something that was only discovered in September by my therapist. If the pandemic would end so I can get evaluated to see which neurodivergent condition(s) I have, that would be great. There’s a family history of ADHD and autism. I have two cousins with ADHD, mom thinks my half-brother was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, I think my dad has ADHD, and I had an uncle who was autistic (he died in 2007). I feel like I have signs of both ADHD and autism, but the autistic traits have a more negative effect on my life.

If any readers were here from as early as 2017, you may notice that I changed my About and my tagline for this blog. As of now, this blog will mainly focus on neurodivergence as well as grad school, with occasional posts about other stuff so I don’t lose my original followers. Will I make a post about being neurodivergent in grad school? Well, I haven’t had any struggles in grad school due to being neurodivergent and everyone has different struggles so I wouldn’t want to make a post that speaks about every single neurodivergent grad student. I struggled in undergrad due to unknown neurodivergence, so I might make a post about that if I have time (I am taking one class for Spring 2021, need to prepare for my graduate project, and will be able to do kickboxing more often than once a week).

Come join me as I take this blog to a new direction.

Self-Reflection

A Reflection on the Fall 2020 School Year

Hello everyone. It has been a very long time since I reflected on my time in grad school. I completely skipped reflecting on the 2019-2020 school year. For my newer readers, I did reflections a long time ago on the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters in grad school. I did not do a reflection of the Fall 2019 semester because I would usually say what grade I got in the class and I was worried about failing a core class that requires at least a B to pass. Also didn’t do a reflection of the Spring 2020 semester because… well, you all know why.

So this is how I did my reflections. I would name the class I took, talk about my feelings about the class, and say my final grade. I posted my overall GPA at the end. In the 2019-2020 school year, I got 3 B’s and a C. I can only have at most two C’s, so I have been working hard to have no more C’s.

Software Engineering 1: This was my favorite of the two classes. My professor talked about software engineering practices that go on in the tech industry and he would also help us revise our homework assignments. While I typically hate asking for help since that opens me up for criticism, I took advantage of it because a few extra points can make a difference in your grade. My industry experience really helped me. However, I had so many assignments to do near the end that I developed stress headaches that lasted for about two weeks. The final paper was hard to write because each section had word count requirements. I honestly had no intention of taking this class, but the two classes I have left to take in the Software Engineering class requires me to take this class before I take the other classes.

Final Grade: A-

Object-Oriented Methodology: I wasn’t a fan of this class because we were forced to have our webcams on during class (it was a class rule written in the syllabus), but this class is a requirement for the Software Engineering track. My professor had a weird grading scale (for example, a B+ started at 91.99%) and the programming assignments were 60% of the final grade. I am very horrible at programming (I gave up on being a software developer because of it) and except for the first programming assignment, we had to do the assignments individually. We were supposed to have partners, but more people voted against partner work. This scared me because if I failed this class, I would have to switch to the general program that is not track-specific. Someone I used to have class with failed this class and he was also in the software engineering track before switching out to the general program.

Final Grade: B

Current Overall GPA (coming from all the classes I took in grad school): 3.334

Last Fall, I had lost motivation to study and the Fall 2019 classes were hard! While my grades definitely dropped in the last school year, I’m glad that I gave myself a stricter studying schedule to put in more effort in the Fall 2020 semester. I am only taking one class next semester, so that should ease the stress a lot especially since I also have to work on my proposal for my graduate project. The track requirement classes aren’t offered every semester which is why I’m doing one class next semester. If they were, then I’d be taking my final two courses next semester instead of one class in Spring 2021 and the other class plus my graduate project in Fall 2021. I’m getting closer to the finish line.

Self-Reflection

Goal Check In

Back in August, I wrote a blog post naming my five goals called My Goals for the Future. I set some goals for myself because I feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything in my life. I said I was going to post about my goal progress, so I’ll do that now since I have winter break from grad school. You can read the full details of my goals in that blog post.

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: I have written three poems so far as of this posting. I intentionally skipped writing in October because I was busy with studying for my midterm exam. However, this meant that I definitely had to write a poem in November. I have up to seven more poems to write if I don’t skip March to study for midterms or June for the vow renewal.

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

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: I think I have decided on a poem already to present in the poetry service, but I still plan on continuing with my writing challenge. I think I have to wait until June to express interest in reciting a poem, though.

Goal #3: Do a lay-led service next 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: While I have some ideas in my head, I haven’t had the time to sit down and work on what I will say in the Call to Worship and the Sermon part. I also should decide if I want a reading or have someone do a reflection. I’ll look back at previous orders of service during the 2020 lay-led service time for inspiration.

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: My GPA is still above 3.0 and I did better than I did in the 2019-2020 school year. I think my GPA was brought up a little bit, so I’m happy. For my Software Engineering class, there were some assignments where if we emailed it to my professor no later than 5 days before the due date, he would review our assignment and give us ways to improve. I hate asking for help and I have trouble accepting critique, so I would always be nervous when I’d get my assignment returned with the suggestions. I only did this so I could get extra points that I would not have gotten before. A few extra points here and there can make a difference between letter grades.

Goal #5: Getting proper mental health help

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

Progress: I started with a new therapist in September (therapist #6) because therapist #5 left the practice because she was relocating for her day job. I switched to a new practice with a much lower turnover rate and this new practice treats more severe mental illnesses compared to my previous practice where it seemed like the main things treated were anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and a few people treating ADHD. This therapist could tell right away that I’m neurodivergent and that my Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a comorbidity of whatever neurodivergent condition I have. Right now, I can’t get a neuropsychological evaluation because none of the neuropsychologists she works with is doing evaluations right now due to Covid. I don’t want to travel out of state for an evaluation because my therapist only works with neuropsychologists who are knowledgeable about the difference in symptom presentation in women and girls. Studies only focus on neurodivergent males which is why girls slip through the cracks. I am learning some things, but I feel like we can only work on so much until I can get a new diagnosis in hand.

Rant

If He/She/They Can Do It, Can You Do It Too?

Hey everyone. I have been really busy with school lately, so my constant posting had temporarily stopped. The semester is over, so I am back. This is kind of a rant, but doesn’t have the same raw anger that exists in my other rants. Heck, this rant isn’t even as angry as I usually get.

I’m going to be blunt. I will never be successful in life due to my brain being “differently wired” and having an anxiety disorder that may never get better. These factors caused me to lack the ability to become successful or be able (or allowed) to make my own decisions. You might be thinking “Dia! You’re just making excuses! You’re not trying hard enough to be successful!” How many times have neurodivergent people been told they aren’t trying? Countless people, including myself, have been told that we’re not trying. However, to be realistic, not everyone is able to be successful.

We’re bombarded via various forms of media about “the disabled” overcoming their challenges to become successful. People think “If they can do it, so can I!” But the truth is, you might not be able to do it, and that’s okay. One person does not and should not be the representation of EVERY person. If you think about it, some of what you see is called “inspiration porn”. Inspiration porn is media that portrays a person with disabilities (or disabled person, depending on if you like person-first or identity-first language) as inspirational, mainly due to their disability.

For every one disabled person who became what society deems as successful, there are at least one hundred disabled people who struggle a lot with basic self-care skills like self-feeding, getting dressed, or wiping themselves after using the bathroom. For every one person who overcame their struggles with trauma, there are hundreds who still can’t rebuild their lives. For every one person who became successful despite where they came from, there are thousands who became products of their environment. For every Dr. Temple Grandin, there are many autistic people who require 24-hour care who can’t live independently (like my uncle who died years ago). For every Toshia Shaw, there are hundreds or thousands of women who can’t recover from the PTSD of being trafficking victims.

While I can’t properly define what success means to me (because I will never be successful), we need to realize that not everyone can be successful like the people we see in the media. Just because they can do it, doesn’t mean you can. No two people with the same disability are alike in their challenges. For example, my cousin struggles with hyperactivity and my ex-boyfriend struggles with focus. They both have AD(H)D, but don’t have the same challenges. A churchgoer struggles with language that isn’t literal while I struggle with social cues and social appropriateness. We’d both fit on the autism spectrum (he has a diagnosis of Aspergers while I’m suspected to be autistic and still waiting for a diagnosis, though getting a diagnosis years ago would probably put me in the Aspergers category as well).

So yeah, recognize your own limits and don’t try to push yourself to meet expectations that you might not be able to meet.

(My last month of the semester was quite busy, so my words may not be articulate due to being mentally worn out from the course work)

Mental Health

My Experience in Support Groups So Far

I have been to many support groups so far. Some I liked, some I didn’t like, and some that just did not happen. These stories are based on my experience and should not be solely used to persuade or dissuade finding a support group.

My first attempt at a support group falls into the “Just Did Not Happen” category. In 2017, I wanted to go to a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) support group for people with mental illness (there is a support group for family members of mentally ill people too). This was because I had given up on therapy back then and wanted to learn tools and techniques. However, the advertisement on a local newspaper printed the wrong date so there was no meeting that day. The support group was usually on Wednesdays and Wednesdays are kickboxing days.

Years later (in September 2020), I decided to join an online support group for autistic people who were either professionally diagnosed or suspect that they’re autistic. This is where I found AANE. My second attempt at a support group also fell into the “Just Did Not Happen” category, but this was due to the facilitator being unable to log into Zoom. I have returned to that group and have had fun ever since. More on that later.

I really wanted to go to a support group this past September, so I went to another support group (also with AANE). I didn’t have as much fun because I had a headache and introductions took up most of the time. It also wasn’t at my desired time, so I switched back to the aforementioned group time.

October 2020 was the first time I experienced a support group in which I enjoyed. I thought that the group facilitator forgot to show up in September, but I found out that the facilitator had technology issues. There were not as many people in that group that month as is typical, so I had a lot of fun talking with the facilitator and other group members. This month, I had even more fun! With this group, it isn’t as structured regarding topics. We introduce ourselves and we talk about things based on what someone said. I learned from someone that I may find comfort in logic because I am a musician for fun and music can be logic-based. Well, that explains why I wanted a music theory book.

Going slightly off subject, I will talk about AANE support groups. This is not an endorsement for AANE and I am neither an employee nor facilitator of their support groups. With AANE support groups being virtual now, it gives people living outside of the New England area of the United States a place for support. Heck, there have been people living outside of the US attending the meetings! Many of the facilitators either have a family member who is autistic or the facilitator is autistic. Not only are there support groups for autistic people, but there are also support groups for non-autistic people who have an autistic partner (this support group is not free), parents with autistic kids, grandparents with autistic kids, women, etc. Events are listed in a calendar format here. These groups require registration ahead of time since you will need to register to get the Zoom link. This also means that your name on Zoom needs to be the name you used to register because the facilitators’ Zoom is set with a waiting room and they check your name against the name in their registration list before you get in. Due to this, I will not tell you which support group I attend. I will also not disclose myself in the support group if you happen to show up to the same one I attend and say that you found out about the support group because of blogger DiaryOfSelf. You would know my real name if I did that and I prefer to go by “Dia” or “Cara” in certain online spaces. I hope there can still be virtual meetings once in-person meetings are safe again because there is only one support group in my state.

I decided to try a women’s group as well! However, I came out of it feeling hopeless because they made me realize even more that an autism diagnosis will cause issues with medical support (they mentioned the problem with doctors and female patients as well as doctors and the problems with neurodivergent patients) and disclosing a diagnosis will mean that any REASONABLE accommodations I would need will likely not be given to me. However, my doctor takes me seriously and the way that my job works, I can declare a disability online without my supervisor knowing. I would probably talk about any accommodations needed with my role’s lead (not my supervisor). I may go again in December to see how I feel, but I think I am going to stick with the group that causes me to have a lot of fun!

It took some time for me to find a group that I liked, and this may be the case for you too. Figure out your expectations for support groups and find support groups that meet your expectations.

Mental Health

Mindfulness in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Note: I am new to this type of therapy so I am not endorsing this type of therapy. Unlike many forms of mental health treatment, you can do this on your own with self-help books if you cannot find a therapist who is trained in this.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a modified form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) started by Marsha Linehan as a way to treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, DBT has also been used to treat people with mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. One DBT center said it treats therapy-resistant anxiety and my therapist said DBT has also been helpful in the neurodiverse population. DBT can be conducted in weekly group therapy and individual therapy. My therapy center has a DBT group, but I can’t make either group time, so I get individual DBT from my therapist.

There are four modules of DBT: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. For the purpose of this blog, I will only focus on mindfulness because I have only been working on the mindfulness module. Group therapists will cover the modules in one of two ways: 1. For a 20-week session (session weeks vary), you will spend five weeks on each module; or 2. There will not be a separate module for mindfulness, but mindfulness will be covered for two or three weeks before fully starting with the other three modules. Mindfulness will be taught first in either situation because mindfulness skills are a basis of the other skills you will be learning. My therapist tailors her individual sessions to each client so sometimes she may teach mindfulness first for many weeks, or she’ll integrate it in other skills. For me, she is teaching me mindfulness first.

So what is this mindfulness mumbo jumbo that some people know I hate? Despite people treating it as a cure for mental illnesses, mindfulness is just being aware of the present moment and not making judgments. For example, I can use mindfulness to notice when I’m starting to feel anxiety and not judge myself for getting more anxious over things than other people. You can also use mindfulness when you’re touching an object with a specific texture (only do this with textures that don’t trigger any sensory sensitivities unless you are being asked to desensitize yourself to that texture). Mindfulness is Step 1 of many steps to take when under distress. You have to notice your distress before you can do anything about it. While mindfulness started in the context of Eastern religions like Buddhism, mindfulness in a DBT setting does not have a religious context.

So why am I doing DBT now? I thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder, so I asked for a DBT self help book and a self-help book specifically tailored to DBT for anxiety. I never did much in those books. CBT also failed to treat my Generalized Anxiety Disorder (the therapy considered most helpful in treating GAD) and not many people at my old therapy center had many therapists trained in DBT. I found this therapy center since they treated people with more severe mental illnesses. My previous therapy center only seemed to focus on anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.

Some things you can do to enhance your practice:

  • Exploring things with a “beginner’s mind”: This means observing something as if you are seeing it for the very first time. One of the things I have seen as a way to practice this is to use a raisin (or other tiny snack) to take notice of the raisin and how it tastes
  • Meditation: This is a commonly-suggested form of mindfulness practice. Months and years of practice will help you be a bit calmer so you can more effectively take notice of what’s going on with your body and mind
  • Breathing Exercises: This is something I’m working on right now with my therapist. I often stop breathing or breathe too fast under anxiety, so the breathing exercises will help me to actually breathe and to help calm my mind a little bit before I proceed taking any actions
  • Listening: This could be a part of meditation if you like meditating with music, but you can pay attention to the sounds you hear. This could help you pay attention to someone speaking if you tend to hear someone without fully listening to them. I have the problem where I listen to someone so I can find something to reply to and it causes me to interrupt people.

Mindfulness has become trendy, which I hate. I never heard of it until it became trendy, but people try to portray it as a one-size-fits-all cure (which it’s not). It wasn’t until this year that seeing the word “mindfulness” made me feel incredible anger. With a prior therapist, I was just doing mindfulness stuff to humor her. With this therapist, I learn and practice with her first before I practice on my own and it feels like less of a chore.

Mindfulness skills I learned with this therapist so far:

  • Breathe out longer than you breathe in: This ties in with the breathing exercises mentioned earlier. For this, you exhale for twice as long as you inhaled. We tried three different rhythms twice: Breathe in for two counts, breathe out for four counts; breathe in for three counts, breathe out for six counts; breathe in for four counts, breathe out for eight counts. I found that the four-eight rhythm works best and I have practiced this with my husband who was undergoing workplace stress due to his boss who luckily quit his job there.
  • Body scan: Pretend there is a big hula hoop that is acting as a scanner. Start that hula hoop above the top of your head. Mentally lower that hula hoop and notice any tension or tightness in the area that is being “scanned”. Relax the tense body part. The hula hoop will end at your feet.

I may talk about the other modules of DBT at a later date once I learn them.

LGBTQ · Rant

Rant: Stop Using Cishet as a Slur!

I know, I know. I’m a very busy grad student, but have been posting on this blog very often lately. I have been scheduling blogs to be sent in time gaps so you don’t get multiple posts on the same week. However, this blog has been posted as soon as it was written.

This is a rant to the LGBTQ community from a person who is a part of that community.

The LGBTQ community is not as nice as people think it is. It seriously isn’t. Not only do non-monosexual people (bisexuals, pansexuals, polysexuals, omnisexuals, or anyone else who experiences attraction to more than one gender) get a lot of hate by gay people, but they also experience erasure and are not seen as valid unless their significant other is of their same gender. However, there is a bigger problem I’m having with the LGBTQ community right now that is making me no longer want to be a part of the community:

The use of “cis” and “cishet” in negative ways.

For my readers who are unfamiliar with those terms, let me be your dictionary. Cis is short for cisgender. Cisgender means that you are not transgender. Cishet means cisgender and heterosexual.

Some of you may be familiar with Tumblr having a negative reputation for having “social justice warriors” (it was really bad between 2012 and 2016) and it was on Tumblr where I first witnessed oppressed people hating people belonging in privileged groups. The LGBTQ community hated straight allies. People were so anti-white that my friend at the time felt bad for being white. “Die cis scum”.

However, a lot of the anti-cis and anti-cishet people are escaping Tumblr and have found their way to Discord. I left an LGBTQ server because someone said cis people are so backwards. It was in relation to a shortage on estrogen pills, but there are cisgender women who take estrogen as well. I’m cisgender, so I took great offense to it. I know the LGBTQ server became mostly a trans server, but hate has no place. On a server that I might leave as well, people have been using the term cishet ONLY when they have negative things to say about cisgender and heterosexual people. However, this morning, someone said that cishet people are so awful. This made me extremely angry because my husband is not a part of the LGBTQ community. For awhile, I stopped talking about my husband on there due to possible anti-cishet hate and despite me not being the only person on that server in a different-gender relationship, I felt like I’d be hated for marrying a cisgender man. There is a channel on that server where you rant about stuff, so I ranted about it, muted the server for 24 hours, and closed off DMs from people on that server.

Not all cisgender people are transphobic. Not all heterosexuals hate people who aren’t heterosexual. Not all cisgender heterosexual people hate people who are a part of the LGBTQ community. The fact that I have to tell oppressed people to not hate all privileged people is dumb. (Also, I saw someone today saying neurotypical people are stupid on the “cishets are so awful” server. Maybe I should leave. However, I am too old for most LGBTQ servers and there’s nowhere else that can give me LGBTQ support because most are only for people 19 and under) Hate can’t be solved by hate.

LGBTQ people have left the community due to toxicity like this and I may be the next person to abandon the LGBTQ community.

Dear LGBTQ community. Do better. This is why you are losing allies and not gaining new ones. This is why people in your community hate you.

Self-Discovery · Self-Reflection

(Re)Discovering Me (Part 2: Discovering and Rediscovering my Interests)

While this isn’t necessarily meant to be a neurodiversity-related blog, I should mention that autistic people have special interests and I am trying to figure out if I had any interests that went so deep as to count as a special interest. See Part 1 here.

Now that I no longer live with my parents, I feel more free to discover and rediscover myself, my interests, and passions since I am free from possible judgment. Now that I’m learning more about myself, I can look at things with a different lens. Welcome to another self-reflection, by the girl who calls herself Dia or Cara on here (story of why I picked fake names for this blog here).

When I was younger, my primary interests were music and medical stuff. My current interest deals with social justice.

Music interest: I first started playing instruments when I was in 4th grade when I played the clarinet in band. I switched over to bass clarinet in the middle of seventh grade. I originally wanted to switch to the bassoon, but after a trial period during new instrument try-it-out time, I couldn’t play the bassoon because my fingers were too skinny to cover the holes. I took beginning piano during junior year to fill a class period spot in my schedule. I wanted to do music theory, but I felt like I’d have a hard time during ear training when you have to identify notes without seeing what is being played. During grades 11 and 12, I was in pit orchestra which meant I had to play the clarinet again. I started losing interest in music during my senior year of high school when I didn’t make the all-county band (I swear it was because someone pointed me to the wrong direction of my audition room which caused me to be late) and I couldn’t hear when instruments are out of tune in comparison to other people. I was planning to take digital photography as my fine art credit during university, but it would have caused my schedule to be weird with two days where I’m taking 4 classes and two days where I’d only be taking digital photography. Therefore, I decided to do Intro to Music in History (I shorten it to Music History) as my fine art credit. I returned to music at my unitarian universalist church by singing in the choir. However, last year, our choir director stepped down and we never found a new choir director before Covid shut down churches. While I was waiting for a director, I wanted to continue doing music, so I became a percussionist in the house band. I only got to perform twice before… yep. Covid shut things down. Music is still happening virtually, via us playing along to music that will be edited together, but this semester is a busy semester. I got a music theory book for my birthday so I can continue reigniting my interest in music, and finding the right music theory book was a tough journey. Looking through Amazon (I was forced to create an account to access an eBook for training, so I just use it for wish lists), many of the books were very basic music theory stuff, like learning musical notes and time signatures. Stuff I first learned in elementary school.

Medical interest: It’s weird that I have an interest in medical stuff since seeing a doctor always caused great anxiety for me. I wanted to be a doctor because I woke up in the middle of the night, watched Children’s Hospital (no, not the Adult Swim show. It was filmed in the UK and aired on the now-defunct Discovery Health channel), and enjoyed the show. Looking back, it’s a good thing I’m not a doctor due to the misogyny women doctors face and the fact that American society is becoming disturbingly anti-doctors and anti-medicine. I would read the medical encyclopedia mom got (I got rid of it before 2009 since the encyclopedia was made in 1989 and information was out of date) and even helped my dad when he needed to go to urgent care for stitches back when I was 9 (be careful with knives). I majored in nursing during my first year of university, but due to still-undiagnosed neurodiverse condition(s) and the fact that having a differently-wired brain makes university so much harder, my GPA wasn’t high enough to continue unless I either retake a class or stay for an extra year. I still like to watch medical stuff and I still struggle to find good surgery videos, but I don’t have nearly the same level of interest that I once had. However, I am a very strong believer in medicine, despite people now thinking that people who take prescription medicine are stupid for listening to their doctors.

Social Justice interest: I have no choice but to have an interest in fighting for social justice. I’m black. I’m a woman. I’m bisexual. I’m mentally ill. I have an undiagnosed neuropsychological disability. I need to fight for my right to live. However, people have tried to silence me in more ways than one. People only use the term “liberal” in a negative way. Social Justice Warrior once had a positive connotation, but now has a negative connotation. I could go on and on. I am finally free to fight for social justice more often. While I go to a Unitarian Universalist church, it seems like Unitarian Universalism cares more about environmental justice. When nationwide protests started happening earlier this year, my church finally started caring about black rights (it’s a mostly-white church). However, the vigil was led by white people, I left the social justice committee because the members were speaking on my behalf and were being white saviors, and an anti-racist white caucus group was started. This is a problem that many oppressed people face. Our allies are speaking on our behalf instead of standing with us and helping to amplify our voices. I could write a Master’s thesis on people speaking on others’ behalf (this is a big problem in autistic communities and LGBT communities as well). Please don’t take this as a sign that we don’t need your help. Just be mindful of how to help and to sit down and shut up when we are present. We have a voice. We can use it. I have to have an interest in social justice until the day I die, even though I have many factors that will give me a much shorter life span than everyone else.

I hope in the time I have left, I can learn and have the time to dive deeper into my interests.

Self-Discovery

(Re)Discovering Me (Part 1: The Journey of Unmasking)

Masking is when someone changes their personality to fit societal norms. People of all genders mask their emotions because “boys don’t cry” and “successful women aren’t emotional.” People know the advice “Be yourself!” fails because being yourself could lead to bullying or teasing. Many neurodiverse people mask to avoid bullying or to try to fit in with popular or neurotypical peers. For example, autistic people may mask their symptoms by forcing themselves to have eye contact or force themselves to not stim. As a possibly-autistic (not formally diagnosed since no one here is doing neuropsych evaluations during this pandemic) person who has been confirmed to be neurodiverse, I will talk about masking through a neurodiverse lens and how I have been masking so I can start my journey of not wearing my mask all the time.

Even though I have suspected myself to be autistic over 5 years ago, I was unfamiliar with the concept of masking. Probably because I didn’t start REALLY suspecting myself to be autistic until February of last year when I almost lost my job over social inappropriateness. I didn’t fully have my “A-HA!” moment until August when I switched to a new therapy center and I was asked if anyone has mentioned the possibility of being on the autism spectrum. Since then, I have been working on learning about my gifts and challenges that come along with my differing neurological makeup. After watching a Purple Ella video with my mom, I started understanding that I have masked more than once in my life without realizing it. I didn’t have many friends at my second high school and at one point I had my mom buy me clothes from American Eagle and Hollister because those were the brands almost everyone wore at school and I thought that I’d get more friends if I dressed like them. While it didn’t work, more people talked to me. I was bullied at work years ago, so I now make sure not to do the things that caused me to be bullied. Autistic people are often bullied at school or work. I have tried to hide my anxiety disorder from partners, but that would fail when I experience noticeable anxiety in front of other people. I try not to act weird so I don’t get called weird.

Now that I’m learning about my neurodiverse traits and no longer live with my parents who have denied anything being wrong with me, I want to start unmasking with the goal of not hiding my neurodiverse traits all the time. I want to feel like I can be free to be myself without judgment, though that won’t be completely possible since humans are judgmental. I no longer feel the need to fit in through my clothes since people wear whatever after they finish high school, so that’s one mask I was able to throw away in 2010. However, I still try not to act “weird” because I have been told that people are turned off by me being weird. Being myself has caused guys to not like me (my mom told me that my negativity is what drives men away. Sorry I’m a pessimistic-leaning realist who thinks optimists are stupid). Being myself has social consequences. All I really need to do to occasionally take my “Not Weird Person” mask off is to be around people who like my brand of weirdness, but I don’t do well in social situations and there are barely any online meetup groups that pique my interest.

Autistic people can have a weak sense of self due to the masks and this very well explains me not knowing who I am, so come along in my journey to figure things out as I gain more knowledge about how I fit into the neurodiverse universe.