School

Research Woes: Usability Study Recruitment

Happy October! I can’t believe I’m about one-third of the way through my final semester of grad school. I knew I finished five weeks of the semester, but a churchgoer who teaches Early Childhood Education at my grad school informed me yesterday.

Recruiting people is hard. End of blog! No wait! Come back!

A little bit of background first: my graduate project is a usability study on a mobile and web application my university developed to improve emergency healthcare services for autistic children (or any children who may experience anxiety of the unknown). As part of the usability study, I am one of two people responsible for recruiting children between the ages of 6 through 11. I have to find at least 20 people, but I’m kind of struggling with that right now.

As of this writing, I have six children participating. I started recruiting this summer, but no one contacted me or the doctoral student who is leading the entire study preparation. Since the usability study hasn’t started yet (it was originally supposed to happen during the summer), I had to quickly start finding participants. No one got back to me until we edited the flyer to have my contact information on it (and due to my real name, university, and contact info being on that flyer, I will NOT post the flyer here).

I was reassured by my DBT group facilitator that it’s usually not easy to find participants, but that didn’t help (at the time, no one had contacted me). I was scared that if I didn’t find enough people, I wouldn’t be able to graduate in December. The anxiety caused headaches and having a headache at work isn’t fun.

Luckily, I have some help. Not only did I email a bunch of people on my contacts list, but my dad and husband posted the flyer on Facebook. Two-thirds of my current interest list came from people spreading the word from my dad’s Facebook. The other two are my niece and my best friend’s nephew. Yesterday my church had a small group of people outside for a “parking lot social hour” so I passed around flyers to the people who were there. The professor from my university luckily came because she’s going to be a big help. Not only does she teach in the Early Childhood Education major, but she was hired to help start a Gifted and Creative Education program at the university. Some of her students are parents and she’s going to post copies of the flyer around the education building. Plus, she’s offering extra credit to any student who can find children to help. Students love extra credit.

I want to wait until sometime next week before I pass out more flyers (thanks to the UPS Store for making prints of my flyers so I won’t waste my husband’s printer ink) because I have a feeling that an influx of interested parents are going to contact me soon. I feel like I would have an easier time finding people if there was a larger age range, but the second usability study which will be for people ages 6 through 18 won’t be happening until after I graduate.

Do I have any advice for people seeking participants for a study? Start early and look for opportunities for recruiting within your community. My church is still virtual so that made things a bit more difficult for me and while mom’s church is about to return to a multiplatform service (in-person with a live stream for virtual participants), mom’s doing church virtually because she lives far from it and she is becoming dissatisfied with people at the church. Finding people won’t be easy.

School

Graduate Project Deliverable #1: Literature Review

Note: What you’re required to turn in depends on your university and your project advisor. This blog post, and additional posts about my graduate project, is about my experience.

On September 17th, I had a literature review due. This was a deliverable that was due for me, but you might not be required to turn in a literature review. However, regardless of whether a literature review is required, I still suggest you read some relevant scholastic articles. You should be able to read scholastic articles for free through your school. I especially suggest reading articles because if your graduate project deals with improving something, you can get an idea of what things were like in the past and notice flaws in a system.

I have done literature review critiques in my Human-Computer Interaction class, but for that class, we review one article of our choosing almost once a week. This meant that the concept of a literature review was not new to me, but since I had to review multiple articles in one, I needed a little assistance to figure out this new way of reviewing articles. For that, I used this sample literature review from a different school as a guide. However, ask your project advisor about the guidelines on how to format your literature review as title page guidelines may vary from school to school, or even professor to professor.

If you have a literature review, you need to find articles that are relevant to your project. As my project is to improve emergency healthcare services for autistic children, I looked at my long list of autism articles sent to me by a doctoral student to find articles that dealt with autistic children in healthcare. I then took notes on each article to start figuring out how to organize my literature review. After reading the articles, I decided to organize my literature review in the following sections:

  1. Introduction (which mainly explained what autism is)
  2. Barriers to treating autistic patients in a healthcare setting
  3. Suggestions to reduce treatment barriers
  4. Critiques of the articles and studies
  5. Conclusion

Time for some self-reflection. When I was reading the articles, I thought back to the experiences of my autistic uncle who died in 2007. Complications from getting some teeth pulled had him in the hospital and the doctors didn’t take as much care with him because he was primarily nonverbal. People who have read my other blog posts know that I am autistic as well and have medical-related anxiety. A nurse wasn’t very sympathetic with my anxiety traits when I had to get a throat swab to test for strep throat years ago and it ended up being a traumatic experience. I didn’t mean to move the back of my tongue multiple times to stop her from swabbing my throat. I know I’m too old for that nonsense, but I have severe anxiety issues that are related to my TWO anxiety disorders and my then-undiagnosed autism. That was one of the last times I went to a doctor. I haven’t been to a doctor in over four years and it would be hard for me to find an autism-friendly doctor.

We need to keep the end goal of our graduate projects in mind. We need to think about the articles from the past to shape how our projects positively impact the future.

Mental Health · School

Alexithymia in Action: Graduation Celebration Update

Alexithymia is a trait where a person cannot identify and describe their emotions. It is commonly linked to autism, but there are mental health conditions that it can be linked to as well, such as depression or PTSD.

It was around two years ago when I first learned about processing emotions. It made no sense to me. In therapy, I realized I can’t process emotions that aren’t the basic mad, sad, and glad. My current therapist occasionally uses an emotion wheel for me.

Even rarer (and sometimes preferred), I feel absolutely NOTHING! Today is one of those days.

Before we get started, let me explain a couple of school-related terminology.

Graduation: The completion of all of your degree requirements.

Commencement (or Commencement Exercises): The formal event where everyone wears caps and gowns and walks across the stage to symbolize their graduation. As final grades do not get reported in university until after the ceremony, the ability to walk across the stage does not automatically assume you graduated.

I graduate from the Master’s program in December 2021. However, due to Covid, we will not be having our commencement until May 2022. I should be disappointed that I have to wait 8 months for a ceremony instead of 3 months. I should be scared that my 91-year-old grandfather might not live to see me walk across the stage by May. I should feel thankful to have extra time to find a (preferably black) photographer for my graduation photoshoot. I should be sad that the kente stole I wanted for my birthday (for the photoshoot) will have to be put on a Christmas wishlist instead.

Instead, I feel absolutely nothing and can’t process whatever emotion is behind the nothing. I see my therapist on Monday so I’ll talk to her about it then. The only thing that doesn’t change is that I planned on having my graduation party in the spring anyways. My original commencement date would have been right before the winter holidays and I don’t want to deal with the unpredictability of winter weather. We can’t predict the future with the weather, so I wouldn’t want to schedule a party for January 15th (example date) and there’s a combination of a snow and ice storm.

Earlier, I mentioned an emotion wheel. When using an emotion wheel, you go from the innermost set of emotions to the outermost set. The emotion wheel I use has fear, anger, disgust, surprised, happy, and sad as the innermost emotions. However, you can use any emotion wheel you find online or one provided by your therapist. Here’s an example of an emotion wheel you can use.

I start my final module in DBT group on Monday and we’ll be learning about emotional regulation. I hope we use an emotion wheel there. I can’t be the only person in that group who can’t identify emotions even if I’m likely the only autistic person in the skills group.

Uncategorized

I Don’t Feel Autistic Enough in Autistic Spaces

School has started back up for me, so blog posts may be lacking in the coming months.

We as an autism community NEED to talk about this as I am probably not the only person who feels this way. Sometimes I feel like the only autistic person who feels that way.

For a bit of a background for new readers: I received my autism diagnosis in June 2021 at the age of 28. In October 2020, I started attending support groups for autistic people that also allowed people who are self-diagnosed or are suspected to be autistic.

In many cases, I feel like I don’t fit in with other autistic people. I’m probably considered the most neurotypical autistic there. I have a Bachelor’s degree and will graduate with a Master’s degree in December 2021. I have a full-time job. Some of the autism-related struggles do not apply to me (like chronic pain or chronic fatigue, which both have a link to autism). I reached childhood developmental milestones early. The only people who can detect that I’m neurodivergent are neurodivergent people, so most people didn’t realize something was wrong with me.

Maybe I don’t feel autistic enough because of internalized ableism. Sometimes the reaction of disclosing your autism is “You don’t look or seem autistic” and I don’t disclose my autism because I expect to hear that. I know I don’t seem autistic. I think some other autistic people don’t think I’m autistic either. Pre-evaluation, the facilitator who is also on the spectrum asked why I wanted a diagnosis since I seemed to be doing well.

Yes, I don’t seem autistic because I worked hard to not appear weird (older autistic people were taught how to be normal). No, I don’t know how to unmask. No, I don’t feel safe unmasking.

I think what would help with what feels like Imposter Syndrome would be to see representation of autistic people in social media and YouTube who aren’t like the typical autistic people. Most people I encountered in AANE support groups either didn’t go to college or dropped out due to challenges related to then-undiagnosed autism. I have yet to find an autistic person who is either currently in grad school or has a Master’s degree. Most of the autistic people we see online are content creators because companies don’t want to hire us and it feels like I’m the only autistic with a job (and autistic people advise not to disclose my autism at work or else I won’t have a job anymore). I want to find other autistic people who want to disclose their diagnosis to help society redefine what autism looks like.

I want to feel like a valid autistic person.

Self-Reflection

Reflecting On Old Blog Posts

…and I have definitely changed in four years.

On April 1, 2017, I started this WordPress blog. After struggling to come up with a name, I was able to get the name Diary of Self. I named my blog that because its original purpose was to be a journal while I figure out who I am. Now, this blog has a focus on uncommon neurodivergent-related topics and my time in grad school.

In my first year of blogging, I did a lot more blogging about things that were irrelevant to my journey of figuring out who I am. You’d see many blog posts relating to a workout buddy I used to have at the kickboxing gym that I had a crush on at the time. I made sure to correct that mistake for the future. I still write irrelevant things from time to time, but that’s okay. It’s not overtaking my blog mission anymore.

I was also a very angry blogger. If I was doing a rant, I was writing it in a raw and angry format. It also highlights that I was not as eloquent of a blogger than I am now. I cursed unnecessarily (in real life, the only curse word I use is “shit”. I also don’t curse that much). I don’t want to look back at my old rants, but I apologize to white people because I think some of my rants made me sound anti-white. Honestly during that time, I was becoming anti-white due to my ex-boyfriend and his family. Actually, my blog post in which I was ranting about white people getting my name wrong (yes, it’s only white people who did it) actually mentions the origins of one of my fake names on this blog.

I’m even considering having white people call me a different name (possibly Cara) while people of color can use my real name.

-DiaryOfSelf (April 2017)

Yep, the origin of you calling me Cara is due to the butchering of my first name. I actually seriously considered legally changing my name from [insert tennis player’s first name that sounds Hispanic here] to Cara. The whole “white people should use my fake name while people of color can use my real name” is kind of inspired by the use of auxiliary pronouns on Tumblr many years ago. To continue this too long tangent, there are non-binary people and otherkin folk who use neopronouns and nounself pronouns. However, they had auxiliary pronouns (usually they/them) in which the ONLY people who were allowed to use those pronouns were people with disabilities or people whose first language isn’t English. Tangent over! Long story short, I was an angry blogger.

There’s a reason why I don’t share this blog with people. I’d have to tell them to not read anything pre-2019 and bored people or people who would hyperfocus on this blog would go really far back into the beginnings of Diary of Self. My writing sucked back then, but is more thought out now.

In some of my very early blog posts, I constantly mentioned the need to live the life I want. I was not able to start doing that until I got married and moved out of my parents’ house. While I have been living with my husband for more than a year now, I am still working on being the me that I want to be.

Will I delete old blog posts that I don’t like anymore? No. However, reading back, most of my posts that will reference my misdiagnosed ADHD (it was thought years ago that I have ADHD when I don’t since many autistic people have been misdiagnosed due to shared traits between ADHD and autism) may be edited to remove references to my supposed ADHD.

Now as I look to the future of this blog, I look forward to seeing how I may change since now. Will my neurodiversity topics reach out to more people than the few neurodivergent readers I have so far? Will I achieve my goal of educating people about grad school that they often don’t hear or read about?

Uncategorized

My Salt Therapy Experience

When searching through WordPress, I couldn’t find any posts about people’s experiences with salt therapy (also known as halotherapy). Please note that this was my experience and your experience may differ depending on where you go for salt therapy.

Medical Disclaimer: Salt therapy may not be used in place of medical treatment. As stated on the website of the place I went to and the place my husband and I will go to in the future (two different places), halotherapy is a complementary treatment for medical conditions it claims to help. Continue to take any necessary medications and continue to see your doctor for treatment.

I decided to try salt therapy when I was looking for a spa that offers massages. I wanted to mentally reset before I start my final semester of classes. I found this place and another place. I was going to wait until the Saturday before the semester started, but I decided to do it sooner because I was going to pick up something from my parents’ house and their house is on the route to the spa.

So why halotherapy? Because it sounds interesting and is the least new-agey out of the other alternative health methods. Plus, it’s not purported as a substitute to real medical treatments. Here’s the history and benefits from the World Halotherapy Association.

When I got there, I had to fill out a waiver since it was my first time there. It’s good for 12 months so if I go again within a year, I don’t need to sign a new one. Before we went in, we were shown the lockers so we could put away our things. We were also provided some slip-on rubber(?) sandals for the salt rooms, though some people kept their flip flops on (we got to take them off once we were seated). Right before we entered the salt room, we were given warm neck wraps (think of them as neck pillows with beanbag filling in it).

Because I was the only new person in the salt session, I was told how everything works. I needed help with the “zero recliner” chairs because I’m short (5’3″) and my feet couldn’t reach the bottom bar that you put your feet on. For those chairs, you put your heels on the bottom bar and kick your feet up to recline. It seems like you need to be at least 5’5″ or 5’6″ to recline yourself without assistance. We were then given headphones. For any new person, the recording has the history of salt therapy while everyone else doesn’t. All recordings have a guided meditation and the sound of the beach (minus the people). I used that time to practice my breathing exercises from therapy… and almost fell asleep. Note: If you go somewhere that has the sound of ocean waves, use the bathroom beforehand. We were told to use the bathroom before our session because some people feel the need to use the bathroom when they hear water.

It’s a good thing we had headphones because you can hear the sound of the halogenerator and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle the humming sound for 45 minutes as my sensory sensitivities are sound-based. You can do a shorter (20 minute) salt session, but the lights are kept on and you don’t get the glowing blue light. Pretty.

So do the health benefit claims work? Well I don’t have any respiratory conditions so I can’t say if I’ve noticed an improvement in those. However, I can breathe through my right nostril a lot easier. Whenever I’d have colds, the right nostril would be the one that’s usually stuffy. That nostril also gets runny more often than the left even when I’m not sick. Not really noticing a difference on the “good” left side. For skin issues, well, I don’t know. You need weekly treatments to see a difference. Also, I don’t have eczema so I can’t evaluate for that. Psoriasis? I don’t think so. I just wanted to relax.

Would I do it again? Yes, but probably not at this place. We didn’t get called back until at least 5 minutes past our scheduled start time and we were in the salt room for an extra 15 minutes. The late end time was causing anxiety as I was supposed to pick up food for my husband and I from Noodles and Company at the time we ended. Also, I’m autistic so if you tell me one time, it better be that time. I was raised to not be late and I guess I see it as a “rule”. If I’m running late, anxiety ensues.

Mental Health · Self-Reflection

Halfway Done DBT Skills Group. How is it So Far?

Hello everyone! I have finished 2 of 4 DBT skills group modules and I wanted to discuss and evaluate DBT and my skills group as a whole. Unlike some other DBT discussions, I will be discussing things under an autistic lens as well.

For a bit of background, I have been diagnosed with autism, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. DBT was originally created for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, but it has been shown to be helpful for the treatment of other mental illnesses.

The format of my DBT skills group: My DBT skills group consists of 4 modules running for 6 weeks each for a total of 24 weeks. New people can only join at the start of the modules and people “graduate” at the end of their 24 weeks. Graduates are welcome to redo the skills group and some people felt like they were able to grasp the concepts better the second time they did it. We have to fill out and turn in diary cards each week and we also have homework every week which we go over each session after our mindfulness activity. Homework helps us practice our skills. While some DBT groups have a module for mindfulness, we have a mindfulness activity at the start of each week and we teach mindfulness for an entire session at the start of each module. This is our sequence of events during each 2-hour session:

  1. Mindfulness exercise
  2. Homework review
  3. 10-minute break
  4. Skill learning and homework is assigned

Each DBT program may vary from therapy center to therapy center. You may also be required to be in individual therapy in conjunction with DBT group.

Why I am in DBT: I am in DBT because my anxiety has not been responsive to typical therapies. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is supposedly best treated with CBT, but it failed with me. My Panic Disorder diagnosis is very new. These are comorbid with my autism. My goal in DBT is to learn distress tolerance and emotional regulation skills. If DBT fails, then I must be put on medication. I really hope it doesn’t fail, as this is the only therapy option I have left.

Is DBT autism-friendly? Eh… So far, I don’t know if it’s the program facilitators or DBT as a whole, but it doesn’t seem very autism-friendly. One of the things in the emotional regulation/middle path module deals with changing behavior with rewards and consequences. I told my individual therapist that it didn’t sit right with me because it felt like ABA, which autistic people consider an abusive therapy. I’m also struggling really hard with some aspects of interpersonal effectiveness. Due to autistic people having “theory of mind” issues, I can’t determine how I want someone to feel and think about me since I can’t see things from other people’s perspectives. I also don’t socialize due to the innate inability to socialize and the trauma that has occurred from it. The only thing I applaud is that when it came to a part where the workbook mentioned eye contact, the facilitator pointed out that some neurodivergent people don’t make eye contact. We’ll see how it goes for the rest of the time in it.

My thoughts: I’m kind of disappointed with the program so far. Before, it didn’t really feel like it’s helping much except for the fact that I didn’t have ideations due to having a humiliating public panic attack, but I’m starting to remember skills to use which I consider progress. I came in on the emotional regulation/middle path module (my facilitator calls “middle path” “emotional regulation, part 2”) and have completed that and the interpersonal effectiveness module. I was hoping to like interpersonal effectiveness, but it just doesn’t feel fitting to me. I feel like there’s more to interpersonal effectiveness than DEAR MAN, but it seems like we were mainly doing that. My next module is distress tolerance and then I have emotional regulation. A prior therapist felt like learning emotional regulation will help me be more successful in treating my GAD, but I feel like I need to learn distress tolerance so I don’t get to a dysregulated state. My goal is to reduce the severity of my anxiety so I only experience anxiety in the way someone without an anxiety disorder does. I want to experience no anxiety, but my parents’ failure to get me help makes that unrealistic without mind-numbing medication (though I’d rather experience no emotions than constant anxiety).

Last week when I was writing this, I felt that I have low expectations for DBT working. After today’s homework review, I have slightly higher expectations, but I don’t want to raise my hopes too high in fear that it doesn’t work.

Awareness

Twice Exceptional (2e): What Is It?

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been busy with DBT and haven’t had any topics of interest to write about. I want to write about neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, so I’m not going to make blog posts just to increase my content. Speaking of neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, what the heck is the term “twice exceptional”?

Twice exceptional (or 2e) describes a person who is intellectually gifted, but has a neurodivergent condition that affects learning. If you have read some of my recent blogs about my autism diagnosis, you will see that I am labeled as 2e as I’m intellectually gifted and autistic.

Yes, autistic people can be intellectually gifted. You might be working with or attending school with someone on the autism spectrum and may not realize it.

If you have never heard of this term, it’s okay! I didn’t hear about it until April 2021 when I was having my intake session with my autism evaluator. I mentioned to her that years ago, my grandfather revealed to me that my elementary school wanted me in a special program at a different school. I asked mom about it because I was wondering if it was a “special needs school”. She told me that the school felt like I was very smart and a school administrator wanted to do a home visit to see if I was naturally smarter than other classmates or if I was getting supplemental learning at home to get ahead of my classmates. Mom didn’t want to go through with it because she wanted me to have a normal childhood. My husband and his brother were in gifted programs at their school, but my husband might not remember what he did in the program. I think it was through his school, while other people have to attend school elsewhere.

This leads us to the next point about gifted children: Are they getting a proper education? It depends. Let’s first talk about gifted education for someone who is neurotypical. In many gifted education programs for kids (not sure if it’s improved now), gifted children get additional homework instead of intellectually-appropriate homework. As someone who had anxiety issues since before starting kindergarten and now has diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, having a lot of homework would not have worked well for me.

Proper education for twice-exceptional children? Heck, parents of disabled children are still trying to fight hard for accommodations and an education that works well for the child. Now add the fact that people are thinking “WTF?” when they hear a gifted child needs some form of special education and it’s a bigger challenge. You know, the whole “You’re smart, so why aren’t you trying?” issue. People also focus more on the disability instead of the ability. Let’s look at this Understood article written in 2017 by Jon Morin. Jon Morin talked about the educational journey of his oldest son and how the family worked with his high school to balance his intellectual strengths with his neurodivergent challenges. His son’s high school tried something new: a hybrid English program that combined what he was learning in English class with independent study. His son’s strength includes making larger connections to what he’s learning. For example, instead of getting simple worksheets on Romeo and Juliet, he’d write an essay to more deeply explore the play. Could this work for every twice-exceptional student? No, but it’s important to notice your child’s strengths and challenges to find the best way for your student to learn while managing their challenges.

My research dealing with twice exceptional mostly shows twice-exceptional children. If you’re like me, your twice-exceptional profile wasn’t noticed until adulthood. Like autism, there needs to be more resources and services for adults.

To the teachers and future teachers: Learn about twice-exceptional students and how to help students who are gifted, regardless of neurotype. Learn from them too, as a proper education for twice-exceptional students is crucial.

Self-Reflection

Do I Wish to Have Gotten my Autism Diagnosis Sooner?

Short answer: Yes!

I could have included this in my post where I process my diagnoses, but I think this is a question that some of us ask ourselves or others may ask us.

While my answer is yes, I would have wanted a diagnosis AFTER high school. This is because I have been told by other neurodivergent people that they didn’t feel challenged enough at their schools. I was in honors and AP (advanced placement courses) in high school, and I feel that having an autism (or Asperger’s as I probably would have been labeled back then) diagnosis would have prohibited me from taking those classes. As revealed in my testing, I am also intellectually gifted so I would have been bored in my regular classes. Heck, my “finger play” in second grade came from being bored in class.

Would I have wanted a diagnosis in university? Yeah, I was struggling HARD during some semesters in college. Read about that here. I wish my parents started suspecting something when I was having trouble during my freshman year so they could figure out ways I could be helped. Not only was I adjusting to a less-structured life, but my struggles lasted throughout freshman year and returned during junior year. I struggled junior year of high school as well, and they should have suspected something was wrong when their ideas for improving my grades didn’t work. I’m very resentful of my parents for them thinking just trying harder would work. If I had a diagnosis (again, I would have probably been given the Asperger’s label if my diagnosis was before DSM-5 came out), we would find ways that I can minimize my struggles.

A major barrier to getting a proper diagnosis before last month is due to the lack of knowledge a lot of people have about autism. My mom didn’t think I was autistic because she had a brother who was autistic (was because he died in 2007) and I wasn’t like him. It took 5 therapists to notice my social skills issues and an additional therapist to figure out that I show autistic traits. So many therapists are unaware of autism that many of us either get misdiagnosed or are only diagnosed with the comorbidities without someone trying to piece together everything that’s the underlying cause. A misdiagnosis may cause more harm than good, especially if an autistic person is misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). There is such a heavy stigma on BPD inside the mental health industry that a majority of therapists refuse to work with BPD patients. Regarding me not seeming autistic to my mom, non-autistic people have a one-track perception of autism. They expect every autistic person to look the same and have the same presentations. It’s why many autistic women have a hard time seeking a diagnosis. Autism was something that people thought only white boys could have and that it was a childhood condition that people grew out of, hence the lack of services for adults.

I first was wondering if I was autistic almost 6 years ago when a co-worker at the time asked me if I had any learning disabilities because it seemed like I did. This co-worker has been diagnosed with many learning disabilities, but I am not sure if he has an autism diagnosis. If I ever see him again, I’ll ask. This was the first time someone noticed something was wrong with me. However, it was over two years ago when I strongly suspected it. See the full timeline here.

Having a diagnosis much sooner in life would have saved me a lot of stress and anxiety when it came to not performing to neurotypical expectations. I would have been able to get help for things I struggle with. I could have learned what jobs to not do because of my unique autistic traits.

Awareness

Limerence (Obsessive Thoughts About People) and Neurodivergence

Definition of Limerence: Intense romantic attraction that includes obsessive thoughts, fantasies, and a strong desire to form a romantic relationship with your person of interest.

Never heard of the term? Neither did I until June 22nd when I was looking up information about being hyperfixated on people. Someone mentioned the term in the r/ADHD subreddit on a post about someone being hyperfixated on a person.

When I was looking up hyperfixation, most of the results dealt with hyperfixation being associated with ADHD. However, autistic people can have hyperfixations as well. Note: I was also evaluated for ADHD during my neuropsych evaluation and I do not have ADHD. My ADHD-like issues regarding executive function appear more under anxiety.

Have you experienced being obsessed with people you had a crush on? Do you talk about your crush often? Would these crushes last more than a year? Why is this reminding me of my middle school (and high school to a lesser time extent) self? This my friends is limerence.

My hyperfixation on crushes started in sixth grade when I developed a crush on a guy named Adam. At the time, I didn’t know of the term crush, so I would tell people I was “in love” with him. I tried to get a band together called “Adam’s Angels” where we’d perform parodies of songs where words were changed to describe Adam. I would talk about him all the time. I’d even write his name on my palms (one palm said “Ad” and the other palm said “am”). I made him a sign to put on his locker for his birthday since people’s lockers would be decorated for birthdays. I wanted to marry him. When he was thinking about going to a private all-boys school for high school (he didn’t), it devastated me. I was mad at this one guy for having his picture being between Adam and I’s yearbook picture because I for sure thought my picture would be next to his (funny thing is that I would develop a crush on that guy in eighth grade). People said I was obsessed with Adam and I took that as a compliment because I didn’t know the negative connotation of the word (thanks, autism).

Cara, don’t middle schoolers act like this around their crushes? At my middle school, they didn’t. The entire sixth grade knew about my crush on Adam. Besides, limerence does not go away after middle school.

Fast forward to ninth grade where I develop a crush on this one guy in band. In tenth grade, he revealed that I’m a very obsessive person and he quit a club we were in back in ninth grade once he became my next crush. That freakin’ hurt. As a way of masking, I tried to tone down my obsessive behaviors, which didn’t work. It was years after I finished university that I discovered that I naturally have an obsessive personality.

Speaking of university, there was a cute guy in my microbiology class. I talked about him so much that my friends wrote a letter to me about how I talked about him too much and I either need to talk to him or shut up. Luckily, one friend wanted no involvement in that letter (thanks, Kain). University was a time when my social deficits came to light more and upon reflection, I truly put in more effort to masking during my time there. I’m not nearly as boy-crazy as I once was, but adult Cara (not my real name) still can get a little chatty regarding crushes. Also, I only was chatty about boy crushes. Once I started developing feelings for girls, I was silent about it. Very silent.

I was reading the Aspergirls book and didn’t feel alone when I read part of Chapter 8 titled “Attraction, Dating, Sex, and Relationships” (look, I know people don’t like that chapter because of its heteronormative dating advice, but this book was written in 2010 when not many people used inclusive language and people didn’t use terms like “heteronormativity” or “comphet”). The author of this book as well as an excerpt by Elfinia shared something in common with me: we would become obsessed with our crushes and that never turned out well.

So is there a way to tone down our obsessions with people? Should we change ourselves if we’re not putting ourselves or others in danger?

This post has been brought to you by my brother-in-law’s nice legs. All that bicycling will do that to your legs. Thumbs up. Play the song “Bicycle Race” either the original Queen version or the cover by Blümchen.