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.

Mental Health · Self-Reflection

Processing My Autism Diagnosis

It feels like it’s been so long since I have written a blog post. I had my vow renewal, and that resulted in my childhood friend developing a crush on my brother-in-law (the best man).

Earlier this month, I received my diagnosis of autism (as well as panic disorder and a re-diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder). When I received my report, it was days before my feedback session with my autism evaluator. She wanted to give me time to process the report (16 pages!) ahead of time. I decided to process my diagnoses with my therapist. Short version of how I feel:

  • Autism: Very Happy
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: I received that diagnosis in early 2020 before the pandemic shut things down
  • Panic Disorder: Wasn’t expecting that. That’s new

So why am I very happy with an autism diagnosis? Almost 6 years ago, I started suspecting that I’m autistic. Two years ago, I started strongly suspecting it. Reading Aspergirls made my life make sense to me. Support groups and stories from autistic people helped me understand ahead of time that autistic people aren’t “broken” so they don’t need to be fixed like non-autistic people think. I almost got diagnosed with Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, which is a new diagnosis most people don’t hear about and some women have been given this “weaker” diagnosis. However, two things were able to get me the proper autism diagnosis: my intense interest in medical stuff when I was nine years old, and the “finger play” motor stereotypies I would engage in when I was 7 and bored in second grade.

How do I feel about my anxiety-related disorders? Well the Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis isn’t new. What did surprise me is the Panic Disorder diagnosis, as I feel like my anxiety attacks did not happen often enough to qualify for that diagnosis. My evaluator recommended short-term (whatever that means) medication that focuses on treating the anxiety and panic. While I didn’t want to be put on medication as I worried I’d be on it for the rest of my life and that it was the same as succumbing to my mental illness, things that happened earlier this year made me realize that medication may be my only hope to get better. I will talk to someone at my therapy center’s medication management team in the near future, and I feel like the only reason why my therapist is on board with medication despite me asking for months is because my evaluator said it may help. For those new to my blogs, I can’t use cannabis as a natural treatment due to the nature of my job and the fact that my husband gets drug tested for the army. L-theanine isn’t really cutting it anymore either.

How do I feel about being intellectually gifted and thus twice-exceptional (2E)? So I’m surprised that I’m intellectually gifted. Some of us gifted people were considered really smart in our younger years, and then high school or college starts bringing about challenges as we now have to put in more effort into our schooling. I struggled in my post-college job and it took me years to realize that my unique aspects of my neurotype causes me to not be a good programmer despite autistic people being known to be good computer programmers. However, once I found a job that was a perfect fit, my intellectual gifts became more pronounced and people at my job noticed my giftedness before I discovered it. I’ll make a post about twice-exceptionality at a later date.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Covid, I wouldn’t have gotten an autism diagnosis. Most therapists aren’t fully aware of autism or the differences between boys and girls on the spectrum. The therapist I had pre-Covid had to quit because she works full-time as a pediatric social worker and she would be almost too mentally exhausted to conduct therapy. The therapist I had after that noticed my social skills issues from Day 1, which no other therapist did. She had to quit due to having to move for a new job, but I want to find her to thank her for noticing the most significant challenge I have that’s an aspect of my autism. Because those two therapists quit, I went to a different location where therapists didn’t have nearly as high of a turnover rate. This is where I found the therapist who noticed my autism.

Thank you Shanay and thank you Maria. If it wasn’t for you two, I would not have had my autism diagnosed.

Before I end this blog, readers who were here back in 2017 may remember that I made a blog post about an ADHD diagnosis based on a questionnaire. As we now now that my ADHD-like issues regarding executive function appear more under anxiety and that my evaluation I had last month did not reveal ADHD (my evaluator tested me for that too), will I delete that post? The answer is NO. This is because many autistic women are misdiagnosed with ADHD due to the overlap of symptoms and I want to show that I was a victim of misdiagnosis. However, it should be pointed out that some people have a diagnosis of both ADHD and autism. People thought you had to have one or the other, but professionals are now learning that you can have both.

School

Graduate Project Preparation

Hello everyone! Before we get started, please note that this is how I prepared to start my graduate project. Your university may not have the same preparation process.

What do I mean by preparing for your graduate project? I had to go through this process:

  1. Have at least 18 completed credits by the time of registration
  2. Think about what I wanted to do
  3. Ask a professor to be my project advisor
  4. Create a proposal
  5. Submit the proposal to the program director for approval
  6. Register for the project class upon approval

Have at least 18 completed credits by the time of registration: Your program may have a different prerequisite for starting your graduate project.

Think about what I wanted to do: I have known for years that I wanted to do something to help autistic people and people with ADHD, but I narrowed it down to just autistic people once there was (correct) suspicion about me being autistic. While I knew what I wanted to do before I even started grad school, you will need to have some kind of idea by the semester before you plan on doing your project. Your project can be an independent project or you can work with a group of people who have been undertaking the project beforehand.

Ask a professor to be my project advisor: I actually did this the second week of the Spring 2021 semester so I could have time to find another professor if my top choice was unable to be my advisor. I was able to get her as my advisor, but since she has a very busy workload for Fall 2021, we felt it best for me to join a pre-existing project.

Create a proposal: My university’s program has a template online for us to use when creating our proposal. In my program, the project advisor will help you with creating your proposal. My advisor also helped to make edits to my proposal, but I don’t know if every professor will do that.

Submit the proposal to the program director for approval: Either you or your project advisor will submit your project proposal to the program director or whomever is in charge of approving project proposals. If your graduate program is like mine, you cannot register for the project class until your proposal gets approved.

Register for the project class upon approval: Congratulations on getting your proposal approved! Now you can register for the class without any issues.

While not every university’s graduate program will have you do the same things I had to do, this can give you a good idea of what you may have to do. Ultimately, you should follow the guidelines set forth by your university to prevent any issues.

Self-Reflection

Goal Check-In #3

Welcome to June! The cicadas keep flying into my car while I drive, my first wedding anniversary is today, and my vow renewal is this Saturday! As it has been around 3 months since my last goal check-in and we have some updates since the last time, let’s see what progress I have made! My goal-setting blog can be found here and my previous check in blog can be found 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: The annual poetry service will be on August 1st, meaning my final poem will be written in July. I have been fighting with a lack of motivation, but my list of future poetry themes helped with my previous problem of lacking inspiration.

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: As mentioned in my progress for Goal #1, the annual poetry service will be on August 1st. I plan to recite my original poem “Am I Not Black?”, which is a poetic complaint about how black people have their blackness questioned by people in their community. I have already notified the person in charge of the annual poetry service about my interest in participating and I have to send her my poem by July 15th.

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: Not happening. Goal abandoned. My church seemed to prioritize people who have prior experience whose sermons are well-received and they are even letting a former member do a lay-led service, which should not happen. Due to that and the requirements for new people, I may choose to never do a service even though I planned one for next year. The summer services will also have a lot of pre-recorded services.

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: Not only have I kept my grades up, but my GPA has improved! I am tempted to retake the Spring 2020 class I got a C in to improve my GPA even more, but that class is only offered in the spring and I am not staying in the Master’s program any longer. I graduate in December and plan to keep it that way, especially since people are judging me for taking so long to get my degree.

Goal #5: Getting proper mental health help

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

Progress: Lots of updates here. On May 17th, I started weekly DBT skills group which meets every Monday. Sometimes, DBT things feel like utter bullshit, but I will play along with it. I received my autism diagnosis earlier this month and due to also having Generalized Anxiety Disorder (already diagnosed near the beginning of 2020) and a new diagnosis of Panic Disorder, my evaluator recommended that short-term medication for my anxiety and panic may be helpful. I didn’t want to be on medication, but I have been considering it for months and this was recommended as a short-term solution so I don’t have to worry about being on it for life. I will talk to my therapist about medication as an option and my therapy center has an in-house medication management team. As for therapy, I feel like it’s just not going to work. If it was, I wouldn’t want to quit therapy. I’m only still in therapy as individual therapy is a requirement for DBT skills group. Plus, my autism makes me have a rigid brain that is treatment-resistant. I should be done with DBT sometime in October, so I may quit therapy after that. At least I know that part of the reason why therapy failed was because of people’s lack of autism knowledge.

Uncategorized

The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation: Part 4 (Feedback Session and Results)

Please find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. Part 1 mainly talks about the timeline of noticing different neurodivergent aspects of myself, part 2 mainly talks about my (virtual) intake session with my evaluator, and part 3 talks about what I did for my evaluation.

Since my last blog post, I completed the anxiety questionnaire. It only asked about the past week, which doesn’t give a full picture of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Due to my Part 1 blog post, she gave me two ADHD questionnaires as well. Those who were here since the beginning of Diary of Self may remember when I posted about my primary care doctor feeling like I have very mild ADHD. Due to me not having the same presentations my brother had and my parents not understanding that I struggled in undergrad and earlier, they didn’t believe it.

On June 1, I received my report. Where I went for my evaluation, the evaluators write very thorough reports. I sent the report to my therapist as she expressed interest in reading the report. My evaluator gave me the report ahead of time so I can have a few days to mentally process everything. I waited to read it until the next day during my therapy session. 16 pages! While people do evaluation reports differently, my evaluation report included the following:

  • Testing rationale: why I was getting tested
  • Summary of findings, which included the diagnoses
  • Recommendations based on findings
  • Evaluation measures and procedures
  • Relevant history
  • General behavioral observations
  • Interpretation of scores
  • Detailed discussion of test findings
  • Additional resources
  • An appendix with my score summaries

On June 4, I had my feedback session with my evaluator. This was done virtually as the evaluation center is trying to have as few people inside the office as possible. This is also good as I live over an hour away from where I did my evaluation. I was allowed to have other people in the feedback session as well, though I only had my mom in the call with us since my dad and husband were at work. However, who can attend your feedback session with you will depend on your evaluator. In this feedback session, I was given the opportunity to ask any questions that I had and my evaluator talked about things on the report. She is sending a revised report because my therapist noticed that one of the tests I did had nothing under the detailed reports section. That was because nothing major was noticed in that test.

My final diagnoses are as follows:

  • Autism
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (I was diagnosed with this in early 2020, so that was no surprise)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Given my full scale IQ of 129, I am considered twice exceptional (or 2E) meaning I am intellectually gifted and neurodivergent

As for whether I have ADHD, I don’t. My evaluator feels like my executive functioning skills aren’t very good when I’m anxious, but that’s it. Thank you all so much for following this path with me! Expect more blogs from me about autism and what it means to be 2E mixed in with my grad school posts.