School · Self-Reflection

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting Grad School

It’s been months since graduation, but it’s also time for students to go back to school if they haven’t yet. There are so many videos on YouTube about what they wish they knew before starting at a specific university, but here’s something for those who either are starting grad school, are in grad school, or are no longer in grad school.

  1. Universities don’t seem to have many campus community opportunities for grad students. I talk about it in this blog post. A lot of campus activities and access to on-campus services are mainly for undergraduate students. If there is something for graduate students, it’s during the day, meaning that anyone in a graduate program whose classes are in the evening may not be able to access these programs. This is especially true if the grad student has a full-time job.
  2. There are a lack of online resources for graduate students in a Master’s program. Please refer to the linked blog post in #1. Try looking up things related to grad school. Now count how many things online mention Doctoral programs (PhD, ScD, PsyD, etc.). Now count how many things online mention Master’s programs. Good luck finding even one. Graduate scholarships are also exclusive to Doctoral grants.
  3. People don’t want to socialize. Due to struggling with socialization and its nuances, I struggle to make and keep friends. I had no intentions to make friends in grad school, but I was surprised at how little people talk with each other before and after class unless it’s for something compulsory like group assignments. I have been told by many people that graduate students just want to go in, study, and graduate. I ended up making friends thanks to group projects.
  4. Classes seem to be easier than undergrad for people I talked to. Big emphasis on “people I talked to”. For me, it felt like grad school was much easier than undergrad. Other people seemed to agree. Receiving an autism diagnosis during grad school is not the big factor in why grad school was easier since I never sought accommodations. One factor that makes me think grad school is easier for people is that you only take classes focused on your major. This allows people to more deeply dive into their interests and prevents people from taking gen ed classes that may be difficult due to neurodivergent traits.
  5. Many people are getting Masters degrees for a career change. At my grad school, if your Bachelor’s degree was not in Computer Science, you had to take prerequisite classes before you were fully admitted. This is the case for other Master’s programs at the grad school too. Many of my fellow students had degrees that weren’t even tech-related. One classmate has a Bachelors in History, multiple people I knew have a Bachelors in Biology, one person has a Bachelors in Sociology and a Masters in Psychology, etc. Now most people are likely going into the tech industry for the money. In my state, you need to make at least $65,000 per year in order to live alone without financial stress, so making a lot of money is an essential need in many people’s minds.
  6. There’s a lot more accountability on the student. It may just be my school, but I had professors who were strict on deadlines and group participation. It was not this strict in undergrad. For example, one professor gives you a zero if you do not turn an assignment in on time. No, technology issues are not an excuse to him because everyone experiences technical issues in their daily lives. I also had a professor who gave a zero on a group project to anyone who wasn’t pulling their weight. People in the group had to let the professor know ahead of time if someone wasn’t pulling their weight and he would talk to them. If that didn’t work, zero on the project for that student. In this class, the project was worth 30% of your final grade and since it was a core class, you needed at least a B to pass. I know most people hate group projects due to non-contributors, but I actually liked group projects because you will be working in groups in your jobs.

Those are the big things I discovered in grad school that were not told to me beforehand. Happy new school year!

School

A Message to University Class of 2022 Graduates

Hello Class of 2022. We did it. We graduated from our respective universities. Whether you finished community college (or junior college), a four-year Bachelor’s degree, or finished a graduate or post-Baccalaureate program, it’s time to celebrate you.

Our time in school was not as easy compared to others. For those of us who chose to get an education in-person, most of us had to suddenly switch to an online format because of Covid. My friends who graduated from grad school before me experienced it too. We had to deal with having to re-adjust to going back to school in an in-person format.

For others, our time in school was marked by life-changing diagnoses or health events. For me, I went most of my school life without an autism diagnosis. It explained how I had various different struggles in language arts and English classes, with undergrad being very difficult for me when it came to learning. Grad school was better because I learned to compensate and not repeat undergraduate mistakes. I could have done better in undergrad if I had a diagnosis and school supports, as my potential plan to go into a Doctorate program may be ruined by my undergraduate grades. My favorite Twitch streamer Hey_Bi_The_Way developed a physical disability within the past year and has had to learn to navigate academia with disability accessibility (or inaccessibility, rather) in mind.

Many of us, whether you realize it or not, are not supposed to be crossing the stage for graduation. There are systemic barriers that prevent many people, especially marginalized people, who want to attend a university from pursuing higher education. This can range from the cost of higher education preventing minorities from getting anything past a high school education to ableism preventing an autistic person from even be given an opportunity to attend university. Whether you are an autistic black person like me, a disabled Latina like my favorite Twitch streamer, or belong in a single or intersectional marginalized group, be proud that you were able to work hard to break barriers.

Honestly, if I knew it was going to take me four years to get a Master’s degree, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It is not supposed to take that long for a Master’s degree. I was judged for needing to take longer for a Master’s degree, even though I explained that I have a full-time job and wedding planning started shortly after I started grad school. I needed to take extra time due to needing pre-requisites due to my Bachelor’s degree not being in Computer Science and I had to stay an extra semester because my original graduate project was delayed due to other people. Even if I didn’t have those factors, I’m autistic (undiagnosed until almost a year ago) so I needed things to be manageable for me. The only things that were really worth it is meeting this one friend through another friend and feeling like I was given opportunities that not every university gives.

I have some extra special thanks to say here: I thank all of those who have been here since I announced being accepted into the Master’s program. I thank the few people who did not judge me for taking more than two years to get a Master’s degree. I especially thank Ravynn Stringfield, the creator of Black Girl Does Grad School (link below my picture as part of my image description). I didn’t realize I needed black woman in grad school representation until I found her blog. I even did a guest post at the end of 2018.

While this might be the last blog about my time in grad school, I hope people can benefit from the posts I made through the past for years. Until next time, my friends, keep learning.

Image description: A picture of me from the back with me holding up a sign saying “Thank you, Ravynn” and Ravynn’s website https://blackgirldoesgradschool.com/

School

Graduate Project: The Final Chapter (Study and Presentation)

I can’t believe this may be one of my final grad school blog posts.

The last time I talked about my graduate project, I had announced that I had changed my project because the website was (and is) still not done yet. The website not being finished caused me to have to stay an extra semester, so when my project advisor saw a new usability study become available to do, she asked if I wanted to switch.

My new usability study project involved going in-person to my university’s usability lab to conduct a study on how people interpret charts and graphs. Participants used eye trackers for future analysis to see how their gaze affected interpretation, which we determined interpretation by having the students summarize the charts they saw. Did you know that eye trackers get calibrated before each use and wearing glasses may affect calibration? We had some technical difficulties with the eye tracker, so I couldn’t collect as much data. A professor I was working with tried data collection later and still had the same technical issue. It could be the age of the eye tracker, though. It’s not the latest version and I think this one was bought in 2013, before I graduated from my undergraduate program at another school.

This was the first time I conducted a usability study. I was supposed to do that as a group project in my Human-Computer Interaction class, but that class happened in the Spring 2020 semester. Yeah. I would be a big dream for that professor to raise my grade in that old class due to me doing this usability study. A girl can hope, can she? I just want that grade to be higher than a C since that was my only C in grad school.

My final step in the graduation project was the presentation. Whether you chose the thesis option, the project option, or the internship option, you still have to present what you did. Of course, people who did a thesis did what is called a thesis defense. A lot of people who do the project option are doing something on their own without collaborating with a professor. At my university, graduate project presentations involve three people in your presentation panel: your project advisor and two other people. For my panel, my other two panelists were the professor who directly worked with me (who was also my Human-Computer Interaction professor two years ago) and another professor whom I never met, but still does research on Human-Computer Interaction.

I had a time block of 30 minutes, with about 20 minutes to present and the rest of the time for questions and discussion. I was so nervous about the presentation because unlike class presentations when you present to the class and the teacher grades you, the presentation panel was made up of professors who do relevant research when they are not teaching. They know A LOT more about Human-Computer Interaction (sometimes initialized as HCI) than I ever will. It went better than I thought, and my advisor talked to me privately afterwards telling me that she could tell I am committed, write well, and have an obvious interest in the Human-Computer Interaction field. She told me that if I want to pursue a Doctorate degree, she will be more than happy to be my mentor.

Being told that I have what it takes to get a Doctorate is such a big deal to me. I struggled academically in undergrad due to not being diagnosed with autism yet. In retrospect, I could have put in more effort at times, so I can’t 100% blame my academic struggles on my autism. Just 90%. When we did our class presentations in my Human-Computer Interaction class, only a few people were encouraged to apply to the Doctorate program and I was not one of them. Honestly, at the time, I was thinking “I’m done after a Master’s”. I had (and still don’t have) an interest in being a professor and an undergraduate professor said it’s not worth it unless you only want to write scholarly articles. However, there is someone at my job with a Doctorate, my husband’s dad’s cousin just retired from being a director of a gifted program, and not everyone with a Doctorate becomes a professor. Besides, with me being autistic, I can bring new perspectives to the field of Human-Computer Interaction.

This has solidified my decision to eventually go back for a Doctorate. I kept going back and forth about whether I want to or not for the past year and I still sometimes worry about my husband not being okay with me being more educated than he is since he has a Master’s degree. There was a woman in one of my religion classes in undergrad who broke up with her fiancĂ© because he didn’t want her to go back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree and she wanted to. Honestly, all I need is someone to believe in me, and my graduate project advisor is that person, just like I feel like I was able to finish undergrad because my advisor when I changed majors believed in me.

Next step: graduation.

School

Busy Busy Busy: Graduate Project Time!

So this blog is supposed to be about neurodiversity and grad school, but I haven’t talked about grad school since December! I have had so many ideas about neurodivergent-related topics, but it’s time to talk about grad school again!

So for those who are new to my blog, in December, I announced that I was forced to stay an extra semester to finish my project requirement. This is because the website my university is creating was still not ready. I was supposed to do a usability study on a web application that would help autistic children in the emergency room.

Fast forward to February 8th and my project advisor tells me that the website STILL isn’t finished, so she offered to have me work on another project so I can graduate in May. Of course, I accepted. The December 2021 graduates are celebrating in May 2022, so I am able to get away with lying about still graduating in December. However, I can’t come up with a lie if I stay even longer. If graduates are listed by semester of graduation, I can lie and say that some names got mixed up. That’ll probably happen. It happened before. In May 2021, there were separate ceremonies for the 2020 graduates and May 2021 graduates. I saw some classmates who graduated in May 2021 be listed as a 2020 graduate and vice versa.

My new project will involve a usability study again, but this time with undergraduate students that the human-computer interaction professors teach. Interested students are getting bribed with extra credit. The students will be using eye-tracking technology as they analyze three different types of graphs to determine how well people understand graphs. However, this means I have to do the study in-person. While I didn’t want to do that, I want to graduate so if that means traveling nearly an hour to campus, I will gladly do it! I waited until the end of March to buy my semester-long parking permit since I get a lower rate on the evening parking pass than if I needed it for the entire semester.

Last week, I came back to campus to learn the technology needed for the study. Eye trackers are so cool to use! There are multiple professors involved in this project, but I worked with my Human-Computer Interaction professor from two years ago to learn the technology. He remembered me despite my last name changing, and I had to remind him that my class was during Spring 2020 so my class was never able to do the usability study group project. My project advisor will be around during the study as well since this is a pilot study and she needs to determine if she needs to modify the study for the future.

The studies will be done based on my schedule, but with a combination of doing the study and working on the project report (report is required for everyone who is doing a graduate project), I will be quite busy with finishing grad school. Add to that my upcoming brown belt test in kickboxing and the fact that my grandmother had her gallbladder removed, I will probably not have time to do a new blog post until probably around graduation. I already started working on a neurodivergent-themed blog post, so I will finish that at some point.

Awareness · School · Workplace

Should You Disclose Your Neurodivergence?

So I usually don’t write neurodivergence-related blog posts that are commonly written, but I have only seen this commonly discussed in online support groups and not WordPress blogs, so you get this little treat from me. I usually hear this question in autistic spaces, but this may be something discussed in ADHD groups or learning disability support groups as well.

Typically, people say the answer is no. There you go. End blog! Wait, come back! I’m kidding! We discuss things here.

Oh thank goodness you’re back! Let’s first talk about why it is suggested not to disclose your neurodivergence.

  • Negative biases. This one is a major one that encompasses many other downsides to disclosing you’re neurodivergent. When it comes to neurodivergence, people only see the struggles. If you check off autism when you are asked in job applications about disabilities, you might not get an interview despite you being under a protected category. Note: I have not seen ADHD as a disability listed under job applications. Your abilities may come into question before you are given a chance. I’m a lead of a small team at work and I worry that disclosing my autism would cause my leadership abilities to come into question when I already don’t have leadership experience.
  • People won’t think you’re actually neurodivergent. People have pre-conceived notions on what someone who’s autistic looks like or how someone with ADHD acts like. However, what if you don’t “seem” neurodivergent because you present differently than what people thought years ago? Studies about neurodivergence focused on boys, so it wasn’t expected for girls to be neurodivergent either, and no one learned about non-binary genders until about 10 years ago. Maybe you did better in school than the stereotypical neurodivergent person. Or maybe you’re intellectually gifted as well (discussion about gifted and neurodivergent people can be found in this post).

Is there an advantage to disclosing you’re neurodivergent? Yes! Here are some advantages.

  • Challenging stereotypes. I’m going to use autism as an example as I am autistic. People who think of autism think of autism before it was considered a spectrum. They think of people who rely on 24/7 care from their parents or siblings. They don’t think of people like actor Dan Aykroyd or university professor Dr. Temple Grandin. If I disclose my autism, it will help people redefine what it means to “look autistic”. I can help show people that it’s possible to get a degree or to work a full-time job, though as I talk about in this post, I don’t want parents to set unrealistic expectations for neurodivergent children.
  • Getting the help you need to be successful. At some point in our lives, everyone regardless of whether they are neurodivergent or neurotypical need help to get something finished. However, neurodivergent people may need extra help. Before you can ask for any accommodations, you need to understand your strengths and challenges. This is because each neurodivergent person is different and not everyone needs the same accommodations. Look at accommodations that will help with your challenges and see if they would be considered reasonable accommodations in school or work. AANE posted an article last month that can help supervisors become more inclusive of neurodivergent people (Note: AANE is an autism support organization, so while this article has suggestions that can cover ADHD as well, there is a bit more focus on autism). Anyone who is a supervisor should read this to jump start their learning and support efforts.
  • You might be the source of support for other neurodivergent people. A note of caution: If you want to be a source of support for other neurodivergent people (or do any form of neurodivergent advocacy), figure out your social, emotional, mental, and physical limits first. Neurodivergent people are the best sources of support for other neurodivergent people because neurotypical people often get things wrong. Thus, some neurodivergent people have blogs, YouTube channels, and TikToks dedicated to educating about neurodivergence. Neurodivergent people might also seek advice from you. However, make it clear to everyone that they should look up sources for themselves, too. This is especially evident when people of privilege ask marginalized groups for resources instead of taking the time to do the research themselves. Yes, it’s good that they’re looking for sources created by marginalized people. No, it is not our sole responsibility in life to provide sources to people.

Do I disclose my autism? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I only disclose my autism when the need occurs. For example, I disclosed my autism when I hosted the first Disability Day of Mourning vigil at my church back in March 2022. I disclose my autism when there are discussions about autism. Very few people at my job know that I’m neurodivergent (I didn’t use the autism label), but I am considering disclosing my autism to my boss soon.

School · Self-Reflection

Reflecting on Past Lecture Goals

Even though I have to stay an extra semester to continue working on my graduate project, I am officially finished with my required lectures. I got a B in my Software Requirements Engineering class, which I’m pleased with because my professor was awful at getting our grades back to us and so many people were stressed about their grades. I think that professor may have ADHD and while neurodivergent people can sometimes be kind of good at noticing other neurodivergent people, I work in IT in a lead position so that makes me not qualified to diagnose people.

Anyways, while working on editing old blog posts this week, I came across a 2018 self-reflection post on how I feel about returning to school. In that post, I identified five ways to help put as much effort as I can into my classes because I feel like I did not put much effort into undergrad sometimes and thus did not do as well as I should have in undergrad. In this post, I will reflect on how well I kept up those efforts.

#1: I will utilize the small library on the military base I work on, my kitchen, and maybe some local libraries as study spaces. I designated those study spaces because at the time, I lived 35 minutes away (in good traffic) from campus and did not want to spend gas money using the campus library. I also didn’t drive myself the first year. Utilizing study spaces was much easier when I did discrete mathematics because I didn’t need a computer for the class. Computer Science classes usually require a computer to do your assignments. Two or three days per week, I went to the on-base library to review what I learned and to work on homework. However, the library closed at 6 PM so I would pack up at 5:45 PM and continue my homework in the kitchen. I didn’t utilize any local libraries because my husband would often encounter loud children in the library when he would try to study. When I got married and moved out, I studied in my home office, which was created out of one of the bedrooms.

#2: I will read the textbook ahead of time to get an idea of what I will be learning about and to identify any concepts that are hard to understand. Yeah, this didn’t last long. I did this for math class and for my first year of school, but I lost motivation in Fall 2019 and after that, I only had one class with a required textbook. My professor from last semester also said he was going to give us PowerPoint slides and extra readings ahead of time, but he only did that once and he did that the morning of class.

#3: I will review what I learned in the previous class to reinforce concepts in my head. Again, this only worked for my first year at school, but I picked this habit up again during the 2020-2021 school year when we were all online. In the 2019-2020 school year, I lost motivation and I subconsciously slacked off in comparison during the fall semester. I had classes three days in a row that semester so I didn’t have much time to study, if at all. Due to how my grades during that school year were not good in comparison (3 Bs and a C, and one of my Bs was a Covid curve a professor gave everyone), I was tempted to retake my Human-Computer Interaction class this semester to improve my C since I think I would have gotten a higher grade if I remembered about the title page in my first 3 article critiques. However, I decided not to since I didn’t want to do in-person classes during omicron.

#4: I will utilize YouTube videos to supplement my learning to review concepts in what could possibly be a new way or to fill a gap in my learning. This was so hard to do! I have attempted to do this, but the videos teach you in a way the professors don’t teach you and sometimes professors want you to solve problems their way. Also, why does it seem like it’s only Indians making YouTube videos for math and computer science concepts? I have found a few videos by black YouTubers, but their comments are usually about how their answers are wrong. My friend was going to make videos of these concepts so there can be more black tutors on YouTube, but her dad’s poor health had started getting worse.

#5: I will learn study skills that I did not learn in the past. By that, I mean I actually studied. I did not study much in undergrad and while I seemed “lazy” for most of undergrad, me taking longer to follow college study skills was due to then-undiagnosed autism. In discrete math, I worked on practice problems when studying for exams. In other classes, I followed the advice of doing practice problems for exam reviews. When we got the correct answers for homework assignments, I took time to understand HOW we got to that answer. All I really did was learn from my undergraduate mistakes, especially since I was mostly done with grad school by the time I found out I’m autistic. My therapist also helped me with skills and she made sure to use skills that work with neurodivergent people. I also found out that my therapist is neurodivergent and she found out in college when she struggled in school. However, she was diagnosed (I think ADHD, though she didn’t say her diagnosis) as a child, but her parents never told her. Having a neurodivergent person give neurodivergent advice is very helpful as neurotypical advice may not work.

Be sure to tune in next time when I talk more about neurodivergent topics such as “Should you disclose?”, “What to do if someone says Asperger’s”, and neurodivergent therapists.

School

Hold On a Little Longer: Graduation Update

I was supposed to graduate this month. However, due to project delays that are not my fault, I will need to continue next semester and will now be graduating in May 2022.

I am coping okay with this as this was something that I was suspecting would happen. I had made peace with this possibility. I feel okay about this because my walk across the stage date was going to be May 2022 anyways. What bothers me is that it’s taking me four years to get a Master’s degree which is supposed to be 2 years (or 3 years for part-time schooling), so it took me just as long to get a Master’s degree as it takes to get a Bachelor’s degree.

I know I have a disability and that it can take me longer to do things than a typical person. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in 4 years despite challenges with academics in university so my then-undiagnosed disability wasn’t a significant enough challenge to have to stay in school longer.

It’s really starting to affect my mental health and I worry that I’ll be slipping into old negative behaviors and dangerous thoughts. I have therapy on Monday so I can process it with my therapist then. I feel a depression coming on, which makes no sense as I expected this to happen.

I know I’m not supposed to care what other people think, but some autistic people (especially autistic women) do care what other people think. I’ve gotten so much judgment for being in grad school for more than two years and having to stay another semester longer is going to cause more judgment and having me question if I should have gone through with this.

I’m scared that my thoughts are about to turn dangerous and I know I can’t call for help because I know what emergency service workers do to black people with mental health crises.

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.