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 · 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.


Updates! Updates! Come Get Your Updates!

When you get to the part of the video where the woman says “Backpacks! Backpacks! Come get your backpack!” you’ll see why I gave this title for my blog post.

So this isn’t a life update, but a blog update!

Do not worry, I will still write posts on this blog. If you go back to my post where I reflect on old blog posts, you will learn that there are some old blog posts that I didn’t like. In today’s writing workshop, I decided to edit some old blog posts. My main focus with today’s edits were to remove curse words in one blog post that were highly unnecessary in one blog post and to sound a lot less whiny in another blog post. Blog posts with major changes will be noted at the top of the blog post with the month and year the editing was done.

One of the reasons why I wanted to edit my blog posts is because a majority of blog posts were made pre-autism diagnosis or before I found out about neurodiversity. I wanted to reflect on how my world makes more sense to me compared to before my diagnosis. I also wanted to edit posts to show how much I changed from being someone so angry that I called two women “bitches” for not being thankful for being able to have kids after a miscarriage (they both had a baby girl, but were upset because they wanted a boy) to thinking before I write so I can get my point across better. My opinion stayed the same about being thankful for being able to have kids, but I am ashamed of my feminist self for calling them “bitches”. Point is, I was a very angry person years ago.

We were not the same people we were years ago. Sometimes I want to go back in time and punch my younger self in the face. Our blog posts when we started out are different than they are now. My writing style likely has changed. My blog themes have changed many times in the past… April will be five years since I started this blog post! Holiest of shits!

More blog post edits may be happening (especially for grammar), but I promise I will write more neurodiversity posts and discussions of my grad school project.

Mental Health · Self-Reflection

Done With DBT Program: My Final Thoughts

Hello everyone, I have completed all 24 weeks of the DBT Skills Group program at my therapy center. In this program, everyone who completed all 4 modules “graduate” from the program. Just like in my Halfway Done blog post, I will be discussing things under an autistic lens. Please read that blog post for some background information on how the program is formatted and why I was in the DBT program.

In the first two modules discussed in the aforementioned blog post, we focused on “middle path” skills and interpersonal effectiveness. After that blog post, we focused on the modules that I felt were the most important to me: distress tolerance and emotion regulation.

For distress tolerance, we learned to do Pros and Cons, TIPP, ACCEPTS, IMPROVE, Radical Acceptance, and Willingness. I have a hard time with ACCEPTS and IMPROVE because those are long acronyms. TIPP has become my go-to skill and Pros and Cons helps me with decision-making as I have a hard time with making decisions.

For emotion regulation, we learned to identify emotions, identify myths about emotions and how to challenge the myths, checking the facts, opposite action, and problem solving. Identifying emotions is very difficult for me due to alexithymia (I talk about it here), so I liked that we got an emotion wheel to help out with identifying emotions on a deeper level than mad, sad, and glad (or in my case, anger and anxiety). Figuring out how to challenge myths was hard to the point of nearly impossible, mainly because the homework already included examples of how to challenge myths so I wasn’t able to come up with my own challenges.

Let’s go back to a question I asked myself: Is DBT autism-friendly? I feel like the emotion regulation and distress tolerance skills were a bit more autism-friendly, but DBT as a whole needs more work to be autism-friendly. Actually, therapy as a whole needs to be autism-friendly. Maybe I’ll write a post about it. So one thing about emotion regulation that I liked that fits my autism profile is the emotion wheel. I have trouble identifying my emotions, but I also find visual cues helpful. The emotion wheel helps me visually identify my emotions. I like the colors too. Smiley face. I also like the acronyms for distress tolerance skills as I can see the words to figure out what to do. Side note: I found this one poster at my autism evaluation center and bought a travel-sized version of it. Here’s the Generation Mindful product I bought. Again, I love the visual representation that I can easily refer to.

So what do I think about the program as a whole? I have seen progress in using these skills and I finally found skills that work! Before DBT, NO therapy skills worked! I would still do them to humor the therapist even though I knew there would be no results. I had therapy-resistant anxiety. While DBT was originally made for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, I feel like this type of therapy also works for people with therapy-resistant mental illnesses. Did nothing work in the past? Try DBT. DBT skills groups also teach skills by learning the skills and practicing the skills via homework or group activities. However, my DBT group also had diary cards you had to do each week, which I don’t know if all groups require it. This forces you to do the work to “get better” and to maybe put in more effort than you usually did in therapy.

There are many worksheets in the DBT book I used that weren’t assigned for homework. As my therapist is a part of a group of DBT therapists at my therapy center, she plans to give me occasional homework out of that book to continue my DBT practice.


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?

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.


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.

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.


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.

School · Self-Reflection

I Can See The Finish Line! Reflection on Spring 2021 Semester

Unlike my other school reflection posts, this will only include one class. That is because I only took one class during the Spring 2021 semester. With the exception of Software Engineering 1 and Advanced Web Developments, classes I have taken that are not a core class are not offered every semester. The other lecture class I am required to take is only offered in the fall and I will be taking my final lecture class in Fall 2021.

Software Testing and Maintenance: I kind of liked this class. I was a test engineer in a previous job and I loved the repetitiveness and explicitness of what to do. However, I feel like this class did a little more theory work than I expected. Yes, Computer Science focuses on theory. Yes, this class was one of the more hands-on classes I took. Did I want more hands-on work? Of course! This class helped me to fully understand the concept of creating unit tests. Even the job training bootcamp I did for a low-paying programmer job years ago didn’t teach this. The only thing I truly didn’t like about the class was having a project suddenly sprung up on us. If you read my posts about my neurodivergence, I like being prepared ahead of time. Usually, professors I had will tell you in the syllabus about a project so you’re not caught off guard. The sudden project was stressful for me because I was also working on my graduate project proposal and a homework assignment for this class.

Final Grade: A-

Overall GPA: 3.365

Okay, let me say a couple of things. One, I expected a B or a B+ in that class so I’m very surprised with the A-. My grades from this school year (2 A-s and a B) are definitely big improvements over my 2019-2020 school year (3 Bs and a C). I had the goal to keep my grades up and I ended up improving my GPA! For grad school, you need at least a 3.0 GPA to graduate. I’m going to definitely do my best my final semester because I am considering getting a Doctorate at the same university after taking a break and though the program does not have a minimum GPA requirement, I want to make sure I don’t jeopardize things.

Fall 2021 will be my final semester in the Master’s program. I’m so happy to be almost done because I am tired of people at my church asking me when I’m done. I know it took me much longer than two years to get to the end, but do I have to be judged for it? I will need to apply for my December graduation by August 15th. However, I will be changing my last name some time in July so I am unsure whether to apply for graduation now or wait until I change my name and have my new name documented at my university.