Ask an Aspergirl

Pondering popular culture, generalized anxiety, and being Autistic

The small madnesses of ritual

We keep coming back to this place — in these small madnesses of continuing on. I find myself yet again in your office trying to find words for the slowing of thoughts. These broken routines and rituals — 2 bus rides there and back, away from the comforting back and forth of books. Perhaps I romanticize the past in these small madnesses.

In the continuing on, sitting here when my brain feels much further away — across from you. We engage in this mechanistic dialogue. What are your options? In the uncertainties of meds, the weariness of pushing self. The wishing you had an opinion you could openly share — knowing you can’t tell me what to do; wishing you would. Between A and B is a series of interconnected diagonals.

And so we sit — what are your options? I don’t know. Tell me? I wish I could make this dissipate. For you I would. But I’ve been in this chair long enough to know I can’t. This hurts — a place of familiar indecision. Here’s where I was and here I sit today — feeling stuck. Wishing we were getting somewhere — three weeks ago was a series of readings and papers — following the syllabi, not knowing how to fill in the in-between.

I know this feeling well — that I will be spent and broken. And only this stuckness will remain. You needed to do something concrete. I understand. Adulting is terrifying at times. I have to make this better or fear the falling apart — familiar fear quickened by lack of space to cope. Not alone in this, but you know yourself. I wonder sometimes; as I try to separate myself from the needs of others.

I am exploring perhaps — in this fixed place. Are you finding yourself in corners, longing not to be? No, that remains the same. I sit across from you wanting to feel better, be better — not knowing how. I verbalize these long sublimated fears — wanting to disconfirm them. Not knowing how.

Your claims of support and being with feel real enough — in this routine sharing of muddled thoughts and feelings, I doubt myself yet again. Wanting to convey this experience lingering in my brain space — this is hard. I know. She wishes for a well-worn path. In normalizing this weariness, does the isolation lessen? Fears and doubts shared aloud.

Hoping to see you in 3 weeks as things keep getting done — seeing resolution. She continues on toward the door — down the hallway back to campus. Perhaps that’s enough, she thought. Letting these hopes sustain her in the weariness of in-between.

An internalized sense of wrong

Before our session ended, I left my therapist a copy of “She did it anyway” because I wanted her to understand how it felt to fall apart in front of a friend. Maybe I wanted her to see how hard grad school had been for me lately — the weariness and isolation that comes from pushing yourself to do tasks you remain unsure you’re capable of accomplishing. I’d forgotten how often I referred to shame in that poem, until she brought up the topic during my next session.

Let’s talk about shame, she said. Because although you were actively shamed by a professor who didn’t understand how your disability impacts your schoolwork, this is not the first time you’ve felt this way. You and shame have a history together. For some people, an internalized sense of wrong becomes part of their identity. Maybe that’s where your autistic traits and the experience of shame overlap.

I feel like I’m constantly developing workarounds to mitigate the tasks I cannot do the typical way. To avoid the notice and unnecessary questions of others, I’ve learned to hide this process. It seems that visible disability and quirkiness are merely different perceptions of the same experience. I am struggling, but how others interpret this behavior seems to depend on my value to the person. Do they notice my strengths amongst disability? Do they ask how they can help, rather than imply I’m not trying hard enough.

Back to shame I suppose. It’s a topic I avoid thinking about much, even as I live with the experience of it. I remember when Brene Brown’s TED talks were often mentioned in the department. Okay, I acknowledge that I experience shame; now what?

For me, internalized ableism — the sense that I should be able to do things I struggle with, and if I can’t, then I don’t belong — is a source of shame. It’s hard for me to ask for help because doing so requires me to acknowledge my confusion and seeming inability to meet the requirements of my role.

If I can’t develop a timeline for finishing tasks, maybe I shouldn’t be in grad school. Why can’t I consistently meet deadlines? What is wrong with me? That’s what I’m really asking, regardless of how I phrase it.

I’m learning to ask for help. A few weeks ago I found myself crying in a friend’s cubicle, realizing I didn’t have to explain the extent to which I was struggling because my body was showing her. I tried writing down why I was so upset, and she waited out the tears until I could explain what I needed.  She listened and helped me make a task list. I emailed the task list to my PhD advisor to keep me accountable. She continues to remind me of my competencies as a grad student in the midst of my struggles.

And so we learn to speak truth to shame. This is what I know — and even when I don’t, this is where shame cannot speak to my experience. Because shame is wrong about me. So I keep writing and doing, even when the act of trying feels like pretending.

Relatable narratives at work

Being an Autistic working at a Developmental Disabilities Clinic is a strangely meta- experience. I see children and adolescents in the waiting room whose bodies move like mine.  Their parents sit beside them, waiting be seen by the student therapists who work in our office space.

Just watch. We’ll be okay. I wish I could tell you that, parent waiting outside in that little room with chairs and magazines. But you’re not like my child — or even teenager — they might say.

Yes, you’re partially right. I have circuitous verbal language, my own way of being in the world — lengthy task lists, but I’ve visited the land where your kid lives. I can pass as quirky, but not typical — until I freeze and appear utterly confused and incapable. I stand there watching. Knowing I should ask for help. Piecing together my words into a somewhat coherent whole.

Last week was a series of new experiences — first week at my new graduate assistantship (GA) as well as the start of the fall semester. I’m only taking two classes, but I’m doing remedial work for one of my statistics classes (another story for another day — if told at all).  I thrive in the midst of routine, perhaps because the overarching structure makes sense to me. If I miss cues, the routine provides a externalized reminders of the tasks ahead.

My cubicle is often covered in a series of sticky noted task lists. I tend to get lost when projects involve more than 2-3 steps and a larger supply list. I’m still learning my way around the office, but at least I know  where the stapler is and how the copier works. I wondered how I’d handle transitioning into this clerical position. I remember being excited to find a graduate assistantship in my field, but not ready to leave the familiarity of the library.

I’ve felt self-conscious stimming at work; I tap my fingers together. I keep wondering if my on-site supervisor notices all of the stereotypically autistic things I do. I have trouble processing verbal instructions, so I write directions for most projects I’m given. I’ve become accustomed to bringing my Tangle to work, worn as a bracelet twisted around my wrist or stowed in my purse. I stick my music player in my pocket when I find myself in worry loops and need distraction. I’m essentially providing my own accommodations at work since I lack a paper diagnosis and have accumulated coping skills.

As part of my GA, I do office work for my PhD advisor one morning per week. We rarely talk about how I identify as Autistic, but sometime ago we had a conversation about labels, which she seems to view as a means of obtaining supports. When I was first hired, she mentioned helping me create a weekly schedule for work, so I could develop a routine. She seems to understand my need for structure and clearly explained tasks.

When I need help in either of these work settings, I’ve learned to state the problem and describe how my supervisor could help. I have trouble generalizing, so I realized I either need lots of examples or plenty of time to ask questions. In a work setting, I worry this trait makes me appear overly dependent on others. I return with questions or clarifications until I can make sense of the task. I feel silly sometimes, but I’m practicing help-seeking, rather than sitting with my confusion.

Working at these sites I’m reminded of the interconnected nature of support services for developmental disabilities. When I searched for adult autism services I looked outside my college town because I knew most of the local service coordinators and community people. These are the families of autistic youth and school professionals with whom I interact. I know I can’t keep these worlds completely separate, but I needed space for my lived experience as an Autistic adult.

I wanted to avoid appearing as if I was appropriating the experience of the local autism community. Maybe I still wonder if this identity is mine. I remain ‘out’ as Autistic with my close friends and grounding people, but at work I’m just seemingly quirky.

The contextual language of autism

I’ve previously written about how my lived experiences have shaped my interest in social-emotional supports for autistic women. Because of this research background, I find myself in conversations with strangers in cafes about the etiology and outcomes of autism. We inevitably talk about the seemingly increasing rates of autism diagnosis (and review correlation vs. causation) or about their neighbor’s quirky child (playfully mocking stereotypes about autistic boys who love trains). At some point in the conversation, I mention my interest in developing useful programming for autistic women and attempt to steer the dialogue away from my background.

In these impromptu autism discussions, I consciously use identity-first language — referring to autistic adults, rather than adults with autism. This is an intentional decision that reflects my identity formation as an autistic woman — a way for me to distance myself from medicalized language of deficits and pathologization of difference. I frame autism as another way of being that is characterized by social, communicative, and behavioral traits. Sometimes I give a brief explanation of the social model of disability.

In my department, I’m expected to use person-first language when discussing disability in an academic setting, including autism. When I talk with our program coordinator, I use person-first language (e.g., young woman diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – ASD). The identity politics of labels rarely becomes part of such discussions; person-first language is assumed to be the most respectful way to talk about disability issues.

When I began exploring the possibility that I was on the autism spectrum, I reviewed the DSM-IV criteria  and realized I met criteria for Asperger syndrome (AS). Since I didn’t have a clinical label, I said I was an Aspergirl, using Rudy Simone’s invented term from her book of the same name. It felt disingenuous to say I was an Aspie or Aspergian since I was only self-identified (or as I prefer, self-recognized) as such. In online settings and among trusted friends, I started referring to myself as an Autistic woman when I studied the DSM-5 criteria for ASD and acknowledged these traits were consistent with my experiences.

I suppose my contextually-based use of identity-first language or person-first language is a form of code-switching. My word choice changes depending on the types of listeners involved. In professional settings, I use person-first language since this practice is embedded in Special Education culture. In personal settings, I use identity-first language because autistic traits deeply influence my experience of the world. I find the language of disability utterly fascinating, especially as I’ve begun researching the social worlds of autistic women like myself.

I remember writing my Twitter bio and wondering if I was allowed to call myself Autistic. Would I be appropriating the experience of people who’d received a clinical label after days of testing and sharing their story with a stranger? Was I expecting other autistic people to judge me as I made sense of my experiences? This summer I wrote a series of poems about exploring autistic identity. These pieces felt like a series of conversations in which I was giving myself permission to call myself Autistic, if those traits resonated with me. I remember reading these lines to the women in my writing circle:

These are your bits of narrative. Claim them. Embrace them. Feel them out. This is not a rejection of the self you knew — this is a renaming, an honoring.

Not weird — othered or strange — different perhaps, quirky — autistic in a way you haven’t all the way acknowledged. Every word but that one. Yes, this is a thing.

I’m still trying to figure out how to be Autistic. I read journal articles about people like me, as I continue my graduate studies. I continue to have conversations about the autistic experience, realizing that my narrative is both shared and my own. Sometimes I feel like I’m pretending, but I’m reminded,

Pretending is something you do when you’re working through what is, imagining what could be. Acting as if — as you become the person you know you are.

Serpentine hallways and waiting rooms

As I took the elevator to the private mental health clinic, I felt vaguely terrified. The hallway of the third floor office space was serpentine, but each entryway was clearly marked. Law firms, clinics, and assorted businesses lined the walls. I arrived early, hoping to avoid getting lost on my way to the clinic.

And so there I was, approaching the closed windowed help desk — ring bell, wait, and receive yet another stack of fun forms: what I sarcastically call intake paperwork. These past few years, I’ve filled out plenty of documents about my life. Intake feels like an exercise in describing everything that is wrong with me.

Who are you and why are you here?

I wonder that too sometimes, but I suspect you’re asking for my mental health history. “Describe in two sentences what brought you here today.” I don’t know if I can do that.

I’ve managed to fit my backstory onto a two-page document. It feels more succinct than the experience itself. I’ve grown familiar with waiting rooms. I know the rhythm of my usual therapist’s office, but the clinic was new (and therefore inherently scary). Preparing for new is still difficult for me. I spent the earlier portion of the afternoon at the neighborhood cafe. Routine is steadying on these sorts of days — when I can’t predict or plan for the events that follow.

In the half-hour before my session, I noticed myself fading away. I sat firmly in my seat. My brain wandered across town, filled with anticipatory anxiety about seeing the new therapist.

You know about autism. Perhaps you can help me in my sensemaking and workarounds. But maybe you’ll tell me I’m entirely wrong — invalidating my process, invalidating me.

That was the fear. The idea that my brain found utterly terrifying — hence its running and fading. Before leaving the cafe, I informed the kindly proprietor that I was feeling horribly distant from myself. I knew I could manage; I was already returning back to myself, but the feeling was still disconcerting.

The appointment itself followed the all-too-familiar script of first sessions: “Tell me about you and why you’re seeing me.” I talked. She asked questions. I attempted to respond, but often found myself lost in the dialogue. I stimmed through much of our conversation, as I wrapped green putty around my nail beds. By the end of session, new therapist informed me that although she has a special education background, she knew as much about autism as my primary therapist does. However another clinician in the building, Dr. M., has extensive experience working with autistic clients. In the meantime, new therapist agreed to help me apply to Disability Services at school.

My research background leaves me pretty skeptical of autism professionals, but I still asked to be placed on Dr. M’s waiting list for December. Perhaps she’ll have a cancellation, but until then, I’m in another waiting room. I left the clinic feeling proud of myself for going to the appointment and wrote post-session notes to myself. If I forget to summarize such experiences, my mind tends to negatively distort the details of session.

I wish there was a definitive ending to all of this. I didn’t get to leave the office triumphantly with an autism label in my hand. I still haven’t seen a professional with an extensive autism background. I know she exists, but mostly appears to see children and adolescents. I still feel like a unicorn. These in-between spaces are hard; I know I’m autistic — my social, communicative, and behavioral traits are consistent with an autism spectrum diagnosis — but I have yet to meet a professional willing to confirm my thought process.

For now, I remain “in this created space — creative space.”

We are ourselves, with little explanation. Needing no one else to fill in our gaps. We are our own. Here anyway. Coda. Yet this space, although not enough, is a starting point. Free from labels or to label as we wish. Existing together in a shared collage of narratives.

We are here in this place. We fit. We belong. And we are enough. Together.

Managing is an illusory concept.

Sitting in church, I wrote a poem about what it’s felt like lately living with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). My refrain remains that GAD can be exhausting, but for me, it’s a manageable mental health condition characterized by chronic — sometimes functionally impairing — worry. It is an anxiety disorder I experience as an excess of thoughts that refuse to leave.

Of course, today would be the waves passage. I’ve lived in this metaphor for such a long time. At times, it is utterly exhausting, but to verbalize it is liberating. Yes, this is a thing. In all of the pain and shame of living in the fear and worry loops.

When you fear the waves will overwhelm and pull you under. These waves don’t just lap at my feet, not anymore. I cannot tell if these anxieties have lessened or worsened — maybe both. And so I live in this coping, managing, becoming. Surprisingly well.

For the past month, I’ve worked on preliminary exams — the take-home, 5 essays in one kind. I submitted the entire packet of essays via email to my PhD advisor, along with a note describing its contents. July was an utterly exhausting month, but if I’m completely honest with myself, the GAD has been unrelenting for some time. Like many people diagnosed with GAD, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t worried about something.

I’ve grown familiar with heightened anxieties as stressors increase. When finals week approaches or I have a major project due, I feel completely scattered and lost. My thoughts feel as if they will overwhelm me. My brain goes to the place where my social filter goes to die. Perhaps because whatever self-regulatory skills I’ve learned over the years have been forgotten. Instead I focus on coping with the present moment, so I can escape the inevitable worry loops that arise.

I imagine managing as an act that will somehow make the GAD easier to ignore. Really though, I’m learning to get through these days. I make task lists and daily schedules during particularly stressful times in the semester. I talk to myself as if I’m a preschooler, rather than a PhD student in her mid-20s. In these moments, I try to remember that I’m struggling and whatever I need to do to return to a steadier emotional state is okay. This is managing.

Show me the place where I fit.

I long for a land that’s free from explanations — a space that’s mine. The interwebs were a start, a collection of words transmitted across these bounded spaces — to women who understand because they’ve lived it too. To feel utterly isolated, but not know why is terrifying. We grow tired of all of the words necessary to feel heard — the explaining, reexplaining, the doing the best we can; not sure if it’s enough.

Knowing just how hard managing can be, still is. We become incredible self-advocates — keepers of our own stories — because we have to — to be ourselves; to find a measure of self-understanding. As we learn to believe ourselves. Of course this is a thing, she replied. It just is and you are thriving. Perhaps you’ll notice that too in these found, transformed safe spaces.

In text, in verse, in exchanges of retweets and favorited messages; we are found. We are loved. First here, then in real life. Can we really distinguish between these spaces? Safety. Communication. Assured mutual support. Perhaps that’s enough.

We’re not just practicing; we’re living, becoming ourselves — across timezones. In a series of 140 characters. In images shared. In complexities of thought somehow expressed in 2 to 3 lines. It’s another way of being, reminded we are “different, not less” — conventional pragmatics as a second language.

How are we doing this? Don’t know… but we are; she stopped explaining — leaving space to merely be. Watch me be — learn for yourself. Perhaps you’ll watch as intently as I do, trying to be heard; longing to understand, to be understood — across settings feels impossible. Too vulnerable. So I try in this series of spaces, hoping these verbalizations will stick.

Get off me, shame! You’re not mine. Sticks like magnets. I shake you off again. Hoping for an internalized sense of safety, I listen intently to your words, longing to believe them, knowing I will.

I am slowly becoming myself across these mediums — learning to find my fit. It’s not due to my lack of trying when you miss the point. These words are coherent, but not easily understood. Explaining. Rephrasing. Saying them again. Maybe I’ll be heard. And yet I’m not to blame for these misunderstandings. That’s not my shame. It’s yours. I shake it off slowly.

I am learning to be myself — slowly. There is nothing wrong with you. That felt sense of wrong isn’t yours. Never belonged to you. It was left for you by a series of short-sided, distant, emotionally distracted people. They tried, but it wasn’t enough. Never was. But you are, enough I mean. Finding you belong. Your own narrative in this collage of stories.

Getting unstuck is exhausting, but worthwhile work — out of the muck and mire, you emerge slowly. But in this process, you are enough. Continuing on. Learning to be, without pushing or pressuring. Speaking. Verbalizing. Waiting for understanding to stick.

It will, she said reassuringly. And it — and you — will be enough.

Details and gist: The interplay between cognitive reasoning and emotional reasoning

When I think about people I know well, I picture the first page of a script — the part listing their preferences and backstory. I’ve noticed that although I’m not particularly intuitive about people, I can make sense of them using intrapersonal details. Maybe that’s why I like television commentary. Television writers know how to analyze characters and scenarios in ways that make sense to their readers [1].

My memory for intrapersonal details helps me maintain relationships. I’ve read about the dichotomy that autistics can experience between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Although we have trouble figuring out what someone might be thinking or feeling based on nonverbal cues, we can make sense of their experience using reasoning skills. I’ve learned to think of back-and-forth interactions as a logic puzzle: Based on what I know about this person, what could I say next?

Using cognitive reasoning to fill in gaps in emotional reasoning is probably a workaround I developed to ease myself into social situations. I don’t know what to say, so I imagine myself entering the dialogue before I initiate conversation. As a kid, I tapped adults on the shoulder to get their attention and asked questions before the time for asking questions arrived. I suppose after receiving negative feedback for these social behaviors, I learned coping strategies for this lack of social intuition.

The only problem with these sorts of workarounds is the inevitable reluctance to enter conversations that accompanies my process. Trying to find my place in groups feels like a game of conversational tetherball. I don’t know how to begin speaking without inadvertently interrupting the current speaker.

My memory for details at the expense of gist can be scary when I’m trying to navigate potentially unsafe situations. A few weeks ago, a seemingly creepy guy at the library hugged me without prior warning (certainly didn’t ask for my consent). I didn’t recognize how disturbing his behavior appeared until he was already encroaching on my space. I missed the prior cues that he didn’t respect others’ boundaries.

I’m learning to avoid blaming myself when I miss these sorts of nonverbal cues. Yes, maybe I could have seen the signals earlier and avoided a scary scenario, but it wasn’t my fault that happened. Sometimes I love my detail-oriented nature. I remember people’s backstories in vivid detail, as if they were characters in a rich narrative.

When I talk with people who have been through familial trauma, I know what to say to them (and what not to say): Partially because I have shared experience, but also because I can see their narrative as a concept map — how their present and past intersect. This skill helps me listen and accept what they’re saying without needless questioning.

As frustrating as it can be to miss the forest for the trees, I’m “practicing being proud” of my memory for details [2]. My passion for information (and probably my path to graduate studies) comes from the same place that leads to missing gist. I can acknowledge and accept both of these parts of myself.

  1. http://www.avclub.com/tv/in-treatment/
  2. http://www.thenthdegree.com/proudpoem.asp

Expressive mediums: In crayon, poems, and imagery

Intricate tree stims I write because it helps me make sense of the world. I’ve journaled for as long as I can remember, mostly to get the sea of words from my brain to the page before me. Writing helped me see my worried thoughts; they became real, even though I couldn’t slow them down.

I remember when I first started seeing my therapist, I could only discuss thoughts and ideas. Finding feeling words that described my inner reality was much harder. Help-seeking is incredibly difficult when you’re not even sure what you’re feeling beyond bad and muddled. I could talk about the emotional experiences of fictional characters, but struggled to talk about myself. We used the third person often in those early sessions:

“Imagine you as a nine-year old girl living in those circumstances. What would she have been feeling then? Maybe you can tell me about that.”

I discovered metaphors and imagery in the midst of finding long-forgotten feeling words. I didn’t know how to verbalize my emotional states, but I could write about them. Then I’d read aloud what I’d written during my womyn’s writing circle. I started going to circle during my first semester in the PhD program. What a rough transition. I thought I’d have an easier time after switching from an applied practice program to a research-oriented program. I’d forgotten how difficult transitions can be — and so I wrote about these experiences. I talked about utterly perplexing social scenarios and traumatic events by channeling these memories into poetry and then reading those pieces aloud.

These days, I’m making sense of what it means to be a self-recognized autistic woman with co-occurring generalized anxiety and lingering grief. I’ve cobbled together mental health supports and social networks on campus and at church, and yet being who I am is exhausting sometimes. I talked with my PhD mentor last week about trying to find my fit in a department where I feel expected to pass as typical.

“Most days, you’re ‘good’ quirky. That period when your [psych] meds weren’t working properly, you were concerning quirky. You’re in a field full of weirdos — just look around. If I ever thought you couldn’t do this [finish the PhD program], I wouldn’t have suggested you apply.”

After this conversation, I decided to let myself be more autistic. If I didn’t pass particularly well anyway — quirky (read as visibly autistic) on a good day — perhaps I didn’t have to try so hard to appear typical. I’ve learned to stifle my passions because they turn into monologues. I feel odd tapping my fingers when I’m overloaded. I started bringing my Tangle (a stim toy) to class and work. I sang to myself as I shelved and stimmed. I brought my 24-pack of crayons to church.

I’ve documented this process of letting myself be autistic in a series of poems and images that I decided to call stimmy art. I drew the tree and accompanying poem during a church service in which I felt triggered. Drawing trees is a grounding experience — a series of repetitive movements that becomes a vibrant picture. I can keep adding branches and foliage until I’m ready to stop.

In these expressive mediums, I let myself be what I need in that moment. I hope to feel decreasingly self-conscious when I engage in self-care. Laura Hershey — poet and disability activist — reminds me, “Remember, you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud. Just practice” (1).

  1. “You get proud by practicing,” a poem by Laura Hershey — http://www.thenthdegree.com/proudpoem.asp

My writing process: A blog tour

Randle of CrandleCakes, a blog in which she talks about food and life, invited me to participate in the My Writing Process blog tour.  I met Randle at a gathering of fellow writers and enjoyed hearing her personal essays and short stories. I still find it fascinating how she intermingles narrative and recipes in her blog posts.

So with that introduction complete, I begin this discussion of my writing process:

1) What am I working on?

I write once a week on Ask an Aspergirl, a personal blog where I discuss my life as an autistic woman with generalized anxiety. Sometimes I write about my fondness for particular films or television shows — how these forms of pop culture have served as emotional mirrors.  I’m still working on a series of posts about seeking an autism spectrum diagnosis as an adult. Since I started the blog, I’ve been trying to figure out why seemingly easy things are hard for me and seemingly hard things are easy for me.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My blog explores how various aspects of my life interact. As I often say when asked to describe the various parts of my life, “It’s in the overlap.” I write about how my lived experiences influence my graduate research. Sometimes I post poems that capture my experiences in a given week. My writing is at the intersection of “I’m pretty sure I’m autistic; oh yeah, I’m a worrywart too; and growing up, things at home were hard.” I write about these pieces of my life all at once.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write to connect with other women like me — maybe I’m hoping that if I share my story, it will feel real. I think about what I’m feeling and why I could be feeling that way, and then I write about this experience. Sometimes my life feels ridiculously meta, as I try to make sense of my social world and emotional life by looking for patterns in what happened. Writing keeps me from becoming isolated because it gets me out of my own head. Somehow reading my thoughts aloud is validating. I write hoping I’m not the only one describing this experience.

4) How does my writing process work?

I usually choose a particular theme or concept that’s been reverberating in my head all week. If a phrase or sentence comes to mind, I’ll text those words to myself. Sometimes I jot down little notes on the pieces of scrap paper I find at work and then doodle in the margins. I draw from conversations I’ve had, books I’ve read, or television episodes I’ve seen lately. I joke that I should come with footnotes since most of my posts are a combination of my experiences and the media I consume.

After gathering all of these ideas in my head, I sit down at my desk and start writing short notes about what to include. Then I write my narrative: What happened and how did I feel about it? A friend of mine says to “write at the wound” because this is where we find powerful pieces — in the scary, painful places. Sometimes I’m brave enough to go there. Other times, I let myself get gradually closer to these vulnerabilities.

Next week’s bloggers

I’d like to introduce you to several bloggers I’ve enjoyed reading, so you can learn about their writing process:

Alana of Sleep Wake Hope and Then

Alana writes about “adventures with her autistic mind.” She is a graduate student getting her Ph.D. in a biology-related field. She writes short essays and poetry about her experiences. She says, “This blog is the story of my adventures with science and learning about autism and figuring out how that makes me me.”

Georgia of Feminist Aspie

Georgia writes about the intersection between feminism and autism, as she states, her blog “does what it says on the tin.” She also references Doctor Who in her posts and offers people virtual cups of tea. She wrote a wonderful ode to fangirls last November.

I look forward to hearing more about both women’s writing process.

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