The Anatomy of a Relationship

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At the root of any romance novel is the relationship between the main characters, we tend to approach reading (and writing) them with a particular formula already set in our minds. Like most things in life, anything straying outside of the norm jolts us out of our fictional daydreaming. It takes a bit more effort to understand and appreciate the beauty of them.

From the outset, I knew Elaine and Alim from The Misguided Confession wouldn’t fit the standard mould. Their romance is real and built strongly by the both of them. It’s just not like others.

Elaine is quirky, offbeat, autistic, and romantically different. She expresses her emotions in a way some might find unusual. Her relationship with Alim might be considered equally eccentric.

Of all my characters, Elaine has the most in common with me. As we’re both autistic, I modelled many of her interpersonal struggles after ones I had faced with my husband. Well, minus the creepy zealot who wreaks havoc on Elaine’s world.

In the process of writing The Misguided Confession, I wanted desperately to stay faithful to showing the truth of a relationship between an autistic and a neurotypical (or non-autistic). It’s not typical. It’s certainly not easy, but most definitely real—real love.

Love is often a finicky business.  Alim learns early on, as did my own husband, that often a relationship with an autistic requires a healthy amount of compromise. Elaine feels emotions deeply but doesn’t always know how to identify or express them.

They soldier on together. Their souls and hearts meeting in ways they never imagined possible. Maybe it’s not typical, but it works for them. It’s deep, meaningful, and special.

My hope is when readers approach the novel—along with Elaine and Alim’s relationship—they do so with open hearts and minds.

Love is love, after all.

Love is love.

 

Five Ways to Handle Grief.

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Someone very close to me passed away this weekend. I’ll be travelling for the funeral later in the week. I’m not looking forward to it if I’m honest. I’ve never been good with grief, my own or that of others. Most Autistics struggle with identifying and dealing with emotions, our own and other people’s. I never know what to say. I know I’m feeling sad, but that is about the extent of my capacity to deal with grieving.

So here are five things I do to help myself:

  1. Chocolate. What? It helps everything.
  2. Write. I’ve found it a great relief to channel the turmoil within into my writing, does tend to make for more dramatic stories though.
  3. Reading, losing myself in someone else’s story.
  4. Movies, see above.
  5. Friends. Neurotypical friends in particular are a great help because they often help me muddle through figuring out my own feelings, and can help me understand how to respond to others.

How do you deal with grief?

A Friendship Guide

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I think I’m going to start giving this out to my friends.

How to nurture a friendship with me, your friendly neighborhood autistic.

1. Remember that my brain works differently, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all, and it doesn’t mean I’m not human.

2. Remember that I find you as difficult to understand as you find me.

3. Vaccines didn’t cause my autism.

4. You are not a little autistic, unless you are actually autistic.  You claiming to be what I am, isn’t showing empathy.  It’s brushing under the rug the things I deal with.

5. Don’t hug me unless you know for 100% certainty that I’m okay with physical contact from you.

6. If I’m not talking, it’s not personal, I might’ve just reached my social engagement limit for the day.

7. Yes, certain sounds really do bother me as badly as I act like they do.

8. I’m not throwing a temper tantrum.  I am having a meltdown because I have gotten so much input, my brain can no longer process anything.

9. I would love to talk about my special interests and obsessions with you.

10. Don’t promise me you’re going to do something then not do it.

And most importantly, remember that I’m an actual person with feelings and emotions.  I might not always understand them, but I have them.  I need friends just as much as a neurotypical does.  It’s just a little (or a lot) harder for me to find, make and keep them.

I need friendships which are reciprocal with people who are patient and understanding.

 

Autism Acceptance

ebook and books IIApril brings along a time which many autistics find incredibly uncomfortable due to Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign.  While I am a very firm supporter of Autism acceptance, I am NOT a supporter of Autism speaks.  There’s a brilliant article here that explains far better than I could ever do:

From Neurotribes.

So…how can you show your acceptance of the autistics in your life without support an organization that has never shown acceptance?  Here’s a few tips:

– keep your voice low.

– include us in your invitations to parties & social gatherings, but don’t pressure us.  Take no at face value.

– ask before hugging.

– don’t wear strong perfume or cologne.

– understand we don’t stim to embarrass you, we stim because it is necessary.

– we’re not always aware of what conversations are socially acceptable, and we often forget how a conversation is supposed to flow.  We aren’t being self-absorbed or disrespectful, our brains jsut don’t trigger on the social cues which others do.

When is a joke a joke?

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Aspies tend to take things literally.  We tend to have trouble determine if someone is being facetious or not.  Satire is another thing that occasionally goes over my head, probably why I don’t care for sites like the Onion.

We also, unfortunately, get taken advantage of quote often.  We have a tendency towards naivety.  It’s compounded by the fact that without a diagnosis, it’s hard to understand that there’s something different about how our minds work.

Even those without nefarious (such a great word) intentions can accidentally confuse someone who is autistic.

Things I have learned to do to help myself:

– if a news article or report is forwarded to me, I do my own research before ‘believing’ it.

– I ask questions if I’m not sure if someone is teasing me or not.

– I also politely ask my friends not to tease me about certain types of things which confuse me.

– I wait to laugh at a joke until other people are laughing.  Nothing worse than laughing inappropriately.

– I unfollow(online) or step back from (in the real world) people who refuse to respect the boundaries that I need in my life.

Touch

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Tactile hyper-sensitivity is something a lot of people with autism have to deal with.  It is an increased sensitivity to touch which can leaned to being feeling sensory over-load and into a meltdown, which is often confused with a temper tantrum.   Meltdowns are not temper tantrums.  It’s more like, as an aspie, I suddenly have all this energy built up and it has to get out.  It can feel like I’ve got electricity running along my skin. And when it’s over, I’m so bloody exhausted and worn out.

Touch is one of the harder issues to deal with as an Aspie, at least it is for me because you can’t really get away with not touching certain things.

The worst offenders are:

– towels (and honestly, I’ve tried every towel out there, nothing makes it better.  I just have to grit my teeth and deal with it when I’m drying myself off or folding laundry.)

– velvet (I don’t even like thinking about velvet)

– rough cotton

– some kinds of parchment paper

– corduroy

Just to name a few.

My sensitivity to touch also has an impact on my husband.  I don’t crave closeness or hugs or kisses like most NTs seem to.  I have trouble with a caress which is either too soft or too hard, it’s difficult to get it right, and I feel for the level of frustration my husband often goes through in his efforts.  He’s amazingly patient, and I’m lucky to have him.

One piece of advice I can give is, don’t assume someone(particular someone who is neuroAtypical) wants to be hugged or even shake hands.  And don’t take it personally if they don’t, it’s might not actually be about you.

Any questions for the #AspieAuthor, shoot me an email.

Ten Things I wish…

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Neurotypicals (NTs) knew about Aspergers.

1. It’s not a disease. I don’t need or desire a cure. The only thing I could use is patience and understanding.

2. I experience emotions–I just don’t always understand them.  And I have trouble with subtle emotions.

3. Eye contact is awkward, confusing and uncomfortable.  I usually have to count down seconds in my head so I don’t ‘stare’ for too long.  I’ve learned the hard way if I stare too long people think I’m creepy, but if I don’t make eye contact, people think I’m ‘lying’ or ‘shady.’

4. Sounds, smells and sensations can be so overwhelming it feels like a physical assault.

5. Meltdowns are not temper tantrums.  Most Aspies experience meltdowns when they have reached a point of sensory overload.  It feels like your body is filled with electricity and energy that has nowhere to go.  It’s normally followed by exhaustion and a migraine.

6. Don’t step into my personal space. Just. Don’t.  Don’t assume I’m comfortable with physical contact be it a handshake or a hug.  I’m not trying to be rude.

7. I take almost everything literally.  If I don’t laugh at your joke, chances are I didn’t realize it was a joke.

8.  Winding me up on purpose might be fun for you.  But I’m the one left feeling worn out.

9.  Most Aspies are experience PTSD by the time they reach their late 30s and 40s.  It speaks to the level of intensity the world around us becomes.

10. Political and Religious conversations/debates tend to get heated which makes me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy.

10a. The difficulties many aspies face in heated discussions is that often our minds go blank.  It’s akin to losing the ability to speak.  There are no words.  It’s frustrating…very…very frustrating.