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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tired

I got a break from noise this morning. I don't know if I slept through it or if the neighbor didn't watch the news or listen to music this morning. Because of that I am still extremely tired today. I feel as if I am back in the 7th and 8th grade because I'm having the same reaction as I did back then. However, since I have written about this issue for a week I don't want to add too much more because I don't want to sound whiny. Hopefully tomorrow something sparks my writing side that has nothing to do with sound, neighbors, or my place.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Torn and Confused

I don't know of another time in my life that I have been so confused. What I mean by that isn't that I'm confused as in not knowing which way up is, but rather there are so many contradictory feelings within me.

Right now I feel defeated. The sensory element of my new place is beating me up and I'd have to say it is currently winning. I don't want to relent, though. Yet I feel small, irrelevant, and just have an overall feeling of, "why can't I simply overcome it?"

On the other hand my ambition and drive are returning. And to be perfectly honest I don't know how I can feel this, this feeling of wanting to present in as many places as possible and knowing that my message is one that must be heard, when at the same time I have this feeling of being defeated. How can the two coexist?

I've pushed through the noise a couple times. On Saturday I was part of the broadcast for the iRacing Daytona 500. It was an honor to be invited to be part of the broadcast team and somehow I kept my focus while having a sensory bombardment on both sides. Then last night I was part of another broadcast on iRacing and beforehand and afterwards I had issues but when it was go time I went.

And that's how it has been the past week. Two days ago I had a presentation to about 70 first responders. Before the presentation I was in one of my darkest moods possible and I don't think I was all that pleasant to be around. As soon as the stage was mine though all that self-hate and frustration vanished and I presented as if I were the happiest person on this Earth. And come to think of it I just might have been during that presentation as that's my usual feeling while presenting.

So that's how it has been. There is a great divide between my emotions right now. I have a part of me that wants to throw my hands up in the air in disgust and say, "I give up" and there's another part of me that's hunkering down in attempt to weather this storm knowing that there is a vast world out there with millions of people that need to hear my presentation. So yes, this is what I mean by saying that I am confused.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Things That Go Bump, Creak, and Other Noises in The Night

Another day in my place and the experience isn't getting any better. I'm torn on continually writing about it, but it has pushed me to my limit and I don't know of any other event that has gave me such a severe feeling for so long.

I do have to say that after bowling last night it was peaceful. These moments when I feel as if I'm alone are priceless. Then the middle of the night came.

One of the things I have always been is hyper-vigilant. If there is any noise that is unexpected, or any noise that could be taken as a threat or indicates an immediate change I take notice. This is something I've always been and I wish there was an off switch for it. It is rather tiring constantly being overly in-tune to my environment. Perhaps though this is the body's way to compensate for the lack of social awareness. Does this make sense? Because I am often blind to social situations my body over-compensates my trying to predict when things are going to go awry. And not only am I hyper-vigilant but add in the overly active imagination and it's a recipe for shot nerves.

Imagination? I've heard some speakers and writers state that people on the autism spectrum, "have no imagination" and that can be true, in a way, as for me I can't imagine things that aren't. However, my brain is more than willing to fill in the blanks of life. Fill in the blanks? I'll answer this question with the events of this morning.

It was about 4AM and I heard a bump, then several creaks in a row. I froze because while I didn't know what the noise was, exactly, my imagination, or maybe intuition is the better word, but I knew beyond any doubt that someone was coming up my stairs. My life, as I knew it, was about to change. Or worse.

I tried to hold my breath to no avail. I was shaking and I wondered if I should try and hide in my closet, or under the bed. Then I played out those scenarios and in both cases I would make too much noise. Time was absolutely frozen for me as I tried to make myself as small as possible on my bed awaiting the intruder to come around the door frame.

The next thought I had was wondering if I was in the midst of a dream. Often times my dreams are so real that it can be difficult to distinguish the two. No dream could mimic this mortal panic though as I awaited whatever was about to be.

There were a couple more creaks then silence. I thought surely the person was right on the other side of the door waiting for just the right moment to pounce. The silence continued, then a noise that I recognized but didn't process filled the void of the silence. It was the low level bass noise of a television in the adjoining townhouse.

I laid there confused for a moment awaiting the intruder not realizing yet what I had originally heard. When my hyper-vigilance is kicked in the processing of events is extremely delayed. Perhaps this too is a way my body compensates as well, but about 30 seconds later I finally exhaled and realized that a person didn't come up my stairs but it was the person in the other home going up the stairs.

 I didn't sleep much after the creaking event as the after effects of such panic isn't conducive to a peaceful sleep. That, and I could hear the television's low level bass noises. And from all that my level of anger towards myself rose and rose. For some reason I just can't accept that this is something my body can't handle. I've had people tell me that, "your situation would annoy anyone." Okay, yes, this may be true, but at the same time there is, in my mind, a clear difference between a minor annoyance and having the severe reactions I am having. This is leading me to become rather angry with myself.

The main thing I want you to take from this post though is the effects of the possible hyper-vigilance that goes along with the autism spectrum. When my senses sense any bit of danger all the alarms go off at once. There is no going from DEFCON 5 to 4 to 3 but my body prepares for the absolute worse instantly. This is made worse by the fact that, often times, things that cause an alarm can't be seen. I then have to fill the blank. This is why storms used to be so bad for me and I said the anticipation of the storm was worse than the storm itself. That is also why the movie Signs was, for me, the scariest movie-going experience I've ever had. If anything I hope the experience I am currently enduring leads me to more of these blog posts. Don't get me wrong, I hope the noise goes silent tonight, but should the bass, creaks, and noises not yet heard continue to be there I hope I can translate the way my body takes the noise and explain the reasons as to why my reactions were the way they are.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Over the Limit

The weekend was not easy for me. I'm not sure what has me beyond my limit, but I'm there. Well, perhaps it is the sound for the other people within the complex, maybe it's the multiple sensory episodes I had in Canada, or maybe it's just a mix of everything, whatever the case I am well beyond my normal tolerance.

I'm not sure if this example is in Finding Kansas exactly how I'm going to state it, but imagine a coffee cup filled to the top. And I do mean filled to the absolute maximum amount that can be in it with just one more drop creating an overflow situation. This is how I normally experience life. Okay, perhaps not always at the top, but near it. What does this metaphor represent? For myself, I can tolerate some stress, I truly can, but when that one extra drop gets put it it creates an overflow situation. Here's where the metaphor breaks down though. For a coffee cup one drop too much will spill out one drop. For myself though one drop to much creates the effects of a dam bursting. One drop too much makes all that was bearable not.

This is something that I feel has to be understood. Once the limit is increased to an overflow situation any and everything will be the problem. This is fitting, in a way, because I say that I live in a world where there is no middle ground. Either everything is fine or everything is wrong. Middles don't really exist and right now I'm over my limit of tolerating the stresses.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Better Night

Yesterday morning was a rough one. My neighbor wakes up at 5AM and that too is when I was awoken to a mix of news and music through the wall. This certainly gives new meaning to "life on the other side of the wall!"

After the morning noise though the noise disappeared the rest of the day. I found this odd as there was a sizable snow/sleet event here in Saint Louis so I expected everyone to be home, but from the afternoon onward it was as if I was the only one living in this building.

I needed this break from noise. One of things about myself that I don't normally state is how much energy I have to exert to keep doing what I do. I think in my book Finding Kansas I state about the energy it takes just to leave the front door as there is so much to process in life. I wrote that, wow time flies, eight years ago but the concept is the same if not deeper. To present like I do takes up so much energy and I have had an incredibly busy past four weeks. What does this mean? It means I need sleep and sleep is something that hasn't been happening.

Last week in Canada I originally thought was going to be a peaceful week with one presentation and a lot of rest. I was wrong and it turned out to be a constant on the run experience. This was fine, don't get me wrong, but at some point my body needs to recover and to come home to the unexpected noise has not allowed my body to rest.

Then last night happened. I went to bed early and I don't think I had a choice as my body had had enough and I slept, and slept, and slept. If my neighbor awoke at 5 I didn't know it. 13 hours later I awoke and I needed every minute of that rest.

One thing that I can't overlook when things get stressful or if I've had a long run of presentations is the fact that I have to sleep. On my nationwide tour last year there were several days that I spent in bed at a hotel just resting. I have a threshold and when it is crossed I need much more rest than normal nights. This can be caused either by constant on the go activity or by stress.

Moving forward I think there are some options for making my place quieter. I'd like to thank everyone who sent words of support or ideas either on here or Facebook. It does mean a lot to know that so many people care. Thanks!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trouble At Home

My original intentions were to blog about my experience curling last Saturday. After the events of yesterday though it seems like that happened a lifetime ago.

If you've followed my blog for this month you will remember that back on my birthday I bought a place of my own. When I looked at the place it was a quiet, tranquil place. It is a townhouse but the walls seemed thick and not a noise could be heard. Before I went to Canada I spent four nights here and loved the tranquility of being in my quiet haven from the world. Then yesterday happened.

It started at 5AM. I was awoken to the noise of humming or singing. It was the oddest thing I had ever heard. To make matters worse, with jet lag, which I might mention always seems to affect me more than others, I had 3 hours of sleep so I tried to go back to no avail. What was this noise?

The noise continued on, and on, and finally I knew what it was; it wasn't singing at all but rather the voice of a local newsman who has an extremely deep voice. I then could distinguish the ads, and when they went to reporters, and in it all it was just this constant barrage of low levels sounds as that's all I could here.

I was not happy. Was I being over-sensitive? Are my senses just in too good of tune right now. I mean, the past two days were about sensory issues so is that what it is? And besides that, I really hoped that I left those issues in Vancouver.

Going back to sleep was impossible but I tried and tried and eventually I came to my basement to work on my blog and once again there was this low level noise. Now there was a television on to my right in my basement. What happened to these thick walls I thought I had? My blood began to boil as this constant noise was wearing on my sensory limits rather quickly.

After a while I heard a phone ring and then I heard the a lady's voice. I got learned all about her friend who needs an MRI and so on and so forth. I tried with all my might but I couldn't tune anything out. What this also means is that if I can hear her she can hear me and despite what my presentations and blog show I am the most private person on Earth. I don't want anything I say heard. Not that I'm saying anything odd or bad; just chatting with my friends on Xbox, but I simply don't want anything I said to be heard.

Noise is all around; there's no denying that. I've already thought of a question you might ask, "if this noise you mention here is bad how do you survive something like an airplane trip?" The answer to this is that, on an airplane, the noise is constant. The pitch of the engines may change, but there's a predictability to it and it can be heard rather well. The noise I've explained so far is very low in frequency and also in volume. It is unintelligible noise, but due to the frequency it is felt.

Then last night, as the noise to my right disappeared and I thought I had finally reclaimed a portion of this haven I thought my home was a loud "BOOM" came to my left. Now the person on my left had something on and it was loud with deep percussion noises. I do not do percussion noises well. Instantly, I was in a near panic at these noises.

What does all this feel like? This is a multi-layered answer. The first is that the only way I can describe it is that it creates this sensation of sheer panic that races through each limb and branches out into the fingers and toes It truly is a full body experience. Also, rationally, in my brain, I know there is no danger but the nerves throughout my body disagree. It's as if there's a battle going on within my body and I can't simply end it. This sensation of panic rises and rises and at the same time there is a high level of self-loathing. I kept, and keep, asking myself, "Why can't I just not feel this way? Why?"

It's in moments like this that I feel the most isolated. I have no right to complain to these people because, chances are, their volume probably isn't that high. The sound of the IndyCar on iRacing is probably louder than whatever they were watching. Yet my reactions are the same regardless and I wish, oh how I wish I could give this feeling justice; to know that 99.9% of people can go through what I heard and have no issues and yet for me to have it create a sensory nightmare.

The #1 feeling I feel is shame. The majority of my brain right now is telling me I should be able to tough it out and get over it and there's this little tiny voice in a dimly lit corner that is trying to remind myself that, "Um, Aaron, yeah... you know... there's this thing called Asperger Syndrome and, well, you have it... Remember?"

The majority of my brain responds, "What does that matter? I can public speak to thousands at a time, flag races flawlessly, write without effort, and manage traveling as if it's nothing. Why would some little noise create an issue?"

At this moment I think I feel about as down as I've ever felt. I don't think I'm allowed to move for five years and a home isn't like a product from an electronics store in that, there's no 30 day return policy. I feel as if I'm trapped. I see no way out. What I thought was going to be an amazing experience has turned out to be the start of a nightmare.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another Sensory Episode

One of my favorite things in life is to try new things. Wait a sec, that's not right. Let me try that again. One of my favorite things in life is to try new pizza places. After trying two places during the week that were decent but nothing super I went to Google and did a search for, "Best pizza in Vancouver" and since the #2 place wasn't all that great I decided that #3 would surely be better.

Rob, Travis, and myself made the 20 minute or so trip to this place and we walked in, made our order, and sat down. A couple things struck me as we sat down; one was that 90% of places in Vancouver sell soda by the can and the fountain concept isn't as prevalent as it is in Amercia. Secondly, 110% of televisions on in businesses air whatever hockey is currently being televised.

The pizza came out and it was as close to the best pizza in North America as I've tasted. There's this place in downtown Saint Louis that I discovered while I had jury duty to which all other pizzas are compared to and this was close. Really close.

As with yesterday's post, I'm not here to bore you with details of an irrelevant dinner. Of course there is more to this story.

Travis, Rob, and I had now spent the whole day doing things and I felt about as normal as normal can get. This was a supremely foreign thing for me. I even thought this in my head as to just how normal I felt. Then, it happened.

A few minutes after we arrived a group of six sat down beside us. Our pizza came out then and there were several, of what I like to call, "aggressive eaters" within that group. What is an aggressive eater? An aggressive eater is one who puts enough force within the utensils to make a screeching noise. I don't think anyone likes this noise, but to me it is downright painful.

As with yesterday's story, I was in mid-sentence when the loudest of loud screeches took place. Again, Rob would tell me later that I once again had my muscles clinch up. The story yesterday had to do with being touched but this was noise and the results were even worse.

The noise came and then it was gone, but for a several seconds afterwards the noise reverberated within my brain. I lost my train of thought as that all too familiar sensation of sheer panic raced through my body. Just as I came back around and had my composure the screech came back.

Screech.

Screech.

SCREECH!!!

Each time this happened felt like a stab wound in the gut. My conscious mind kept telling me that there was nothing to worry about. The response however couldn't be stopped. It was like having a war with my senses because the response was of one of panic yet I knew there was nothing to worry about.

It kept going on and on and Travis, who could see my distress, asked, "Do you want to go outside?" I fought through it though and I'm not sure why, but I wasn't going to get up because of a simple noise. I probably should have though.

I tend to have hyper-sensitive hearing and there were times I'd react to the noise and Rob would say, "Wow, I didn't even hear it that time." From that line I realized that I wasn't hiding my reactions all that well, but then again how could I? I don't know if I can put into proper words just how fast the adrenaline flows when that noise is heard. It isn't a slow escalation but rather my body goes into instant panic/pain mode.

One thing I find interesting is that my reaction to the screech is worse now than it used to be. As I moved out from home in 2011 my dad had started to become a screecher when eating and it did bother me, but now the reactions within my body seem to be much higher than the used to be and I don't know why. Is it stress? Is it that I'm older? Whatever it is I'm not sure but my tolerance for that frequency of noise is now non-existent.

I find it odd how something so small can have such a painful effect on my body. Unless you've experienced it I don't know if my words can have the multiple dimensions in terms of letting you understand what it is like. I can explain "positional warfare" and I can explain, "social anxiety" but how can I put it in a way that a simple noise makes my entire body hurt? How can I put it that a noise derails all the thoughts I have and makes me want to run from the noise as if the sound is lethal in nature? The only thing I can do is what I've done and that is try. I also want to state that not everyone is going to have this aversion to noise, but it is something to be on the lookout for and if you see it I hope you remember this. What to you, may just be a one-dimensional problem could be, for us on the autism spectrum, a multi-dimensional sensory nightmare and telling me to simply, "get over it" will do no good at all. It isn't a choice! I know that there shouldn't be a reaction but there is, and that reaction can become more overwhelming than anything you could imagine,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Sensory Episode

Last week I had the chance to meet one of the employees of the Canucks Autism Network. A few days prior I had dropped off a copy of my book for their library and then I had a chance of Friday to take a tour of the place and then meet with Emily, their Coordinator of Community Programs. On the tour I met with a few other employees and then we went to get some hot chocolate to further discuss who they are and what they do as well as stating who I am and what I do in Saint Louis. Of course, if I'm blogging about an event as routine as a meeting then that means it is anything but routine.

At the hot chocolate place  I was asked several questions and I explained what I do with presenting to police officers to which Emily thought was amazing. I was then given some of their handouts and all of it looked highly impressive. I started out slow as Rob and his dad were also there and getting into my "Alias" mode was difficult but eventually I hit my stride. It felt awesome, but then it happened.

I don't know what story or what point I was on but I was looking out the window just to right of Emily when I felt a bump on my back. This bump became stronger and stronger and it was no longer a bump but rather a constant pressure. In my mind I didn't know what was going on and then the panic set in and I froze.

This isn't the first time a bump on the back happened to me, but it is the first time I was in the middle of a sentence. Now, when I say I froze, the reason for this was that every single ounce of my being was scared and ready for the unfathomable to happen. The sensation I can describe is that of falling at an extreme speed. It wasn't just a feeling in my brain, but my entire body had this awful sensation to it.

For myself time ceased; what I was saying didn't matter and for what it was worth I forgot what I was saying. I wanted to scream but nothing came out. Then, a person walked past me and is backpack came up my shoulder and down my arm. I was in a daze and couldn't really put it all together that the aisle way was thin and it was this guy's backpack which had pressed on my back while he tried to walk past.

The daze continued as I just stared off to nowhere and I tried to regain control of my body. I felt horrible in two ways. One was the physical aspect which I mentioned. The second was the fact that I knew that I had become a person frozen in time and those around me just looked at me. I thought I did a good job trying to hide how I felt but Rob would later tell me it looked as if every single one of my muscles had clinched as hard as they could. This was news to me as I never had it explained to me what one of these episodes looked like.

Again, my concept of time was gone so I do not know how long I stayed staring off at space but I wanted to say something so I tried to think about what I was saying and it just simply wasn't there. I then felt a sense of relief because, of all times for this happen, wasn't this one of the best? Rob was there, his dad was there, and a person in the field of raising the awareness and understanding of autism in BC was there. Knowing this helped the process of regaining my composure and I think my first words were, "Yeah, um, what was I saying?"

This is one of the major fears that I have; that of having everything going just normal then one event happens and then my body goes into full defense mode.

It took several minutes but I eventually came back to my "Alias" mode and the meeting went on without any more taps on the back. When we walked back to their offices I handed Emily one of my DVD's to place in their library as well because I'm not sure when I will be back in Vancouver and after such an episode that I went through I wanted to be able to tell my story to everyone. Since that isn't possible I did the next best thing and donated a DVD.

So that was another story from my trip in Vancouver. The sensory events weren't over though and that will be tomorrow's story.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Day of Boating

Today I head back to Saint Louis but I do have multiple blog posts to write regarding my trip to Vancouver. This story goes back to Thursday and an incredible day I had on the water.

This trip was unexpected. The night before Rob's dad asked if I had ever been boating to which I said that I hadn't. I didn't know why the question was asked but then I was informed that he had a sailboat and if I would like we could go out. Never having been on a boat outside my grandpa's small fishing boat, a canoe, and the ferry here in Vancouver and New York City I said, "Sure."

So Thursday morning came and we headed to the marina and I had no idea what to expect. I also was shocked to learn that Lucy, Rob's dog, would be joining us on the trip. As we, or rather Rob's dad prepped the boat for launch I was given the task of opening up one of the sides. This was a zipper like plastic curtain that needed to be rolled up to allow access from the control portion of the boat to the sides. However, as is typically the case when I'm doing something I don't know how to do, this wasn't as easy as simply doing. Rob got his side up quickly but I kept trying and trying. I said nothing aloud as I struggled in the process of trying to roll up the curtain and fasten it on the top. One minute, two minutes, and then five minutes later I had to help with something else and when I came back, somehow, it all worked and that darn curtain stayed in place.

After about 30 minutes of pre-launch work the engine fired up on this sailboat and we slowly left the marina. I was standing on one side of this 32ft sailboat and Rob was on the other and we both had boathooks in our hands so if we got too close to another craft we could reach out and either push it away or push us away. Either way I was sure that at some point in time I was ending up in the water.

We got out of the crowded marina and got into the main waterway that led to the bay. With Vancouver in the background I thought that this was a prime photo op and I think I was right.

As we went under a bridge we did indeed have a destination. This destination was Bowen Island where we would dock, have lunch, and make our return trip.

The winds were calm which meant the small motor was powering this sailboat. I didn't know sailboats could have an engine because a sail boat sails, right?

As we got into English Bay the 32ft sailboat, which had seemed large compared to the canoes and dragonboats we had seen, was now a spec on the water compared to the massive freighters and tankers that were anchored in the bay awaiting their chance to off load their cargo. I'm somewhat fascinated with large boats, and somewhat afraid of them as I have a fear of open water and being on a big boat as it sinks with no one within 1,000 miles. Seeing them up close got me wondering as to just how many miles these boats have gone and have many shorelines have they seen?

After about an hour Rob's dad handed the wheel to Rob and instantly, what was a smooth ride, became a slalom affair. I couldn't help myself but to make a few smart remarks as the navigation aids showed our track and we went from a straight line to a zig zagging mess. Then, after an hour of that, it was my turn.

All those remarks I made? Yeah, they came back to bite me because I was just as off; and not only that, the sails were put up when I was behind the wheel so not only did I have to worry about other boats, but I also had to make sure I kept the sails in the wind. Rob took a picture of me, as shown, and the only caption I can think of is to say, "Okay folks, who let me drive?

Thankfully the water traffic was low as the weather was a typical Pacific Northwest day; cloudy, misting, and a bit chilly. Well, I was chilly but Rob and his dad were rather comfortable. Okay, I wasn't a bit chilly as my hands were numb despite the fact that I had cotton gloves on and waterproof gloves on over that.

My career as captain wasn't going that well as several times I steered the boat out of the wind. This meant Rob and his dad had to do more things with rope, ahem, line than I could comprehend. It got so bad I could see Lucy the Maltipoo dog looking at me with a look of, "seriously, my life is in your hands?" Thankfully for her she too had a life jacket just in case.

We passed Passage Island and was getting closer to our target. This was good because I was starting to get rather hungry. There was still a ways to go and I noticed that I was, for no better word to use, relaxed. This was a feeling I haven't used in a while, if ever, and a word that I don't think I've used on my blog as well, if ever. With the skyline of Vancouver slowly drifting out of view I relinquished control, sat down, and just breathed.

It was about another hour before Rob's dad turned us into the small port on Bowen Island. Once again I had a boathook in hand but once again it wasn't needed. We parked, ahem, moored and got out of the boat. To be on land again felt weird and now we had a short hike to the place we would be eating.

This whole experience felt odd. I had never been boating, and had never been on this island and all the while I was just soaking all this in because I may never do any of it again and I may never be on that island again. And not only that, this island and the atmosphere and the gray weather which was spitting small drops of rain was just amazing. Rob and his dad kept wishing the weather would have been sunny, but when I think about life there on a day-to-day basis this is how I envision it and with that being the case I felt like an outsider looking in on a life that I would never know.

We ate at this small restaurant/coffee house. They served primarily sandwiches but I went with the breakfast and got some of the best tasting eggs and bacon I have ever had. Perhaps the 2nd best only behind a hotel I stayed at in Lithuania.

With lunch done we headed back to the boat and with each step I wondered if I would ever step where I was stepping again. This is an odd thought process I'm sure, but when I'm in a place that I doubt I'll be again I get sad. This place was so neat, so perfect, and I was so relaxed that I wanted to freeze time. Sadly, that just isn't possible to we got back to the boat and repeated the pre-launch things and headed back to Vancouver.

The ride back seemed so much faster than the ride out, but that's a day I'm not going to forget for some time to come. It's rare to say I experienced a perfect, relaxing day but Thursday was it. If I could freeze a moment in time it is certainly this picture which was taken right before we got back on the boat, which is shown, and has Rob, Lucy the dog, and myself in it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Returning to the Start

In just two hours I will return to the place that my first blog story took place. I have to admit I am a bit nervous as well as I will once again be presenting.

It's been almost three years since I was here and when I was here before I was unsure of myself. I had given one presentation to teachers and about six to police officers. Needless to say I was still a rookie and I didn't know if my words would be heard. It's one thing to speak and it's another thing to be heard.

Three years ago I know I was heard as the Rotary Club sponsored a couple autism guide dogs. This makes today even more nerve racking for me because I want to say the right things better than I have ever said it, but I only have about 10 minutes. What can I say? What do I say? I have so much but to have to think on the fly as to what I say and what I omit has me nervous.

There is also extra pressure because I believe my confidence as a speaker was born three years ago up here in Vancouver. To know I was heard by people that didn't have an affiliation to the autism spectrum meant I must have done something right. That being the case I want today to be just as meaningful, just as special, and just as enlightening.

This is an odd feeling! I haven't been nervous for a presentation in a very long time. In fact, I'm so nervous, I've got nothing more to say about it because I don't want to make myself anymore nervous. I hope I do okay...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Major Impact

Yesterday I got the honor of presenting to some of the staff at a high school here in Vancouver. I was worried because, well, I just didn't know how my message would be received in another country. Perhaps this isn't something to worry about but after all, if I had nothing to worry about, I'd worry about the fact that there was nothing to worry about.

Anyway, this presentation got lined up by Rob as this was his former high school. We walked into the library a bit early and introduction were made to the five teachers that were there and I took a seat and felt out of place. Quickly though a question was directed towards me and I instantly went into presentation mode and the conversation continued on and on all the way to the actual official start of my presentation.

This presentation was a bit different from my normal ones as I only had 35 minutes. No PowerPoint was used and I fully winged the presentation. I was worried that what I was saying wouldn't be heard but these fears were quickly put to rest as I saw tears from a few teachers and I heard comments of, "Every student needs to hear this!"

The time went by too fast, but the response afterwards was one of the warmest I have ever received. One of the teachers then asked me if I'd be willing to sit in his class and speak for a while so I said sure not really knowing what this meant or what I would be doing, but 50 minutes later I was in his room.

He invited the students that were in his room, and his room is designed for students for are gifted students or those that might need a little extra assistance, to sit around this table and asked me to tell my story. This was a different realm for me so I asked for some prompting and that began a magical time as I shared my normal stories and questions were asked by the two teachers, and the students in there.

What made this such a neat time was the way, as the hours cycled, the audience changed and yet even in the change the new students that came in listened with the same intent as if they had heard the full story. Now I should say not all the students in there were on the autism spectrum, but still my words were being heard.

There were several moments during these three hours in this classroom that I wanted to cry out of realizing just what an impact my words were having. At least five times I got a profound "thank you" from a student or a, "I needed to hear that" but the most profound thing I heard was from a person who told me, "You know, how you described who you are and why, I've thought of for some time myself but I just never, well, I just never knew how to say it and, well, I guess I should say thank you so thank you... thank you."

I was just expecting to present to some teachers today and the day became much more than that. That's sort of how my first trip up here in 2010 happened as well as I came up to go to the Olympics and through a twist of fate I presented at a Rotary club. I wasn't expecting or prepared to speak to students today in the setting I did, and I never actually presented in the format I did, but in those three hours I have no doubt that the level of understanding was raised, some motivation was infused, and I hope my message gave a hint of inspiration and hope. I didn't lie and say everything becomes easy. I didn't say that there's a quick fix, but what I did say was that life can take unexpected turns. Four years ago I felt hopeless and thought I had no future and yet here I am now. It took a while, it took a lot of hard work, and in the end here I am.

I am so thankful I was given the chance to spend those hours in that class. It was unexpected, but the impact, I'm sure, will last a long time; I know it will for me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Aisle of Fear

Yesterday was a long day as I woke up before 5AM to get to the airport to start my trek to Vancouver. Usually when I fly I am headed to a race and that means I have my flags with me and so often I get stopped and quizzed at the security checkpoint so I have a high sense of worry. Today there were no flags and yet I still had that fear because that's the normal emotion I have so it was part of the routine, I guess.

The first leg of my trip was fine, then I landed in Salt Lake City and was rather hungry but didn't have time to eat. I got to my gate and had a short wait before I boarded the plane. I boarded with zone one so the plane was rather empty as I made my way to Row 43 seat C.

Okay, it's been a while since I've written about anything that has happened to me directly. I miss writing about Kansas, Hyper-Kansas, The Positional Warfare, and any of the other elements that factor into my life. One of the ways I cope is that I am a fast learner as to to how to avoid unwanted situations. Also, the confidence I have within me is strong enough that the mild events that used to turn major are now just mild events. This event though that was about to happen was not one of those times.

I forgot to set me seat assignments before the trip so now I was stuck with an aisle seat. This doesn't sound like all that big of a deal, but for me it is. However, I wasn' worried because normally the flights I'm on are half full. Just as I convinced myself of this fact the steward came on and said, "okay folks, we have a full flight, and I mean full flight today..." Great, I thought.

What's bad about the aisle? First, I become part of everyone's world. This means I can't hideaway by looking out of the plane. I can see everyone as I look down the aisle and it feels as if everyone can see me. It's difficult being around so many people but if I look out of the plane it is as if I am alone, 34,000 feet in the sky, at peace.

The first person to sit in my row came so I had to get up, which I was fine with as that was their seat, and then the next person came and I was okay with that. Then, the overhead bins began to fill up and people started leaning up against me as they tried to fill the bins, then the stewardess did the same and the people walking back and forth kept bumping me.

So far, what I have mentioned, I'm sure, would annoy anyone, but for me it became on the verge of being too much. As my anxiety levels rose so to did it seem the volume of the people in the plane. What was a calm, constant hum of life became a deafening roar of jumbled noise. Then the person to my left needed something, I'm not sure what, and he leaned over towards me and the attendant leaned over me making contact with my shoulder and I wanted to be anywhere but there. Anywhere!

I wanted to scream. I wanted to retreat. It took everything to not crumble into a ball of an emotional wreck. I so badly wanted to say something, anything, but what could I? What would have happened if I said, "please don't touch me, or contact my shoulder as I have Asperger's and that makes me feel an odd, unique pain. How could I explain the elements of the time an usher tapped my shoulder at a hockey game? Then, I felt bad being who I am.

The flight from Salt Lake to Seattle lasted too long. I tried to read but I wasn't processing anything. I tried to hideaway but there was no where to hide. When I'm on the window I can withdraw into my own little world without any interaction, but in the aisle there are assaults from all directions.

Eventually we landed and I had to figure out how to get from one side of the airport all the way to the other. Thankfully there's a train service but since I was so frazzled it didn't make sense. I started to just follow people hoping that they would lead me in the right direction. Thankfully they did and I rode every possible train line they have to get to my gate.

On my final leg of my trip I had the window and I was able to become the only person on the plane as I looked out upon the blue waters and green trees. It was so relaxing after a difficult experience, but then I began to wonder why it was so difficult. Why was something like what had happened so bad? Up until that moment I didn't allow myself to calculate Asperger's into the equation, but when I did it made perfect sense.

Understanding is important and that's the reason I have gone on this trip. For anyone that could have seen me during that aisle experience I'm sure they had no idea what it was like on the inside for me. To what to scream and yet remain silent; to feel as if I have to run away and yet to stay put are both ways to describe how I felt in the ordeal. And for me, today, I get such an honor to present to a group of teachers my story, thoughts, and ways to describe the autism spectrum. I may not write as much as I used to on the hardships, but they're still there, hiding, and in the moments I lease expect them they show up. Thank goodness I understand the reasons as to why, and thank goodness I have the means to tell the world these things.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Headed to Vancouver

It's been an early start for me as I am currently at the airport awaiting my flight to Vancouver. It feels kind if weird to get a home of my own and two days later leave the country, but I am so excited for this trip.

In a way, this trip is returning to the place that my confidence as a speaker began. On Friday I am presenting at the Rotary club I spoke to back in 2010. Also I've got a presentation to teachers at a high school as well as an open to the public presentation Friday night.

So it should be an interesting and fun week that begins today with my flights so the next time I blog I will be in Canada.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Home!

So it happened over the weekend. The event I had been fearing, dreading, and awaiting with an anxiousness the likes I had never experienced happened. I moved.

The "fun" started on Friday with a ton of pre-packing. As this was going on I wanted anything, and I do mean anything, to be able to just jump forward in time when everything was moved to my new place. Change is bad, but witnessing change is even worse in my opinion.

So the pre-packing concluded and I had one last night in the place. I stayed up rather late to enjoy the walls one more time. That, and to try and win one more race on iRacing.

Saturday came and this was it. Boxes were full, my electronics had to be unhooked, and with each passing minute the inevitable change was nearing. I sat on a couch in a fog like state. Each passing minute felt as if a clamp around my chest was getting tighter and tighter. I knew the change was coming but why couldn't it just happen? This hurry up and wait for the change was not doing me an favors.

My stress level was peaking so I loaded up my car and took a load of stuff over. The movers were about 30 minutes from being at my place but my dad stayed behind to take care of that. I don't think I could have handled that process of the move whatsoever.

Leaving the place hurt. I had been there 16 months and as I drove up the hill that led out of the neighborhood I thought back to the original time I came to this place. No, not the time I moved in, but I had stayed there several times to dog sit for the owner. During those dog sitting days I always wondered what it would be like to say that a place was my own. Granted, I had lived there for 16 months but it wasn't my own.

Also while I left the neighborhood I became rather sad as the routine of life was about to change. From the people I never talked to but always saw walking, to the 7-11 I always stopped at in the morning, everything I knew was about to change.

I got to my place and started unloading the stuff I had in my car. Once again I just wanted to be able to snap my fingers and have everything in place. I hustled to try and make this place home, but all the important stuff was on the moving truck and once again I got to play the game of hurry up and wait.

My dad arrived ahead of the moving truck and I began to have the same panic as before in regards to seeing the change. It was different this time because I didn't want to see the stuff taken out of the old place but now I didn't want to see the stuff entering the new place. Why was this? I'm not sure. Maybe because it was a visible, concrete example of change and if I didn't see it then maybe the change itself isn't as real? I intentionally put a "?" at that sentence because if I were to speak it aloud it would have sounded like a question because I'm not sure if that is the answer or not.

Since the cable company changed their ways I had to go out and get my own wireless router (don't get me started on them) so I decided to do that instead of waiting for the movers. Sadly, the person at the store was overly great at showing me exactly where the item I wanted was as I would have rather wandered around for a good three hours.

With router in hand I went back to my place and saw the movers unloading the truck. I was instantly flooded with fear. Did everything get moved? Did everything survive the move? Would I be able to make the rooms I inhabit the same as before? These questions swirled around with a vicious fury that left me in a trance like state. If you could have seen me from the outside it may have looked as if I were tired, maybe a bit depressed, and uncaring. There was so much more than could meet the eye though as I was a ball of worry and had no way to show or express just how scared I was.

Eventually I entered the restroom upstairs and I shut the door. I didn't want to see what was going on. I could still hear the footsteps and orders being shouted, but I wanted no part in this moving game. I wanted it all to be over.

A couple hours later it was over. The movers left and I began to hook up the internet, television, and computer. The chair I race in was reassembled, my games got put back into the order that I had them, my clothes were put in the order that they should be in, and slowly this place that I have only referred to as a "place" was being transformed.

Yes, this place slowly began to take shape and have a life. When I saw the place for the first time just over a month ago it was nothing more than walls with that hid the hollowness within. As my furniture got set and I got everything to my liking it became more than that. I'm not sure at exactly what moment Saturday night it happened, but this place Saturday night got transformed and it's no longer a place, but it's my home.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pushed to the Limit

Mark my words! I am never moving again. I can't take it; I can't handle it and if I ever get the itch or urge to move please point me to this blog post.

What's there to hate about moving? "All of it" I think is a very apt answer. There isn't one redeeming quality about it. I mean, there's so much to do, so much change, cable hookups, locksmiths, gas, electric, and I'm sure there are several more elements of this that I don't even know about it yet.

I'm going to stick by my motto; change is bad! But maybe it is this belief that is making the whole ordeal worse. If so would it be possible for the move to be anything but the most awful experience ever? I ask this because right now it is.

This move is wearing on me and it is this wear that I am going to make my point today. Yes, I could write on and on about how awful each small thing is, but you'd probably get bored by about the third paragraph. So, the key thing to take note on about this is this wear concept. When something big is going on or about to happen my mind goes into hyper-focus on it. Slowly it becomes the only thing that matters. With that being so all other aspects of life become effected. Things that were tolerable become problems the sized that only rarely used words like ginormous and behemoth begin to describe them.

When I am pushed to the limit, as I am now, it is hard to understand that anything will get better because, if one thing has me to the wall, everything has me to the wall. There is no middle ground here in that one thing is okay and the other isn't. If one thing crosses the line that is the limit, such as moving, all other small things in life become larger than life itself. This thought cycle keeps going down and down and even further down until really everything seems utterly hopeless.

Thankfully this moving process only has about 48 hours left. Maybe by Sunday there will actually be heat in my place, and all my electronics will be setup, and then maybe these awful emotions about moving and change will be gone and I will be, for the first time ever, at a home of my own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Impending Event

Okay, I've stated many times that I don't like change and moving is a major change. Because of this my ability to focus and makes sense of things just isn't what it normally is. My mind is trying to phase out and get to a state of not thinking. This usually doesn't happen, and it's not right now, but because of this my ability to come up with a worthwhile post has just not been happening today. I can't wait until next week when the move is complete and things start to settle down. Although I am headed to Vancouver next week so that's going to be weird; I have to pack to move then I have to pack again for a trip... Yeah, I'm going to go back and try to think about anything that doesn't require thought.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Improbable Event

Yesterday was a huge day for me. Yes, I turned 30 but there was also another major milestone that I forgot to write about yesterday and that is the fact that, yesterday afternoon, I signed the papers and became a homeowner.

I think back to where I was eight years ago, heck, just four years ago and the idea of being able to buy a place was so improbable that it was almost laughable. Of course, so was the concept of being a public speaker so it's amazing how times can change.

The next several days are going to be filled with so many emotions. Moves are difficult for me and already I've taken two car loads of stuff over. There's so much more to be done as well as the movers coming to take the big stuff on Saturday But in it all the movement of items is so difficult. The room I have been in the most is starting to thin out. My computer, racing chair, and television are still there but behind my chair are more boxes than I'd like to see. Slowly the house I've been in will lose it's shape, or rather the shape I had given it and it will be nothing but empty walls and this concept saddens me.

I've been where I am for 16 months and it was the first place I ever lived in alone. During those 16 months I think I spent more time out of town than actually in it, but nonetheless the place, the neighborhood, and all things associated it with will always be remembered. It hurts so much to be leaving it.

As I packed many of my clothes yesterday I kept my brain numb. I packed at a fever pitch to try and push through any emotions I may have felt. It felt as if it were only yesterday that I was putting my clothes into this place and now I'm in the process of vacating it.

I'm sure this won't be the last word on the matter, but writing about it anymore, today, is just a little too difficult so I will leave this at that and just say that the next four days are not going to be all that enjoyable for me despite the fact that I should feel some sense of accomplishment.

Monday, February 4, 2013

30

The day I have been fearing for a decade is here... 30! Today is my birthday and I am an emotional wreck.

Birthdays have always been hard but this one has had the biggest build up of fear and sadness. Sadness? Yes. Of all the days, at least for me, that I see what I am not today is the day that I do it the most.

A decade ago I was full of so much potential but not in terms of writing or presenting. The only thing on my mind a decade ago was becoming a force in the world of racing. It's amazing how things can change in 10 years as writing wasn't even an imagination for me 10 years ago.

Another thing that wasn't even an idea at all in my mind was that anything at all was different about me. 10 years ago I still did not have my diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and not only that I had never heard of it either.

One thing that I struggle with my memory, and if you don't know my memory is super strong to the videographic level, is that I feel as if I'm still in those moments. What I mean by that is the anxious anticipation I felt of my 20th birthday, the knowing that I would be one of the best racers ever, is still within me. The only thing I feared about 20 was the change itself never having a "1" in front of my age. (and to be honest, the transition from 9 to 10 was just as difficult)

So that's how I felt from 19 to 20, so how do I feel 29 to 30? As I write this the only thing I can say is that I am full of sadness, confusion, and questions. What a long, strange journey the past 10 years have been. I have so many questions; what would my life be like had I never got my diagnosis? Would my relationship with Emily have turned out better? Would I be, well, normal? By the way, what is normal?

I am chasing normal today. This is a chase that can not be won and yet I'm chasing it with a fury. Today, lost among the emotions, are most of the events of the past 10 years. The time I was a racing instructor in Vegas? Irrelevant. My trips abroad? Doesn't matter. The night I bowled a 300? Nope. The only thing I'm seeing is what I'm not and who I didn't become.

Then, earlier today, I gave a presentation in TouchPoint's Parent Training Program and my energy picked up. It was one of the more scatterbrained presentations as I was trying to present as well as processing the meaning of 30. As I told my stories though I thought that who I'm not has made me who I am. If just one thing were different the past 10 years I can almost guarantee that you would not be reading this because this path in life would not have been discovered.

10 years ago, when I turned 20, I was on a mission. That mission revolved around me. The world didn't matter, others didn't matter, and the only thing that mattered was becoming the greatest racer ever. That probably sounds selfish, but to be the best at something this is perhaps the needed mindset. Also, having Asperger's, well, maybe that had something to do with it as well. Anyway, that was the mission then the decade of my 20's came and to be perfectly honest it was not the easiest of years. I got my diagnosis, read bad information, and was felt hopeless for many years. My racing career never even got off the starting line and I thought all was lost. I spent many night fearing the nothingness I was sure I was destined to endure. It was in all this though that I was sort of reborn.

It took a while but I wrote, got published, and found out I had a gift as a speaker. Who knew? My mom still can't believe I am a public speaker and, well, neither can I. Along the way during my 20's I realized I didn't want anyone to feel the way I felt. No one should feel hopeless the way I did. Slowly my dream of racing vanished and the only thing that mattered, and matters, is getting the word out about the autism spectrum. This is why I say if one thing was different, if the timing of one event, or meeting each person that has played a vital part of getting me to my role didn't happen, again I have to say that you wouldn't be reading this. Who I am not has made me who I am. Sure, I may still get down about that as I did earlier this morning, but at the same time I think it is extremely amazing to be who I am.

So today, just like I did 10 years ago, I am on a mission. The mission has changed though. As dedicated as I was to becoming rich, famous, and a legend in racing has changed to becoming as much of a servant to the autism field as humanly possible. I want as many people to have the right information about all things autism as possible. True hope and awareness can't happen until there is an understanding and I hope I can do my part in raising the level of understanding.

I want to thank more people than you would care to read so those that have played a part in getting me here, well, you know who you are. Everything happens for a reason and I never could have imagined the path my life took from ages 20-29, but in those years my mission, calling, and true passion in life were found. I have a mission and it isn't about myself. I look forward to the next 10 years with the same excitement I did ten years ago. However, this isn't about myself, or becoming a champion of a racing circuit. No, this excitement is the hope of what the understanding of the autism spectrum will look like 10 years from now. What a mission to have, right? I can't wait!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Final Friday

This is it. This is a major event as today is the final Friday for two major events in my life. For one today is the final Friday that I will be twentysomething. On Monday I turn 30 and I am not handling it all that well.

Late yesterday afternoon I went into my memory chest that has a whole bunch of stuff that I kept, or my parents kept, of my childhood. It was bittersweet doing so and the memories flooded in. I looked over some of the school work that was saved and it was odd to think that, back then, I didn't have my diagnosis. This was an odd thought because, for almost 10 years now, I've known.

I continued looking through the memories and I found a great photo of my cats Siam and Amsterdam as well as a 2nd grade paper about my dog Missy. I still can't believe it's going to be 10 years in June that I lost her.

Where does time go? It seems like just yesterday that my concerns were limited to worrying about fire drills and school lunches. I continued to dig and found an envelope that Linda sent me in 1999. That moment really froze me as I held it. The story of her is in my book and I haven't mentioned her on here since my first year of blogging, but the memories are just as fresh and just as now as any other memory.

It was becoming too much and I quickly put the lid on the chest and put it back in the closet but I didn't leave my room. I mean, 30... 30! I know I asked this before but where does the time go?

I did mention two changes and the reason I was looking through old stuff has to do with the change I've been talking about all week. That change is the fact that I am moving into my own true place. I won't be renting anymore but I will be in a place that is truly mine. I know that's exciting but at the same time I am so sad to leave where I am.

Change is bad. If I didn't have a few better mottoes that would be mine. I don't know the exact day next week that I will have all over but it should be by Friday. That means that the hour of leaving this place gets closer each second and one thing I used to write about but haven't as much recently is that I grow attached to places and things. Environmental changes are very difficult for me because there are so many memories tied to the place itself.

Many of the places that things got set back on the date I moved here are still in that place. Partly because I've actually been out of town more than I have been in town since I moved here, but also because the placement reminds me of that day and the people that were here. Over time more and more stuff has found a place and to move it all, well, it's not just moving an item but it's also like relocating the memories as well.

As for the moving itself I want as little to do with it as possible. The move mentioned in the blog post I linked to was one of the more traumatic days of my life. To box up memories and have them moved was not something I enjoyed and now I have to do the whole ordeal over.

I could write on and on about it and I probably will on Monday as not only do I go through the closing process but I also turn 30. What a way to start the next 30 years of my life, right?