It’s time to be normal…

Me and my giant carrotIt seems like it’s something that works for the majority of the population so it’s time for me to step up and join in with normality. The first step is figuring out how.

What do normal people talk about? I’ve got the weather down pat. I mean that’s a necessity. But what about cats? Do they talk about their cats? How about their cats interests? It hardly seems worth it to talk about your cats if you neglect to discuss their likes and dislikes. You’re basically just saying their name. What about your favourite stuffies? Can you mention several stuffies or do you have to stick with just one? I don’t know how I can winnow it down to any less than three. And is Doctor Who a major topic of conversation? Does everyone have a favourite Doctor? I like 10 but I really like 11 and thirteen and nine and blargh! I really like them all! How do I pick one?

People talk so much about coffee and wine. Hopefully being normal doesn’t mean I have to like either of those. I really like hot chocolate (especially with vegan mini marshmallows on top) or slushies, particularly the red ones. It doesn’t matter which red, it’s either going to be strawberry or cherry and both are good. It’s probably not an adult drink. I guess daiquiris are slushies, just without a straw, but with rum… which would ruin the taste. I think I’ll stick with my slushie.

Then there’s clothes. What sort of garlands do people wear in their hair? Apparently none. And sequins? There’s a none there too. There’s got to at least be glittery shoes! And we’ve got another nope. I’m batting right out in the clothing department, very sparkly too I might add.

What do normal people do in their spare time?

*looks around cautiously*

Watching TV? I don’t own one. Hanging out with friends? I’ve got a couple. How do I collect more? Does it involve snares? How about gardening? Except I’m surprised I haven’t killed off my artificial plants yet. Do I spout off Doctor Who facts outside the grocery store until someone perks up and starts a conversation? Umm maybe that one’s not normal. Snail collecting? Someone throw me a clue here?

Maybe if there’s room enough for everyone, there’s room enough for me as myself. Maybe I don’t have to be normal. Maybe the normal people have it under control. Which is good because I don’t think I’d do very well at being normal. I do just fine at being me.

 

Is there a diagnosis for weird?

The part I remember the most was that I actually had a friend over. She’d come over as my friend, wanting to hang out and do stuff with me. For the first time ever I could have someone in my room to share my toys and activities. I sat on the floor beside my closet and happily showed off my favourite books and toys. Then I asked her a question and got silence for an answer. I looked up and she was gone.

My heart pounded. I was positive she’d just been there a second ago. Where could she have gone? My room was silent… the hallway empty. I raced downstairs and ran into the kitchen.

“Mom! Mom! My friend just disappeared!”

My Mom gave me this sad smile. “Michelle, she’s right here,” she said as she pointed over to the table. There was my friend sitting calmly eating a snack. “She’s been downstairs for at least ten minutes.”

I don’t remember anything about that friend. I have no idea what her name was, her hair colour, or how we’d even met. What I do remember was the soul crushing shame as I realized I’d sat alone for at least ten minutes talking to myself. The realization that the things I was interested in really were boring and pointless.

I was the kid who collected worms off the side of the road so they wouldn’t drown. Who skipped instead of walked. Who sang in school. Who daydreamed through math class and read through everything else. Who took forever to get dressed because clothes were too finicky and the seams too uncomfortable. Who couldn’t wear jeans. Who couldn’t bounce on a pogo stick even once but could climb to the top of the tallest tree. Who struggled to ride a bike and tie my shoes but could run super-fast. Who hated water on my face but loved swimming underwater. Who mistook a classmate for my own sister because their faces were similar. Who forgets what their own sister looks like? Who can’t tell faces apart that badly? It was even more embarrassing than my Mom drilling me on my classmates faces after picture day and realizing I couldn’t name a single one.

One thing my Mom remembers about my childhood is how well I could hear. As a toddler I recognized my Dad’s step because his knee clicked slightly and, when I was a bit older, I recognized his car by the pitch of the engine. Right now I can hear the hum of my netbook’s fan and the clicking of the CPU. I can hear the cars on the road a block away and my cats breathing. Jeremy chatting in zir room. The faint hum of my ceiling lamp (thankfully not the whine of some fluorescent bulbs). People walking upstairs and moving a chair. I’m reasonably sure most people would say it’s quiet. Sometimes I plug my ears when I’m out. The sounds can get painful.

The school worried about me when I was little and so did my parents. I was sent to Sick Kids for testing in the mid 1970’s and the doctor gave my parents the very scientific results; I’m a square peg in a round hole. He went on to ask them not to let the school board chip my corners off. I wonder how that would fit in an IEP.

I tried to fit in for years, mimicking people’s behaviours and conversational techniques. The end result was an ever present label of “weird”. I talked funny. I sounded like a college professor. I finally gave up on trying to fit in because there doesn’t seem to be much point when the end result is the same. Most jokes confuse me, the raunchy ones especially. I love elephant jokes. They don’t hurt anyone and they make sense. My best social interactions happen online.

The first time the word “autism” intersected with my life was when Jeremy was a toddler and zir occupational therapist brought it up casually. The images my mind dredged up were vague impressions of head banging, rocking, and screaming. My happy, social child didn’t fit any of that. Then the school brought it up and finally Amy. Three separate times was enough to make me do some more investigating and, by the time zie turned seven, I was determined to get zir into testing. Jeremy was diagnosed through the school less than a year later.

Then people started using the word against me, this time as an insult. Amy, who insisted that I should get Jeremy diagnosed because she worked with autistic youths and knew the symptoms, was the first.

You’re so fucking autistic, Michelle. You have no idea how to relate to people.

I looked at Jeremy, who was friendly, helpful, and honest. Amy threw autism like it was an insult but there was nothing wrong with my child. However, she was right in one way; being a square peg in a round hole isn’t a diagnosis… neither is being weird. I joined a group for autistic women on Facebook, explaining honestly that I don’t have an official diagnosis. One immediately posted an online test. This was my result.

ASD online test

Apparently I’m an over achiever.

Jeremy and I are on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist who does talk therapy. I’m hoping he’ll be able to help Jeremy with zir anxiety and I’m hoping he’ll be able to help me with my depression and an actual diagnosis.

For now I need to remind myself that the things I like aren’t weird, boring, or pointless… they’re just uncommon. Because I need to be kind to myself too.

Life with Jeremy (second edition)…

I just got a notification on my phone, a finger with a string around it. I don’t know how to make notifications so it wasn’t from me. It was a reminder that I am weird, complete with an option to be reminded of this tomorrow.

“Jeremy?” I called as I walked into the living room. “Did you just send me a notification?”

Zie slid my headphones off zir ears and looked up. “My phone’s not even on. How could I send you a message?” Zir tone was artfully innocent. And really? Zie’d been playing with zir phone, asking Google endless questions, not ten minutes earlier.

“Well I got a notification saying I’m weird and I didn’t send it.”

Jeremy’s lips curved into a smile. “Are you saying it’s wrong?”

Well no. I just shook my head and walked away, leaving zir laughing. I did, however, click no for tomorrow’s helpful reminder.

I never know what to expect with zir. Jeremy woke up crying yesterday morning and was in tears when I got home from work. Zie was laughing and cheerful last night, thrilled to be cleaning and rearranging zir room in preparation for this weekend’s painting. Jeremy didn’t sleep at all last night, which means today should be interesting. Zie has counseling this morning, a visit with zir Dad this afternoon, and a doctor’s appointment this evening. I’m planning on buying a few chocolate bars and throwing them at zir from a safe distance when zie gets growly.

I am getting glimpses of my rainbow. Jeremy’s dug out zir feminine shirts and is wearing them again, including to a family visit this weekend. Zie’s kept zir toenails polished and is back using perfume. And zir sassy attitude is back.

“There you go Angel,” Jeremy crooned. Zie placed the cat onto my bed and tucked a fuzzy blanket around her. “All nice and comfy.”

I’d just stopped zir from putting Blackie, and then Oreo, into my underwear drawer. Angel likes perching in there but the other two cats don’t. Plus all three cats are overweight and could use some exercise.

“If she wanted to go there, she would have walked there on her own.”

“Does it look like she doesn’t want to be there?” zie pointed out. Angel closed her eyes and purred a bit louder. Thanks cat.

“You seem to forget the cats have four perfectly good legs to walk themselves around with.”

To which Jeremy promptly replied, “Well you seem to forget that I have two perfectly good arms to carry them places.”

Then I posted it on Facebook. My friends promptly sided with Jeremy. Thanks friends (and I honestly mean that).