Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Secret

I may as well reveal another piece of information to help you understand my story.  I am on the autism spectrum as well.  It wasn't until adulthood that I was diagnosed, but I have struggled all of my life dealing with something that I didn't know I had.

First of all, let us talk about focus.  At any given point in my life I have always had something to hyper-focus on.  Playing music, progressing at the bank, the three hours I spent watching and then researching this praying mantis that caught my eye...if it sparks my interest I need to know all about it.  If it is something that I could care less about, forget it.  I dislike reading but have read almost every good book about autism because I wanted to learn everything that I could.  Television to me primarily exists to learn about animals and other non-fiction topics.  Except for the History Channel...never really liked history.  Drives me nuts when the television is on for an extended period of time without any valuable content.  Doesn't sound all too bad, does it?

Let me talk about some of my quirky behaviors and 'things'.  First of all, thankfully I have a husband that will do the dishes.  I can not for the life of me touch a dirty dish.  It feels horrible.  Saliva, I can't stand the smell of it.  The sound of someone drinking is like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I always have to walk with Craig on my left.  I have a keen sense of smell and find it almost intolerable to smell things I dislike.  Strong perfumes and flower scented candles are horrible.  I can't stand cigarette smoke either, but that is just disgusting anyway.  I use the same shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant et cetera because I don't like dealing with the different smells.  The other day I bought new shampoo and conditioner and I decided to try a cheaper selection but I couldn't get over the different smell.  This is a very small list of things that, well, I dunno, are normal for me but apparently others find odd.

Also, I think I appear to be a 'normal' looking person and don't really ever notice that I am not.  I am happy with myself so I don't notice things all too much, but today, for instance, something popped out to me again.  I was waiting at the kids' gymnastics class, among a bunch of other moms.  I was quietly sitting on the couch reading a book about another family's story on autism, trying to blend into my surroundings as the moms were gathering in front of the observation window anticipating the end of class, when I noticed their feet.  Which prompted me to inspect their hair, dress, makeup, et cetera.  Apparently all of these moms just had pedicures, dressed the same, stylish flip flops, pants and shirt.  Hair done as if they had just walked out of a beauty parlor and about all were wearing make up.  They were all gathered together, talking, looked the same.  They seemed nice.  Part of me envied them.  Part of me wondered why they weren't including me in their conversations, but if they were to talk to me I wouldn't know what to say.  Maybe they all went to school together?  One mom that was sitting on the couch next to me did attempt conversing with me.  She asked me how old my kids were.  I asked her the same back because that is what the polite thing is to do.  I was grateful for the conversation, but didn't know how to keep it going.  The easiest thing for me to do was to hide behind my book and blend into the couch.  Is it me?  Am I not approachable?  I am never mean or rude to anyone, as far as I know, I don't mean to be and haven't been told that I was.  My anxiety would take over anyway and I wouldn't be able to function.

I've worn makeup maybe six days out of my whole life.  I don't have long enough fingernails or toenails to worry about painting.  I wash my hair in the shower and don't brush it until I am in the car.  I don't shower until right before I leave the house, but shower I must before I leave.  I can't go into Subway because I can't stand the smell.  Going into one would require that I shower immediately after.  I do love their grinders, though.  I wear what I like and what feels comfortable.  I have exactly one pair of jeans that I can tolerate wearing.  

I have a lot of anxiety.  Mainly, I want to know what people think of me.  Honestly, no sugar coating.  I am not good at reading in between the lines, but I am totally happy with direct, straightforward information.  If I am confused by something, I am not afraid to ask.  Likewise, anything I say to you is complete honesty.  I don't see the point in telling untruths.  If you ask me if I like your haircut, and I don't, what purpose does it do if I tell you it looks great?  What I think about your haircut doesn't matter anyway because I'm not the one who has to wear it.  If you like it, all is good.  If you dislike it, go get it fixed.

Socially, I love spending time with my family.  I don't have the anxiety I do when I am with other people.  Everytime I am at playgroup, storytime, gymnastics, baseball...I am riddled with anxiety.  I just recently went back on my anxiety medication and it seems to be helping a little bit, but it doesn't want me to go 'hang out' with zillions of people.  It helps me get through what I need to. does this affect my parenting?  Well, housework could use a lot of improvement.  That is something that I am not interested in at all.  The kids?  I love them so much and they are the source of my focus right now.  I would say I am an A+ mom.  Sometimes I feel that because I am the same as the two on the spectrum, I can see where they are coming from and understand them a bit more, but most of the time I feel as if I am in a world of my own and each of them in theirs.  I am so focused on their lives and their growth that I lose track of myself.  This is becoming more apparent as time goes on.  In less than a year and a half Caitlin will be in kindergarten.  All of the kids will be in school.  Time to focus on myself and my career.  But that is the thing, I feel lost.

My last career, not my last job, was at the bank.  I hyper-focused on my work (to the exclusion of family) and grew in the company faster than anyone prior.  Being at the bank for just three years with no prior banking experience, I was promoted to Branch President of another branch.  My lending ratings and reviews were among the top few of the company.  My only shortfall was managing people.  I couldn't understand (and still can't) understand why others don't have the same drive and focus that I do.  I never understood why some people could get away with things that others couldn't.  And why were there rules if they weren't enforced?  I couldn't understand the social piece...I can't even explain it now.  I didn't want to be a babysitter.

I loved the bank.  I loved the customers.  Everything came easy, except the managing part.  Do I want to get back into banking when it is time to go back to work?  Probably not.  But what am I cut out to do?  I am a gifted musician, so I've been told, but my anxiety gets in the way.  Also, I am a perfectionist and hear every little mistake I make.  I always want to improve whatever it is that I am doing to the point that I find perfection.  Music isn't going to be that for me.  I like to play the piano for relaxation.  I sing because I enjoy it.  I play the flute because it is fun.  I don't want these pleasures to become my job.  I want them to be my refuge.

So, now I am stuck with nothing.  I love science.  Math and English are okay as well.  But what do I want to do?  I would like to go back to school, but first I have to decided what to study.  To decide that I have to take into consideration my 'unique makeup of abilities and disabilities' as my psychiatrist put it.  This is the first time in my life that I have felt lost.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Liz - Thanks for sharing this about yourself. It occurred to us during your visit that you might be "on the spectrum" as you put it. You seem quite lovely and worth while to us, as a person and as a mother. I wish you luck with your career search when your children all go off to school. It would seem that banking and other financial services companies might offer careers that don't involve messy management issues... but it is hard to go back to things. Brian