Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 24, 2013 to April 30, 2013

“It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Albus Dumbledore, from Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.

I thought this quote rather apt for the following picture. I have really poor organization skills, but am great with the smaller details (Serenity, thy name is an oxymoron). Combine that with a small apartment (about six hundred square feet of living space), and I was often tripping over my own self. Toss in two guinea pigs and the fact that I have dyspraxia (basically, it means my body has no clue where it is in space and needs a defined, fixed visual map to move around; aka; the pathways have to stay clear and the furniture needs to stay in its place, otherwise I risk injuring myself by either running into or tripping over stuff), and I was often having to clean the apartment every single weekend, otherwise it'd look like a slob met a hay barn. Thanks to a small stackable washer and dryer and high cost of utilities, I was having to do a load of laundry every other day, because the towels and heavier items needed to be dried on a clothes line in the apartment. Most of the loads were guinea pig related because I got into the habit of using rags and old clothes over newspaper instead of sawdust after Oreo (the guinea pig who has since moved to the Rainbow Bridge, may he live in peace) developed sores on his feet from said sawdust.

Looking back on the following picture almost a year later, I can see the chaos and depression which were my mind.

Due to the lack of the space in the kitchen, I got good at stacking things so they wouldn't fall over. If you needed to use say, the rice cooker, you'd move the crap out of the rice cooker and into the catch all box on top of the makeshift shelf made from a discarded bookshelf board placed on top of the trash can for recyclables. Due to the lack of proper furniture and the fact that my life revolved around the coffee pot command central (aka the kitchen), I got good at stacking papers and other assorted daily living crap in the kitchen ... into the catch all box. It was difficult to think, much less function.

Description of the above picture: A picture of my apartment's small kitchen counter. From left to right in back: My Keurig machine (which broke during the move, grr), a bag of Eight O'clock Columbine coffee grounds (probably from a buy one, get one free sale), a Ziploc bag of gluten free crackers (which I got 50% off at Safeway because they were stale), a bottle of liquid Vitamin C for the guinea pigs, a red toaster, a large bottle of fish oil pills, a red rice cooker (in which holds boxes of English and Irish tea) and what appears to be either some sort of over the counter medication or antibiotics (I think I was recovering from bronchitis around this time). In the front, from left to right: A bottle of Lifewater (it's the red flavor), my Kindle, my glucose monitor organizer, a wooden bamboo cooking utensil, my red ceramic jar which holds loose Splenda, a Giant's container filled with some sort of soup, and what appears to be a large cooking pan (which has produce bags inside of it) that is sitting crookedly on top of an oven mitt. Several Ziplock bags holding various items and other boxes and random objects are all squished together in the background. On the wall is my two-level medication shelf (every day items on bottom, seldom used medications on top). I think there may even be a bag of almost-empty coffee grounds behind the toaster, and, yes, that is a box of decaf Irish tea sitting on top of something in the background, next to which a monkey cookie jar sits. A fruit bowl in front of it holds measuring cups, measuring spoons, and small snack sized containers with lids.

This is the other side of the kitchen which showed the shelving unit and the catch all box on top of the discarded bookshelf on top of the recycle trash can:

A very, very well organized kitchen. By "organized", I'm being totally sarcastic. It looks like the kitchen threw up (in other words, the kitchen is very, very messy).
In between the counter and the above "command central", are a stove with a microwave above that, and the fridge. It'd be the overstatement of the year to say that it stressed me out.

When it came to time, my mind felt like this:

Picture is of Benny moving so fast, that he is literally a blur. The blue bottom of his cage is shown, out of focus, in the background.
To make a long story short, I will summarize the last six days of April 24 to April 30, 2013. I put together these last days of April using Facebook status updates and photos.

April 24, 2013

Today my niece, A, turns 3 months old!

Picture description: A white cake with two red roses and leaves with the writing "Happy 3 months A-!" is laid to the left of my niece, who is wearing a bright yellow and white stripped "dress" infant onesie (which has a fabric white rose on the front). She is asleep with her hands under her head, looking cuter than a kitten. I have masked her face with a smiley face and bow via Paint (the program), and obscured her name for privacy purposes.
Originally, I had included the kitchen counter photo as my "daily picture," but I think the above photo makes for a happier photo :-)

April 25, 2013

Today's photo is example of food I ate on the run. Thanks to my Facebook statuses, I finally figured out why I had bought LifeWater's (usually, I cut out an unnecessary spending, like on bottled drinks, to save money). Apparently, for the past week, I had been waking up because my legs had been alternating Charlie horses.

When I was in a hurry and lacking in protein bars, I usually tossed left over cereal (in this case, Kix), whatever nut I had lying around (I think this bag contains walnuts), coconut shavings, currents, and freeze dried banana chips into a sandwich sized Ziplock bag. If I had extra money, I might splurge on dark chocolate chips. Sort of like a trail mix, but not.

From front to back: Ziplock bag of "trail mix", cup of coffee, and Lifewater (the yellow kind). In the background, the kitchen sink can be seen, in which there's a few dirty dishes in it.
April 26, 2013

The above picture shows you how I remember things: if I need a particular item and don't want to forget it, I'll carry it around the house with me until I get to the designated spot or activity. That's why there's soap in between the cup of coffee and the white egg "omelet." The soap is Irish Springs. I didn't learn until I moved back in with my mom that Irish Springs is a men's soap. I bought it because it was inexpensive, and I could get them online from WalMart. Oopsie. Now I just use oatmeal soap :-)

Also, RIP Possum! Indeed, who is going to fill their shoes?

April 27, 2013

From my Facebook wall:

Posted at 1:29 in the evenin':
Passed out cold on the floor, tucking the guineas in for the night. Poor things went without hay. I must have sleep walked at some point, because I woke up in bed without any pants. Man, just for once, I wish drinking was involved!

Need to finish dinner and figure out brunch. My excuses for "meals" lately have been a joke, so need a really nutritious dinner tonight. Um ...


Posted at 4:15 in the evenin':

Man, my lungs are sore! Feels like I've been breathing in water. Was sleeping until a hungry hay muncher woke me up. Zeke was also done playing with his paper sack and chowed down on his breakfast, so can he please have some more?

Posted at 5:18 in the evenin':

Sorry B dude, all you have left are the crappy treats (apple his foot! He loves the carrot flavored ones, but puts his foot down at apple!?). So, yeah, to the pet store I go or I'm going to break his heart.
Posted at 12:28 in the evenin':
Pain killers and piazza [pizza] night. Because, frankly, there's not much one can do with pb, tofu, and guinea food. Everything else is either frozen or involves beans, cabbage, or lasagna. Been there, done that, & lost its appeal.
Posted at 2:42 in the mornin':
LOTR :-)
Conclusion: A fully booked Saturday: I woke up without any pants (I must have taken them off while stumbling to bed after feeding the guineas and cleaning the guinea pig cages' - without giving them hay, shocking! - after working until the wee hours of the morning), fed the guinea pigs, fell back asleep, got woken up by the guinea pigs because they were hungry for hay, was prompted to go to the pet store after B insisted he needed treats, and then came back only to order pizza because I was in pain from going to the store and back, and the food options were lacking. I probably then proceeded to feed the guineas, clean their cages, and watched Lord of the Rings (LOTR), which I bought for my birthday.

Daily pictures:
B's birthday presents: The Scooby-Doo and the Pirates DVD cost me five dollars and the cat toy was under two dollars (I remember it was on clearance at PetSmart).

A picture of outside, as being seen from the balcony door (the only "window" in the apartment). The screen door is visible.
The above picture shows my laptop with a broken screen, which is why the flat screen TV is on (I used it as a monitor). The image on the desktop is a 2010 or 2011 Christmas picture of Benny snuggling his favorite "blanket" (an old flower print black skirt that was a hand me down). He has a gold sparkly bow on his head and looking quite upset.
April 28, 2013
I celebrated Benny's birthday today, even though it technically isn't until May 8th (his adoption day). I posted a short video to Facebook, which can be viewed here. He was pushing five years old, and I was afraid he wasn't going to live very much longer (ha!). Most of my guinea pigs died youngish. Oreo had passed away the previous September. He had developed a respiratory illness, and I couldn't afford to make him all better. He was eating very little, might not have survived, and so I made a very difficult choice to have him put to sleep. Benny spent the next five months sleeping with me until I put an ad in the paper for a friend for Benny, and Zeke came to live with us.
The last photos for April are of Zeke and Benny, after I have tucked them in and fed them for the evening.
Benny, sniffing the camera as to see if it's edible.

Zeke, looking skeptical.
I said good night to Facebook at 5:02 AM.
April 29, 2013
I was supposed to have an appointment with my psychiatrist, and overslept it. I remember that making me very depressed (oversleeping appointments and not having a regular sleep schedule are still triggers for my worsening my depression). I went to work, I came home. The only thing I did on Facebook is "like" a status by the Montgomery County Public Library:
Text reads: "The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of humanity." T.S. Elliot
I suppose on Tuesday I was going to have an MRI. I remember that very vaguely.
April 30, 2013
My only activity on Facebook:
At 6:15 in the mornin':

The implications of this is scary. Very, very scary.

What I've seen from Congress as of late is an aim to kick us back into the Dark Ages, where women have no rights, the people aren't allowed education, wealth, or even enlightment through speech, there's only room for one religion and one thought, and we're all being spied upon in the name of security. Frankly, my government scares the crap out of me and gives me the heebie jeebies!


At 12:59 in the evenin':

So, yeah, Zeke is now wheeking for food as soon as I get up and go to the girl's room in the morning. Is there not a minute of peace in thus [this] apartment!?
I don't remember when the call came. It could have been around 2 PM. I vaguely remember sending my supervisor an e-mail telling her I wouldn't come into work because I was committing suicide. You all know what happens next. If not, read Shadows.

It's not the way I wanted to end Autism Awareness month.

I was thinking of sharing an Autism Talk's photo:


I might have wrote about how I hate when people post crap like this. Clearly, families need more support and funding. I get that. But the other stuff is just plain bullshit. If all you do is look a rose's thorns, you'll never see the rose. AIDS, cancer, and diabetes are chronic diseases. Autism is a neurological disorder. AIDS and cancer can kill you; autism cannot. A child is more than a number, more than a cost, and more than a disability. They're human beings, too.

In my opinion, I don't think there's an autism epidemic. Diagnostic tools are being improved upon, the health care professionals are becoming more knowledgeable about the range of autism symptoms, and autistics are no longer being hidden away in institutions. In my opinion, funding for gathering these statistics (which are mostly used to build up panic and fear) should be allocated to improve support within the autism community via respite programs and costs for therapies, expanded education and college supports, and housing within the community so that autistic children have something to transition into once high school is completed. I wish more autistic adults would speak up and tell their stories, but I understand their fear. It's not so much the shame or embarrassment, but the misperceptions about autism, poor understanding of the characteristics of autism itself and how it presents itself, and lack of consideration that causes the most damage.

I might have posted the answers to the questions I received via Facebook.

Keepinitreeltwennyfoseven asked "What led you to suspect you were an Aspie, and how was the diagnosis process?".

This was my favorite question :-) My mom had laid an article down on the counter. She knows I'm nosy and will read anything laid down on the counter that doesn't look personal or confidential. It was a New York Times article on adults with Asperger's. It sounded like me: difficulty socializing and lacking in the skills to do so (ding!), highly intelligent yet marked difficulty in articulating one's thoughts (ding! ding!), having a special interest (ding! ding! ding!), and something to do about sensory issues - for me, lights are always too bright and I dislike itchy clothes (ding! ding! ding! ding!). Most of the people interviewed in the article sounded like me, and I got a tingling situation. I searched for Asperger's and adults, found aspergerinfo.com (which has since been closed), and then found the Autism CARD program here in Orlando, FL, which referred me to the Vocational Rehabilitation department. The Vocational Rehabilitation department no longer does assessments, so I was very, very lucky in getting my diagnosis. Not only was it at no cost to me (I had a part-time job and no health insurance), but I was diagnosed even at the age of 22 (which, in 2005, was no small feat). I went to a neurologist for an assessment in January. The diagnosis process involved a series of tests to assess various properties of my brain and IQ. In May of 2005, I was officially diagnosed as higher functioning autism (which acknowledged the fact that I did not speak in full sentences until I was five - at the time, it was thought to be due to the fact that I had an issue with my tongue not being able to move around freely and/or ear infections). I was also diagnosed as having sensory, attention, and anxiety issues.

Todd from California asked: "How does fitness and nutrition play into your management of autism?"

Riding my bike has proved to help my depression and anxiety, but after a serious of major incidents in 2009 involving crashing my bike in not so graceful ways, I haven't ridden my bike in more than four years. My depression and anxiety subsequently became more difficult to manage, and I began adding onto my drug regimen. In the year 2014, I finally finished fixing up my bike and begun riding, only for the crank shaft to break and my pedal to fall off my bike not even two months later. I received a new bike for my birthday, but have yet to adjust it and add the new headlight I also got (my asthma has been acting up lately because of the high pollen counts). It's a work in progress for both the bike riding and managing the health/depression/anxiety issues.

As for nutrition, I try to avoid gluten and wheat. It's not so much for my autism symptoms (which was not the inspiration for a change in my diet), but for the fact that I kept coughing up thick white sputum, had digestion issues, female issues, and was generally feeling poorly. I figured the worst that would happen is that I'd spend a little too much money on gluten free foods and I still wouldn't feel any better. Feeling poorly could have been blamed on eating crappily during the first two years of graduate school. I was diagnosed as having Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP basically means my left heart valve is floppy, which allows for blood to regurgitate back into the chamber. This forces the heart to work harder to pump blood and oxygen to the body) shortly after my father died on February 05, 2007. The cardiologist had suggested I drop out of graduate school to reduce my stress and the strain on my heart. I only had two semesters left, and was going to graduate, no matter what it took. I developed a very strict schedule so that I would get enough sleep, eat healthier, and reduce my stress through walking and taking time for me (getting let go from one contract due to having a heart condition, then fired from yet another job for having an anxiety attack, allowed me the time to focus on school).

Maria from Maryland asked: "When you were in school prior, did you need special study practices, devices or materials to learn?"

Yes. I had my neurologist from Orlando send a letter to the disability office at the University of Maryland stating that I needed academic help. I received an extension on tests if needed, was allowed to work individually instead of in groups, and, at the discretion of the professor, I was allowed extensions on paper due dates. I asked for help when needed, and I took copious notes. If I didn't hear something, I would ask the professor after class for clarification. Due to my issues with hearing loss as a child, I was taught to always sit in the front of the room, ask for clarification, and re-write my notes after school or class so that I could process the material learned in class.

I admit that when I first started graduate school, I was immature. The experience forced me to grow up, to be more reliant on myself, and to not be afraid of making connections with other students and to share my experiences of being autistic. I was one of three graduate school students to publish a paper and present our findings at a major conference in Philadelphia. I typically avoid working in groups. My very last semester, I forced myself to work within a group (I was trying to work on my "team" skills. Fail!). During this time, my oncologist suggested that I might have eye cancer, and so the stress became a little too much. Luckily, it was later discovered that I just had a weird eye vein and had a pigment on my eye from a previous infection. I believe the differences between the two groups was that, with the first group, I was allowed to use my strengths (literature review material, data analysis, and creating the PowerPoint presentation), the members were accepting of my differences, and we worked well together. I don't remember why the second group didn't work. I believe it was my stress and communication issues that led to the conflicts. Graduating with my Master's degree had its challenges and, at times, I was ready to throw in the towel. From the time I can remember, my mom has been pushing education, and instilling in me that there is nothing that I cannot accomplish if I want it badly enough - it's all about choices in life and responsibility to oneself to achieve what I want. I never heard the words "disability" growing up. Instead, I heard "Try your best, that's all you can do"; "Put your big girl panties on" (meaning, get back up on that horse and try again, even if you may fall off that damn horse yet again); and "You have a choice in life - whether you wish to go off to college or live in a trailer park with six kids, living on Welfare, it's up to you." My mom's awesome sauce and then some :-)

With that, I will sign off to start yet another post to catch you up on the happenings from May onwards. You know, the stuff not relating to the suicide. Wooooot! Until then, guinea out!

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