Traits : Nonverbal Communication

No New Friends – Madeleine Rose, 2021

Key:
* – traits present now only
** – traits present since adolescence
*** – traits present since early childhood

  • Difficulty coordinating eye contact and gestures / body language during conversation. ***
    I’ve been working to improve these things since I was very young, and have become much improved but still correct myself often.
    -Trouble with making appropriate eye contact and very self-conscious about what is appropriate. This is something I’ve over-corrected and now often look for too long into what becomes a stare and often have had the following responses: 1. Asking if there is something on their face. 2. Telling me I’m weird (YES, This happens!!!) 3. This is something only kids or my partner does ‘Stop starring at me!’ or *wails in discomfort*
    -When I’m not able to work on sustaining eye contact (this still happens frequently) people keep looking behind them or around to try and figure out what I’m looking at.
    -Talking with my hands – I’ve wondered is this a distraction to take away from eye contact?
  • When I’m not actively working on it my face is expressionless which leads to people assuming I’m ‘unkind’, ‘bitchy’, ‘tame’, ‘weird’ or ‘stern’ (all various words people have used to describe me.) **
    Also, I get asked often if I’m okay, upset, mad, sick – all because my expressionless face flat.
    I’ve worked very hard to formulate a slight smile to wear most of the time but it is exhausting and another major factor that leads to burnout. When I’m exhausted and a stranger walks past and says something like ‘smile! it can’t be that bad’ after exhausting myself forcing a mask on all day I actually want to scream.
  • Poor volume control – when I’ve let my mask down a little and allow myself to be passionate about something I am often criticised for being too loud and then often people remark I’m too meek or they can hardly hear me – this is usually when I’m out in public / talking to strangers or servers etc. I don’t really know what my medium is, if I have one. I think I’m naturally quite loud when I’m just being me and when someone tells me to be quiet or lower my voice I react really badly (internally – shame.)***
  • I will quickly pick up / mimic body language or speech patterns of the person I’m communicating with especially when I’m spending longer periods of time with them. This I’ve been conscious of since I was young because I read that it can make people feel more comfortable with you. ***
  • I’ve always been pretty perplexed by peoples motives for saying or doing something and developed a system where I internalised what I thought they meant based on how it made me feel and then modified my own behaviour to try and illicit a more positive response for them (and in turn – me.) I’m now working on just asking ‘do you mean X’ or even, ‘what do you mean?’ or ‘what are you laughing at?’ ***

Discovering me as ASD

Traits : Social Initiation / Response

Repartee – Madeleine Rose, 2021

Key:
* – traits present now only
** – traits present since adolescence
*** – traits present since early childhood

  • Difficulty approaching others to initiate a conversation. I could/can force myself but I rehearse the initiation in my head and often leave conversations feeling embarrassed and ruminate on social mistakes. ***
  • Can not enter into an established group / conversation. If it’s something work related when I need to check on something I never understand how to do this – I either linger too long or just interrupt without establishing how appropriate it is to do so. Neither appears to be received well, ever. ***
  • Difficulty understanding when it’s my turn to talk, often lost in my mind going in tangents that I won’t verbalise and lose track of where the conversation is. ***
  • Often will speak too soon/interrupt or leave too long of a gap and then the other person either thinks I’m obnoxious or disinterested. **
  • Monologuing on a subject that I feel passionate about and not leaving space for an actual conversation. I’ve been doing this my entire life but especially with people I trust enough to just let myself go without judgement – my Dad was always able to let me go on and on, I don’t think he was always paying attention but enough that I felt like it was a safe space. This is now a problem for me forming relationships say in the workplace or making new friends. ***
  • Equally I feel myself lose interest and go off on tangents in my head when someone is talking about something that doesn’t interest me. I get super self- conscious and have to keep pulling the life/attention back into my eyes so I don’t hurt the other persons feelings. **
  • I’ve always found small-talk really difficult. I’m a deep-thinker and philosophise/theorise everything and love to discuss things at that level. I worked really hard from a young age to be polite in small-talk discussions / to perform in that way and often was laughed at as a child for my attempts. As I’ve gotten older I think I’ve really (almost) perfected the small talk / sometimes over-correct it- but it’s realllllly hard work and I feel exhausted at the end of the day and this is a huge part of the burn-out contribution. ***
  • I have almost no concept of what kind of information is appropriate to share and when. I only consider if something is true or not and if something is true and seems like it fits the general conversation that is being had, I will share the thought. I know I do this because I sense unease after-the-fact, I’ve tried to work on improving this but I have zero control over it, actually. ***
  • When someone asks me to explain something in a different way I find it extremely difficult to do so. My reasoning / explanation of things often feels very exacting and precise and thought-out so, when I’m not/mis-understood I find that really challenging to find an alternative way to communicate. **
  • Aversion to physical affection / other types of contact that often people find acceptable or pleasurable. These are the only people in the world I would want to hug/kiss on cheek/any contact (depending on how my body feels at any given time): My partner, mum, dad and his partner, sister, my friend Allison. People who I don’t want any contact with but find it acceptable to be polite: my brother, his wife and kids, my friends Grace, Tim, Jedder, Michelle, Scarlett. ALL other people in the world, without exception, I feel very uncomfortable and might force myself into contact out of politeness but find it almost painfully uncomfortable. ***
  • In general, I don’t think I enjoy social interactions the way most people do. ***

Discovering me as ASD

Traits : A Series

Learn! ME – Madeleine Rose, 2021

One of the books I’m currently reading is Cynthia Kims – I think I might be Autistic: A Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis and Self-Discovery for Adults.
In the first section she outlines the DSM criteria for ASD and then goes really specific into subsections of autistic traits. As I’m going through the book writing “YES!!!” in the margins to so many traits that I came to the realisation I think I have more autistic traits than NT ones. That was still shocking to me until I wrote that but no, I’m autistic, so that makes sense.

Inspired by this book I’m going to do a series on my traits and divide them into the sub-sections Kim did in the book. I just have too many traits to fit in one post it would be overwhelming and indigestible!
I will be posting about my traits as follows:

1. Difficulties with social initiation and response
2. Difficulties with nonverbal communication
3. Difficulties with relationships
4. Atypical speech and movement
5. Rituals and resistance to change
6. Intense or unusual interests
7. Atypical sensory experiences

These posts are much the same as my Child/Teen/Adult Me series – very useful tools for myself more than anything else. Cataloging helps me process but, I also think having an archive will be useful in the future if I ever decide to go through a formal diagnosis.
I will include the following indicators as to how enduring the traits are-

Key:
* – traits present now only
** – traits present since adolescence
*** – traits present since early childhood

An aside – Learning how to mask my traits:
I suddenly had this memory the other day as I was going through these traits. I guess it wasn’t significant at the time – I was about 10 years old. I just knew I was insufferably shy and awkward which impacted on my life so I went looking for (self) help.
I borrowed a book that I can’t remember the name of but I guess it was published probably mid-90’s to early 00’s, the cover was blue / almost aqua and had some kind of illustration of a kid / kids on it and was called something along the same lines of ‘How to make friends and influence people’ except it was angled for youths so maybe something more like ‘How to be popular and make anyone like you’ – anyway, it was my bible – thanks Waiheke Island Library!
If this rings any bells please leave a comment, I would kind of love to find it because it helped me develop some great masks for my autism – ha!

Addit: I just spent about half an hour trying to search various platforms with a multitude of different specific advanced search combinations to no avail!

Discovering me as ASD

That’s Life! – Madeleine Rose, 2016

I came across this piece I made in the year or so after my marriage ended. I had never been so confused about myself vs. the world. It was the first time I was honest about my abnormal response to physical intimacy and at the time was exploring the potential that I was a-sexual which made sense to a point but never felt like it completely encompassed the complexity of my experience of romantic relationships.

Now I get it – I’m actually autistic!

Discovering me as ASD

Part III: Adult Me

A reflection on coping with education and social structures with my unknowingly Autistic brain

Self Portrait ‘Dedicated to the mask’ – Madeleine Rose, 2013

The decade after high school, my 20’s, becoming an adult was chaos. I –

  • Developed an Eating Disorder, losing about 30kgs in about a year, my eating was extremely ritualised and routine-based and I would experience meltdowns if something interfered. I lost my period for several months.
  • Moved back to New Zealand because I felt so lost. Socially, I couldn’t understand who my genuine friends were, if anyone appreciated or understood me. I don’t know if I appreciated or understood me. I had no clue what to do with my life.
  • I recall so vividly sitting at a cafe with my sister (9 years my senior) and her telling me the reason everything was so hard for me was because I dressed in dark / black and should dress with more colour. This really kicked off me thinking something was wrong and I was to blame so I tried everything under the sun to fix myself. Over the years it was doctors; psychologists and psychiatrists; self-education and CBT; medication; diagnostic scopes and exams; and gynaecological physiotherapy.
  • After living in New Zealand for less than 6 months I moved back to Australia because I couldn’t figure anything out. I had two jobs but I always felt wrong, I couldn’t figure out how to make money work, I felt like I was forcing myself on my old high school friends and I felt so distant from them. So, I moved back to Australia and decided to save money to go to university.
  • Worked for a year or so in rural Victoria and developed a friendship circle that revolved around one of my jobs bar tending but, socialising made me depressed and anxious. I forced myself to be with people even though it was so hard because that’s what you’re meant to do, and often referred to these people as ‘convenient friends’, referring to the service they provided for me. I ran everywhere as my form of transport because my body was on fire all the time. I was sick, burnt out, and couldn’t look after myself.
  • Applied and got into both Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) for Fine Art (Photography / Art Theory and History) but chose to study at VCA. I recall this was the first time I felt like my family was proud of me because VCA has prestige and this is something they could qualify.
  • Suddenly I was achieving High-Distinction scores across the board (keep in mind my high school enter score was 54 – a pass, but there was only one other person in my year level that achieved such a dismal score) because this was my area of obsession / specific interest.
  • While studying in Melbourne I moved houses multiple times over the 4 years of my degree. One time specifically I had to get help from my mum to support me living in a small studio by myself because I couldn’t handle the over-stimulation and social pressure of living with other people. She was concerned that this would be unhealthy for me but this has been an ongoing problem for me, that other people can’t fathom how healing solitude is, and often how damaging social contact is for me.
  • I started travelling once a year or so – China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan – but I realised how hard that was for me, thank god I was alone for the most part because I found being in an unknown place extremely hard and had to utilise really intense routines to get by. For example, I almost never used public transport – I would sometimes walk 6 hours one way to do something to avoid public transport; I ate only very occasionally because ordering / finding food was too stressful; and I would avoid common tourist attractions because they would induce too much anxiety.
    Once, near the end of my 20’s I visited friends in England and it created a huge tension in our friendship because they thought I was disinterested in sight-seeing, annoyed that I couldn’t do research or decide what to do and that I still just wanted to take moments to go to the library and do normal study/self-care things. I ended up spending the last few days mostly by myself at a hotel because the social pressure was killing me.
  • Worked in several different bar tending roles which never lasted too long as I never fit in with the other ‘cool’ staff members and found the intensely stimulating environments overwhelming so I hated going to work and would sometimes just curl up and not go to work, not tell anyone – just not show up.
    I eventually found a bar tending job at a Japanese restaurant that wasn’t client – facing, the wait staff put the drink orders through and for the most part would run them to the tables too – this was an ideal job for me.
  • Got engaged to my ex-husband after 6 months of being with him, married within a year, moved to France together, he broke up with me 3 months after moving there because of my physical intimacy issues – I was exploring the idea that I might be Asexual (being the reason I couldn’t enjoy sexual intimacy) and this is why he left me.
  • Prior to moving to France my ex and I lived in a share house in Fitzroy, Melbourne. This time I look back and see how intense my autistic burn-out was. I found it hard to interact with anyone and perform any self-care or hygiene. My ex often had to dress me and this often lead to meltdowns because nothing felt right on my body. I found it hard to leave the bedroom and house but he would try and dress me even just to take a trip down the back-streets to the supermarket, when I would just sit under a tree while he went in and cry.
  • After the marriage breakdown – I moved back to Australia but not back to Melbourne. I moved back to rural Victoria because I couldn’t cope in Melbourne, I was anxious all the time, felt like I couldn’t connect with any of my peers, and I was always so blunt and honest and no one wanted to hear about how confused and anxious I was.
    So I moved to a very quiet country town and literally went between home, work, and supermarket. I celebrated my routines and if I ever wanted to see people or attempt to be social I could drive the 2 hours to the city.
    I remember my sister praising me for being able to put my head down and focus on routines even though I was struggling – I don’t think either of us recognised that my routines are what often save me and give me a sense of control.
  • My ex-husband would fluctuate between trying to befriend me or even sometimes wanting to explore a romantic relationship and, then for a period he was dating someone with borderline personality disorder and they both terrorised me over email, txt, and social media. This destroyed my social anxiety and I became close to agoraphobic and couldn’t really visit the city to see my friends without having intense meltdowns during or afterwards.
  • I was single for several years until my high school boyfriend got in touch with me and we began dating again – this became very intense very quickly and he took over my life, moved in with me, was extremely emotionally controlling and abusive. The catalyst for me taking my control back and leaving him was I ended up in hospital with suicidal ideations.
  • My eating was still very disordered, over my 20’s I would fluctuate between 60kgs and 100kgs.
  • Within 2 or so years of living back in Australia after my marriage breakdown I had saved enough money to buy my own house. This was while I was in an abusive relationship but I purchased it by myself. I did have to have his family intervene when he locked himself inside my home and wouldn’t leave when we were breaking up.
More self-portraits exploring masking/
social obligations – Madeleine Rose

I think I had to write all the events in list form to help compartmentalise things neatly and try not to tangent too much. These were really horrible, complex years that I endured but, equally wouldn’t change.
I now own a home that I love and while I can’t live in it – it is my own little investment that represents my hard work.
I now live in a new city that is a combination of the BIG (culture) and SMALL (quiet, routine) that I need with a loving, supportive, emotionally and socially independent man who in no way contributes to my burn-out, and adores (mostly) all my weird shit.

I guess, a little dis/claimer that these particular posts are probably not super-relatable but I’m very happy for people to read if they feel so inclined.
I’m very much documenting everything current, and past to help understand my story re-framed through the lens of my newly realised neurotype. If I decide to go through formal assessment, I believe these reflections will be useful to that process.

That’s the major stages thus far. I’m in my early 30’s now and I think my next decade is going to be drastically different with my new understanding of myself. If I’m still going with this blog at 35 maybe I’ll do a half-decade reflection!

Discovering me as ASD


Bring back the Stim!

Untitled – Madeleine Rose, 2021

Firstly, what is a stim/stimming? I’d heard it in passing and briefly glazed over it in my psychology degree (autism covered in one section of neurological disorders which was covered in one week – l.o.l.)
So, what’s the difference between stimming and fidgeting?

Psychologists and ethologists, who have been studying these behaviors for some time, have referred to them as “abnormal stereotyped acts,” “mannerisms,” “motility disturbances,” “ritualistic acts,” “rhythmic habit patterns,” “blindisms,”or “autisms”…Such behaviors may also be observed in normal adults who are experiencing stress or a temporary loss of opportunities to engage in other behavior.

I. Lovaas, C. Newsom, & C. Hickman, in Self-Stimulatory Behaviour and Perceptual Reinforcement, 1987

The definition of fidgeting, then, is to make continuous, small movements, especially if they do not have a particular purpose and you make them without meaning to, for example because you are nervous or bored, while stimming is defined as behaviour consisting of repetitive actions or movements of a type that may be displayed by people with developmental disorders, most typically autistic spectrum disorders; self-stimulation. So is “stimming” just a way to pathologise a somewhat common physical relief from the human condition, or is there really a difference? What I can tell you is that I have a range of stimms ranging from the everyday to uh, is she okay but, one in particular I worked hard to minimise/modify to stop drawing negative attention to myself.

Tactile Stims

Tactile self-stimulatory behaviours utilise a persons sense of touch. Some general examples I’ve read about are things like touching, rubbing, scratching self or things with hands; opening and closing fists; tapping fingers.

I think this is my main form of stimming. Usually both hands are in action and it involved sliding the pads of my index finger along my thumb nail. Often it’s quite rapid and often each hand is performing a variation but they sync rythmically – like as if I were drumming. Other times, it’s mostly just a pressure point applied to the thumb nail. I have no concept of how long I’ve done this stim as I believe I was in denial / never noticed I did it until I started exploring my ASD. One day I just kind of woke up to it and now I notice every time I do it.
This is a self-soothing stim, the common thread of its onset is an overly-stimulating situation like walking through the CBD; shopping for groceries; or waiting in line – these are examples of things that make me feel very cognitively fuzzy and pysically uncomfortable and my stim helps ground me in a way, it helps me ‘survive’ without a meltdown.

I have two other tactile stims that I do that I always considered to be low-key self harm, they only happen when I’m in the midst of a really dark meltdown. One is to clench my fists so tight my nails inbed (but not cut) my palm, I’ve never broken skin and I wouldn’t want to but the sensation is much more like pain than pressure. The second, less common dark stim is slapping my head with my open palm – this one only comes out in a really dark place when the world has been too much, too confusing, and I feel like I completely failed it.

Vestibular Stims

These stims are centred around using a persons own sense of movement of balance. This might look like rocking back and forth / side to side (classic!), spinning, jumping, dancing.

My most enduring stim, and my now most repressed one is what I’ve recently discovered as a form of echolalia (although I haven’t done much research into this so I could be wrong there.) For as long as I can remember, which isn’t very long as a whole, but for this I’m feeling like I had a consciousness of it since I was about 5 years old, I’ve been performing this behaviour in both neutral and stressful situations. I’ll get fixated on a word – this could be something common like the or it could be a newly learned word like echolalia, but the fixation feels more physical than cognitive, not something I have immediate control over, all of a sudden my hand is writing the word in the air in front of me much like kids spelling their names with a lit sparkler. That’s what it looks like to me, I see it written through the air almost. Over and over again – a fixation might last 5 minutes or 5 hours but, I don’t think ever much more than a day. Now, I don’t recall what of if anything in particular made me modify this stim but over time I stopped doing it in front of me and I would do it out of sight, with my hand by my side, and then eventually in most circumstances I would do it with my big toe, that way it kind of just looked like I was jittery which people are generally chill about witnessing.

Another stim I do often is shaking my head, often when I’ve been ruminating on a negative thought for too long I shake my head and it calms me / feels like it resets (until the next time the thought comes back.) This one gets me weird looks sometimes.

The last major vestibular stim is when I’m happy! I’ll dance around a lot, often is socially ‘inappropriate’, or strange places but I’m always too happy to care when it’s happening.

Auditory Stims

Auditory stims utilise sound – vocal sounds, creating sounds with your body, or even repetitive speech. I think this is a common one when people fidget and will find themselves mindlessly clicking a pen.

A few things I do that I think now must be auditory stims are – similar to my head-shaking stim, sometimes when I’m ruminating on something negative I’ll say ‘Okay’ over and over or make a small, uncomfortable groaning noise – these things sometimes in conjunction with head shaking.

My partner has a stim when he’s stressed or hyper-focused and he can flex a muscle inside his ear and it creates an internal rumbling sound. I can’t imagine what he’s taking about because it’s not something I’m capable of doing but I thought it was super interesting.

Visual Stims

Repetitive behaviours that revolve around sight such as object placement / lining things up; repetitive blinking or eye movements; starring at things.
Visual stimming wasn’t something that made obvious sense to me but I found this absolute angel explaining it so well and so simply –

I love what she said ‘drowning my eyes with visual input’ even though she laughed at how ridiculous that sounded – that makes so much sense to me! So, when she described visual stims I think I engage in the world like this – I have a very eclectic sense of style that people often joke I dress like a child (I prioritise making choices based on my sense of visual harmony rather than being attractive or sexualising myself.) Another thing that came to mind, as she mentioned something similar, is when I was a child I would often talk about how I wish we could have a chip in our brains that meant we could take and print photos of things that we love to look at while they’re happening – because sometimes it’s so fleeting. I was always trying to take photos with my eyes. Makes sense why I ended up studying photography at university!

Olfactory / Taste Stims

This is another one that I don’t instantly relate to but it sounds like at it’s core it’s repetitive behaviours around smelling and tasting, sniffing and licking or placing them in your mouth. I tried to google if perhaps lip-biting is a type of taste stim or tactile as it’s an oral fixation but nothing obvious came up.

How I’m bringing it back

Re-learning or rather re-engaging with my stims has been a very strange experience so far. When I stim, it begins as subconscious and then I become very aware and self-conscious of it and then I am faced with a weird decision to stop or continue but suddenly it feels awfully contrived. I recently read somewhere that this is called de-personalisation, not in a capital d – disordered way, it just describes the kind of cognitive dissonance experienced when you become aware of yourself in this kind of out-of-body, observer way.
I am kind of just winging it, usually I won’t continue if I feel self-conscious but it always just comes back once I return to base-line non-awareness, it seems like a cycle but I’m hoping that there will be less and less depersonalised moments.

Why do I think this is important to me? Cynthia Kim explained this so well, and I touched on it in my review of one of her books recently. She says, essentially, imagine all the cognitive power we are using to suppress something that is ultimately designed to help us cope with a world that isn’t designed for our neurotype. Even that old study I read on stimming mentioned that animals bred or kept in captivity will exhibit autistic-like stims because their environment is not conducive to their nature. That power and subsequent energy not exhausted on minimising this tool can be utilised in our executive functioning or fixating on the things we truly love to do which in turn leads to a happier, more authentic existence. That’s all I’m chasing-

Discovering me as ASD

Resources:
Aspergirls – Rudy Simone
Late Bloomer – Clem Bastow
Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate – Cynthia Kim
Self-Stimulatory Behaviour and Perceptual Reinforcement, 1987 – I. Lovaas, C. Newsom, & C. Hickman
Stimming – Heathline (https://www.healthline.com/health/autism/stimming)
Types of Stimming – Medical News Today (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319714#stimming_type)

Friends and family of people who they suspect are ‘on the spectrum’ often ask me, “But won’t they be labelled?” It’s true that growing up is difficult for everyone… and a label like ‘Autistic’ or ‘on the spectrum’ might seem scary to consider. But when you’re well aware of the fact that you’re very different from your peers, sometimes a label is the very thing you need.

Late Bloomer: How an Autism Diagnosis Changed My Life – Clem Bastow

Review: Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate – By Cynthia Kim

A user guide to an Asperger life

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate – By Cynthia Kim

My offical rating: ★★★★★

Suddenly, so much of my life made sense. I felt like someone had finally given me the user’s manual to my brain.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate [72], By Cynthia Kim

I’ve started drafting this review at page 178/232, just because I’m so excited to write about it! I think perhaps so excited that I will find it hard to focus my thoughts into a concise review, though I will try.

This is the second personal account / insiders guide to discovering later in life your neurotype is autistic. I felt that although Kim created a very intimate look into her own experience she somehow remained much more neutral than Rudy Simone’s Aspergirls. Reading both, however, I felt overwhelmed with all this new information that makes not only my life as it is now but, also my entire life make sense all of a sudden-

As I listened to the radio story on Asperger’s, I felt like they were talking about me. Not about someone like me, but about me.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate [17], By Cynthia Kim

This is a guide, no doubt. Kim incorporated educational sections seperate from the body of the text with explanations / examples of topics she’d touched on which makes it so seamless to wrap your head around these wild new concepts that have always existed without explanation. As I’m becoming more awake to my neurotype I’m understanding more and more why I, and so many like me, deny who we are. The problem in a sense is the spectrum and how people conceptualise that – yes, the spectrum ranges from neurotypical to everything neurodiverse and, many people have quirks that they believe winks at autism in the sense that they might have rigid routine around where they park their car, as Kim discussed. So, when we are walking around completely modifying the way we function to slip into society and then all that is really externalised is our quirks, people couldn’t comprehend the D part – the disorder or difference. What happens if you don’t get the car park? Meltdown? Rumination? Completely changing your behaviour from then on, perhaps arriving 30 minutes earlier even no make sure you never experience this inconvenience again? There is a world between what people joke as being ‘so autistic of me’ and ‘I’m actually autistic.’

Looking back, I can see that ASD has been the root cause of my lifelong social dissonance. I’ve always known that I’m different, but not precisely how or why. This caused me to feel like I was simply a failure at relationships.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate [59], By Cynthia Kim

Kim really explores that – how we’ve accidentally closed the perceived gap that perhaps the people in our lives can’t fathom the depth of our struggles navigating the world. So she really advocates for learning about your communication differences; sensory seeking / avoiding behaviours; emotional responses; routines; and executive function deficits and then with understanding of all these (and more) complex parts of yourself you can re-prioritise where to spend your energy.

In the process of unlearning my habit of minimizing my stims, I feel like I’m reintegrating parts of myself that I have been disconnected with for a very long time. It’s a slow process and one that goes against the social conditioning we learn as part of learning to pass for ‘normal.’ But it’s also an essential part of becoming my autistic self.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate [109], By Cynthia Kim

One example of this to unleash your stimms, or re-discover them if it’s something you’ve managed to completely suppress. This is something I’ve been consciously doing and will go into in a seperate post, and it’s so much more confronting and complicated than I initially imagined. The logic behind this that- imagine the energy you spend suppressing or minimising your stimms, and then imagine what you could be using that energy on instead. Kim explores the potential for huge progress in executive function when you re-focus this energy for example, planning; problem solving; verbal reasoning; working memory; attention; initiating and monitoring actions; and cognitive flexibility. For me, personally, I’ve made huge moves in initiating actions since I have been attempting to live more authentically. Even with the almost minute changes I’ve made pro-autism or pro-me, I have read more, moved more, wrote more, and made more art. I’m talking like more in 6 months than in the last 5 years in some cases.

All of the things I thought were broken or defective or weird about me? It turns out they’re perfectly normal for people like me. Even more exciting? There actually are other people like me. Lots of them.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate [19], By Cynthia Kim

I could write a book about this book but I think I’ve already taken it far enough – have I even said anything? I will have to read again and hope it makes any kind of sense.
5/5 stars for Cynthia Kim for being so vulnerable and transparent, especially in the chapter about shame – the one chapter where she relinquishes control and just kind of rambles. I thank her for that, and for all the amazing tips, and insights and advice. Would recommend to anyone re-discovering who they are or who have a loved one going through this.

Discovering me as ASD