Stimming & Justin

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(Us on 10/7/2017; at one of the most beautiful places in Washington state–Twanoh State Park)

I asked Justin to write a blog post about stimming.  We watched the movie The Accountant, with Ben Affleck, a while ago, and he does the stimming where he racks a piece of wood on his shins listening to hardcore music for 10 minutes.  I didn’t really get it.  From a neuro-typical point of view, it looks crazy.  This apparently is called stimming, which is sort of a self-soothing/stimulation thing for Aspies and Autism-spectrum people everywhere.  I don’t really notice now when Justin stims, and I know it’s something he needs to do.  His stimming behavior isn’t too out of this world–he just gets lost in music or does 15 things at once, and it seems to help.  I found a really good article about it:

Autism & Stimming

I recommend reading this.  It helps to understand why they do this & that it’s normal for them.

So I had Justin write about it, too.  Here’s what it’s like in his world.

 

Stimming From An Aspie’s point of view

Have you ever watched a really, really good movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time?  Or read a mystery novel that you just can’t even?  You know that weird tension you feel where you feel you gotta keep bouncing your leg or move to the edge of your seat, or just can’t sit still?

That’s how autism feels some days.  All day.  ALL DAY.  It’s not regular.  Some days I wake up just fine, and some days I wake up feeling like I want to run around the block 17 times.  I feel the odd tension and just have this weird energy.  Some people with Autism shake, or rock back and forth, or flail their hands and legs and arms.  But it’s only temporary.  I didn’t know what it was until recently, and it’s stimming.

Apparently I’ve been stimming most of my life.  For me, loud music is my go-to.  I don’t really care what kind of music it is (not screamo or anything like that), but I just pick the song or station, blare it (sorry, neighbors) and it takes me to a totally blank place.  I don’t feel my whole body, and I don’t have my usual billion thoughts.  I just feel better.  But sometimes I feel emotional afterwards, which is weird, and feel like I need to cry.  I haven’t figured that out yet.

Multi-tasking, or doing 10 things at once helps me too.  While typing this up, I also have a YouTube up with a football player’s biography and another YouTube up with my favorite band Korn playing in the background.  Some people can’t do this (my wife, for example), because it’s too much at once.  But it helps me a lot.  I am only focusing all my thoughts on this writing, but I also can hear all that and focus on the writing at the same time.  I also can get completely lost in researching things.  My wife told me about Chernobyl, which I had never heard of until I met her.  I got obsessed with learning about this, and spent hours losing track of time and completely sucking up all information I could find on this topic.  This was me 24/7.  I barely did anything else (except the music and other stuff in the background, of course!).

Up until I married my wife, I thought everyone could do this.  She can’t have anything on while she’s focusing, like on homework or something.

So if anyone you know is autistic or has Asperger’s and flails their hands or taps, that’s usually why.  Stimming helps us a lot.

 

Be patient with those who have this behavior.  You know how that anxiety can feel, and they feel it worse than the neuro-typical.  Don’t shame them for it, and just let them do what they gotta do.

Do you stim?  Do you know others who stim and what their self-soothing behavior is?  Share with us. We’d love to hear how others tackle this.

More Words from the Aspie Mouth!

I like it when Justin writes blogs for me to slaughter.  I mean–edit (ahem).  I hope that you can find some relation to what he feels, and vice versa.  I’d like Justin to know he’s not alone with this weird brain he’s got, and that I love him no matter how hard it is to get him to speak to people (or to stop talking!!!).

Shit Justin says:

I don’t know how it is for other people, but for me there is more than one factor as to why it’s hard for me to speak to people. One is if I don’t know the person, I will first notice their mannerisms and how they speak.  Then, however they speak, I will mimic them and their cadence because I don’t know how to speak to them.

From beginning to end of a conversation, I really don’t know when to start and when to stop, so I have a tendency to start a conversation and then I will trail off. Sometimes I feel like my brain’s moving so fast I can’t slow down my thoughts.  I do know that when I get excited, I will talk really fast, and that also happens when I get really nervous.  It drove my wife crazy when she first met me because I had so much I wanted to say I had to slow down how fast I was talking.

It’s also hard to know what to do with my hands, and I don’t know if other Aspies have that problem.  I try to focus on their body movements and try to copy them, but if they’re not moving, I start to fidget and play with my phone or goatee.

I also HATE eye contact.  It’s the worst thing in the world.  Okay, well, I take that back. It’s not THAT bad.  But it’s really stressful.  I try to look people in the eye because I know it’s rude, but when someone looks into my eyes, I feel like they can see into my soul or memories.  I know they can’t, obviously, but that’s what it feels like.  I barely look at anyone in the eyes, and if I do, it’s my wife, and only for a minute or two.  It’s not me trying to be disrespectful or being a dick—that’s just how it is for me.  I also feel like a creeper if I stare at peoples’ eyes too much.

Socializing is a weird thing for me—if the conversation lags or if I don’t know what to talk about, I’ll bring up random crap, like family memories or something else weird.  I just don’t know what to talk about.  This happens if I don’t see someone for a while, too.  My best friend in the world and I barely see each other, because it legitimately stresses me out because I haven’t seen him for a while.  I worry what to talk about (though my wife says we don’t ever shut up anyway).

I feel like avoiding socializing altogether is easier.  The day after I socialize or play games or just hang out with people I’m exhausted.  It’s like a physical thing for me.

Are any other Aspies like this too?

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The Intimate Details

“Autistic people can’t have intimate relationships.”

“Autistic people can’t feel emotions or love.”

“Autistic people die virgins.”  (Yes, that’s legitimately a real statement)

I’ve talked about sex on here before…it’s a topic people avoid, but I don’t.  For some reason sex is given this “hush hush” attitude, when we should be celebrating it.  You’re trying to tell me that the closest you can get to someone is something we should almost be ashamed of?  Well, sir, I disagree.  This is something that we should celebrate.

When we first started dating, as most of you know, I didn’t realize Justin had Asperger’s.  I didn’t think he liked the hugging, kissing, snuggly stuff, and I was totally fine with that.  Just because someone doesn’t smoosh you with their lovey stuff doesn’t mean they don’t feel it.  A lot of people thought that we weren’t really close or comfortable with each other, but that certainly wasn’t the case.  I was comfortable with Justin after the first hour (and my dog also approved).

When it comes to intimacy, part of Asperger’s and being on the Autism spectrum does mean they have a hard time connecting and being able to display affection.  It made so much sense when he was diagnosed, because he does have a hard time with affection.  He doesn’t randomly hug or kiss me, or snuggle me, or that stuff (did I say I’m okay with that?  I promise…I am).  Since he started smoking pot, though, it’s really helped him with his confidence, and now daily he is more able to show his affection for me.  He kisses me and hugs me more, and I can’t support it enough (obviously).

Sex is something different for people on the Autism spectrum.  I see portrayals of Aspies and ASD people in relationships and sex is some foreign, weird thing for them.  Oddly enough, Justin said he’s never had problems with that aspect of a relationship.  I think because he can focus just on that, and it’s the easiest way for him to show his love.  How much more intimate can you get, really?

I will spare you the graphic details of it all (but it’s GREAT), but I want to get the word out that just because you’ve got an Aspie or ASD partner doesn’t mean that intimacy needs to be some foreign thing.  And even those without Autism.  Everyone should celebrate the joy that comes with being in one world for a minute with someone else.  Nothing else matters but that.

How awesome is that?

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Marriage Advice from Someone Who Never Thought She’d Get Married (and still can’t believe it some days)

It’s true.  When I was younger, I was never asked out on dates.  Guys didn’t pay attention to me.  I was never told I was beautiful, attractive, etc.  I was always just “smart.”  I was awkward, plus size, and didn’t have a pretty face.  I still don’t think I’m attractive (sorry babe–I know you’ll be mad at that!!!).  My first boyfriend wasn’t until I was 19, and then he dumped me the day after he met me for the first time.  So safe to say, I was over the whole “marriage” idea.  I was going to be a career-driven woman, with a few fun flings along the way, and I was completely cool with that (though I don’t think my mom was!!!).

Then Justin happened.  Most of you know it wasn’t love at first sight, sparkles and cutesy love music in the background, kissing me and my foot popping up, chick-flick style love.  It was natural, it took a little while, and it wasn’t very romantic–no flowers were involved in the courting process, and he didn’t stand outside my window blaring music.  But it was absolutely effortless, and that is why it was so amazing.  It was just so natural and meant to be.  It was just hey…here’s Justin…here’s Tara…yeah, you guys belong together.  We didn’t fight or wonder if we liked each other.  It just was, like it was our destinies.  And I couldn’t have been happier.

Anyway, now that we’re a year into our marriage, I want to share some thoughts about why our relationship works so well.  I’ve gotten questions about how we manage to never argue after living together for 3 years, and how we don’t drive each other crazy.  I thought I’d share how our simple love is made possible.

  • SPEAK.  The biggest issue with relationships is communication.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I really can’t stress it enough.  Does it piss you off when they leave their socks everywhere?  SAY IT.  Do you love when they fill your gas tank (Justin does this for me–it’s better than flowers)? TELL THEM.  If you’re afraid they’re going to get pissed, oh well.  If they do, really?  You’re going to get pissed about that?
  • Encourage each other.  This is one in every marriage advice article you’ll find, but it’s true.  It’s really important for people to hear that someone has faith in them (besides parents, because parents always think you could rule the world), and having a partner who keeps telling you this is the best feeling in the world.
  • Don’t use sex as a weapon.  Apparently people do this.  They will reward their husbands with sex or intimacy if they take out the trash or do household chores.  And in reverse–they won’t have sex with their husband if he misbehaves.  This is TERRIBLE.  Sex is the most intimate you can be with someone, and it’s a form of showing how much you love someone, and using it as a weapon is so harmful.  Just don’t!  Along these lines…
  • Have sex–a lot.  Don’t be shy about this part.  Sex is super important in a relationship, and being able to share this with someone is amazing.  It’s not dirty or shameful or “gross.”  How much closer can you get to someone than this?  Do it (literally) a lot.
  • Compromise.  I hate going to the store.  I hate going places after work.  It just sucks and I just want to come home and chill after a tiring day at work.  But if Justin has been stuck at home all day and he wants to take a mini trip, I will do my best to go.  It’s not fair that I make him be bored just because I’m tired.  He’ll also compromise for me.  He doesn’t like going to doctor’s appointments with me, but he’ll do it.  Because we will compromise.
  • Don’t tell them they’re not allowed to do things.  I’ve seen this happen a lot.  Wives will tell husbands they can’t buy something when they can afford it, or that they shouldn’t buy something just because they said so.  Granted, if you’re broke and an ATV s on the top of someone’s wish list, yeah, don’t do it.  But if your husband wants to start a new hobby and you just don’t want him to buy it because you think he has too much stuff or he’ll fail, this is pretty shitty.  Encourage–remember.  Let them explore and grow.  It’s part of being alive.
  • Leave the house.  Get out together.  Go for a drive together.  Go see and do and learn new things.  Staying inside in a cramped space drives you crazy (and makes you irritated with the other person) and is very damaging over time to your relationship and brain.  Hop in the car and go drive and take loads of selfies (Justin loves them–haha!!).  It’s worth it.
  • Have fun together.  Part of being with someone is just enjoying and having fun together.  Justin makes me laugh and makes me feel beautiful every day–regardless of how I think I look.  Nothing makes me happier than just being around him, and this is how it should be.

Besides being married to someone with autism, I think this advice is helpful in any relationship.  Finding someone that you never thought you’d ever find is the best feeling in the world, and it takes work to keep it–but it’s worth it in every sense of the word.

How to Talk to an Aspie

I have been thinking a lot (yes it hurts) about my relationship with Justin.  We have been through so much together that I often wonder why he puts up with me, and how I put up with him.

A friend recently told me her boyfriend was diagnosed with asperger’s recently, and we spent a good half hour talking about our struggles and issues with how our guys are. But the thing is…we spent more time talking about how amazing they are rather than focusing on their issues and problems. That got me thinking.

A lot of my friends bad mouth their husbands and significant others constantly.  They complain about their bad habits, the way they sleep, that they never help with housework, etc. So why are you staying with these people who irritate you 99% of the time? Why do you stay if you are that unhappy??? And are you even telling your significant other your problems with them? For that matter, when was the last time you spoke to them without bitching???

I realized that’s what it comes down to. I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again. COMMUNICATE.  I don’t hold back when I’m pissed at Justin.  I tell him. My friend does the same thing with her Aspie. And you know what the best part is? They don’t get defensive or make excuses. In fact, they’re usually shocked because they just don’t make that social connection to us that makes them realize what they said or did was inappropriate or hurtful. So when we tell them it was, they’re grateful that we told them so they don’t do it again. Subtlety is not a symptom of Asperger’s.

I think even in “normal” relationship, this should be standard. Don’t hold back from telling someone they’re upsetting you. That just makes it worse. If you’re that worried they’ll leave you over it, well, would that be so bad if they can’t even listen to your concerns? 

Think about it.

Feeling Alone

Sometimes life with an autistic person is really really hard. Obviously.  Being married to one isn’t any easier. There are days like yesterday when I come home to roses and homemade chicken parmesan for dinner. Then there are days I worry every second hpw Justin is feeling. Is he stressing? Is he angry?  Is he going to have a melt down today? 

Our annual 4th of July tradition usually involves Justin being irritated.  I don’t know why  he does, but every year it goes between being excited and then saying he doesn’t want to go. We end up going, but he never is really excited.

This year isn’t any exception.  He’s struggling with asthma and can’t use his THC vape pen, which is what helps him relax. He isn’t speaking and it makes it really hard. He always tells me to not worry about him (as he struggles to breathe) and just enjoy the day. How am I supposed to do that? 

Lately it seems like we have more bad days than good. Especially because of his asthma. He gets really angry and frustrated (rightfully so) when he can’t breathe. I can’t do anything about it either.  No matter what I do or how hard I try I can’t fix everything.

And I can’t help but feel alone. Is this normal for people living with a loved one with autism?

Happy 4th of July!!!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted a blog. Life gets in the way!!

On July 4th 2008 Justin and I became official. He introduced me as his girlfriend at his *clears throat* brother’s girlfriend’s mom’s house for a 4th of July celebration that is still our tradition. Funny enough, he couldn’t remember her name so he spat out “This is my girlfriend…uh…” I finally interjected and said “I’m Tara.” I gave him shit about not remembering my name but he just couldn’t remember hers!

Anyway, I had no idea at the time that he would end up being my husband.  We still go to the same place every year for the 4th.  This place ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️


Justin’s autism means that we have to plan things and I can’t spring things on him at the last minute.  It works well for me, because I hate last minute too. But it also means he constantly second guesses if he even wants to go. That makes it difficult sometimes too.  He gets stressed about the driving, the time, what we’re taking, etc. It’s hard to keep him from stressing about it. Actually I can’t keep him from stressing at all. That’s what sucks.

Today I came home to a dozen roses and homemade chicken parmesan for dinner, btw. He loves me.

Here’s to another 9 years, baby.