Category Archives: personal

Healing looks different for different people

Image description: panel 1: someone is stuck on a desert island. They have used wood to spell out the word “help” on the island.

Panel 2: The stranded person has used the wood that spelled “help” to build a raft.

Caption: Victim mentality will get you killed. No one is coming. It’s up to you.

I have not been able to figure out the original source. 

A while back I saw this on someone’s fb timeline. I gotta say – I had FEELINGS about it, and I want to talk about those feelings. 

Now, apparently this image and its accompanying message was very meaningful to the person who shared it. They talked about how their trauma left them with a victim mentality and an overall sense of helplessness. About how healing, for them, was about learning to take responsibility for themself and overcoming that feeling of helplessness. I do want to acknowledge and honor that message. I suspect that’s what the artist originally intended to convey, and it clearly worked for at least some people.

Buuuuut…

It hit me differently. A LOT differently.

See, MY trauma left me with a lot of difficulty allowing myself to rely on others. In fact, my current Goal in therapy is being able to tell people when I’m not ok, and let me tell you – that is a HARD goal. I’ve been at it for over a year and I still haven’t really achieved it (made some progress, but not there yet). My next Goal is being able to ask for help. So to be abundantly clear here – I am so far away from being able to ask for help that it isn’t even my current Goal. I need to hit a different Goal before I can even BEGIN to approach that one. 

So when I see an “inspirational” comic treating asking for help as “being a victim” and somehow bad… well, it’s hard. Because I’m inclined to agree! Screw asking for help! No one will help you! You’re on your own! 

And while the metaphor may be meaningful, the actual direct story those images are telling is not a good one. Sure, spelling “help” in the sand still depends on someone finding you. But if you’re stranded in the middle of a sea and you make a raft to set out an “save yourself” you WILL die. Or at least, survival absolutely depends on being found and rescued – just like it did on the island. Only being found is harder, and your probability of dying is higher.

And I AM that person who would construct a raft and set out like that only to die. Because it’s so much easier than asking for help. As I struggle with letting LITERALLY ANYONE know when I’m having a hard time (even my nesting partner. Even my therapist), getting the message that actually I shouldn’t do that at all, I should just keep on struggling alone even when it will inevitably lead to painful failure when asking for help would have honestly been better, it hurts. It hits me like a brick to the chest. 

My truth is just as valid as the person who shared it and found meaning in it. 

THAT is a truth that I personally find much more meaningful than any pithy little saying. The truth that everyone’s progress towards healing is different. My trauma left me in a very different place than the person who shared the image. As such, my journey is different. My healing is different. My needs are different. Neither one of us is wrong – we’re just on different journeys, so the exact same thing will have wildly different meanings to each of us.

I really think this is so important to remember. While I’ve calmed down about it now, at the time I was pretty angry when I saw that picture. It had nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with the person who shared it, but it FELT personal. It FELT like an attack. (in my defense, I did recognize that my feelings were not reality and I refrained from actually saying anything) It’s helpful to me (and probably to everyone) to remember that everyone is on their own path, and that path might look NOTHING like mine. 

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Ordinary vs. Not

Or maybe Normal vs. Not.

This has been on my list of possible topics for many, many years. It was on my old list, before I stopped blogging for several years, and it’s still there. It’s something I want to talk about, but it’s hard for me to find the words. So I’m just going to do my best and hope at least a few people hear what I’m trying to say.

The first problem is what even is “normal”? It’s a tough question. I’ve seen the concept of “there’s no such thing as normal” for years now and I’ve had a broad range of reactions to it. The first time I saw it, I hated it. It made me SO ANGRY, because “normal” was a dream for me. I wanted, so very badly, to be normal. To see “normal” be dismissed like that felt like a personal affront. Like it was just casually dismissing all of my deep and complex feelings around the basic fact that I’m NOT normal.

Time has, of course, since passed, and my view has evolved at least a little. If you asked me to describe what a “normal” person is I don’t think I could give you an answer. There’s “typical” but that’s different from “normal.” And there’s no such thing as a typical person. There are various traits that can be listed as typical (like neurotypical), but I’m pretty sure not a single person on the planet is entirely made up of typical traits. If there is, that in itself is pretty atypical.

Even so, I am Not Normal in ways that make me stand out and be on the receiving end of discrimination, hate, and other unpleasantness. There are, of course, the two that this blog centers around – I am autistic and I am trans. I didn’t choose either one. In fact, I spent years of my life desperately trying to be normal in both of those areas. All it got me was misery and failure. In the end, I am who I am and that cannot be changed. 

So another aspect of this is the different ways I’ve seen people view the concept of “normal.” For me, “normal” was something I longed for. I spent so much of my life ostracised because of my differences and my inability to fit in that normalcy really looked wonderful. I genuinely thought that the key to happiness was achieving some standard of normal. Of course, happiness has come from self-acceptance and self-love, but that’s a topic for another time.

But then there are people who view “normal” very differently. Which really shocked me at the time I ran into it. For instance, I once had a friend with a Ph.D. who really prided herself on her intelligence. We once had a conversation on our views of what “normal” is and it was a shock to both of us. Because to her, “normal” was something to be eschewed. Normal was bad, normal was less. Normal was beneath her. She had grown up with the idea that it’s important to be better than normal people, smarter than normal people. She presented me with the analogy of pens in a cup – you don’t want to be just an ordinary pen in the cup, you want to be the BEST pen in the cup, the one everyone wants to use. I responded by saying that in that analogy, I’m not even in the cup. I’m the pink glitter pen over on the side that’s maybe super great in situations that call for pink glitter but otherwise I tend to be overlooked. From my perspective, ALL the pens in the cup are normal. From her perspective, I don’t even exist to be compared to.

It was an interesting conversation.

Now let’s have yet another example from my life! I don’t even know how many years ago, probably from way back in my 20’s, when I was on a dating website and was still living as a woman. I got a message from a dude who used that classic line “you’re not like other women” as some kind of bizarre compliment. Of course, I’m not like other women in that I’m a man, but I was in heavy denial at the time so that’s not how I took the comment, nor was it how it was meant. I wasn’t about to accept a compliment that involved insulting an entire gender, and I said as much in my reply. He came back with something about how he had thought I could have been extraordinary, but apparently I just want to be ordinary (sorry, the messages are long gone so we’re relying on my memory here for the general gist of what was said). That was the end of the conversation but I must say, I found that last reply of his HILARIOUS. He obviously intended it as some kind of neg or for me to feel insecure about myself, with “ordinary” somehow being bad or undesirable.

At the time, I was definitely still wanting to be ordinary. I didn’t know I was autistic but I did know I was weird and different and struggled in many ways that other people didn’t. I didn’t realize that I was trans, but I did know that I hated being a woman, wanted desperately to be a man, and absolutely loathed certain parts of my body. Being “ordinary” sounded absolutely wonderful compared to that.

As I wrap this post up, I do want to acknowledge that I did not attempt to define “normal,” “typical,” or “ordinary” in this post. The words, while similar, are not identical and are not used in the exact same ways or domains. My partner wanted to point out that to them (thanks to their work) “normal” is a matter of distributions. However, no one bothered to carefully define normal or ordinary in these conversations or memes either. They are words that we have feelings about, and clearly those feelings can vary wildly depending on the person and how they personally relate to those words

I still don’t know what “normal” is. Maybe there’s no such thing (at least when it comes to people). Maybe “normal” is whatever we make it to be. If “normal” is a list of traits, then I’m normal in some ways and not normal in others. 

Ultimately, I’m me. And anyone who tries to pass judgement on me or make me feel things based on my adherence or lack thereof to some standard of normal is definitely someone I want nothing to do with.

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Prosopagnosia

(Image is of a series of faces lacking specific features. I was not able to find who made it)

Hey, want to read about another thing about me? Well… I certainly hope you do, because I’m about to write about it.

I have this thing where I am not so great at recognizing faces. One example – remember the Lord of the Ring movies? Remember two of the characters – Boromir and Aragorn? Well, I couldn’t tell them apart. I had to watch the ENTIRE trilogy more than once (and that is many hours of movie watching right there) before I could even begin to tell them apart. Let me tell you, that made for some confusing movie watching. Ok, rugged guy with a goatee is talking to someone, which one is he? I was actually pretty ok on recognizing the other characters. I could even (mostly) tell the hobbits apart. It was really only those two who looked indistinguishable to me. And with even that, the movies could be remarkably confusing at times because I didn’t know who was doing what. 

Another story. This time from middle school. A whole lot of the boys were long and lanky, with short brown hair and a goatee. I couldn’t tell ANY of them apart. School felt like being surrounded by faceless clones – a handful of people were sufficiently visually distinctive that I could recognize them, but they were by far the minority. Anyway, that’s not actually the story, that’s just the background. In gym class we had a bit where we had to run a mile, which had been judged as 8 laps around the parking lot. Either in an effort to keep us honest or just to give the runners one less thing to think about, we were paired off – one person runs, the other person watches and counts their laps. Sounds great, right? Well, I was paired with one of the dozen or so Long, Lanky, Short Hair and a Goatee boys. 

Oh no.

I tried going to the teacher to let him know that I could not distinguish my partner from the other boys, but he was not interested in listening to me. So… I did my best. Which wasn’t that good. I desperately tried to find SOME distinguishing feature so I could recognize him but did not succeed. I stared intently at the faces of the boys running past while the run was happening, trying to see if one of them would click as the one I’m supposed to be watching. Sometimes I would see one of them and think “ok, I think that’s him” but other times I was sure he must have run another lap by then and I missed him. 

This story has no solid wrap-up. I did my best. I called 8 laps when I figured it was probably right, and no one questioned it. I never was able to tell my teacher about my inability to recognize my partner. 

One more story. This one from just a few days ago. I like to explore music that is new to me, and since I live under a metaphorical rock there is a LOT of music out there that I’ve never heard or even heard of. I recently found a song that’s by two singers – Jessia and Bebe Rexha. Having no idea who those two ladies are, I went ahead and googled them and took a look at the image results. They… kinda look identical to me. I spent some time looking at the images REALLY HARD and making a point to check for typical distinguishing features (lip shape, cheekbones, eyebrows, chin shape, things like that) and eventually was able to tell them apart, but it was a very deliberate exercise I had to do. It does not come naturally to me at all.

Well, as I’m sure you have already pieced together since I titled my post after it – this is a condition called prosopagnosia. It is not at all uncommon in people on the autism spectrum. 

I’ve never really gotten better at recognizing faces. I’m honestly not sure that it’s something people can learn. I HAVE gotten better at recognizing people via other means – things like their clothing style, the way they move or stand, maybe something particular about how they do their hair. I am also generally able to recognize people if I’m around them enough. At some point enough about them becomes familiar to me that I can recognize them when I see them. Though maybe I’ll just leave out how long that has taken me at times, or for just how long two of my friends (who were girlfriends of each other, and so together a lot) were completely indistinguishable to me. I just spent that time trying to avoid assuming who was who and waiting until they said something that made my brain go “oh! It’s THAT one!” I can tell them apart now, but damn did it take a while.

It’s not so bad to live with now, but wow was it frustrating and painful while I was growing up. I’m pretty sure it would still be frustrating and painful if I had to exist in an office environment or something like that. Luckily, my life is constructed in such a way that this particular difficulty isn’t too disabling for me, but not everyone is so lucky. 

So consider this your reminder for the day that not all disabilities are visible. They aren’t even necessarily physical. And if you’re one of the allistic people reading this and you have a co-worker who never seems to recognize you? Well, maybe it isn’t their fault, and maybe it’s just as frustrating for them as it is for you, if not more so. I have many, many more stories of not recognizing people – I simply picked a few to share. I also have stories of recognizing people when others couldn’t – by silhouette. No features visible, but I could tell who it was by the way they walked. I process information differently than other people do. This means a lot of things, and one of them is that faces just don’t give me information all that well. 

But it’s part of who I am, and I’m ok.

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Binding made my dysphoria worse

I really want to talk about the overlap between autism and trans people. Because there is a distinct overlap, and because I exist on that overlap.

So to sum things up quickly – there is an elevated number of autistic people among people who do not identify as their assigned sex, and there is an elevated number of trans people who are autistic. 

This is fascinating, and I really want to talk about it. I don’t just want to write an essay about it, though. I want to find specific things to talk about. And since this is just my lived experience – I literally don’t know any other way of being – it’s kind of hard for me to figure out what, exactly, to talk about.

That said, I thought of something!

A little bit of explanation first; my apologies if you already know this stuff, I’m just trying to be thorough. 

In general, trans masculine people (such as myself) have chest dysphoria. We developed breasts we didn’t want in puberty, and it’s hard to deal with that. Also in general, trans masc people reduce this dysphoria with binding, often either with chest binders or trans tape. The end result is a visually flatter, more masculine chest. For many trans men, the improved visual greatly alleviates dysphoria.

But of course, I had to go and be weird. 

Binding made my dysphoria worse. MUCH worse.

I am a very sensory-focused person. The physical sensation of interacting with the world can often be much more real to me than the visual aspect. And that physical sensation was where a lot of my chest dysphoria centered around.

Generally speaking, binding is not comfortable. You’re kinda smashing your chest lumps as flat as they can go and shaping them into something that more resembles pecs. It doesn’t necessarily feel great, on a sensory level. And for me, it made me VERY AWARE of my chest, ALL THE TIME. Without a binder, I could often just dissociate away from having an awareness of my chest, but that was completely impossible with a binder. 

And I tried binding for real, I really did. I got a proper, quality binder, I read up on the proper way to use them, I really tried my best. Repeatedly. All I got for it was misery. I was physically uncomfortable and hyper aware of my chest, and it did literally nothing to help other people see me as male because I looked too feminine in too many other ways for that one thing to change that. 

So I didn’t bind, because that was the right choice for me. I did get top surgery eventually, once my dysphoria was getting so severe and uncontrolled that I was actually wishing for extreme scenarios to happen that would end with my chest being gone. 

Looking back, I am a little sad that I had to spend so much of my life with a chest that I hated. I never wanted to grow breasts, and I can remember as a pre-pubescent child dreading the fact that I would eventually grow these things on my chest that I really didn’t want. 

Anyway, I really doubt I’m alone in my experience with binders, but this possibility doesn’t really seem to be talked about in trans masc spaces. There’s a common assumption that the way to deal with chest dysphoria is with binding. But that wasn’t my truth, and my truth is valid. 

I’m pretty sure (though I cannot be certain) that my experience with this is due to my being autistic and how that impacts my sensory sensitivity. 

So, since I want to talk about this but am struggling to come up with ideas – what would you like to read about? Do you have any questions about the experience of being both autistic and trans? If you do but are worried the question is too personal or invasive – it’s cool! I have total control over what blog posts I write or don’t, and if I decide something is too personal to answer, I just won’t. But also, you might just have a brilliant idea that would make an excellent blog post. So let me know!

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My Hysterectomy

I definitely seem to get something out of writing out and sharing my experiences, just in general. So I’m going to write about what it was like getting a hysterectomy. If you’re interested in reading one person’s take of what it was like or maybe you just like reading what I write, read on.

CONTENT NOTE: There is a LOT of medical stuff in here. If you find that triggering or difficult to read, please take care of yourself.

I had my surgery on Monday, June 19th. I’ve already written about most of the process that led up to my surgery. After I wrote and published it there was some drama with my insurance (because of course there was) and my surgery date had to be rescheduled, but other than that mess it’s a pretty complete timeline. Oh, also, in the week leading up to my surgery there were several phone calls going over my medication list and getting checked into their system and whatnot. ANYWAY.

The “about to have surgery” stuff actually started the day before, with making sure I have clean bedding and cleaning my torso with the disinfecting wipes they sent me in the mail. 

Then the morning of the surgery I got up at 4am so that I could leave no later than 5:30am, in order to be at the hospital no later than 6am, for a surgery that was scheduled for 8am. Turns out I probably could have slept a little bit longer as I was not allowed to eat or drink or shower, so there wasn’t exactly a whole lot for me to do. So I just did the basics of bathroom, brush teeth, get dressed, and sit around and wait. I made sure to wear clothes that were loose and wouldn’t constrict my midsection at all later on.

Once at the hospital the front desk directed me towards the surgery area, and I went to get checked in. Oh, and masks were required in the hospital, unsurprisingly. I found myself in an absolutely bizarrely shaped trapezoidal waiting room and signed in on a paper sign in sheet. I got to sit for a few minutes before they called me for the check in. This hospital requests that people getting surgery have a “support person” with them and really take steps to include the support person in the process. I was asked who my support person was, how the hospital should send updates to my support person, was given paperwork to hand over to my support person giving them information on what was going on, etc. They also asked a little bit about me, had me sign a form, and I got my hospital bracelet. Then I got to sit and wait until they called me back. I may have spent that time inspecting the shape of the room and marvelling over its asymmetry. You know, maybe.

Ok, so then they call me back, and me and my support person (my nesting partner, Nee) were called back. I was brought into a little exam room for, what I’m calling Part One. This involved taking my shirt off, the nurse wiping my torso down with those disinfecting wipes, the nurse helping me into the gown for some reason, and then handing Nee a plastic bag for all my stuff to go into. She asked me to disrobe entirely underneath the gown and left to give me some privacy for that. Poor Nee was carrying so much stuff at that point. On a side note, I don’t really care for hospital slippers. When the nurse came back she asked me for a urine sample, and when that was done Nee and I were led off to Part Two.

This was the pre-op room, set up with all the surgery patients in little bays of semi-privacy. Nee got a chair and I hopped up onto a bed. I got hooked up to the various monitors and then had the privilege of laying there bored for at least half an hour. One thing I did find a little amusing – generally blood oxygen meters look like little clips that they stick on your index finger. Well, clearly this hospital had had many instances of people messing with those meters and making the machines freak out and was just DONE with that. My oxygen meter was a little sensor that got VERY firmly taped to the tip of my finger. 

Nee was still allowed to be with me, unlike my top surgery experience, and I was also allowed to keep my glasses. Both of those things were VERY nice. So Nee and I chatted some, and I learned that apparently I have a very low breathing rate. I know this is probably not what you’re here for but look, I found it interesting. Nee informed me that my monitor would flash any time my breathing rate went below 10 (no, I’m not sure how exactly it was being measured) and it went below 10 a LOT. Really a lot. I was able to see other people’s monitors showing 16 or 22 and being perfectly happy, and meanwhile mine was sticking to 7 or so. No one seemed to care though, probably because my oxygen levels were just fine (95 and up). So… yeah. Random anecdote about me. I breathe slowly. 

Eventually the hospital staff got around to me, and everything got very hectic, very quickly. I can’t really go over this part in step by step detail, because it’s all such a blur in my memory. Here’s what I can say – a nurse (?) came by with one of those little computer carts and started doing that check in (there appear to be MANY check-ins with surgery. I think this is the third one). Apparently there were three surgeons on my surgical team, and they all came by individually to introduce themselves and explain their role. One of them had a med student tagging along, I guess observing or something. I’m assuming that if that made me uncomfortable I could have asked for the med student to not be there, but honestly I was fine with it. Every single person asked about my support person, and I introduced them to Nee. I think that question was part of their script or something. 

I had to get hooked up to an IV. This involved, of course, the anesthesiologist introducing herself and asking about my support person and whatnot before she actually got started on the IV. For whatever reason the veins in my elbows are REALLY skinny so it’s difficult to place IVs in them. Since I want as few things to be difficult as possible, I went ahead and pointed out a spot on my arm that I knew from past experience was good for an IV hookup. I swear, when the anesthesiologist saw that vein she legit went “ooh!” The actual placement of the IV was… not great. I think they try to use the distraction technique, so someone else was talking to me and asking questions while the anesthesiologist did her thing. This technique is not great for me, as I prefer to do diaphragmatic breathing, deliberately relax my body as much as possible, and look at my other arm. I couldn’t do that this time, and I just ended up flustered and rattled. I don’t know, maybe I could have asked, but everything was happening very quickly very suddenly. 

On a random note – IVs make my arm cold from the inside, and I find that absolutely fascinating.

ANYWAY. I was given some pills to swallow (and just enough water to do it) that were supposed to help with pain immediately post-surgery, and some kind of relaxant through the IV. I was warned the relaxant might sting, but I didn’t feel anything at all. Oh, and they stuck some kind of pad on my tailbone that apparently protects it from the surgical table, and compression wraps on my lower legs to help prevent blood clots.

After all that hustle and bustle I got to wait for a few more minutes when they were, I assume, hustling and bustling somewhere else, and then they came back to unhook my various wires from whatever they were plugged into and wheel me off to surgery. I know that at the same time, someone else came to get Nee and escort them off to wherever they were supposed to wait, but I didn’t witness that part. I also learned that while I was in surgery (or possibly in post-op, I don’t actually know) someone sat down with Nee to give them info about the kind of care I would need after surgery. Again, I didn’t witness any of this, so I only vaguely know what happened. 

Once I was in the surgical room (Part Three!) it was, once again, hustling and bustling. Oh, they had taken my glasses at this point, so it was quite literally a blur for me as well. I seriously cannot see without my glasses. I got to sorta scooch from the bed I was on to the surgical table, which I really wish I had gotten a better look at. The impression I got was that it was vaguely human-shaped, and barely wider than my hips. I had to center myself on it, and they had me put my arms onto little arm-platforms. Then the anesthesiologist was doing something with my IV, someone else put a strap over my hips and literally strapped me down to the table (not sure why and I somehow find this part a little unsettling), presumably someone was hooking all my wires back up to machines, and someone else was putting a mask on my face and kept nudging me to tilt my head farther back.

And then I woke up in post-op (Part Four! Part three went by very quickly from my perspective).

I can remember when all the “about to have surgery” stuff was happening I was remembering how, the last time I had surgery, I lost memories from before I was actually anesthetized. I was wondering when my memory would cut out this time. Once again, I find myself wondering what happened that I was conscious for, but never made it into my long-term memory. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

Sadly, I don’t have any just-waking-up video to share, but I was definitely loopy. I have learned that when I am in post-operative loopiness, I get really, super, incredibly nice. Everyone is just so lovely, and I’m ever so grateful for every single individual thing they do for me, and I want to compliment everyone. 

At this point I was also INTENSELY uncomfortable in my nether regions, and seriously felt like I needed to pee. I did not need to pee. Part of getting a hysto is having a catheter placed for the surgery itself, and that just leaves a person pretty uncomfortable even after it’s taken out. 

So apparently they typical procedure for a hysto is to leave the catheter in after the surgery. Part of allowing a patient to go home is making sure they can pee, and the usual way they do that is to inflate the bladder through the catheter, take it out, and then have the patient use the bathroom. Since that would be utterly horrible for me, they went ahead and changed how they did it for me. I was still incredibly uncomfortable, though.

Anyway, I was uncomfortable and loopy. After working out that I definitely didn’t have to pee for real the nurse stuck a pad between my legs. In just about any other state I probably would have found it mortifying, but at that point I really didn’t have it in me to care at all. Then they asked if I wanted my support person with me, I said yes, and they brought Nee in to sit next to me. I mostly wanted to hold their hand as I drifted in and out of consciousness and was complimenting everyone around me. I also got very concerned about whether or not Nee had eaten a proper lunch. (at this point it was probably around 2pm)

Eventually the nurse who was taking care of me offered me something to drink (I asked for ginger ale) and something to eat (it was just various forms of crackers. I wanted saltines). The other part of leaving is making sure I can eat and drink and keep it all down. So I sipped my ginger ale and nibbled on my saltines and chatted with Nee and generally just hung out until I guess they decided I was awake enough to head off to Part Five.

This time they unhooked all those wires from me rather than the machines (or possibly in addition to the machines) so, wire free, someone wheeled my bed off to some other part of the hospital and into a small private room. I was still thanking everyone, so I thanked the nurse for taking care of me and thanked the guy who pushed my bed. I think that surprised him. 

Part five was overall pretty chill, especially compared to much of the other stuff. I spent some time resting in relative privacy, and only had one nurse attending to me in any way (he was fabulous. I mean, everyone there was great, but I particularly liked him). I was finally able to use the toilet properly and this time I was able to pee! It did not feel good at all. Oof. Once again, my memories of this time aren’t super clear. I think I was there for less than an hour. I was allowed to get dressed, and the nurse warned me that doing so would exhaust me.

He was right. Once I had my clothes on I just sorta sprawled back onto the bed for a bit. At some point during Part Five we went over post-op instructions around movement restrictions, how and when to take painkillers, when I was allowed to shower again (the next day! So soon!) and suchstuff. 

We also had to make sure I had at least a little bit of capacity to stand and walk before I could go. I could… sort of, but I was literally swaying. It was enough, though, so Nee went off to bring the car around to pick me up, and the nurse got me into a wheelchair to wheel me out front to meet them. Along the way we had the following delightful conversation:

Nurse: So what car are we looking for?

Me, totally not remembering what the car looks like: uhhh…. Nee’s car.

Nurse: …

Me: oh, sorry, that wasn’t helpful at all, was it?

Nurse: (laughing) that’s ok, you’re drugged!

We did figure out which car it was, though I was absolutely no help at all in that process. I sorta collapsed into the front seat while vaguely wishing I could hug the nurse. I think he said something to Nee though I’m really not sure, and then we were off home. I mostly dozed on the drive. I was EXHAUSTED. 

We got home a bit before 4 (and I guess that makes this Part Six). I took my first round of pain medication, Nee helped me into my bedroom, and I just collapsed onto my bed and slept for a couple hours. And I mean “collapsed” quite literally here – I basically faceplanted onto my bed and fell asleep immediately. I woke up in that same faceplant position. 

I called Nee to ask for help into the other room (there are a lot of stairs in my house, and I was really not able to navigate stairs on my own), and did more more sipping of water and nibbling of crackers. My primary painkillers are acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which have different schedules for when they are to be taken. So we sorted out what I was to take when, wrote the instructions and times onto the bottles themselves, and then programmed all those times as alarms on my phone so my phone can notify me when it’s painkiller time. That part was remarkably difficult for me – my brain was definitely still not working right. I had Nee check that I got the alarms correct and I guess I got it so wrong that they just re-did all of it. 

Then it was back to sleep (aside from waking up for painkillers and immediately going back to sleep) and that was my Day of Surgery.

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Learning Patience for Myself OR Making another point using my cat

This is a picture of Rye from the first few months of her being with us. At this point she wanted to be around us, but did not want to interact with us AT ALL. So she lived under the futon and we put a night vision camera under there so we could keep an eye on her.

I’ve already talked once about my amazing cat, Rye. The one who is deeply anxious but through the power of accepting her as she is and her own tenacity and bravery has achieved more than I ever thought she would. I am so very proud of her.

I am also anxious. I’ve had pretty deep anxiety for as long as I can remember. I am medicated for it now and really doing much better, but nothing can make it go away completely. I get anxious sometimes. Sometimes it’s social anxiety, sometimes it’s anxiety about trying a new thing, sometimes my heart just pounds and my breathing is fast and I’m shaking for no apparent reason at all – it’s just aimless, pointless anxiety about nothing. That last one is kind of annoying, honestly. 

I’ve also been very frustrated with myself about my own anxiety. When I was growing up it was often treated with impatience or dismissal or anger, so I learned to be ashamed of it. My being fearful was being “bad” and when I hid my fear I was praised for being “good.” I have a few specific examples I kind of want to trot out, but I don’t want to be excessively depressing and I’m not actually looking to really talk about my childhood right now. Suffice it to say – I learned that being scared was “bad” which translated into seeing MYSELF as “bad” because I was so afraid and I wasn’t able to stop being afraid.

Enter Rye. While her foster mom* is lovely, potential adopters don’t want her because they see how scared she is and don’t want to deal with that. As though her fear is something to “deal with” or is a “hardship” in some way. Well, as I said in that previous post about Rye, I don’t consider her anxiety to be a hardship on me at all. And being a person with much anxiety myself, I know how to treat an anxious cat.

Over time, I started to notice something. The way I treated Rye and her fear was very different from how I treated myself and my fear. I never placed any demands on Rye, but I would make demands on myself that regularly ended in panic attacks or other unpleasantness. I had absolute trust in Rye to set her own pace, but no such trust for myself. I am always incredibly proud of Rye and every accomplishment she makes, but every step forward I take is accompanied by an internal litany of how I still fall short.

Now, I am one of those people who always has stricter standards for myself than for other people. I suspect many of us are like that. It’s not actually something I think a whole lot about, but eventually the double standard on how I responded to myself vs. how I responded to Rye was just too much to ignore. 

I had a few ways available to me to resolve the cognitive dissonance. I could decide that I need to be harder on Rye. I could decide that we just need to have two different standards because Reasons. Or I could decide that I should be gentler with myself.

It probably goes without saying that the first option was no option at all. Not. Happening.

Option two was tempting, but I couldn’t quite manage to create justifications that satisfied me. I really tried, though.

Which left option three. Honestly? It’s kind of working. I really have gotten so much more gentle with myself and my anxiety. Maybe it isn’t bad of me to be afraid, maybe it’s not a moral failing on my part, maybe I’m not actually weak. I see Rye as phenomenally brave, the bravest cat I’ve ever known, because of her willingness to do things in spite of her fear. Maybe, just maybe, my accomplishments are worth praising without also belittling myself. Maybe, just maybe, I’m brave too. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, I can be proud of myself.

Ok, I haven’t actually made it that far. I’m not proud of myself yet. But I am far gentler with myself, and less inclined to judge myself harshly for feelings I can’t control. I’m better at being, if not proud, at least happy with myself when I do things that are hard for me. 

And you know what? This works SO MUCH BETTER. Turns out getting angry with myself for being fearful didn’t actually accomplish very much. Rye taught me a lot about the power of accepting others for who they are. Now she’s teaching me about the power of accepting myself.

* If you’re wondering why her foster mom didn’t just adopt her if she was having so much trouble finding a home, well, I wondered that too. Apparently Foster Mom thought her home was too loud and chaotic for Rye to flourish in, and wanted to find a calmer, quieter home to be Rye’s forever home.

This is Rye in my lap a few months ago. She’s come so far. If I can be proud of her progress, maybe I can be proud of mine as well.

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I’m getting surgery!

I’ve been really struggling for the past few weeks to get my brain in the zone for writing. There’s actually a pretty simple reason why – I’m getting surgery soon! And I’ve been REALLY preoccupied with All The Things that happen in the weeks preceding surgery. Sooo… I decided I would just talk about that. Want to get to know me better? Or possibly learn about what’s involved in getting a hysterectomy? Then read on.

Content Warning for medical talk.

Right. So I’m getting a hysterectomy – which is to say, I’m having my uterus removed. YEETERUS. In my case, it’s a trans thing. I’m a trans man, having a uterus causes me distress, so I’m getting it taken out. I kind of wish I could give it to someone who wants a functioning uterus, but as far as I know that’s not a thing yet. Also, while I never had it confirmed, multiple medical providers have considered it possible/likely that I have endometriosis, so my uterus might not be desirable anyway.

This has involved a lot of doctor visits. Step one was choosing a place to go through to get my surgery. At the time I did not have a PCP, so I was pretty much on my own to decide. Once I did that, step two was making an initial appointment. This was basically a consultation where we discussed my options including types of surgery available to me (laparoscopic vs. robotic), exactly how much I wanted removed (all of it, but some cis women who need hysterectomies keep their ovaries for hormonal reasons), what sorts of things I could expect, and the next steps to take towards surgery.

Next step was… basically a second consultation, this time with the surgeon who will be performing the surgery. And as I talked about in a previous post, this is where I really started to be conflicted about whether or not to disclose that I’m autistic. I genuinely get confused and a bit lost with this mix of straightforward and roundabout communication in healthcare settings, and I could tell I was missing cues and not responding the way an allistic person would. 

Anyway, that appointment got far more specific, I had more question, there were things the surgeon wanted to know and… well…

TRIGGER WARNING I’m gonna talk about a pap smear and briefly mention sexual trauma. I do not go into detail on either one.

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Apparently before getting a hysterectomy surgeons REALLY want to get a pap smear first, just so they have more information on what’s going on with those parts. This is a procedure that I find EXTREMELY distressing. It’s physically painful, induces a great deal of dysphoria, and I tend to get PTSD symptoms for at least a week afterwards with vivid and invasive memories of sexual trauma refusing to leave me alone. Technically there was a way to do it with me under anesthesia, but it would mean being put under twice, once for the smear and then AGAIN for the surgery, which isn’t a great option for several reasons. And they didn’t have the capacity to just sedate me, which also would have helped.

In any case, I consented to the pap smear, and it was painful and dysphoric and I basically had flashbacks for a week after, and I dissociated so badly I basically couldn’t walk when it was done. After, the surgeon asked me if I wanted water and all my brain came up with was ERROR. ERROR. ERROR. Point being, I was in a bad place. This part of things was HARD.

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Ok, done with that part. You can pick up reading here if you needed to skip it.

Another lovely (/s, it isn’t lovely at all) thing I have going on is a hypertonic pelvic floor. This basically means that my pelvic floor muscles are too tight all the time and don’t know how to relax. I need physical therapy (PT). So my surgeon wanted me to get an initial assessment just to make sure my pelvic floor issues won’t interfere with healing. 

That turned into yet another situation in which I wasn’t sure whether or not to disclose that I’m autistic, and the physical therapist was yet another person who mixed direct communication with indirect communication. My therapist (mental health, in this case) has suggested that if I’m uncertain about disclosing that I’m autistic but also struggling with understanding everything, I could just start out by directly asking for all communication to be extremely direct – to the point that it might feel rude to them – and just blame it on anxiety or something.

It’s not a bad idea, but I haven’t tried it yet. And one thing I have found is that people will readily agree to being direct, and even totally believe they’re being direct, while in fact continuing to be totally indirect. It’s just such a THING, and it can be so incredibly tiresome to navigate.

ANYWAY. I digress. The PT appointment went fine and nothing happened that caused significant dysphoria or any dissociation. (ok, I did briefly dissociate once while we were talking and was extremely disoriented when I “came back.” The physical therapist probably noticed that I suddenly looked a little confused, but I think she took it as not quite understanding the last thing she said. I did some grounding exercises to stay more present after that. No idea why it happened) The pelvic floor is a very intimate area, but to my benefit I know someone who knows someone who is explicitly open about treating pelvic floor issues in trans patients, so I jumped on that in a heartbeat. The exam was external, I only had to partially disrobe, and while I did get a little stressed, it really wasn’t that bad at all.

She also confirmed to me that I am doing this in the best order – hysterectomy first, then PT. Apparently she and her colleagues have anecdotally found (no studies on this as of yet) that a hysterectomy can itself greatly alleviate the symptoms of a hypertonic pelvic floor. It’s not a cure, but it helps, which means hopefully less PT will be needed once I’m ready to do that.

I have also spoken on the phone with my HRT provider, as there is a high chance my dose will need to be adjusted after I no longer have ovaries. So we have a post-surgery plan in place to track my T levels and see what needs to be fiddled with. Sadly, this is exactly the kind of thing that can’t really be predicted – it’s going to be blood tests and gradual adjustments, much like it was when I first started T.

Next up is an appointment that’s basically dedicated to signing consent forms and making sure I’m squared away, and then finally it’s the surgery itself.

Roughly around the time of the second consultation when I was getting things going for real, I had a bit over a week of a flurry of phone calls and emails and appointment making and getting my schedule arranged. I struggle to talk on the phone as the sound quality on phone calls is so low that I have to really focus hard to understand what the person is saying. This means that ALL of my processing power is focused on understanding what the person is saying and there is pretty much nothing left over for the conversation itself. I deal with this by anticipating as much as possible of what will be spoken about and what I will be asked, and then writing it all down so I can just reference my “phone call” notes. I mean, I even write down my phone number for every single phone call where I’m likely to be asked for my number. 

And that’s what I’ve been doing! I’ve been a little bit too overwhelmed to actually feel excited about it, but the “overwhelmed” feeling is gradually decreasing, making more room for excitement. I’ll admit, though – I’m pretty proud of myself for how much I’ve done. I am apparently VERY motivated here.

Anyway, that’s what the process has been like for a trans man in the US. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions go ahead and ask. I’m feeling pretty open about all this.

ADDENDUM: I wrote this post yesterday. Today I got a package in the mail from my surgeon’s office with sterilizing wipes and instructions on how to use them before surgery. I believe I got the same basic thing before top surgery. So sterilizing my torso as much as I can is part of things as well.

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To disclose or not to disclose

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about accessing healthcare while autistic, particularly while less-visibly autistic (since that’s me). Some in more general terms, but also in very concrete, this-is-relevant-to-my-life-right-now terms.

See, I’m planning on having a medical procedure done (it doesn’t really matter what it is, and no, I’m not sick), which is involving a number of consultation appointments and appointments for paperwork, appointments for scans – all sorts of things. 

I have not told them that I am autistic, and I don’t know if I should.

As it is, I am masking really hard during appointments and doing my very best to look and act in a way that people would see as “normal” while simultaneously gathering information, asking my questions, and generally just being mentally present for my appointments. This is an enormous amount of work and consistently leaves me completely exhausted by the end.

Of course, that on it’s own wouldn’t be enough for me to consider it a particular problem, but the fact that my mask is hitting limits and sometimes I’m having noticeable processing lag or not responding the way I realize later I’m supposed to IS enough for it to be a problem.

Communication with doctors has been an incredibly confusing blend of direct information and them (I assume) trying to be polite – except a large part of “politeness” is actually just being indirect. Then I take longer to respond, or I ask a clarifying question and the doctor gives me a funny look because from their perspective, they literally just told me what I’m asking about. The processing lag gets worse, I start to get flustered, it’s overall awkward. 

So yeah, I think about letting them know I’m autistic so that maybe they’ll understand why communication goes a little funny sometimes.

Buuuuut… I worry. 

I don’t actually know how they’ll respond. I’m sure that from their perspective, they will be supportive and understanding. But sometimes all that adds up to is immediately, drastically lowering their estimation of my intelligence or my ability to make choices about my own body. I don’t know what kind of latent assumptions they have about autistic people that will negatively impact our interactions if I make it known that I am autistic. 

I mean, I once casually mentioned that I’m autistic to a person on a train, and he immediately asked me where my Carer is. I don’t have a carer. I was taking the train by myself. There are assumptions everywhere. Since they are assumptions, the people who carry them are generally extremely comfortable forcefully shoving their assumptions onto me. It’s one thing to explain how my autism works to a random stranger I’m never going to see again. It’s another thing entirely to explain it to a doctor who is going to be Doing Things to my body.

Most of my posts to my blog are because I have Something to Say about a particular topic, but this time it’s because I’m genuinely lost. Is it better to share or not? I really have no idea. I wish I did.

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Autism Questions

Since this is a post in which I talk about myself, have a selfie! I don’t actually take very many of these, so I am feeling very self-conscious.

Ok, so I THINK I found this list of #ActuallyAutistic questions around 4-5 years ago on tumblr, but I seriously do not remember any more details of where I found it or who may have created it. I am really at a loss here. In any case, I thought it might make a decent way to ooze back into this blogging thing, and if any of the questions really strike me I can always note them down to make a proper post about them some other time. If anyone knows where they came from or who wrote them, PLEASE let me know so I can properly cite them.

EDITED TO ADD: Actually Autistic Blogs List found this source for the questions. Still unknown if it’s the original source, but it’s from a similar time period to when I probably found them.

Anyway, let’s go. A bunch of questions about how I experience my autism. Woo!

1: Did you discover that you are autistic early or later in life? How do you think it affected you?

So at the time of writing this I am 39 and rapidly heading towards 40, just to give my answer some context. I got my first inkling that I might be on the autism spectrum when I was 18. I was officially diagnosed when I was 30. I spend the 12 years in-between pondering, wondering, thinking, analyzing, and having random people occasionally say “do you think you might have aspergers?” to me. I think it affected me in MANY ways, which I know I’ve written about in the past but might be worth writing about more. In brief, I was spared ABA but also no one knew what was wrong with me and it was basically all chalked up to personal failings on my part. 

2: Which terms and words do you prefer when talking about autism?

I am so very identity-first. English puts adjectives before nouns, so “autistic person” just makes linguistic sense.

3: Do you advocate for yourself and other autistic people?

Well, I used to have a blog I posted to weekly that I’m trying to get going again in some form. That’s about it, honestly. I mean, I guess I advocate for myself in my personal life (see: getting diagnosed as an adult, being trans, transitioning, etc) but that’s about it.

4: How did you find out about autism?

Honestly, I don’t remember. I think I first heard of it somewhere in the vicinity of 2000, pretty close to the same time the first person asked me if I might “have Aspergers.”

5: Do you have any autistic family members or autistic friends in real life?

Family members – not that I know of that are officially diagnosed, but it would not surprise me if certain family members were on the spectrum. Friends – yes. 

6: What, in your opinion, is your best autism-related quality?

My capacity to see and focus on details.

7: Which autistic trait gives you the most problems?

Sensory overload.

8: If you could get rid of one and only one autistic trait, would you do it and which would you choose?

See above.

9: Any autistic traits that you don’t have but wish you had?

I’m honestly not sure. The past few questions have already been difficult because I’m not used to breaking down being autistic for myself into specific traits. That said, it’s something I’ve done in the past so I had something to draw on. This one, though… I really don’t know.

10: What do you think about support labels as an alternative to functioning labels?

Ok, so I definitely am against functioning labels. I could go on a rant about “what IS functioning, really?” but I’m pretty confident I know the answer at this point: “functioning” is simply a measure of how well a person passes for NT. This might be worth elaborating on in the future, but yeah. People who look at me see someone who is high functioning because I pass for NT in brief interactions, but I can’t hold down a job, conversation is ridiculously complicated, group interactions with as few as three total people feel hopelessly complicated, I get overloaded in public spaces ridiculously easily, I could go on. 

ANYWAY. Support labels certainly do better at identifying something more concrete and practical than this idea of “functioning” but I worry about them also being used to separate autistic people into “respectable” or “not respectable” categories. I suppose that’s true for any label like that, though.

11: What, in your opinion, is the most ridiculous social protocol rule?

Ooh, this reminds me – I want to write a post about why small talk is actually useful and functional (oh no. now you can see that I don’t post in the same order that I write. In any case, I made that small talk post). I generally take the view that all social protocols are useful in some way, and my lack of understanding doesn’t say anything about the protocol itself. I know this sounds like I’m feeding into the deficit model of autism, so I want to be clear – I truly, sincerely wish that this was a stance that everyone took about just about everything. I am VERY TIRED of people using their lack of understanding something as a reason to state that the thing they don’t understand is wrong or bad. Like, you don’t have to understand why or how I’m trans or transness in general in order to accept that I am. 

12: What are your hypo- and hyper-sensitivities?

I’m hypersensitive to sounds and food textures. And clothing tags. And clothing texture. And smells. 

My sense of proprioception (the ability to tell where my body is in space) and my interoception (the sense of the internal state of my body – for instance, am I thirsty? Do I need to pee? etc) are definitely impaired.

13: What is/are your current special interest(s)?

Crafting. It’s always been crafting. I have other, more minor interests as well – for instance, I REALLY like bags. Hip bags, backpacks, purses, duffle bags, all sorts of bags, and I have very strong opinions on what makes a good bag. But mostly crafting.

14: What is your daily routine like?

Get up. Do hygiene things. Take care of the cats. Read stuff. Eat lunch. Do working stuff (this has meant different things at different times. Sometimes it’s crafting, sometimes it’s writing, I spent several years transcribing for the National Archives). Feed cats. Eat dinner. Craft while watching TV and hanging out with my nesting partner. Have alone wind-down time. Go to bed.

15: How do you stim?

I do some of the stereotypical ones like hand flapping and rocking. Sometimes I like to sorta snap my foot back and forth because I like how it makes my ankle feel. Other times I make popping or other noises in my mouth or throat. 

16: Is there any media with canon autistic character(s) you like and would recommend to other autistic people?

OK, so there was this TV show called “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” which is a murder mystery (obviously) show which takes place in 1920’s Australia. Episode 8 of Season 2 was called “The Blood of Juana the Mad” and featured a one-off autistic woman character who was VERY well-done. I mean VERY. She is never explicitly stated to be autistic in the episode itself, possibly because they are staying true to the time and autism hadn’t been identified as a thing at the time, but it is made extremely clear in the episode itself. Seriously, it was fabulous. Now I want to re-watch it.

17: Which characters do you headcanon as autistic and why?

I recently wrote a post about the general idea of headcanoning fictional characters as autistic and now I feel weird answering this question. In any case, Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, for sure.

18: If you could make one accommodation universally available and 100% accepted, which would you choose?

Specifically an autism accommodation? I’d make public TV’s less prevalent. 

19: What, in your opinion, is the most ridiculous autism myth or stereotype?

Hrm. This is tough. Fair warning – I’m mostly answer these questions off the cuff, but some of them definitely deserve more thought than I’m giving them. In my defense – there are a lot of questions! Anyway, the first answer that comes to mind is the tendency of people to reduce all autistic people to a flat, 2D object. Now, that is not a myth or stereotype, and it is a thing that people do to any and all groups that are othered in society. Still, it’s the answer that came to mind first, so I’m going with it.

20: How would you describe autism to someone who knows nothing about it?

It’s like having a different operating system.

21: Do you have any happy autistic childhood memories?

I really enjoyed lining up my toys. Since no one pegged it as an autism thing, no one tried to stop me. It was just me being weird.

22: What, in your opinion, is the best thing about being autistic?

Even though I’m answering these totally off the cuff, I still skipped this one and am coming back to it. For some reason, the question itself is weirding me out and I really don’t know why. 

In any case, I guess it’s the fact that I have a unique perspective that people close to me have come to really value. I think differently, which gives me my own, atypical viewpoint, and that in and of itself has value. 

23: Do you think autism influences your identity, like your gender, sexuality, religious and political views or personality?

Just to nitpick part of this question – autism is absolutely part of my identity, along with my gender, sexuality, religious views, etc. Anyway, does autism influence those things? Absolutely, in that they are all enmeshed together into the entity that is Me. Also, there is a good chance that I will write posts in the future about the intersection of being trans and autistic, and see my old post about the intersection of being autistic and polyamorous.

24: Are there any internalized ableist ideas that you struggle with?

The idea that generating an income is what gives a person worth. (ooh, maybe this would make another blog topic)

25: Do you think we will achieve autism acceptance soon?

No. 

Maybe this could be another thing to elaborate on in a future post, but short answer? No, I really don’t.

26: Are you a no eye contact autistic or excessive eye contact autistic?

No eye contact.

27: Are you a “no food touching” autistic or “mesh all food up” autistic?

No food touching. One of the regular meals my family would make while I was growing up was a simple stew, and I always insisted on separating all the bits into their own piles, and then I would eat each pile one at a time. Once again, my family just saw it as me being really weird.

28: Are you a pretty rock collection autistic or soft stuffed animals collection autistic?

Stuffies collection. Can autistic people really be divided into this kind of binary? I like pretty rocks too, though admittedly I don’t really collect them.

29: Are you a get along with kids autistic or slightly afraid of kids autistic?

These binaries are getting weird. Also, I’m a ‘slightly afraid of kids’ autistic.

30: Are you a soft, gentle touches autistic or a deep pressure autistic?

LAST QUESTION! Oh boy, it’s another binary. 

Deep pressure. I seriously cannot handle soft touch. It hurts.

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The Power of Acceptance, OR I talk about my cat

This is Rye, having a breakthrough moment by being in my lap only a few days ago. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s possible that this was the first time she has ever been in a lap at all.

I am a cat person. 

So just to explain more of where I’m coming from when I talk about my cats – I have four cats. My nesting partner and I prefer to adopt cats that are struggling to find homes, which means we do tend to gravitate towards cats who have, shall we say, emotional issues. One of those cats is Rye, a cat I initially adopted purely because nobody else wanted her because she was just too scared for anyone to want to deal with. She’s just not the kind of cat who’s a little shy at first but then you win over within an hour or two of being nice. She needed a home, I know how to deal with anxiety and I didn’t need her to be friends with me, so I provided her with a home.

Now onto the bragging part. In the years she’s been with me, she has absolutely blossomed. Her foster mom warned me that while she is sweet and lovely once she feels more comfortable, there are some things she would just never do. And I was ok with that! Well, as it turns out she is both sweet and loving, AND she has absolutely blown away all of my expectations of things she would never do. I mean, she sleeps on my bed at night, often choosing to sleep physically on top of me. I could fill a whole blog post about how she has come so far in her time with me but that’s not actually the point of this post so I’m going to try to move on.

Sometimes I brag about her on facebook to my friends because of how proud I am of her, and sometimes my friends will comment back about how patient I’ve been with her. I try to just accept the compliment that I’m sure they are intending, but it always feels weird to me. It recently struck me as to why that might be feeling so weird.

See, it seems to me that “being patient” implies that I’m waiting for something. Or, if we go by dictionary.com: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Which is to say – I haven’t been patient with Rye at all. Even a little bit. I’m not waiting for anything from her, and I never was. I’m not bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, or whatever else AT ALL. Or at least, not from her (let’s be real, it’s been a rough time, just in general). 

Here’s the thing – I’ve never asked anything from her. I never wanted anything from her; not really. My goals for her, from the very beginning, were for her to feel safe and happy. That’s it. That’s all I wanted. I didn’t adopt her to be her bestie, I adopted her because I genuinely believed that I could provide her with a home in which she felt safe and happy. THAT’S IT. 

I knew that she was afraid, and I wanted her to be less afraid. But thing is, I can’t force that. So instead, I made the conscious and deliberate choice to follow her lead. She would tell me when she’s ready to try something new, and if she’s never ready, that’s ok too. I made the choice both to trust her, and to accept her for who she was AT THAT EXACT MOMENT IN TIME. Not an idea of what I wanted her to be – exactly who she was, as she presented herself to me. That’s it. No more, no less.

And you know what? IT WORKED. Better than I ever imagined.

When she first approached me to ask for pets, I was beyond astonished. I legitimately did not think that would ever happen. 

When I realized that she likes me, I was astonished again. 

This list could go on for a very long time, so let’s skip to the end. I’ve learned by now that I can never assume that she will never do something. She’s stomped on that assumption more than enough times by now that I’ve learned better. I mean, I can’t apply my own timeline to her – she will do things in her time and in her way. However, allowing her the freedom to choose her own timeline is what has given her the freedom and safety to expand her boundaries as much as she has. 

For years, I never asked ANYTHING of Rye. Literally nothing. Until recently, when she found a way to communicate to me that she likes me so much that she will do things purely because it makes me happy when she does them. (do you want me to go into what happened? I was about to write it out but then I remembered that this isn’t supposed to be a “brag about Rye” post) So now I will sometimes ask her for small things, specifically because it gives her the opportunity to show me that she cares.

She likes me. She trusts me. She feels safe and cared for with me. The reason for this is because I accepted her for who she is. I met her where she was, and I was willing and happy to stay with her there forever if that’s what was needed for her to feel safe. And because I met her where she was, because I didn’t need anything from her, because I trusted her to move at her own pace, she DID move. She has progressed so much more than I ever imagined, and I am absolutely certain that she never would have if I had demanded she be anything other than who and what she is. 

She doesn’t have to meet any timeline to be valid or for her progress to be real. She doesn’t have to conform to anyone’s idea of what a pet should be like to be a sweet and wonderful pet. My patience will never run out because in the end, the only goal is her safety and happiness, and we met that goal long ago. 

Everything else is just a bonus. And I love her for it. 

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