Disabled Living, independent living, Personal, Self-Sufficiency

2018 Recap II: The Other Stuff, And Looking Forward

And so those were the big benchmarks that I set for myself last year, and I think I’ve done pretty well on most of them, considering. I’ve done the best I can with the situations other people have thrown at me at the very least, and I’m proud of that. A couple years ago all the upheaval with Disability would have landed me in the hospital. And it was not fun, but I kept my head about me and got through it. And that’s huge!

But, there are other points that deserve mention too.

Continue reading “2018 Recap II: The Other Stuff, And Looking Forward”

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General Update, Personal

2018 Recap and What I Want in 2019

So at the beginning of this year, I wrote a blog post going over the things I wanted to try and do in 2018 (you can read it here). Honestly I am super surprised that a year has passed since then. Like, 2018 has been a dumpster fire that just wouldn’t end for the world as a whole, but honestly on a personal level it’s gone quite quickly. Continue reading “2018 Recap and What I Want in 2019”

Autistic Living, Disabled Living, independent living, Personal

It’s Okay

Today was rent day. And it’s also bitter cold out there. Like, in the -20C range, but with the windchill you can easily take that number down by another 10 degrees or more. I was going to do rent on the bus, but my father offered to pick me up and take me instead so I didn’t have to risk frostbite on my feet again like last month.

(Contextual Aside: Last month I went down on the route 18 bus, and then heading home one didn’t come… and then the one was supposed to come after that didn’t come either. For over an hour. And I had thought I had timed everything so well so I wouldn’t be outside for too long! And, as we’ve talked about before, I don’t have winter boots. And nothing came. So finally I sucked it up and went across the street to the Rexall to warm up an called a cab. That ate $25 of my grocery money. And that wasn’t fun. But then you know what? THREE buses showed up all together. Like, ALL my missing buses were apparently just waiting at the Zoo. And I got minor frost bite on my toes. And it was NOT fun.)

If Dad offers me a ride to keep me out of the bitter cold, I’m going to take it.

So we went and I paid rent, and then he dropped me right back off at home.
And I paid the phone and the internet bills online. I haven’t had TV in over a decade at this point, but I need access to the world, and I need to be able to call for help and talk to my Dad, my Godmother, and my 90 year old Grandmother in Toronto. So phone and internet are the two things I keep.

And I really only have about $150 left to pay for food, and bus fare, and laundry this month. And it’s going to be tight. Like it always is.

But you know what? We’re going to be okay.

Rent is paid. Phone and Internet are paid. There IS money for food (not a lot, but some!). I can do a couple loads of laundry throughout the month (one needs to be sheets and towels. I am very overdue on washing sheets and towels), and I can put enough money on the bus card to get me to and from sessions and a couple trips to and from the grocery store so I don’t have to eat out of the Giant Tiger. And if Dad offers to drive me in exchange for tech support one weekend, then that’s even better and saves me $6 in bus fare!

And it’s okay.

The cats are eating. They have kibble (they’re still both refusing to eat wet food). I know how to cook so I can make most anything into something edible (thank goodness). There’s a roof over our heads, and heat, and clean, hot, running water. I have a phone. I have entertainment. If I’m smart I will even be able to do two loads of laundry this month.

And it’s not a lot. It’s not fancy. It’s Disability Benefit for gods sake, so they kind of build it to be “not fancy”… but it’s enough. It’s more than enough if you think about it. It’s definitely not perfect…

But it’s okay.

Financial, Off-Brand

Boxing Day (Week?) Sales

* I know this is off brand for me, but there are things in my life that aren’t just about Trauma Recovery and late diagnosis Autism that also mean a lot to me. Deal scouting and trying to live my best life on very little are some of them. So I’m going to share this here. Please don’t hate me for it*

I’m getting BOMBARDED with emails full of Boxing Day Week (when did it become a whole week?!) sales, and even though I understand the psychology behind how you design an email to make someone want to BUY, I will admit I still fall for it.

But the thing is, I go to the website and, YEAH I’m going to get 40% off and an awesome gift set if I spent $40 or $50, or a gift AND free shipping if I spend $75 but…. I don’t need that much from any of them.

Like, I don’t NEED more eye shadow palettes. In fact, I have three I have either only used once or never used AT ALL already (and they were all gifts, which makes me feel even worse) so there is a moratorium on buying eye shadow palettes in my home right now. Do I need all the things that are on sale?

No.

I mean, I will need a new Micellar Water from one company… in a few weeks maybe? And I AM out of my favourite brow gel from another, but I really don’t NEED to try and find another $40 worth of product to get that gift that doubles something I already have.

And that’s how you have to look at things.

Yes, a 6 Quart Instant Pot for under $90 on Amazon this week IS a great deal… IF you actually want and need an Instant Pot. And I don’t. I mean it would be cool to have I guess? But I don’t NEED it. And honestly, I don’t even want it (I mean, where would I keep it even?) So it’s not really that much of a deal for me is it?

And the email bombardment is the same thing.
If I get a Micellar water and a brow gel at Shoppers Drug Mart, I will only spent, like, $20. And that also won’t require a ridiculous amount of other crap I don’t need or even want or all the CO2 emissions that come from shipping those packages to Winnipeg from, like, Mississauga or Vancouver or Montreal or wherever.

You just have to remember, that a deal is only a deal if:

1) you actually NEED the thing, and
2) you can afford it

And a lot of the time there’s a lot of WANT, and SHINY, and PRETTY!, and OOOOH! but not a lot of NEED.

And I also KNOW that I can’t afford to spent $50 at some cosmetics company or Amazon or whatever. I’m on Disability Benefit! I could totally do it… and use up 1/3 of my grocery bill for me AND the cats this month (which means half my grocery bill, because no matter if I starve, they will always eat dangit). I could ask my Godmother if we could put it on her credit card, but that’s DEBT and do I really want to be the a–hole who takes advantage of their recently widowed mother like that too? For stuff I don’t need, or even really want? No!

Watch the deals, absolutely. Watch for loss leads and things that you know you NEED. But don’t just jump and hit the “BUY NOW” button because SHINY and OOH! If you don’t have the room to store, the money to spend, or the mouths to eat $200 worth of groceries, it’s not a deal to spend that to get $50 worth of points back.

I know impulse control can be a problem for some of us. Both on and off the Spectrum. And marketing is designed and built to make us ignore the logic of the pre-frontal cortex and just go for that sweet, sweet dopamine hit.

But before you click the “COMPLETE ORDER” button, stop and think:

  • Do I NEED it?
  • Can I really AFFORD it?
  • Is this really a need or is it really just a WANT?
  • Can I get only what I NEED closer to home for LESS?

And then par down your cart accordingly. And if you don’t meet the requirements for the deal, maybe the deal isn’t such a deal for you. Maybe it’s not the deal for you. There is nothing wrong with walking away. And there is NOTHING WRONG with putting things on Wishlists for later. Seriously, I have, like, 9 different categorized private Wishlists on Amazon besides my public one.

I know the FOMO is real. I know that feeding the FOMO and tricking you into going for that quick dopamine hit is exactly why that ad or that email or that website page was designed the way it was (because I’ve been building and designing those things myself for almost 20 years). I fight it myself this time of year.

– The woman who has walked away from FOUR shopping carts today

autism, Autistic Living, cat mom life, Disabled Living, self care

Of ABMs, Tiredness, and Going Mute

So yesterday I was still banged up from the fall on Saturday. I’m still pretty banged up from it now. Bruises all over, and my hips and knees aren’t doing well.

But my father called yesterday. I guess he was lonely? So even though it wasn’t our weekend to get together, we did. Got a lot of things done. I have some extra groceries in the house thanks to Dad and his minivan making it possible for me to kill a week’s worth of errands in a couple of hours (people who have a car don’t realize how much extra time they have).

Of course after the grocery stores we stopped at a bank for me to deposit my Disability cheque, aaaaand the ABM ate my card.

I know. Like, really universe?!??

I deposited my cheque and then when I ended the transaction the machine errored out, told me the transaction had been cancelled, there had been an error, it wasn’t able to return my card, and I needed to call Customer Service.

o.O

Two days before Christmas.

So it took half an hour to get to someone on the Customer Service line, because, you know, two days before and the last Sunday before Christmas. When they finally picked up the customer service agent told me I was the fourth person they themselves had talked to whose card had been eaten by an ABM for not reason. So apparently it was just a thing that was happening across Canada yesterday? I guess?

The agent was lovely though and ordered me a new Client Card and assured me that the cheque was accepted and showing in my account, and would clear by Thursday.

So that’s good?

Sent my heart into my throat for that half hour though.

Today I am so tired. First thing, I got dressed and went to the branch at the end of the street and had a temporary card made for me. I can use it at the ABM, but can’t shop with it. Which is fine. Honestly I don’t want to see another human being until I have to on Friday to pay rent.

It’s just me and the cats now, and I find I’ve gone mute. Which happens when I get completely overwhelmed. The good news is the cats and I can communicate just fine without words, so even if it lasts a couple days it should be okay.

That’s one of the things I really appreciate about Dot and Benny. The two of them have conversations behind my back at a frequency we can’t hear, and that’s fine; but the three of us communicate just fine without words too. I’ve even taught them some hand gestures and signing, so I don’t have to say “Benny, eat your dinner”, I can just sign *Food* and if I feel like it make a lip smacking sound and he knows what I’m saying.

It’s a pidgin worth of signs. Food. Water. Come Here. Bed. Come Up. Sit down. Brush. But honestly between the three of us it’s enough.

You can’t really do that with people I find. If people know that you normally can speak, they expect you to and it can be really hard when you’re just not up to it.

Like today.

I’m covered in bruises still from the fall on Saturday, and yesterday was a lot of business in a short amount of time. Also seeing Dad right after my first session with not Dr P. Also the whole ABM ate my card and told me my Disability cheque deposit had failed. And I seem to be coming down with a cold as of this morning. And I’ve gone mute.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a canary in the coal mine that I’m heading towards a shutdown if I don’t watch myself. So this is a good time to just shut out the world, concentrate on the cats and myself, and try to relax. Eat real food. Stay hydrated. Get enough sleep. I do enough of that and my words will come back to me. I do enough of that and I should be able to avert a shutdown.

So that’s what I’m trying to do today.

Autistic Living, Disabled Living, Personal

No Snow Boots and No Dignity

So, it snowed this morning. Big, fluffy snow that Benny spent most of the morning hunting through the big living room window. I wasn’t going to go out because of it. but mid-afternoon the overcast had changed from low and gloomy to high and bright and I figured I’d try grabbing some things from Giant Tiger and Dollarama that I would need to get us through the Holidays.

I am not steady on my feet on the best of days these days. And going out in fresh powder, at barely below zero C, in Walmart running shoes (because I don’t have winter boots. I can’t AFFORD winter boots. I have dollar store thermal socks and Dollarama thermal insoles that don’t fit right because when you’re on Disability Benefit you make do with what you can get) when you have a bionic ankle, bad balance in general (because, Autism) and probably hyper-mobility issues that really screw with your hips and knees, isn’t choice. So I was careful. I walked like a penguin. I took my time. I let everyone pass me and stayed out of the way.

And I still wiped out.

Now I know some people will say, “Saffron! Why didn’t you take your cane?!” and the answer is, in this weather, the cane doesn’t help. There isn’t enough snow pack to put the piton foot on it, and the rubber foot does nothing when it’s slushy and wet. It’s just one more thing to go out from under you in that kind of weather.

And so I wiped out.
Spectacularly!
In the middle of the intersection of Smith and Portage.
And I had to crawl back, on my hands and knees, to the curb to get out of the line of traffic before the light changed again.

And then I tried to get up again.
And fell again, because Walmart running shoes aren’t known for their fantastic traction.
And it took three people to help me get up.

*sigh*

Everyone kept asking me, “Are you alright??!” and honestly everyone who stopped was so nice and so kind and so helpful. I am grateful for their help.

I know most people would be mortified at that kind of a spectacle, but when you’re poor and disabled it’s really just a part of life. That’s one of the really horrible things about being on Disability and being disabled is you have no room for pride. The world doesn’t really allow for people like me to have any sort of dignity or pride to get bruised when something like that happens.

Dignity is for people who can afford to have it.
And I cannot afford it.

I thanked everyone who came to help me, on all fours in the grime and the snow and the mucky slush, and told them, “No. It’s okay. I’m fine. Thank you,” even though I obviously wasn’t. Because the world doesn’t allow for people like me, in my situation, to have that dignity or enough of a sense of self to feel like you matter in that situation. You apologize to the people who stop to help you for stopping them from getting where they’re going. You apologize for causing a scene.

It’s not about you. It’s about everyone else.
Because you don’t matter of course.
You don’t count.

And that right there is the thing that is making me cry as I type this, finally. Knowing that I don’t think I matter. Knowing that when I was on all fours in the middle of the street my first thought was to not inconvenience the people in the cars that were waiting to cross Portage. My first thought was to apologize to the people who stopped to help me.
“No thank you. I’m fine. Sorry.”
Because there is no pride to bruise. There is no dignity anymore. I’ve been living this life, with too little, for too long to matter.

And that is what makes me cry.

autism, Promotion

Sensory Matters Podcast with the Neurodivergent Rebel herself!

I know this doesn’t have much do with me, but do you listen to the Sensory Matters Podcast? This week the one, the only, the absolutely fantastic Christa aka Neurodivergent Rebel is on. A few months ago, Jenny from Chewigem and the Sensory Matter Podcast got in touch with a number of us North American Actually Autistics to have us on the podcast. Christa’s episode is this week (mine is going to be some time in February) and I felt it (and she) totally deserved a signal boost.

You should go listen to it! Or download it for later. Either way, give Sensory Matters a listen at the link below.

Link: https://chewigem.podbean.com/e/neurodivergent-rebel-with-christa-holmans-sensory-matters-38/

autism, Review

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome: Eight Years Later

Today I received a holiday present from a very dear friend. My own copy of All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann. I was really excited because despite it being a children’s picture book, it was also one of the first books I found when I was starting to think I was on the spectrum back in 2010 or so.

And then I read it.

And it’s still a good book, but booooy is it problematic in places too.

The fact that it’s written all in male pronouns is really troubling to me. Especially since we now know that there are so many girls that fall under the part of the spectrum that used to be categorized as Asperger’s Syndrome that don’t get diagnosed (like me!) because we still have so many Doctors who say, “You can’t have Autism because you’re a girl” (like I did!) because the only vocabulary they ever hear Autism spoken about in is male.

Also, the bit on eye contact kind of upset me.
In the book she says that HE may REFUSE to look  at people when they talk to HIM and I wanted to go, “*smacks hand* NO!” because it’s not a matter of WANT or REFUSING. I don’t WANT ice cream right now. I REFUSE to let my cats’ nails get too long. I also don’t look people in the eye because I find it distracting, overwhelming, distressing, and often physically painful.

The language is also very ableist honestly. The child with Asperger’s Syndrome does things differently, and that upsets people and it bored people, and HIS fashion sense is weird. Sure a page or two later the book tries to go ‘but sometimes HIS strange and weird way of doing things leads to good results!’ but, honestly, at that point the damage has been done. The point has been made that going on about your interests is boring and your fashion sense sucks and you’re just weird, man, but with love and help HE can get better and succeed at not being like that!

There were two times when I literally went “NO!” out loud as I read through the book because the thing that was being said was just that wrong.

I’m not saying it’s a bad book. Like I said at the top, it was one of the first books I came across when it first occurred to me that I might be on the Spectrum that made me go “Yeah. I totally relate”. And that’s good!

But it still has its problems.

I guess it’s a reminder of how far we still have to go.
And, on the more personal side, a sign of how far I’ve come in my understanding of Autism myself.

Because I didn’t know a darn thing when I first came across this book, I thought the language was just fine. I’d been raised in an abusive, ableist household. NT was “good”, and anything else was “bad” and “wrong”, and that was still the only vocabulary I had at the time. Now I know better. Now I’ve had almost a decade in the community. I’ve read a lot of books and papers. I’ve come to realize how damaging talking like that can be to a child, because I understand now how people always talking like that to me was damaging.

So in a way, re-reading this book for the first time in almost a decade held up a mirror to me and showed me just how far I’ve come as an Autistic person myself.

And I still think it’s a good jumping off point… with a LOT of interjections and breaks for “teaching moments” as you go through it. Not so much for Autistic children, but for adults in their lives to maybe help them understand a little better what the kid (or adult) in their lives who is on the Spectrum is going through.

But mostly I think it just really needs a re-write. Not entirely, but the male-centric ableism really needs to go before I would ever suggest this book to anyone now.

Personal, ptsd

Don’t Panic

For the last few months I’ve been dealing with the cats going off their wet food. They did the same thing last fall. Basically, as soon as the weather changes they go off their food, and it freaks me out.

Their Vet and his staff have been really wonderful though. We’ve checked them both out. We’ve done full exams. Benny is the one I worry about the most since he went off the wet food first and he’s really only eating the crappy Meaty Selections at this point. Dot also has me worried. Both for going off her wet food and for gaining a huge amount of weight. Yesterday I took her in to get her nails clipped and I asked for her to get a weigh in at the end. She’s gained a pound in about six weeks. That’s like one of us gaining 30lbs. And, again, I’m scared.

But I realized last night that I was scaring myself and I was panicking.

See, my Honey needed medical care her whole life. My ex didn’t just hit me, he also had a bad habit of taking his anger out on Honey. He liked playing “Super Cat” with her where he was high. He’d toss her at the futon (and hopefully she’d stick the landing? Sometimes she didn’t) and tell me – despite the freaked out look on her face – that she loved it and I needed to stop being such a buzzkill. He also let the door break her tail when she was a kitten to “teach her” not to make a run for the door into our private hallway. He kicked and hit her, and more than once,  when I was pregnant, I had to tell him, ‘You want to hit someone, hit someone your own size!’. He ruptured her colon and a year and a half after we left him, she went septic. $7,000 and 2 open abdominal surgeries later, she was still alive but she had health issues for the rest of her life.

And now with Benny and Dot, I am still quick to panic. And I need to stop it.

Last night I had a serious talk with myself, and I realized I was panicking, and that was putting their welfare in danger. Sure, wet food is better than dry but they’re eating dry. Sure the grain free food is better for Benny than the cheap-o stuff from Giant Tiger or the Dollar Store, but he’s eating it. Maybe not all of it. Maybe not when I want him too. But he’s eating some of it.

Stop. Panicking. Saffron.

Hyper-vigilance is an issue a lot of people recovering from Trauma have to deal with. For me, sometimes it can be paranoia and sensory overload, sure, but sometimes it also comes as a lot of second guessing myself and panicking and then over compensating. And that’s no good either.

Dot needs to stop being given food whenever she cries for it. Because she’s Dot, and she will cry for food and treats all the time if she can. And I know that. And I know the history of why she does that. I know what the calorie count the Vet wants for her is, and I know how much food that is each day. I have to stick to that. Regardless of whether it’s kibble, or wet pate. Have faith in the Vet and in myself to know that so long as she gets that amount of food, she’s going to be okay.

And I need to stop freaking out about Benny too. On Monday I’m taking him in one more time to have blood and urine taken, and we’ll just dot the Is and cross the Ts for him and make sure he’s okay. But, if he’s eating dry food, so long as he’s eating, that’s okay. My friend Kacy works with animals, and she reminds me that, ‘Sometimes the best food for them, is the food they’ll eat’.

I may not like that Benny will only eat the crap kibble right now, and we’re going to give him a thorough once over on Monday to make sure there’s nothing truly wrong, but if he’s eating that’s what matters. And I have to remind myself of that.

But I’ve been panicking. That happens sometimes. A mix of the ASD and the PTSD and history. I spent 8 years with Honey doing regular trips to the Vet, and keeping her clean, and putting her ahead of everything. Their Vet has told me with any other person Honey probably wouldn’t have made it to 4, but she made it to almost 10 with me. I worked really hard to keep her alive and keep her quality of life as high as possible for almost a decade, so my gut reaction is to be a bit of a helicopter parent with Dot and Ben too. And I need to calm that shit down, cos it’s not doing anyone any favours.

ptsd, trauma recovery

Last Session (for a while)

So yesterday was my last session with Dr P.
It was also her last day in the office.
So it was just a little busy.

The Pallister government is consolidating all mental health services to just  The Vic, and so all the programs at the other hospitals around the city (that haven’t been closed down … yet) got kicked out of their homes and are headed to the south-by-southwest corner of the city. So it was Dr P’s last day at the hospital we’ve been meeting at for the last 2 1/2 years, and also the last day for everyone before they got kicked out of their home at the hospital. It was a busy day. And still she found time for me.

I am so freakin’ grateful for her.

If she reads this, I hope she knows I will never have enough Thank-yous to give for everything she’s done to help me.

Mostly session was about just checking in one last time. Making sure I had things in order. That I had my systems set up. That all the paperwork was done and all my files could be handed off to the person taking over my file.

There was very little “trauma therapy” and more just making sure everything was as good to go as possible. At the end she gave me a hug, and I probably hung on for too long but I’m also scared that I’m not up to going it without her. I know she brought on Dr W and she spent quite a bit of time reassuring me that I was in good hands and she wouldn’t have just given my file to anyone. I know she was trying to assuage my fears and maybe help me tamp down the terror a little.  And that’s kind.

Not helping really though.

I know she knows Dr W and trusts Dr W, but I don’t. And the only way for that to change is time, really. So I’m trying to keep my mind open and trust in Dr P and Dr P’s decisions. She hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I have to trust that and trust her, and I guess we’ll just see.

In the meantime, I have the things we’ve built over the last 2 1/2 years. I have my routine that I need to work on more. I have exercises to use when I feel myself slipping or breaking. I have my One Thing A Day, and my journal. I have my mindfulness techniques, and two and a half years worth of session itineraries to look back on and work from.

And I guess I’ll have Dr W too in 2 weeks time, to help keep me on the path.

But…

Yesterday was my last session with Dr P before she moves to the Vic and then goes on maternity leave. And I know it isn’t forever, but I’m still scared.