Feeling Halloweeny

It’s that time of year again, the season of pumpkins, crunchy leaves, and fun frights. I think Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays, even if I am too old to trick or treat. Just the act of dressing up is enough to excite me in the Fall.

Sadly, a lot of adults forget the fun of Halloween after they lose their ability to beg for candy at their neighbors’ doors without judgement. Maybe it’s my aspie-ness but I never understood this. People tend to miss that there are plenty of other opportunities to show off that awesome costume idea or just enjoy the holiday spirit.

As for me, even if I’m indoors the night of Halloween I’ll still wear my costume. I’ve got no shame about that. I’ve thrown my own little Halloween parties for just me and my pup before. Sounds boring, but it was actually pretty fun and my fluffy friend got lots of puppy treats on those nights! I watched tons of horror movies and gave candy to passing trick-or-treaters too. If I can of course I’ll have friends over, but the point is that I can still enjoy it when they’re not up for the task. I doubt that’ll be much of an issue anymore now that I have Dylan though.

Pumpkin patches are also good for fun Halloween shenanigans. I love picking out my own pumpkin. Usually I get a kick out of choosing the smallest ones I can find, that or the biggest. Don’t even get me started on carving them! That’s the best! And to those of you that have never made a scarecrow, well you’re really missing out.

This year I haven’t done much of anything yet, but Dylan and I have picked out matching Halloween costumes and we’ve scheduled two little events to spread the spooky spirit around. I’m pretty sure this Halloween is going to be the best I’ve had, and I hope to all those who are reading that yours will be too!

The Kitty Cafe

img_2529.jpgToday I went to a cat cafe called Charm Kitty, and it was a very pleasant, relaxing experience. While it was more along the lines of a coffee shop than a restaurant, it was still a fun time to be surrounded by small furry felines.

What was really neat about the cafe was the fact that every single animal there was from the humane society and up for adoption to good homes. Being able to sit down and play with an animal before taking it home is definitely a great way to pick your new pet, if you’re interested of course. The cats in the play area were all very friendly older ones, with only a single skittish individual who still accepted petting once he was in his favored hiding spot.

There weren’t really any dining areas in the establishment sadly and I felt like it could have benefitted from an area specifically for eating. I can understand why the staff wouldn’t like food around cats however. While the decor was nice, it also felt a little bare. I suppose this may have been purposeful to keep attention on the cats but it still felt a bit lacking to me. Of course, this honestly didn’t matter to me until after the experience when I thought back. Not owning cats myself, I found that being able to pet them and drink coffee on a bean bag was a great experience in itself and I would definitely do it again.

Dating on The Spectrum

candles-1645551_1920It can be difficult for many people on the Autism spectrum to find and stay within relationships. Socialization is possibly the most intimidating prospect about the entire ordeal, and making even one mistake feels as if it can rob you of all your chances. Once you find someone who accepts you for who you are though, your entire world can seem to shift for the better. There will still be bumps along the way, but none as large as having found that special someone.

For me, meeting people on the spectrum made it much easier to find a partner. Throughout my life I think I dated just two neurotypicals, and both times I found the relationship falling apart faster than a cookie dunked in milk. Even though we had some things in common, hanging out was often quiet and uneventful. This is not to say that any autistic-neurotypical relationship won’t succeed. Many have been known to work out well with good communication and understanding. As for myself, having someone on the same mental level as me was a definite boon, especially if we shared interests. It was easy to find neurotypical candidates who enjoyed video games, but none could ever talk about them with the same amount of passion that I enjoyed with my aspergers. In fact, they would often just grow annoyed hearing me speak so much about Halo and how adorable I found the little alien Grunts to be.

Having a relationship even once you’ve found the right one can still be confusing for someone on the spectrum. I remember the way Sam in Atypical describes how he cannot understand love or how to ‘just know’ when he’s found the one. I’ll be honest in that this too happened to me as of recently. What I realized is that love isn’t always magical fireworks like Disney and many romance novels may have you think. Love is being happy around your partner and knowing that you wouldn’t mind having them around more. Do you feel safe with them? Do you want to be near them more? Do you think about them a lot? Well, that’s love. The idea of knowing at first sight is often just a fantasy, a lie uttered to the audience of fairy tales.

Affection can also be tough for someone dealing with the sensory overloads that sometimes come with autism. I know that I twitch or jump sometimes when someone touches me in certain areas like my side. The key to this is to tell your partner about your boundaries and where you do and do not wish to be touched. If they have sensory issues as well, listen to their requests too. This is important for keeping you both happy and comfortable. The last thing you need is constant fear that your partner might touch you in that discomfort zone again.

Overall, it is very much possible to find your true love, even when you’re on the spectrum. It will take time and patience, but eventually you’ll find someone who you match with well. When that happens, the gloom of believing you are forever alone will disappear, and you’ll find that your differences will only make you more attractive to the person you have chosen to be with.

To Date the Non-Existent- When I Chose Fiction Over Reality

love-2684327_1920In today’s fan culture, many people find that their favored pieces of media are worth more time invested than life itself. Some lock themselves into these fictional universes to escape reality or seek comfort from trauma. Others do it simply because they’re too frightened of socialization. However, I find that the unhealthiest version of this behavior is fictional dating. Many people within fandoms now choose characters over true flesh and blood partners. It has become something of a problem online, where this is validated and even celebrated on some websites. I’ll admit to having had this problem myself, and for those who only have an outside view of this phenomena, I have a story to tell about how I fell into this rut and how I climbed out.

Falling Into Fake Love

I remember walking outside with my ex in college. My best friend had been late that day and I had suggested that we wait for her. My ex declined, so I asked if we could go wake her in case she was asleep. This set off his anger. I watched in shock as he threw his bottle of Powerade onto the sidewalk with such force that it exploded into a mess of blue liquid. I walked away after that and never came back.

Before this incident, my ex had done a number of emotionally abusive actions to keep me from socializing with friends and to do as he pleased. I remember all the times in which he threatened self harm or pulled me away to my room to talk about some minor thing I’d done to upset him. He’d follow me to the bathroom every time I left a class we both attended and would grow jealous of my best friend when we went shopping or hung out. He’d even thrust his finger into my mouth and pull at my hair despite my complaints. One time I woke up with him standing over me, staring soundlessly at my body.

After leaving that relationship, I felt a great pressure taken from my shoulders. It was a relief to have escaped. I had been trapped with my ex for almost a year now, and I was finally out of his clutches. From that day forward I decided that I never wanted to date again. Rather did I know that the alternative would be just as bad, if not worse.

A few months later my best friend introduced me to anime. It was the first time I’d really watched it, unless you count Pokemon. I was enthralled with the animation and style, but most of all the characters. I found myself growing attracted to one specific man in the show we would watch, which was odd since I felt I had lost the ability to find anyone attractive at all. Soon however this character was all that was on my mind. I joined the fandom because of it and even bought a plush that I would cart around as an avatar of my new crush. I reasoned that having a fake boyfriend was better than having a real one. A fictional being couldn’t hurt me like my ex had.

I find that abuse, trauma, negative experience, or social anxiety seem to fuel this concept of fictional dating. I remember my friends at the time, and many of them would converse about their past abuse or their fears of the world outside the internet. Many of them grew sour over time to protect this ‘relationship’ they were having and would even attack others who courted the same character. One girl I knew went on a rampage insulting the canon wife of the character she loved and leaving horrendous comments on any artwork that had been drawn of her.

My own false relationship lasted for over two years, and I forced myself to treat it as if it were true. I turned down men who were interested in me out of fear of what had happened before, but labeled it as loyalty to my ‘current lover’ to keep up the mental ruse. Inside I was extremely lonely, though I refused to acknowledge it. On the third year of this whole mess, that loneliness was simply too much to ignore. I began to realize that what I had been doing was actually harming me rather than helping, and that the qualities I had been placing onto this character were actually traits I secretly wished to find in a true partner. I wanted someone who would care for me and treat me as if I mattered, and in my desperation to find that, I had taken on this fictional man as a substitute. It didn’t help that many others in the fandom often did the same, and even validated each other for it.

I decided to become more social again. This game was over. I would meet someone real to hang out with, even if it wasn’t romantic. I began a group for others like me on the autism spectrum and managed to secure several good friendships, one of which was my current boyfriend Dylan. At first we would meet up about once a month at restaurants to talk and catch up, but eventually Dylan invited me to play tabletop RPGs with him. I decided to give it a go and get to know him better, and after around eight weekly sessions, we were beginning to fall for each other.

We began to see one another outside of RPGs, and I dropped hints to express my interest until Dylan asked me out. It was an immediate yes. Since then, things have been going smoothly, and I’ve never been happier. The memory of dating the nonexistent is a sour one, and I can recognize that it caused more misery than it fixed. Getting out of that mindset was hard, but when I did it, it may have felt even better than when I’d left that ex. Now I had someone who actually cared about me. I can talk to him, and he’ll talk back. I can touch him and feel his heartbeat. He is everything I could have ever asked for in a person, and all it took to find him was a little socialization. I hope that others who are trapped in this mindset can also find release someday, maybe in the same way I did. A real person feels much better than anything fiction can give you, and though it takes courage to find one, it is very much possible.

 

Atypical and Relatable

penguins-429128_1920As someone whose seen multiple pieces of media regarding autistic and ASD characters, I wasn’t expecting much accuracy from Atypical. However as I began to view the Netflix show with my boyfriend, I found that it was very easy for me to relate to the main character, a teen on the spectrum named Sam. I grew up with Aspergers myself, and though I don’t exhibit as many of the behavioral quirks I did as a child I still recognized a few shown in Atypical as mannerisms that I still possess. It was a shock to observe this in the mainstream media, who are usually content to depict autistic characters as ingenious mathematicians with little to no personality other than their talents.

I think two of the biggest traits that I feel I can relate to in Sam are his special interests and stimulation overloads. Scenes in which Sam grows enthusiastic about Antarctica remind me so much about my own passion for rats, and the way he reacts to the discomfort of the seat cushions on the bus are similar to the way I avoid jeans with buttons on their back pockets. The way in which he has trouble understanding social concepts is also a trait that I can recognize from my days in grade school.

Of course, there are some things that I do not connect with in Sam as well, like the difficulties he must deal with in the beginning of the series, such as picking out his own clothing or having to rely on his sister for guardianship. While these may not fit my experience with autism, I am sure that they can be found relatable by others on the spectrum. The show does a good job of presenting more than one person’s experience, and I feel like the creators must have really done their research.

To others out there on the autism spectrum, how do you feel about this new Netflix Original? Do you find yourself connecting with it like I have, or would you say that it’s missing something for you?