Wow, a lot has happened since I started this blog a few years ago. It has been nearly four years since my miscarriage, which I think was about the time I started here. So here is an update on the life of Tracy.

In one year, I should be walking across a stage to accept both an Associate’s and a Bachelor degree. I graduated high school in 1999, and will finally have TWO degrees at the end of 2018. It has been a long road, and I truly could not have gotten here without my wonderful husband.

We now have two more children than we had four years ago. My daughter will be three in January, and my son will be one. My son has OMA (Ocular Motor Apraxia) and a few developmental delays. For a few months this summer, I thought he was blind, but he finally started tracking and making/maintaining eye contact. During those months, I learned so much about the blind/VI community, and made a few friends. I learned a lot about accessibility and advocating for those who need it, whether the individual is your child, your friend, or yourself. For those few months, I obsessed over blind accessibility, Orientation and Mobility, sensory rich toys, the possibility of learning Braille, white canes, and assistive technology. Because that is what I do, I obsess. I fixate on something and learn as much as I can until the feeling passes.

Eventually, I accepted that he could see, and that I no longer had to stress about learning about that particular topic. The timing was convenient, because the fall semester was starting, and I needed to focus on school. Then I had to choose a topic for a research proposal. This would probably be a good time to mention that I am a Psych major. I wanted to research a topic that I was interested in, since that makes researching a topic so much less painful. So I wanted to learn about sensory processing problems. This led me down a trail like this:

SPD–>Part of ASD–>SPD often seen in ADHD–>ADHD, I have that–>Taking meds for ADHD helped my Fibromyalgia–>Fibro is a lot like SPD–>DSM does not recognize SPD as a disorder, but it does include sensory issue as part of ASD–>Is Fibro a lot like ASD?…

It is.

So, that was around September or October of this year. Just a couple of months ago, really. In these last few months, I have learned a LOT about Autism and Asperger’s, Fibromyalgia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Alexithymia, Affective Spectrum Disorder, sensory gating and habituation, and the Autism Quotient. I have read studies. So many studies.

One study (here) concluded that ADHD and ASD could be one continuum. Just as Asperger’s is considered high-functioning Autism, ADHD could be yet a higher-functioning form, or however you want to say it. Another (here) found a higher frequency of ADHD in women with Fibro. There were others, but what I found was one puzzle piece after another which all seemed to fit my theory. Fibromyalgia seems so very similar to Asperger’s. Dr. Tony Attwood and writer/Aspie Rudy Simone both emphasize the fact that girls on the spectrum present differently than boys do, and so often, they go undiagnosed until much later in life. Most sufferers of Fibro are women. The pattern seeking part of me cannot help but put these pieces together to form a very likely picture of millions of women suffering with an invisible pain disorder that could be the result of living a life with a sensory disorder. Having hypersensitive everything can drive a person batty, especially if those around you just seem to think you are being whiny and demanding, or evasive and unsociable.

I started writing this as an update on my life and fell into my habit of over-sharing my current fixation. Sorry. That is just one of my many charming Aspie tendencies. I will share one more thing with you before I go. I read this thing today about tactile-defensiveness. I texted and asked my husband to read it as a favor to me. Later, after he got home from work, he asked why reading it made him think of me. I told him that was why I needed him to read it. I wanted him to understand that the way I behave sometimes is not a reflection of him or my feelings for him, that it is just my way of coping. I think it helped.

Please comment if you have any thoughts on my ideas in this blog. I will touch again on it at a later date, as I have much more to go into about the neuro-physiological aspect of all of it. Until then, good night!

Growing up like this

What if I am a little autistic? How could I have gotten to be in my thirties without a diagnosis? I have some thoughts about that.

First, I was a smart kid. I’m not saying that I’m not smart now. But when I was a kid, I excelled at school. Math was the best, but I even did pretty well in spelling, reading, science, anything that grabbed my interest. I was a quick study. So when people said things like, “Don’t do that, that’s rude,” I learned not to do that. I learned the rules. I learn the metaphors. I learned not to take everything literally. I remember watching people’s mouths when they spoke. Sometimes I still have trouble understanding what someone is saying if I don’t. And I remember being told to look people in the eye. I did my best to follow this rule, but I also got confused by it. Which eye was I supposed to look at? Going back and forth was distracting. So I started looking at the bridge of their nose. By this point, who knows what they’re saying to me? Doesn’t matter. I look like I’m paying attention, right? So by being a smart kid, I learned to look and act as close to normal as I could. Changing schools many times over the years didn’t help. I have a feeling that a few teachers and administrators started to get a sense that I was different, but then we would change schools, move to another state, or whatever, and I would get lost again in the shuffle.

The second reason is my looks. I was a cute kid. Adolescence was a very awkward time for me. Glasses and puberty came together in a very unfortunate way, totally demolishing what self-esteem I may have had before. I easily disappeared behind a book during this time. But luckily, by my senior year, I started to emerge from my ugly duckling phase as a pretty decent looking swan. I was thin, a decent height, with muscular legs, and by then I was wearing contact lenses, so no more gawky glasses. As a young adult, I was quite attractive. I could get through the social scene pretty effortlessly on my looks and goofy sense of humor. If I stayed quiet, I wouldn’t look too weird. If I had a couple drinks, my behavior could be dismissed as a result of my inebriation. Once I was comfortable around people, I could get loud and boisterous, but that was forgiven as well. Pretty girls can get away with a lot.

I dropped out of college and met my first husband. I got pregnant. I had my son and got married, and later had my daughter. My marriage was a disaster. He was only with me because of my looks, then only because of the kids. We drove each other crazy, and not in a good way. Depression, rage, suspicion, there were a lot of feelings that I could not cope with. And he could not cope with my seemingly irrational behavior. He lied to me every day since the beginning. My naivety was to blame for the first couple of years, and after that, I was tied to him by our marriage and our son. Divorce, custody fights, and more lies. But I had finally learned that he could not be trusted. Now his words have no value to me whatsoever. I cannot believe anything he says.

I’ve been divorced now for ten years. A decade since I put my foot down and stood up for myself. I have come a long way. Another marriage, two more kids, a diagnosis for ADHD, which explained a lot to me. And I started school again.

But working on a psych degree is another learning process that has brought me to a realization that I never expected to make. I could be a little autistic. In fact, I see Autism in many of my family members. And I don’t think that I am jumping the gun. I am watching and paying attention. I am learning. I am researching. I am fixating, the way I tend to do. And I do say something to my husband every now and then. Sometimes he blows it off, but sometimes it sinks in a little. He brought up what I had said about his dad a few days after I said it. I guess I’ve got his gears turning as well.

I’ve stopped worrying about my looks. I dress to be comfortable and try not to look too odd. I remind myself to shower and brush my teeth. I continue to learn, but I don’t force myself to socialize. Socializing is very anxiety-inducing for me. It isn’t worth the meltdown. I’m learning to move forward. I’m really bad about living in the moment, and I’m trying hard to set goals for myself. I still need help in a lot of areas, but I can accept that. I’m a work in progress.


A person on the Autism spectrum is usually pretty good at spotting patterns. In fact, it’s kind of required.

But for a person who doesn’t have an Autism diagnosis, always seeing patterns becomes a problem for others. It might mean picking up on a seemingly random pattern of clues and making some wild claim. Maybe it means thinking that your liver is failing, or that the neighbors are drug dealers, or that everyone in your family is a little bit Aspie. Now for someone without a formal diagnosis, this person sounds like a nutcase.

But what if they thought they might have Autism? Would it just be another case of, “She’s not getting enough attention”? Or could it mean that self-diagnosing is actually another sign, another trait of the Autistic personality?

From what I have learned so far about Autism, Aspergers, and adult/self-diagnosis is that, in the ASD community, self-diagnosis is pretty widely accepted just as quickly as a diagnosis made by a professional. They already understand. They know you’ve been seeing patterns your whole life. They understand that it is a talent that can be a blessing and a curse. They understand that picking up on patterns can mean seeing connections in things that nobody else can see, but it can also mean seeing connections that aren’t really there.

Imagine if every time your mom made you wear your rubber boots, the lady across the street carried an umbrella. That doesn’t mean that wearing your boots makes the umbrella come out. It doesn’t mean that seeing the umbrella meant you had to wear your boots, even if that’s exactly what your mom said. Sometimes we can’t make sense of the connections. We can’t make sense of a pattern, so we try to understand the best way we can. And sometimes that means having an all-out fight against wearing the rubber shoes, just to see if the lady still has her umbrella when you wear your sandals.

If your child had a meltdown like that, for seemingly no good reason, you might think they had lost their mind. But if they had been diagnosed with Autism, or formerly, Aspergers, then at least you would understand that their take on the world might be a little different than your own.

But what do we do when we are an adult, stumbling through life, trying like hell to amount to something, and barely making it day to day? What do we do when we have never had a diagnosis (or have some other diagnosis), and yet we see all the signs? We can pick up on the pattern, even if others can’t. Our family and friends don’t know enough about ASD to be able to form an adequate opinion on the subject, and we can’t quite express all of the pieces of the puzzle to the doctor for them to make a diagnosis.

Being diagnosed isn’t about the label, even though it kind of is. It is about being able to put a name with all the little problems that add up in your life to something that keeps you from ever feeling like a normal, functioning adult. It’s about understanding. It’s about being able to show people that you aren’t just a selfish, lazy, no-good, stuck-up, pedantic. . . . Well, you get the idea. It’s about giving them something substantial, something recognizable, a lens that they can use to look back on all of your failures, and all of your obscure talents, and all your quirks, and to realize that maybe you really have been doing the best you can. Maybe when you withdraw to another room, it’s not because you don’t like company, it’s just because sometimes you need a break.

Sometimes you just need a break.

Sometimes I see patterns like that in myself. Sometimes I see the patterns in others. There are a handful of old classmates and coworkers that I have decided must be on the spectrum. Partly, I feel like that’s why we related so well. But within my family, both in my home and extended family on my mom’s side, I see a lot of Asperger traits.

I have four kids. The youngest is in developmental therapy. There is something going on, and Autism is definitely a possibility. He’s nine months old. The next youngest is two and a half. She lines her toys up. She walks on her toes and is learning how to read. She loves other kids, but mostly because they have toys she hasn’t played with yet. She clicks her tongue, talks about herself in the third person, has never had separation anxiety, and has never met a puzzle she couldn’t master. She will be three in a few months and refuses to potty train. But hey, she’s two.

My oldest didn’t talk until he was two and a half. He didn’t point at things until he was over a year old. At five, he couldn’t figure out how to pedal a bike. He hates getting water in his face, so learning to swim was a challenge. He’s fifteen now, and I see him drumming, tapping, wiggling his fingers, and biting his nails. He has always hated brushing his teeth because it tickles his mouth. But he’s fifteen, so that’s to be expected.

My second oldest is ADHD incarnate. She never stops moving. She initiates conflict constantly. She makes straight A’s but cannot figure out how to clean her room. Just the idea stresses her out and throws her into a meltdown. Everything revolves around her. She could sing songs before she was two, and she was fully potty trained before two. She screamed for the first three months of her life, and I could never figure out why. At one and a half, she started waking with night terrors. At the same age, she used to bring me my cordless phone before it started ringing. It was like ESP, but I think she was picking up on some sound that it made that no one else could hear. She never met a stranger. She’s a handful. But she’s twelve, so, you know.

My husband. He has OCD. Not in an actual “disability” capacity, but enough for me to pick up on. He fixates (we all fixate) on things. He’ll notice something in the middle of eating dinner, and the next thing I know he’s digging a hole in the backyard (or something else totally random) while his dinner sits and gets cold. He’s dyslexic. He obsesses over rules. The entrance and exit doors at the grocery store, and the one-way lanes in the parking lot, are both a huge source of stress when we go shopping. He can’t let things go. The school zone sign that doesn’t flash, and only says “when children are present” always sets him off on a rant.

But hey, he’s a man, so. . . .

I have a terrible time expressing all my concerns when someone asks me straight out. From here on out, I have to keep a list for each of us. I have to make a note of every sign I see, so that no one can tell me I’m overreacting, or that I’m exaggerating. My youngest may be the first to be diagnosed, but I’m starting to think that he will be far from the last.

Am I overreacting? Possibly. I won’t deny that it’s possible. But is it possible that something that is genetically linked can show up in a group of people who are genetically related? Sure. Is it likely that two undiagnosed Aspies fell in love and stared a family? Sure. So am I crazy? Probably. But I might also be a tad Autistic as well.

Hypochondriac, or just finally understanding?

I hate my hair. 

A lot of girls (boys, men, women, fill-in-the-blank) hate their hair. But they hate the way it flips up on the side, or how curly it is, or how straight. They hate how thin or thick it is. They hate how greasy it is, or they hate the color. 

I hate my hair. 

I hate having hair. If I wasn’t so self conscious about my appearance, I’d have shaved it all off years ago. I hate that hair grows out of my head and subsequently tickles my face, my ears, my neck. 

I hate being tickled. 

When I was a kid, I would cry if anyone tickled me. I hated it. I still hate it. I will hurt you if you try to tickle me. You may as well hit me, because I will hit you back either way. 

I can’t sit still. 

In fact, sitting up is so uncomfortable, I usually recline. I lay on the couch or in bed, lean back in the recliner, if I’m standing, I’m probably leaning. Sitting upright is so uncomfortable that I cannot sit still. I try to cross my legs, but after a few short minutes, I feel like the circulation has been cut completely off in my legs. Watching a movie at the theater is uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to movies. But I can’t get comfortable. I almost always have to put my feet up on the back of he seat in front of me, so I try to make sure I don’t sit right behind anyone. But mostly, I just don’t sit still. 

I have social anxiety. 

I’m great, socially, as long as the mood of those around me is good. I’m a wonderful mimic. But if they are quiet, or aloof, or awkward themselves, then I am clueless. If I embarrass myself, I feel physical pain. I react very energetically. If it’s laughing, crying, shouting in anger, it’s never subtle. I can’t suppress my reactions very easily. It takes an enormous effort. 

I have social anxiety. 

My mom used to say I was shy, but it was paralyzing. I recently came across the term “selective mutism”.  I could not speak in front of strangers. The anxiety it caused made me cry if someone tried to force me to say hello. 

But I was smart. 

My first grade teacher told my parents that he was certain he could give me college level work and test me a week later and I would ace it. He asked me how to spell “cousin” and “tomorrow” as though he knew I could. And I did. Perhaps he had made sure that I had read those words in the days before he asked me. I loved math and science. Algebra was like working out a puzzle. It was fun, and the answer was definite, it couldn’t change. I struggled with other subjects. I mean, I was still in the 90+ percentile in every subject, but reading and English were not my strongest by far. 

But I loved to read. 

I read Charlotte’s Web when I was seven or eight. The Time Machine and The Invisible Man when I was ten. When I was twelve, I discovered the world of Pern, and began devouring the works of Anne McCaffrey. Her world was amazing. There were dragons and lords, and dragon-like fire lizards. And the dragons had a telepathic bond with their riders that was so strong that it lasted their lifetime, and to lose a dragon or rider partner was enough to cause the instant, tragic suicide by the survivor. The characters in her world were so wonderfully written. Some children felt different and didn’t fit in in their feudal home, until they were “Searched” by the dragon riders, and presented as candidates at a dragon hatching. They found their place by finding a life-long friend, and found their purpose by becoming the defenders of their world. 

They found their place. And their power. 

I’m finally back in school. You know that thing where medical students start diagnosing themselves with the diseases that they learn about in med school? Well, I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. I was floored when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had joked that my idiosyncrasies were a little “ADD”, but I never truly considered that as a possibility. It was a joke. But then I examined my life, all the way back, and it all made sense. 

I’m a Psychology major.

I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety. Then I learned that they could have been caused by ADHD. But now I’m learning about something I never studied before. I’ve known people with kids who were diagnosed. I have worked with very awkward adults who had been diagnosed. But I never honestly thought that I might be on the autism spectrum. 

Until now. 

Is it because I’m a hypochondriac who happen to be studying psychology? Or is it because of the way I can’t focus on what I’m doing if my shoes are wet, or if the light is flickering, or if someone is wearing strong perfume? Is it because I can’t meet people on my own? I tend to “put myself out there” and wait for others to approach me. It worked better when I was younger and more attractive. Now it just makes me look like the eccentric lady that no one wants to get stuck in conversation with. 

Is it Apserger’s?

I’ve been learning about it. I’ve been reading and taking tests. But I don’t know if I’m just answering like an Aspie because I have some knowledge, if I’m projecting, if I’m mimicking. I’ve never felt right just being me, and I tend to try to blend. Sometimes it’s evident in the way I speak. Sometimes I change my speech to match the tone, inflection, regional dialect, even the accent of those around me. Is that what I’m doing when I take the test? Or is that another symptom? Who am I really?

I think my mom could be Aspie. My problems might stem from being raised by someone who isn’t “normal”.  It’s laughable. I’ve never thought I was normal, but I often played it off as being okay, because I wasn’t boring. At least not when I’m comfortable, around people I know and like. But mostly I stay home. I don’t visit friends. I sometimes invite them over, because it’s less stressful than leaving home. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

If I’m in a good mood, I tend to bubble over. If I’m stressed, I snap and tear into those around me. If I’m sad, I don’t do anything. If I’m tired or hungry, look out. And if I don’t like someone, I find it very hard to be civil or pretend that I don’t have a problem with them. And I don’t understand why/how other people do. 

Am I too analytical?

That’s what Dr. Ortíz told me. She wasn’t my doctor, she was my boss. It was right after I told someone they were lighting the candles on the cake wrong. The way he was doing it, he could have burned himself. 

I have short-term obsessions. 

When I was younger it might have been a boy, or dolphins, or a book, or some interesting thing I had learned about or experienced. I would be obsessed. For a while. Then it would be unimportant again, as a new obsession took its place. But I never forgot the details. 

I remember the stupidest things. 

The dumbest things. 

But I can remember things that I learned, that helped me in school. Not that the parts of the cell will ever come in handy. Except while I’m in school. 

I was always good at school. 

Well, mostly. I was great at school before junior high and high school. Then I was just pretty good. The closer I got to graduation, the more anxiety I had. Independence was scary. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I still struggle. And I got a couple of D’s along the way. There was one in a science class because I couldn’t understand why we were given an assignment, so I resisted it, and it was a large part of my grade. Then later in Calculus. I knew the algebra like the back of my hand. But most of the other students struggled. I would get so frustrated that the teacher was teaching what these students should have already known. So I would read my book. Anne McCaffrey, Dean Koontz, Stephen King… When the part of class came to learn calculus, I was lost in my fictional world, where the other students’ incompetence couldn’t stress me. I dropped that class the next semester. 

I had a full ride scholarship to college. 

I got a 30 on my ACT. It took me less than a year to drop out. I quit school two more times since then. That was before the ADHD diagnosis. This is my last chance to finish school. 

Could I have Asperger’s? 

Am I overreacting, like my husband thinks? Am I onto something? My therapist is still warming up to the idea. She’s more interested in why I think I need a diagnosis. I need it to understand. To make others understand. To help protect my overly delicate psyche in the future. To learn techniques to keep myself from overloading. To keep myself from having meltdowns. To protect my family from my wrath by helping us all see the triggers. To help myself set goals and find a career that is a good fit. To make connections. To make friends. To learn. I need a diagnosis so that when I look at myself, I don’t see a hot mess, barely struggling to get by, but a woman who has done very well, considering being undiagnosed. To heal.