Thoughts on The Good Doctor, Season 1

good doctor title

April is Autism Awareness Month. As such, I wanted to follow up on my thoughts on The Good Doctor. I also want to give a shout out to Steve from the Youtube channel Tostemac. He is currently doing a series of reviews for each of the episodes on The Good Doctor and I highly recommend them as Steve is someone who also has autism and gives some great perspectives.

Some spoilers ahead!

The second half of The Good Doctor introduced a lot of new characters. Sadly, Lea left after Islands, Part 2. It totally sucks because I wanted to see Shaun explore his new relationship on top of his work. Instead, she goes off to Hershey, Pennsylvania to work with her brother in repairing cars. Soon after Lea leaves, Shaun has a new neighbor named Kenny. I was willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt because he was nice to Shaun, but unfortunately, his criminal past and the way he acted in the finale have taken away my good faith in him.

Speaking of characters I hate, the show also introduces a couple new residents. Doctor Morgan Reznick, whom I not-so-affectionately call “Doctor Barbie” has become the new Hate Sink/Scrappy for the way she fakes nice to patients, but acts mean, manipulative, and cutthroat to basically everyone else, especially Claire. She also dismisses Doctor Kalu as she doesn’t think he’ll get a permanent job at the hospital and sometimes gives bad advice to both him and Shaun.

I call Morgan “Doctor Barbie” because she’s blonde and fake. There’s a way to write Jerkass Doctor characters and still make them likeable. Doctor Cox and his ex-wife Jordan from Scrubs are great examples of this. (I’m not counting Dr. Kelso because he’s basically a Designated Villain.) Dr. Cox is a total jerk to everyone, but it shows that he really does care about people underneath it all. He loves his kids and he even loves JD, but he will never willingly say it out loud to JD’s face. Jordan is self-centered, but her advice is always honest and she’s even affectionate at times. Doctor Morgan has yet to show any depth or any instances where she has to face responsibility for her mistakes. IF she comes back for Season 2, I want to see her undergoing a trial with major stakes because right now, she’s all privilege and no sympathy.

Doctor Alex Park also joins the residents as an ex-cop. I definitely like him, but he almost feels like he should be on another medical drama, like  Chicago Med.  He’s cynical, especially when it comes to anyone with a criminal background. I get that as a cop he’s probably seen the worst of humanity on a daily basis, but doctors aren’t supposed to be judgmental and, you know, most people prefer to use the whole “innocent until proven guilty” mindset. Then again, I consider myself to be an idealist, so it might just be my personal bias.

Doctor Kalu is one character who’s changed the most out of all the residents. After attacking a lecherous doctor in the locker room for harassing Claire,  he gets fired, but gets re-hired by threatening to sue the hospital. His relationship with Claire goes down the drain by “Heartfelt,” but he starts dating someone new towards the end of the season. It’s also shown that he’s looking for other places to work, as it’s very unlikely that he’ll have a permanent job in San Jose. I’m also glad that he’s trusting Shaun and stands up for him when the situation calls for it.

Poor Doctor Claire had a lot to deal with this season. Not only was she harassed by a doctor, but she has to deal with the cutthroat Doctor Morgan and her mother, who is clearly a moocher. In spite of all this, though, she’s still a wonderful character and a great friend for Shaun. I’m still not on the Claire/Shaun ship, though, because there are more moments that tease an interest in Doctor Melendez, who has broken up with his fiancee.

I think Doctor Melendez has really grown on me. He begins to trust Shaun a lot more and he’s shown to be a very fair-minded doctor. He doesn’t get much personal development in the second half beyond the fact that his relationship with Jessica has ended. It’s also implied that Jessica and Glassman were friends in the past, but it’s never given any detail as to how. Based on the finale, I think Jessica knew Glassman’s deceased daughter, but I wish that their friendship was explained more.

The jury is still out on Doctor Andrews. Although he was helpful to Shaun, helping him socialize with others during the fundraiser in “Heartfelt,” he’s still gunning for Glassman’s job in the finale. It’s also shown that he and his wife are trying to have kids, but he has low motility. He’s also mad at Kalu for playing the race card in his attempt at suing the hospital, but I still side with Kalu.

As far as the plots for individual episodes go, I liked some episodes more than others. “Seven Reasons” and “She” are a bit too political for my taste as I don’t believe for a second that Shaun would presume a Muslim patient to be a terrorist just because she was handling chemicals. I get that the patient was lying, but Shaun is way too smart to presume something so extreme. The situation with “She” is also too dicey a subject for me to talk about here.

I liked the episodes “Heartfelt,” “Pain,” and “Smile” more because Shaun gets to interact with patients who either inspire him to change or just connect with him in a sweet way. For example: the patient in “Heartfelt” inspires Shaun to be courageous enough to socialize at the hospital fundraiser. The patient of the week in “Smile” is my favorite, though, because Shaun is reasonable and honest with her and he ends up making her laugh.

I kinda wish some things relating to autism were explored more. The patient of the week in “Pain,” a man who is wheelchair-bound from a spinal cord injury, asked Shaun about if he would hypothetically try out something that would cure autism. That question never gets answered or discussed again. The guy has good intentions, but the problem with that line of thinking is that unlike a spinal cord injury, autism isn’t something that needs to be treated or cured.

I’ve compared autism to having a brain that’s programmed differently, similar to how Macs and Linuxes have different programming than a PC. People with autism need to learn how to better interact with neurotypicals, but there’s nothing short of a frickin lobotomy that will make an autistic person “normal.” You can’t bleach it out of them.

So overall, the first season of The Good Doctor was a great start. And I look forward to Season 2. I hope that the supporting cast gets more development and that the episodes get a little less political. Still, I recommend this show to people on the autism spectrum and for those who want to understand autism. It’s definitely a series that can open up some much-needed discussions.

Defying Expectations: A Poem In Honor of Autism Awareness Day

angel-1184179_1280

The diagnosis began with a test.
I was called out of class
and was asked a lot of questions.
The results of that test were kept hidden

Until a classmate did a project
and the questions began their resurrection.
My mother revealed I had Asperger’s
I didn’t really know what that meant or what to do with it

Years later, I came across an article
about a model who had this strange condition
I watched her story play out, her struggle resonating with mine
It was as if she was saying “You are not alone.”

In time, I became more open about my Asperger’s
And found people who understood or were surprised
I guess I was more “high functioning” than I thought
But even so, there were dark clouds looming on the horizon.

One dark night, I was caught in a tidal wave of anxiety
Screaming for help in the riptide, I drowned instead
I washed up on the frozen shores of the Ice Queen’s land
Where she exiled me and wanted off with my head

For years I struggled with nightmares and wandering
Trying to find myself again through something, anything
I almost ended up losing myself entirely
Through the lies of someone else’s manipulative words

But I broke free of the lies that she said
I started my journey of finding myself again.
My broken dreams were scattered behind me
And all I could do was move forward out of the woods

Diagnoses and cold judgment were their short-sighted expectations
I ran from that insanity and with time, I found my way out
I ran out of the woods and made a leap of faith
I fell down into an ocean that became my cocoon

In the ocean, new words taught me to swim
A new voice became my light in the darkness
In the deep waters, I grew wings
And one day, suddenly, I found myself flying

From the ocean to the sky, I soared
The words of the naysayers a distant memory
The ghosts of the pasts can no longer bring me down
I defied the gravity of their expectations

Jane Wants a Boyfriend: Not Your Neurotypical Love Story

janewants

I heard about Jane Wants a Boyfriend from Eliza Dushku’s Twitter. As soon as I googled the movie, I was instantly hooked. And now that I finally got to watch the movie, all I can say is that this movie is perfect!

Jane Wants a Boyfriend is a romantic-comedy that centers on three characters: Jane (played by Louisa Krause) , a 25-year-old seamstress/aspiring costume designer, her sister Bianca (played by Eliza Dushku) , who is an actress, and Jack (played by Gabriel Ebert), Jane’s romantic interest who hasn’t exactly grown up yet.

The movie starts with a lot of changes happening at once: Bianca is preparing for her first major role as an actress in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is also in the process of moving in with her fiance Rob (played by Amir Arison), who works as a journalist. However, at the same time, Jane and Bianca’s parents are planning on moving from Queens to the Jersey countryside and they want Jane to live with Bianca. Things get even more complicated when Jane meets Jack, who develops a growing interest in her even though he starts out the movie as someone who’s still in the “casual dating” stage of his life.

As someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, the way that Jane’s autism is portrayed feels realistic. It comes off more like high-functioning autism at times, but technically speaking, Asperger’s and high-functioning autism have become interchangable terms. I saw a lot of myself in Jane, especially during the parts where Jane would act out scenes from her favorite movies, particularly Kansas City Confidential. Props to Krause, who managed to balance out Jane’s wide-eyed innocence with her desire to grow up. Jane doesn’t come off as robotic as one would expect someone with autism to be. At the same time, her oversensitivity to loud noises and new things is shown as a very real issue and I love how the movie portrays these instances. It made sense to me that these things would occur when Jane was under a lot of stress.

I also gotta give props to Director William Sullivan and writer Jarret Kerr. They were able to create a believable love story while also including small thematic choices. This might just be the over-analytical part of me, but I think that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a perfect play to serve as sort of the background in this film because “The course of true love never doth run smooth.”

Jack’s storyline in the film is equally heartwarming. He starts out as a man in his late 20s to early 30s, out with a different girl every month or so. He works as a sous-chef and feels drawn to Jane as soon as they start getting to know each other. However, Bianca and her friends want Jane to go out with guys who are “safer.” What’s wonderful about Jack, though, is that he goes out of his way to learn about Jane’s autism and makes sure that their first date is special. By the end of the movie, I end up believing that Jane and Jack will definitely work out in the long run because it’s through Jane that Jack learns how to be more mature.

The real love story, though, isn’t the romance between Jane and Jack, as charming and endearing as it was. The movie really centers on Jane and Bianca’s relationship as sisters. Bianca has to balance out all the changes in her life as much as Jane does, but she wants to maintain some sense of control. The director of the play (played by Nick Stevenson) points out that Bianca has to let go of her control issues in order to fully immerse herself into her role as Titania. When Bianca sees how happy Jane is around Jack, she is more than willing to allow Jane to grow up. Because if you really love someone, you gotta set them free.

Jane Wants a Boyfriend is available to watch online or on demand. I highly recommend this to people who want a more grown up, realistic perspective on autism. Just keep an eye out for the vulgar language and the smoking. It’s not completely family friendly. However, I hope that more movies like this come out in the future.

Poster of Jane Wants a Boyfriend is copyright to Copperlight Creative and is used for editorial purposes only.

The Courage to Change

leap of faith

One thing commonly associated with people who have autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is that they have a harder time adjusting to change than normal people. In the past few months, however, I’ve gone out of my way to try new things which led to changes in my social life. There have also been some changes that happened outside of my control, some good and some bad. As much as I grit my teeth over the bad changes, I still try to make the best out of it.

I don’t think the fear of change or the difficulty of adapting to change applies to just people who have autism/Asperger’s syndrome. I think all people to some extent have a hard time dealing with change. Human beings have control issues, especially Americans. We like making plans and making idols out of them. As often as people complain about the daily grind, once something, anything happens to shake it up, they suddenly miss the boring commute.

And yet, if we never change, if we never have any sort of trials or obstacles to deal with, we lose the opportunity to grow. The side effects of staying in “safe spaces” can easily be seen in college campuses today. Comedians are reluctant to do gigs there because many people feel like their humor is offensive. People with mindsets that are different from the majority opinion are treated with hostility. There is a major problem with that kind of mentality: they’re not allowing the students to grow up. Instead, everyone gets babied and told they’re special snowflakes, which isn’t gonna help them in the real world. Yes there are people who can get away with living in a victim mentality, but it’s not exactly a great way to live. And in the long run, will that entitled, bratty, woe-is-me behavior really pay off? I don’t think so.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to listen to different viewpoints. There’s a reason I avoid politics when I can, after all. I’m just saying that people need to be open to change and open to being able to laugh at themselves and admit that sometimes they’re wrong. Having the courage to change takes humility and that particular virtue is hard to find these days.

I think the fear of humility comes from the fact that most people don’t understand what humility is. Humility may involve some shame and embarrassment, but it doesn’t always. More often than not, humility is just knowing that you’re not always going to be right. That somebody knows more than you and that you have to learn from them. That you’re not a special snowflake, but at the same time, it’s okay that you’re not. Humility is the first step to embracing change and developing courage. And eventually, you’ll find that you’ve become fearless.

The Monster In Me: A Poem

As a child I wanted to explore everything

Wanting to understand all I saw

Following stories of scientists and detectives

My role models were the kinds that wore uniforms and lab coats

But one day I got lost

I followed a rabbit where I shouldn’t have gone

 

All of a sudden, I started falling downward

Down, down, down

In love

In drama

In worlds far beyond my reach

I got lost in the stories

And in the stories I found a monster

The monster lashed out at my own friends

for not acting in a certain way

The monster despised the world I lived in,

preferring the chaos of her wonderland

Illusions became more valuable than gold

And all I could do was write

Write the monster’s laments as if they were my own

How little did I know, how quickly did I grow

 

In a large barren dust bowl,

my monster told me her name

Autism was her species

Aspergers, her claim to fame

She wasn’t the result of faulty software

but built by the creator with a different hardware

She processed my thoughts, filtering them like coffee

Strong and harsh and bitter at times

until I added some milk or some artificial sweet

to make some version of me complete.

I denied this monster’s existence for a long time

Still lost in the harsh blinding sun

Far from what I used to know.

I put her in a drawer,

hoping she’d be forgotten,

falling for the lies of different monsters instead.

These monsters came

in the form of handsome men

And it wasn’t until they were gone

that I realized they never saved me.

 

My monster came back with a vengeance

as I transitioned from high school to college.

We walked on a tightrope

between the dark wonderland we knew

and a land of a thousand stars that shined in the distance

My monster and I fell down again

but landed in a safety net

in the land of a thousand stars

Stars that shone brightly in the dark, black sky

But I loved each new day as much as the night.

I started introducing my monster to my friends

who were surprised she even existed.

Little did either of us know

that this starry paradise had hunters in the foxholes.

 

One night, I was caught in a tidal wave

and found myself naked for all to see

My monster took over and started shrieking

singing out her agony

We drowned in a torrent of negative thoughts

with no one to save us

Nobody helped.

As the tide washed out,

the Queen of Foxhunters took us to court

and commanded my monster to chop off her own head.

Instead, we ran as far as we could

away from the heartless queen and her hunters.

 

We made a plan to work together.

The monster learned to be more like the others

And I hid safely inside a white tent

until a knight in shining armor

came and asked me to dance with him.

My monster was puzzled by this new man

And sometimes she would cover my mouth.

While I worried about why my white knight

seemed to be walking a tightrope of his own.

 

Then all of a sudden

Everything started falling away

Changing too fast for either me or my monster to handle.

The white knight got on his horse and rode off without us

Then we lost a beloved friend

Then we had to leave the starry land

No more games in the clean, white tent.

No solid ground, no safety net.

 

Wandering around, we got stuck in a rut

Lost in a maze with no way out

A little maiden in the maze started stringing us along

But when we came to a dead end,

the maiden became a minotaur

My monster couldn’t handle the minotaur’s strength

With a pierce of a horn, my monster lost

She fell down again

Shattered

Crying

And I limped along with my monster to safety

Not looking back, fearing the minotaur’s chasing.

 

Out of the labyrinth, we got caught in a storm

Constant rain pouring down on us.

But we stayed in the storm and let it wash us clean

It became the source of our growth, the source of our healing

The water healed my monster and stopped the bleeding.

Then the rain was gone and the sun came out.

I saw a reflection of the monster in the water

Except the reflection was that of my face

The monster was inside me all along.

Like a softer Hyde to my little Jekyll

or a female version of that big green thing

The monster’s still in me, being sought by the hunters

Too bad they don’t know I have the strength to protect her

After all, she’s a part of me

 

She’s the armor I wear and the tears that I shed

She’s the sword in my hand and the thoughts in my head

She’s my curiosity, insatiable in her hunger

Devouring knowledge and building new dreams

She’s a part of me without being all of me

And I wouldn’t want it any other way

 

My Year In Photos: May

20140524_111638

May was a majorly awesome month for many things, but one thing stands out even now: Comicpalooza.

This picture will forever be my favorite picture from Comicpalooza. The only thing I regret was not holding my right arm high enough so the stake could really be seen in the picture. This is one of those pictures that is actually worth a thousand words. The last time I went to a convention was in college for anime-related cons. I went with friends, but only met two actors I liked, but didn’t love.

Comicpalooza blew every convention I ever went to out of the water. Not only did I meet my favorite actor, but also other actors from a show that still means more to me than words can ever say. After binge watching Buffy for 5 months, I was in a slump.  I had the same question that Dawn had in the series finale:

I didn’t want to read the comic books because I felt they didn’t fit what I wanted to happen after everything ended and Angel was too depressing for me to deal with. This convention was me getting out of that slump and remembering why I love Buffy so much: I felt like I was part of the Buffyverse and meeting James Marsters, Clare Kramer, Nicholas Brendon, James Leary, and George Hertzberg only made it all the more real. The catharsis I experienced when I started watching Buffy found completion upon meeting these actors.

I went to Comicpalooza with a friend who wanted to meet the Power Rangers actors and that was just as cool. I actually felt conflicted for a bit when I found out that the Buffy panel took place at the same time as the Power Rangers panel…but once I made my choice, I had no regrets.

It’s crazy to think that a year ago, I suffered from anxiety attacks. Keep in mind that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I was in a building with tens of thousands of people and in a room with possibly hundreds, standing in line to ask a question for everyone to hear. My days of anxiety attacks were long gone and the only thing driving me nuts was me wondering if one of the actors was staring at me. (Three guesses as to who.)

I honestly can’t wait until I can go to another convention just to see these actors again because I can honestly say that being a part of the Buffy fandom was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Dealing With Grief

One thing associated with Asperger’s and Autism is that change is a harder thing for people diagnosed with Aspergers and Autism to deal with change. Most people don’t like change, but they have the ability to suck it up, deal with it, and adjust. For me, the process of accepting and dealing with change takes a bit longer. This especially applies when it comes to losing a loved one.

You ever hear those stories about people who wake up with a bad feeling in the middle of the night? Well, two years ago, I was having trouble sleeping because I knew that my friend, Rev. James Keon, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) had left the hospital recently. He had some accidents on-campus that led to him deciding on returning to his hometown in Canada. But two years ago, I couldn’t sleep. I decide to open my Facebook and learned that Fr. Keon passed away.

Fr. Keon was one of my first friends that I made during my early days at the University of St. Thomas. I first met him in the cafeteria, a place that he often hung out at. I saw a book that belonged to a priest on the counter and wasn’t sure who I could give the book to. Remembering that all the priests lived together, I saw Fr. Keon and asked him to return the book to the priest it actually belonged to. Then, after buying lunch for my mother, Fr. Keon waited with me until my mother came around to pick me up from school, since back then I was a commuter.

Fr. Keon became the grandfather I never had. I knew that I could always sit with him in the cafeteria. Sometimes, I would see him celebrating Daily Mass and other times, we would attend lectures and plays together. Sometimes, my friends would come and sit with me while other times, it would just be the two of us. Fr. Keon was one of the many things that made the university wonderful for me. I could talk to him about anything and he would make a joke or give me advice. And even when I learned that he was going to be leaving the university, I imagined myself writing e-mails or letters to him.

 

I didn’t get much sleep the night I found out about Fr. Keon’s passing. The next morning, I couldn’t understand how everyone could go about their day so easily. Was I the only one who was missing him? I hated the pain I felt and how the cafeteria looked so empty without him, even when it was filled with students. I hated that future students would have no clue about the kindhearted priest who would sit somewhere in the cafeteria and spend time with students. I found time to cry and wanted to push away all thoughts of Fr. Keon in order to avoid the pain I was feeling. But eventually, that distance overwhelmed me.

Eventually, I went to counseling and talked about my grief to them as well as some of my friends who also missed him. Later on, there was a memorial service that also helped me to deal with things better. I wasn’t the only one who missed him. As a priest and a teacher, Fr. Keon made friends with so many people throughout his lifetime and they all had wonderful stories about him. One story in particular stood out: an alumni gave a testimony about Fr. Keon spending dinner with her and her female friends. She pointed out that Fr. Keon was a huge flirt. It was part of his sense of humor and I remembered how he often jokingly flirted with my friends. Everyone in the chapel was laughing and later on, there was a dinner where I heard even more stories. To top it all off, one of my friends made a video of him that I still keep bookmarked on my internet browser. Originally, it was supposed to be a profile of him for a video contest. Now it serves as my memorial video.

At the end of the shorter version of the video, there is a clip of him at his birthday party with everyone singing to him. I gave Fr. Keon a big hug, smiled at the camera, and left to go get my lunch or sit down somewhere.

1381550_10152261681388626_1427729659_n

 

When I see him again in Heaven, I plan on giving him another hug and the best smile I could ever give a friend.

Where I Stand On The Spectrum

My brother linked me to a theory video that speculated that the Super Smash Bros games are told from the POV of an autistic child. I highly praise the maker of this video for doing a lot of research and addressing a lot of the misconceptions about autism, especially the stuff he said about Autism Speaks. (Long story short: Autism Speaks sucks! Don’t support them!) That being said, I wanted to elaborate about where I stand on the autistic spectrum because some of the things in the video, as stated by the video creator himself, don’t apply to everyone diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s.

As of this entry, Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered as separate from autism. However, I still consider myself as having Asperger’s because some people who have autism don’t have as many symptoms as others. In other words, I consider myself more high-functioning. Warning in advance: Long post is long.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a savant of any sort. I can memorize some things, but they’re usually associated with things I obsess over. For example, I have memorized lines from the episodes of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries word for word. As far as empathy is concerned, I definitely have the ability to empathize with people as well as fictional characters. When I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I understood Spike’s actions in Season 5 and 6 in spite of a good number of fans hating Spike because he came off as a stalker. (With good reason. He was.)

One symptom that’s commonly associated with Asperger’s and autism is connected to language. The video said that someone with autism could either be great with languages or be completely unable to understand sarcasm and metaphor or fall somewhere in between. I have a very offbeat sense of humor and sometimes, when I’m hanging out with my friends, I have problems telling the difference between them being serious or them teasing me. It’s gotten better, though, because as I get to know my friends, it gets easier for me to discern the difference in their tones. Watching people on TV and on the internet also helped me understand social cues better because the nonverbal actions and tones are easier to distinguish.

Another symptom associated with most people on the autistic spectrum is a need to have a routine and hate having changes in said routine. While I had a structured environment in schools, it’s not as easy for me to develop routines on my own nowadays since I’m still looking for work. I used to have a routine by associating days with whatever TV show I wanted to watch that day, but with the internet being what it is, that method has since changed.

Having a lack of routine has forced me to be flexible and focus more on the process of doing things as opposed to being tunnel-visioned towards a certain goal. This helped me recently in my efforts on losing weight. I exercised when I had the opportunity to do so and changed some of the things I ate. As of this entry, I have lost 10 pounds.

The video stated that those who have autism are capable of imagining things, but not to the same extent as what is called “neuro-typicals” or people who don’t have autism. I pretty much agree with this because when I was a kid, the most original thing I ever created was an imaginary friend named Fred who came from Australia and had red hair. Most of the time, I imagined myself being a sidekick to the Justice League heroes because I watched Superfriends. My character was a cowgirl who fought with Wonder Woman and liked horses. Back then, most of my female friends were in their “I love horses” phase and while I didn’t obsess with horses as much as they did, associating myself with horses was still part of my imagination.

Another symptom associated with many people with autism is a fixation on things or developing obsessions. I’ve gone more into detail about my obsessions in previous entries, but to make a long story short, my obsession is stories. The one thing that everything I loved as a child had in common (fairy tales, Japanese anime, childrens’ books and cartoons) was that they all told stories with dynamic characters.

Nowadays, I write fictional stories. It’s not easy for me to come up with completely original characters because I often feel like I’m starting from nothing. I always start by thinking of characters I like from shows I watch and books I read. I even write “fanfiction” which takes the characters from a show and puts them in an alternative storyline.  Most of my fanfiction is usually “fixing” things I didn’t like about something I watched or read.

Some people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have problems with motor skills, which sometimes manifests in the form of a nervous twitch. This was something I had a major problem with as a child. I would often shake my right leg under my desk whenever I was bored and I never sat properly. However, taking dance classes helped me gain some coordination (though not to the extent that I can play video games as good as my brother nor can I play sports). Nowadays, I still have a twitch, but it usually comes in the form of a trigger finger in my right pinky. (It might be because of all the knitting.)

One thing I don’t agree with in the video is the idea that my Asperger’s has any effect on the kind of people or things I find attractive. If anything, I feel like I have to try twice as hard to figure out romantic relationships as I do with my regular friendships. I consider myself to be heterosexual with the occasional girl crush on a certain actress or character. I don’t have any “fetishes” and I developed into puberty at a typically normal age (12 years old).

The video takes on a dark turn when it goes into people who either bully someone with autism or claim to help with good intentions, but see autism as something bad. It says that in the Subspace Emissary story mode, the characters are mute, which represents the symptom of social ineptitude. Some people with autism speak in monotone. I have a tendency of speaking too loud. And those less high-functioning do have problems speaking at all.

The last symptom that the video gets into is amplified emotions and it talks about loneliness and depression specifically. The worst instance of that happening in my life was when I got so nervous during a class, I had an anxiety attack. Nobody was there to help me and I started freaking out in front of everyone. The professor told me that I had to drop the class or she would kick me out. And there were times in my life that I saw myself as my own worst enemy.

But things got better. I was able to find other writing classes. I changed my major and did an internship at a news station. I started teaching. I found new stories to obsess over. And best of all, I made friends who helped me understand myself. Because the thing is I don’t define myself by just my Aspergers, nor do I define myself by sexuality, gender, or race. Instead, I define myself by something bigger than me. But that’s another blog post.

How to Handle Crushes and Relationships in 8 Easy Steps

You know what’s worse than being a hopeless romantic? Being a hopeless romantic who can’t figure out social cues and has relationship drama worthy of a Taylor Swift song.

Back when I was in college, I had a crush on a different guy every year. Before that, I had a couple of boyfriends in high school. Sadly, my relationships ended badly and my feelings for the crushes were unrequited. The good news is that I learned a lot of things from having these crushes and relationships. So in no particular order, here are 8 steps for handling having a crush and building a better relationship.

1) Acknowledge what you are feeling, but don’t dwell on it

Whenever I had a crush, I would go between two extremes: 1) I would be in total denial about what was going on or 2) I would let the feelings I have overwhelm me to the point that I couldn’t think about anything else. Childhood television taught me that it’s good to acknowledge whatever you’re feeling and find a way to deal with it. My way of dealing with a crush nowadays is to write poetry about it.

2) Figure out the best way to communicate.

Some Aspies have problems expressing how they feel, either verbally or nonverbally. Others, like me, struggle with understanding what other people express and what that means.  Honesty is the best policy in this case. Whenever I meet somebody, I always ask them what their preferred method of communication is. If I forget to ask that question, I usually try very neutral methods such as e-mail or social networking. However, face-to-face interaction is still the most preferred method for non-Aspies.

When it comes to face-to-face interaction, work on maintaining eye contact and read up on body language. During college, I took classes that put me in situations that involved a lot of face-to-face interaction such as presenting a speech or learning how to act for a play. These classes helped me to express myself better in the day-to-day conversations.

3) Don’t talk about your feelings/relationship with everyone.

This is something I learned the hard way. I wasn’t the kind of girl who whined on social media about how perpetually single I was…but I whined about it to pretty much everyone I interacted with in real life. I’m pretty sure I annoyed a lot of people, but they were way too nice to tell me otherwise.

When it comes to asking for advice, I suggest talking things over with someone you can really trust. It might be a relative or a friend or even a counselor. It’s better to confide in a handful of people rather than your entire of circle of friends because if/when said crush/relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t have to tell everyone about said fallout.

4) Remember to love yourself

One major problem I had was that I entered into my relationships with the idea that I would find my sense of self-worth with them. I realize now that the men I liked weren’t going to give me love if I didn’t love myself first. I still struggle with self-esteem issues, but I’ve found things about myself that I love and try to be the best version of myself on a daily basis.

If you’re having problems with having a good sense of self-worth, I have a Bible verse for you:

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you. When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” Psalm 139: 13-16.

No, you are not a Special Snowflake entitled to everything you want, but you were created with love and are loved just for who you are.

5) Take it slow

Most dating advice articles say that it’s good to start off as friends. While I also advise to start out as friends, don’t obsess over how you’re “stuck in the friendzone” with said crush. Again, you are created with love, but you are not entitled to everything you want. It’s a slow process, but good things take time. Get to know your significant other and enjoy the time you spend with them. If you play your cards right, you’ll either end up with a good friend or a significant other. Worst case scenario, you’ll learn something from said relationship.

6) Treat the person as a person, not as an object

Something I learned from my crushing was that I was more often caught up in the idea of having a relationship rather than falling in love with the person I crushed on in question. Don’t get obsessed over a person’s physical features and DO NOT push things too far with too much physical contact. No matter what your views on casual sex may be, relationships tend to be better with delayed gratification.

Ask them about how their day went, things they like to do in their spare time, hobbies they enjoy, etc. It helps you find out more about them and it makes them feel more comfortable. It also leads to them asking questions about you. Just remember that both parties have to hold up the conversation.

7) If a crush ends up being unrequited or a relationship fizzles out, it’s not the end of the world

A common problem Aspies face is anxiety especially when it comes to frequent change or facing disappointments. Don’t stay in a bad relationship just because you hate the idea of changing your life. It’s better to let go of bad influences than to stay with them and watch your life slowly get worse and worse.

Whenever I found out that a crush didn’t return my feelings, I would often blame myself and then blame the other person. In reality, relationships end for a lot of reasons and both parties are responsible. Take responsibility for whatever mistakes you may have made, learn from them, and move on.

8) Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s!

No two relationships are the same. Teenage girls will usually crush on a boy their parents don’t approve of and compare their relationship to Romeo and Juliet, completely missing the point that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of the play. However, the best love stories are ones that are unique. While one might compare relationships to stories such as Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales, the people in the relationships will always be different from the characters in said stories.

It’s not easy for an Aspie to not compare things because most Aspies like to gather facts and analyze them. Relationships, however, are a bit messier than that. Each relationship and each crush will be a new and unique experience. You can use what you learned in past relationships to better yourself going into a new one, but don’t compare the new loves to old flames. Instead, find what you love about them that is unique only to them.

There are definitely some more tips out there, but this is just a starter for handling the always-new situation of falling in love. I hope these tips help you out!

The Patterns of Affinity in the Autistic Mind

So my dad was channel surfing through the news stories and my ear catches a sound bite about a man who has an autistic son who learned to communicate through watching Disney movies. As I watched the story, I saw a lot of myself in the autistic child, who I learned is now 23 years old.

The news piece about Ron Suskind’s son mentioned something called “affinity therapy” in which role-playing is used to develop social skills. As I thought about all of the things that I obsessed over as a child and the things I obsess over now, I realized that I did something along those lines as a kid. And like Owen, I was drawn to a certain type of character as I grew up.

My first obsession was Sailor Moon. I had some episodes on VHS (that’s the thing they used before DVDs to watch things, millenial readers) that I would watch over and over. The episode that I remember most of all is the episode in which Usagi/Serena is revealed to be Princess Serenity. Up until that point, I had no idea of any sort of princess, but what really got my attention was Usagi/Serena didn’t want to be a princess after Mamoru/Darien was taken away from her. In the past, I watched heroes who went into danger unafraid of anything. This was the first time that I ever saw a hero who was afraid and expressed her fear. As a child, I would watch that particular tape over and over again and sometimes pretend that I was a Sailor Scout. I also pretended to be things from other anime shows, but Sailor Moon was basically the start of it.

Anime continued to be an obsession up until my high school days, when I discovered a novel that changed my life forever. Pride and Prejudice featured Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman who was a lot like myself at the time: outspoken, witty, and a bit presumptuous. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she was wrong and to change, which was very different from the chick lit and young adult novels I read that had a lot of self-centered characters. But what really drew me to her was that she had her vulnerable moments and admitted her fears out loud. This was later shown in the YouTube adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which became my obsession during my last year of college.

Although I never pretended to be Elizabeth Bennet, I did some theatre in high school and college and the roles I liked most were the outspoken, talkative, young female characters. Theatre became a concentrated form of “affinity therapy” because I was always playing a part in some shape or form. The best role I ever had was when I got cast in my friend’s production of The Boys Next Door. I played the role of Shiela, the love interest of Norman. Like the most of the others, my character was someone with special needs who lived in a group home. In spite of her disability, she was able to find love. And although I am no longer acting, a good percentage of my brain space has memorized entire episodes from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which includes costume theatre segments that had me in stitches.

One particular experience of affinity therapy happened shortly after I started obsessing over Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character I loved most was a super strong blonde character who had a vulnerable side that I could relate to, who hid that same vulnerability because it didn’t fit with the expectations others had of this particular character and yet he/she had such a dynamic personality that I rooted for him/her and wanted him/her to have a happy ending after all the heartbreak and pain he/she went through.

But wait, you ask, are you talking about Spike or Buffy? Yes.

My Buffy obsession eventually led to me cosplaying Buffy, meeting the guy who played Spike at a convention, and writing fanfiction, all of which I think fall under the affinity therapy umbrella.

All the characters I ended up loving had courage and showed their vulnerable side to the world, even when they didn’t know they were doing so. I haven’t really had the courage to do the same until now.

I want to post about my Asperger’s Syndrome more often and share my experiences of being on the autism spectrum. Lately it seems that poetry has been the best way for me to express that.

I wrote a poem back in middle school and my teacher, years later, shared that poem with some parents of autistic kids. These parents apparently saw their children’s mind in my poem, which was about feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere because my interests and ideals were different from everyone else’s. If a poem I wrote all those years ago could touch someone now, I have to keep going at it so that I can reach out and let other kids, teens, and young adults with autism and Asperger’s know that they’re not alone.

Tonight, when I was taking a walk, I watched a thunderstorm in the distance. It inspired me to write the following poem. I hope you enjoy it because there is probably going to be more to come.

 

Primal Instinct

 

Lightning dances across the sky

In a show of beauty and danger

It dances to the symphony of crickets and frogs

Mixed with the cacophony of dog barks and car horns

And in the middle of this song is the rhythm of a runner’s feet

Pounding the pavement as they run nearby

Close enough to the storm to watch,

But far enough to be safe from shock.

The primal instinct of running is fear,

And yet these feet do not run away from the storm

They dance a fine line between risk and safety

Knowing that home isn’t far away