Sunday, August 24, 2008

AutismWiki, Presentations, Manuscript...

As the school year begins, I am preparing for a series of presentations and updating more of the AutismWiki in parallel. I believe these resources will be helpful to students, over time.

I started rewriting my manuscript, as well. It won't take a lot of effort to adjust some things that will result in a much better text. As more students classified as "on the spectrum" prepare to enter college, the information and experiences I can contribute should be of interest to a publisher, as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cafe Elitistim

This weekend hasn't gone well, from mid-Friday or so onward. Maybe earlier.

My left eye is definitely out of focus, possibly causing my headaches and worse. I have made an emergency appointment to see the optometrist or whatever the "O.D." is at the university health clinic on Monday afternoon. I cannot keep fighting my eyesight, especially if that is the cause of my migraines.
I was invited to interview for an after school science program in St. Paul. I was excited, but the weekend stresses and the general hassles of my upcoming schedule may require that I decline the interview. The university is unsure where my office will even be this year. Annoying.

I thought part of my problem was a lack of social contact and mental stimulation. Being home alone day after day is taking a toll on me, but I also don't do well outside of the house in this relatively urban setting. I admit it — I want to be near malls and strip centers. I miss huge bookstores with cafes.

Friday night I had RSVP'd to join a dinner out with the GenX Minnesota Mensa. It was a horrible non-experience only cementing my views on the Twin Cities and the snobbery of some people.

We arrived ten minutes early at Signature Café, in St. Paul. The moment you see the accented é you know the place is either mocking itself or taking itself too seriously. I don't mind mockery, but this was a case of serious snobbery.

The menu was big clue that this was not a place for us. Nothing was affordable, at least not in our budget.

The "Beware of Attack Democrat" sign and "Air America" stickers were another clue that we would not be comfortable. Those items were next to flyers for a sailing class, pet portraiture, and "Chefs of Minnesota" day. Yes, we were in way over our heads. Typical of the Twin Cities, the Saabs and BMWs should have indicated to us we didn't belong. Our Hyundai Accent was probably considered an eyesore.

My back is very bad. I was in extreme pain and my allergies have been a problem. We asked to be seated and the response was, "We seat parties after everyone arrives." There wasn't a single person seated inside the cafe. Not one. Just a huge empty room of tables. Nice, when you have a customer in pain.

We tried to sit at the four-seat bar, but barstools are very bad for my back. The legs hanging low caused excruciatingly sharp pains in my lower back. I opted to stand.

After 30 minutes, about half spent standing, we left. By then, two others of the six reservations had arrived. I wasn't going to wait for two more people without a seat inside.

I hate the Twin Cities. I despise them. A lot. This experience did not help.

One reason I left was the question, "How do you like Minnesota?" wasn't going to get a very nice response. I'd tell them bluntly, "I cannot wait to leave. I'd even rather die than live one extra day here."
I've decided the low unemployment rate isn't a good sign. It's a sign that people are leaving, so jobless rates are low. Sure, you get low unemployment to brag about and high wages... but it is because everyone who can leave does. The rich don't have to care, since they can always travel to escape this hell when they want. Or build gigantic homes with game rooms for winter.

If we were rich, we'd live in the suburbs among the normal people.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Bad Day

Saturday was a bad day. That should be read in a deep voice by James Earl Jones for effect. It was that kind of bad day.

For much of the summer I have had horrible headaches. These are definitely migraines, as my vision is as if the brightness were set to maximum, with no contrast. They have increased in severity over time, seeming to correlate to any physical pain. The more I hurt, the more likely to have one of these strange headaches.

Being at home, when the headaches reach the peak of my tolerance I have the option of resting. If I fall asleep for a few minutes on the couch or sitting on my bed, no one is going to complain.

As a news junkie, I'll be the first to admit that the cable news is repetitive and probably does put people to sleep.

At least that was my logic until today. Now, I'm not sure sure I'm simply "falling asleep" when I have the headaches. Maybe I was just tired. In the afternoons, "Closing Bell" started seem strange. The final hour of trading was going by very quickly. "The Situation Room" on CNN was a blurr, too. I'd hear "This is The Situation Room. I'm Wolf Blitzer" and the next moment it was Jack Cafferty reading mail from viewers.

Saturday, though, is forcing me to reconsider the "exhaustion" narrative. After all, I just sit and type or dictate all day. I'm not doing anything that should leave me this tired.

We went for a drive in Wisconsin because I needed a break from the house, the city, and working on projects. The state park was only 45 minutes from our house.

I was in pain for most of the walk up to the water fall in the park. My right ankle is very sensitive right now, having fallen (again) down the basement stairs. My head was throbbing by the time we reached the top of the outlook perch. Sitting there on a park bench, my head
started to hurt more and more. My heart felt like it was "wobbling" in my chest. My visions started to get "whiter and whiter" (lacking a better description) until I just don't remember anything.

So, when I get headaches and lose time, there is something very wrong happening.

My wife says to took a bottle of water and tried to drink it, but I passed out. I dropped the water and slumped over, according to her. I don't recall. I barely remember trying to put my shirt on — which I don't recall removing — so we could hike back to the car.

While I was unconscious, apparently my arm shook a little but I did not have a violent seizure. It was more like fainting. Time simply vanishes from my mind, so I cannot say what happened. What if my wife hadn't been there? That's a serious question.

The only conclusion I can draw is that I am having seizures again. They've never been able to pinpoint the seizures or explain them to my satisfaction. Do the migraines signal or cause the seizures? Why do I lose only a few minutes?

Knowing that I have probably been having seizures, not falling asleep, only makes me more worried about what my mind must be doing. Luckily, I know when I am in physical trouble. If I feel pressure behind my eyes, time to sit down. If I hear high-pitched tones, time to sit down. If I can't hold a pencil steady... seriously time to sit down and stop working.

I would not drive with a migraine and I certainly would never, for any reason, get on the scooter if I didn't fell okay. The risks to me and others are not worth it. Plus, I am tense when I have a headache.

Back to a higher dosage of Neurontin.

The idea of passing out only to be found hours later bothers me a lot. A family event has made this fear even more acute.

What bothers me more though is the feeling that my wife is stuck dealing with my mind and body. It seems terrible to expect so much of her at times. She does more for me than I will ever deserve.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Am I Broken? Should I Care?

Whether I consider my oddities "autistic" or "birth trauma" (I vote for "complex entry into life"), I am certainly not normal. My wife will attest to this.

Parents of special education students ask if I would want to be "cured" of my oddities. This question is one with which I struggle, since I both value my abilities and curse my lack of social skills.

If being "normal" would mean that I must surrender some of my skills, then I would not be me. To not be gifted, a loaded word I admit, means to surrender analytical skills I value and admire in others. I admire scientists. I admire men and women solving problems with thought and through experimentation.

I don't like the idea of being as ignorant and sloppy as the people I encounter. I also have no desire to be as slick and manipulative as the most successful people I have met. I'd rather be honest and know myself. I believe there is a point at which great salesman loses himself in the lies.

Yet, I really do dislike a lot about the way I am. Someday, I would trade for being normal... even knowing I would cease to be me. It might be easy to give up being a "genius" since I have done nothing with my intellect. I certainly haven't changed the world. Why not trade a few IQ points and analytical skills for a normal existence?

Being normal would mean no more sound sensitivity. No more immediate reactions to smells I dislike. I could assemble a list of 100 things I could do with less stress if I were normal. Taking a walk in my own neighborhood might be nice — but I actually hate the idea, so I have no idea if it would be nice or not. That's the nature of my pondering on this matter: why do I think I might enjoy something I don't presently enjoy?

What I do know is I could tolerate more without sensitivity to sound, smell, light, and touch.

I wouldn't mind having a few more friends. But, I generally don't like people. Why do I think I might like people more if I were "normal" in some way? Most people are simply boring or ignorant. Then again, if I were ignorant I might not notice.

Really, this shouldn't be a question. Normal or not, I am what I am. I can't change 39+ years of life, and any instant change would make me someone else.

If I didn't realized I had changed, I would not care. If I did realize I changed, I'd probably resent the loss of some skills. Since I'm currently not seeking adoration from throngs of groupies, any change resulting in a desire for such adulation would be a change for the worse. Needing approval is not necessarily a good thing.

Honestly, I do struggle with this. Maybe traits we label as disorders are really needed for humanity to grow and extend its knowledge. It seems as if the geniuses who have changed the world were all "odd" in some way. It might have been ADD/ADHD, OCD, depression, bi-polar
disorder, or a form of autism, but most great minds seem to be different in a way others might consider a disorder.

Maybe the world needs broken minds.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Long Summer Months

I have hated this summer.

I resent the house because working on it causes way too much physical pain for too little progress. I hate using the sink in the bathroom, as it reminds me of the time and pain wasted on a sink that still isn't to code. I hate the kitchen, with various things incomplete or missing. I really despise the hallway, where there's no flooring and the open closet is a mess from water damage.

The house is much too small "per floor" since I can no longer use the stairs without wanting to scream in pain. This means my exercise bike, many books, my desk, and much of my writings are out of reach for me. I'm not about to use the stairs if I can avoid them. It was bad enough on my back for the three weeks essential items were downstairs.

I want a house that is "normal" to my experiences: a nice, Southwest-style home with a single large floor. No stairs. An attached garage, too.

The location bothers me. A lot. I hate driving any more than I must, even though I feel trapped being in the house day after day. I don't like the outdoors, which are claustrophobia inducing. The homes are too close to each other and the streets too narrow. The closest place I might want to be is in St. Paul, where two bookstores are on the same street. But, the street is too busy with cars and I don't feel safe riding my scooter in the area.

I am worried about not passing my oral exams on the first try. I must, must, must pass my doctoral exams so I can write my dissertation as quickly as possible. I cannot fail. I'm sick of failing. I want out of here, and that Ph.D is my ticket to something better.

I hate waking up here. I'm depressed, drained, sore, and miserable. I can barely move some mornings. Most days, I try to stay in my bedroom to work for as many hours as possible. I don't want to see outside. I don't want to be reminded I am here, in the middle of Hell. Once I see
outside, I get so depressed I shake.

I belong somewhere else. Somewhere where I can sit in a quiet bookstore and write. The bookstores here aren't conducive to sitting and writing. Well, all but for one B&N. Ironically, the B&N in the Mall of America is quiet in the cafe area. It's an ideal oasis from life. I wish I could locate an equally quiet bookstore with cafe area outside a mall -- but it is so cold here during the winter that things need to be enclosed in malls.

There are 23 months or fewer left. I have to make it. But it is getting harder and harder each month. I hate life here more and more. I hate more about Minnesota with each passing week.

Don't try to tell me its a "Top Ten" city on various lists. Those lists mean nothing to my lifestyle or needs. I don't attend huge theatrical productions, expensive professional sporting events, or hang out in clubs. I want peace and quiet. I want drives in mountains, time at a beach, and most of all... space. Lots of space between me and everyone else.

The cooler weather during the summer is the only positive. That's it. One positive. And since I can't be outside here without feeling like things are closing in on me, that's not much.

Too much time here is leaving me the most isolated I have ever felt. My writing has suffered, my sanity has suffered, and certainly my health has suffered.

I really do need to leave as soon as possible.