Asperger’s and Girls

girls

Asperger’s and Girls is a book with nine chapters from different autism experts, some of whom are autistic themselves, about various aspects of Asperger’s as it relates to females.  It was published in 2006 and I’m sure was groundbreaking at the time, as we are still seeing the need for education about the incidence and experience of females with Asperger’s today.

The first few chapters deal with the issue of under-diagnosis of Asperger’s in females and discuss the need for programming and services designed specifically for this population.  Tony Attwood, a clinical psychologist from Australia and prominent author and speaker about autism, starts off the book by talking about the ways that females can present differently from males.  I appreciate him speaking out about this so much; in fact, it was at a conference where he spoke about autism in females that I first suspected I was autistic.  He is followed by Catherine Faherty talking about starting a women’s group in her area and by Sheila Wagner talking about the needs of girls in the educational system.

Chapter Four is about fitting in and having friends, as well as bullying, primarily during the teenage years.  While there is a lot of good information about typical peer structures, the focus is exclusively on how a girl can adapt to fit in with typical peers, rather than accepting herself as she is and finding friends who can accept her as well.

There is a chapter on puberty that has some good information and advice to parents and educators on how to help girls prepare for that time in their life, as well as a chapter about the transition from high school to adulthood which stresses the needs for parents to guide without being overprotective.

By far my favorite chapter is the one on dating, relationships, and marriage.  Written by Jennifer McIlwee Myers, who has Asperger’s, it promotes being comfortable with yourself and looking for a partner who will accept you for who you are.  As she puts it,

You don’t find your one true love by being fake; you find him by living your life and being the best version of you that you can achieve.  A girl or woman with AS isn’t going to find her best life by trying to be neurotypical, but rather by striving to the the best darn Aspie she is able to be.

This is one of the longer chapters in the book and is full of great advice and encouragement.

Chapter Eight is the story of an autistic woman detailing her experiences with motherhood.  She has a total of four children, two of whom are autistic.  Her story is one of gradual discovery and understanding as she learns to support and advocate for her children.

The book ends somewhat abruptly with a short chapter by Temple Grandin talking about her choice to focus on her career and not pursue any sort of dating or romantic relationships.  She explains that this is because of the way she is wired and that other people may wish for different things in their lives, but says she is happy and fulfilled by her solitary life.

All in all, this was a good read with some valuable information about Asperger’s in girls and women.  I would definitely recommend it.

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Top Reads This Spring

My reading life goes through cycles where I read a lot and where I rarely pick up a book. Lately I have been reading quite a bit, even going to the library regularly to get more books. Here are a few that I have really enjoyed over the last couple of months.

A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe – I was mesmerized when I read her first novel, The Color of Tea, and have eagerly read her other books as well. This novel centers on Juliette, a chef who has recently lost her restaurant in Paris and returned to her hometown to be a personal chef to Max. Max is a washed-up rock star who decides to host his group of college friends for his birthday weekend. As the friends navigate their various relationship issues, Juliette is drawn out of her shell and into their circle. This was a well-paced, enjoyable read.

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg – Berg is one of my favorite authors, and this book does not disappoint! On one of his daily outings to the cemetery where his wife is buried, Arthur meets Maddy, a high school girl avoiding school by hiding out there. Their relationship with each other as well as Arthur’s neighbor Lucille forms the basis for the story. I enjoyed the characters and plot equally and highly recommend it.

Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt – This is an engaging novel about two sisters, Lucy and Juliet, and how their relationship evolves when Lucy comes to stay with Juliet after her life in Boston comes apart at the seams. Set in a small town in England’s Lake District, this charming novel offers hope that even strained relationships can be mended. I loved both the setting and the characters. A side note of interest, I found out after posting that I had read the book on Goodreads that the author is my friend’s husband’s sister – talk about a small world!

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn – I didn’t realize before I started this book that it was a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but it became very obvious even within the first chapter. I was delighted because that is my favorite novel of all time! In this adaptation, Anne Corey is an English professor at a small college in California who finds her ex-fiance Adam Martinez has just become the president of her school. It was a charming take on the story and a fun read.

A Few Good Sci Fi Shows

I have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. When I was younger, I had an extensive book collection and would reread favorites over and over. I no longer have the books but I still enjoy the genre. Recently I have been watching a few good sci fi shows that I wanted to share.

travelersTravelers – this is a time travel show. Travelers come from the future to our time to try to change events to make the future better. I absolutely loved this show and binged watched it in one weekend. It has two seasons and is on Netflix.

extantExtant – led by Halle Berry, this is a show set in the future that involves both humanoid robots and alien life. I really enjoyed the futuristic setting and the different ethical dilemmas that came up. It is also two seasons and is on Amazon Prime as well as CBS All-Access.

lost in spaceLost in Space – this is a remake of an old show which I have surprisingly not seen. It is also set in the future and centers on a group of people who have set out to colonize another planet. Something goes wrong and they end up stranded somewhere else. This is on Netflix and there is one season so far. Joe and I watched it together and both liked it.

crossingThe Crossing – this is another time travel show. A group of people appear in the water off the coast of an American town and say they have come from the future to escape a war. The US government gets involved and the mystery deepens as the show goes on. It’s quite good! It’s a current show on ABC and all seven episodes that have come out so far are available on their app at the time of this post.

Have you seen any of these and, if so, what did you think of them?  Do you have any recommendations of other shows I might like?

Thinking About Getting a Dog

animal dog pet cute

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

So, we are thinking about getting a dog.  Specifically, we would be adopting a boxer from a rescue.  Joe had two different boxers growing up and is very partial to the breed, plus from everything I have read, they can be great family dogs.  They do generally need a lot of exercise, but Joe would be able to walk it twice a day, and I could take it out during the day as needed to run around the backyard.  There are also a number of dog parks around the area that we could take it to.

The biggest concern I have is how the dog would get along with our five year old cat, Peanut Butter.  Since the dog we would be getting would not be a puppy, we would be able to request one that is good with cats, so that should be a help.  I have not owned a dog as an adult, and my mom did most of the training for the dogs I had when I was growing up, so this is a whole new area for me.  But I’m thinking I will have to train our cat to eat at certain times of the day instead of leaving his food out all the time.

I’m also trying to think of all the expenses that will come out so we can be prepared budget-wise.  The dog will come already spayed or neutered and microchipped.  Here’s what I have so far:

    • Adoption fee
    • Dog license
    • Food bowls & food
    • Crate & dog bed
    • Leash & brush
    • Toys & treats
    • Flea/tick and heartworm prevention
    • Vet checkups and vaccinations
    • Pet insurance

 

Let me know if there’s anything else you can think of that should be on the list.

I’m not sure when this will be happening, but hopefully sometime this year.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress!

A Motivation Update

I sometimes find it interesting to look back at what I have posted here and see how things have changed. In September 2016, I posted Unmotivated = Overwhelmed and shared about how life was basically kicking my butt.

Things are much different now, partly because of the progress I have made with my medication and therapy, as I posted in My Journey with Psych Meds a few days ago.  Here are the things that were overwhelming me back then with an update on where I am now:

  • Adjusting to being married again – Joe & I have been married for 2 1/2 years now and have bought a house.  I have really settled in to the relationship and feel much more comfortable being myself around him.
  • Continuing existing friendships while being married – Of my three close friends, I still have two of them and those relationships are going very well.  I seem to have lost the other one, who stopped responding to my attempts to connect a few months ago.  I was really upset about it for a long time, but now I am moving on.
  • Getting used to a new church and trying to make connections there – We are now going to a life group connected with our church that meets every other Wednesday night.  There are two other couples in the group, and we have really bonded.  We are all friends on Facebook, and we have good conversations when we are together.  Currently we are reading the book The Purpose Driven Life together and discussing it.
  • Trying to participate in group conversations at lunchtime (can handle 1 person or maybe 2, but more than that gets tricky) – I work from home now so almost all my communication is through email or Skype IM.  I rarely have to talk to anyone at work, and then it is always one-on-one.  I still find group conversations difficult and mostly stay quiet during them, although I am comfortable speaking at the life group I mentioned.
  • Parenting an autistic 14-year old boy – Michael is 16 now and just about to finish 9th grade. We spent 8 months in Family Based Mental Health Services, and it was very helpful in dealing with his depression and anxiety (along with medication that took a while to figure out).  Now he is back in the regular services and sees a mobile therapist once a week.  I feel our relationship is a lot stronger – we talk more and play games together.  He is also more sociable – going to Smash Bros tournaments and having a friend over to play video games occasionally.

All in all, life is good. We are talking about getting a dog sometime in the next few months. Joe & I are going to Boston for a few days this summer, and next year we are planning a trip for the three of us to Illinois to see both my parents and possibly some other family. We have a few unexpected home repairs to deal with, but Joe is very handy and will probably be able to take care of them himself, which is a huge blessing.

So, how are you feeling these days – motivated or overwhelmed?

My Journey with Psych Meds

I have a love/hate relationship with psych meds. I have been on and off anti-depressants for about 16 years, since Michael was 5 months old. I had struggled with mental health issues for years without getting any help, but after Michael was born I experienced severe postpartum depression and was barely functioning. I finally told my doctor what was going on and she prescribed my first anti-depressant.

After a few years on the medication, I found it wasn’t really working the way it had been. I was on Celexa and my emotions were so muted that I don’t think I would have reacted even if the house were on fire. At that point the doctor switched me to Wellbutrin. It worked great for a couple of years, giving me some energy and making me more connected with things again. But after a while, I found it was making me too agitated and had to stop it.

I tried other things but didn’t find one that worked and I ended up not taking anything for a while. I was in therapy by this point and even though I switched therapists a couple of times, it was helpful.

I eventually went back on an anti- depressant. When I went through the separation from my ex-husband, I was really struggling so the doctor increased my dosage a couple of times. Over the next few months, things got really weird. I was exhibiting strange behaviors and out of control moods. I finally told my psychiatrist everything that was going on and she realized that I had been experiencing hypomania, brought on by the increase in the anti-depressant.

She then diagnosed me with bipolar 2 and put me on a mood stabilizer. We tried several different ones, but I kept having lots of side effects such as being groggy. Finally we tried Risperdal and it worked great. I was still dealing with depression and anxiety so I also took Prozac for that. As long as I take the Risperdal, the Prozac doesn’t trigger any hypomania.

Things were stable for quite a while, but then I gradually stopped taking the Prozac. I was feeling disconnected and having trouble engaging with life and I thought things would be better without it. But instead I was miserable. I had to increase my counseling frequency and even that wasn’t really helping. Finally I started taking the Prozac again and now I feel great. I have decided to accept the feeling of being somewhat muted in order to avoid the depression and anxiety.

Things feel pretty stable right now and I’m hopeful that they will continue to be that way. I am down to one a month counseling and see the psychiatrist every three months, which is great for my budget as well. It’s easier to focus and be productive and I’m not sidetracked by constant worrying or preoccupation with my moods. All in all, taking the meds is the best way to go for me.

Have you ever tried psych meds? What has your experience been?

Adventures in Gaming

miniatures

Our Miniatures

A few months ago, my son Michael came to me with an idea – he wanted to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons. Luckily, there is a weekly game held at a game store very close to our house, and I heard they were open to new players. So I took Michael over and the Dungeon Master (DM) helped him make a character (a dwarf cleric) and then walked him through the game play. He loved it!

After a couple of times, the DM convinced me to give it a try myself. I decided to be an elf wizard and it was actually a lot of fun. So I asked Joe if he was interested and he checked out the various races and classes on the website and decided to be a half-orc fighter.

Since then, we have been going every other Wednesday night to play D&D as a family. (We go to a life group connected to our church on the opposite weeks.)

dice.jpg

Bag of Dice

We recently started a new campaign with new characters and are really enjoying the adventure. We even had a dinosaur race last night!

We have gotten some dice, a player’s handbook, and even some miniature figurines to represent us in the game. I am also really enjoying learning how to create characters and cast spells. The trickiest part for me is remembering what to add to each of the different dice rolls. But the group we play with is very patient so it’s okay.

I am looking forward to continuing to play with this group in the future and seeing what adventures we encounter. I have also started watching a couple of ongoing games on YouTube and Twitch, which is a lot of fun and also helps me learn the rules. We still enjoy playing board and card games as a family and with friends, but the extra strategy and social interaction required in D&D adds a whole new level to the experience of game playing!