- To give one example of what an Aspie female child might look like throughout her life (well, at least up to her late 30s) 🙂 Hopefully this helps counselors, parents, other family, and friends of–but most importantly–Asperger’s/autistic females themselves, or those who suspect that they might be on the spectrum.
- To serve as an outline for a “timeline”-like evaluation by Tania Marshall, PhD
- Most importantly, in hopes that someone out there might see similarities and not feel as alone as they might currently feel.
Once on my own, I bounced from job to job while I “spun my wheels” in college, never settling on one area of study. My first intended college major, Theater, didn’t turn out to be “the one” for me; I had switched to Business, then Computer Science, and finally Web Design before realizing that I none of those fit me well enough to devote my life to them. Instead, I found myself taking a much-needed break from school altogether.
After a two-year hiatus from college, I still bounced from piss-poor job to piss-poor job, usually waitressing at bars or restaurants, and occasionally working decent retail. Waitressing and bartending sucked for me, though. Waitressing at the bars was easier, and I found myself OK at making small talk in short bursts. Waitressing at restaurants sucked, because even though there’s rarely a call for small talk, people are shoveling their faces and their pre-dinner low blood sugar brings out their worst qualities. And they’re needy. Bartending held a much greater status, but it required much longer stretches of small talk, of which I simply couldn’t maintain any momentum.
Once back in college (still clueless as to what I wanted to focus on), I bounced between majors, too. At first, it was General Studies (a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree without a particular focus), then it was an Economics and History double major (I wanted to teach both, either at the high school or freshmen/sophomore college levels), but after hearing horror stories about entitled students, fantasyland parents, and overbearing/bureaucratic administration, and tiring school-environment politics, I decided against it, finally settling on Biology, and then after that, Pre-Med.
Science had always intimidated me. I had never been interested in it before, so I barely squeaked by in my K-12 science classes, doing what I needed to in order to pass, but hardly any of the information had sunk in. I would be starting from scratch. But Human Biology had by that time become a Special Interest, and I discovered (during a time period that is in itself an extremely long story) that I enjoyed applying biological and botanical sciences in such a way that I could help people overcome their health concerns via natural and holistic methods and remedies.
This discovery tickled me in an unprecedented warm and fuzzy place, and my heart settled on this career path without question. While in the pre-med program, I also became a massage therapist and opened my first business, a licensed massage therapy practice as a sole practitioner in 2004, at age 27.
Another previously-mild special interest started to dominate my spare time: World Religions. I had been raised with an amalgam of Christianity (my mom was raised Lutheran; my dad was raised Roman Catholic; mom’s belief system had evolved into a more Esoteric Christianity, fused with streaks of the New Age Movement that included concepts of astrology, karma, yin-and-yang and the need for balance, and reincarnation. Her influence was much stronger than Dad’s).
Around age 13-14, I had preserved beliefs in the New Age concepts, but rejected the Christian backbone, dabbling instead in Judaism. When that didn’t fit well, I shunned the idea of a higher power and became a staunch atheist, probably in Grade 9 (age 15).
I gradually “came back around”, first transitioning briefly to agnosticism before beginning to recognize that there probably is indeed a higher power or natural force at work, and cautiously dipped my toes back into the Believer Pool, refusing to commit to any one established faith, but instead opting for a more nondenominational system of belief. This is where my personal religious beliefs remained until my mid-20s.
I began to contemplate, and an interesting paradigm began to take shape. First, I decided on a monotheistic foundation, but with many facets, each with its own character. The concepts of reincarnation and karma also continued to resonate with me, so I kept them, too. I figured that we continue to return for many lifetimes, each time with different “lessons” to learn, until we are “released” from this cycle.
Well hell, that was parallel with the basic tenets of Hinduism. This was revealed very suddenly to me in a Comparative Religions course that we took at a local community college to satisfy a Humanities general education requirement, without realizing that we’d signed up for an Honors course (Lol). My jaw practically hit the desk at the power of the “a-ha” moment. I turned to my now-partner and excitedly whispered: “holy shit! We’re basically Hindu.”
We also studied Buddhism, which I also liked. Of the Christian portion of the class, only the Esoteric and Orthodox denominations resonated with me at all; nothing else did. I got heavy into World Religions with the little spare time I had. I studied bits and pieces of Sufi Islam, Zen and other schools of Buddhism, Shinto, Hindu sects such as Shaivism and Shaktism (love those!), as well as different schools of Paganism and Wicca. I’m not at all an expert, because I never had the time to dive into any of them too deeply, but they fascinated me and I found studying these philosophies to be an immense stress-relief method.
I remained a massage therapist through the end of my 20s, working more and more for myself exclusively, from my home-based massage therapy studio, furnished and utilized exclusively for providing therapy. It was beautiful and I loved creating and controlling my space. I loved taking it, running with it, and making it mine. I decorated it according to my own idea of perfection, carefully selecting all furniture and accent pieces, delicately controlling the lighting levels and hue, dabbing natural scents where desired, and playing soft music of my choosing.
During this time, I got busy. I never paid a cent for any advertising, and I never gave away any services for free. I didn’t even discount the first appointment, run any coupons, or any such gimmick. We made the most of an online presence, building the website ourselves, optimizing it, submitting it to Google (as was done back then), and let it do the work for us. It took our time and energy, but it was an excellent way to get started.
I also loved the “commute”…about 20 feet down the front hall. The house’s layout was such that massage therapy clients never had to set foot in our personal living space; we could devote the front one-third of the house (complete with a dedicated bathroom) exclusively to seeing clients. I instituted my own security measures, too. I was extremely strict and screened all clients carefully before accepting them.
As busy and profitable and sought-after as I’d been, however, I found myself in a deep, deep depression….the deepest I’d ever known. Sometimes I would feel like crying for no known reason during a massage therapy session! It was all I could do to just hold myself together until at least after the session was finished and the client had left. I couldn’t understand why. It was bewildering.
This continued during the first half of medical school, too. I struggled through med school. Health issues reared their ugly heads, and began to accumulate. I could not understand why I couldn’t learn efficiently; I’d been reading since sometime around age 3, so why did I have such a hard time reading the words in my notes and forming a mental picture?? Argh!
And I had this mysterious problem with falling asleep in class, despite my best efforts to stay awake, including consuming caffeine. I was also extremely irritable. Later, I had trouble keeping my eyes steady (my eyes would suddenly jerk to one side and back again, a phenomenon called nystagmus), and I also couldn’t open jars much at all. Nor could I see at night to drive, and given that a lot of my driving had to take place at night, this was terrifying. Last but definitely not least, I thought my hearing might be pretty bad, so I cleaned my ears out with a solution, expecting improvement…
….that never came. There are two kinds of hearing loss: conductive (affecting the little bones, joints the bones form, or the eardrum, the most common cause of which is excess ear wax) and sensorineural (involving nerve damage, which is almost always permanent, with little hope of any improvement, and is usually progressive (gets worse)). I had always assumed that my type of hearing loss was the conductive type (which I wasn’t happy with, but could deal with). Nope. Turns out that my type of hearing loss is indeed the dreaded sensorineural. Oh and it’s genetic, which means that I’ll probably be deaf as a post by the time I’m 40-50. Oh joy.
Around the second half of med school, though, the economy softened and simultaneously (coincidentally, because we were so busy with school during the day and massage therapy in the evenings that we had not time to pay attention to the news), I decided I needed to devote more of my time and energy toward school, especially given this learning difficulty.
I did not try to learn any of this information via YouTube; I barely knew it existed or how much it could potentially help me. Searching more helpful, outside sources for information didn’t even cross my mind; I didn’t figure I had the time. I stubbornly stuck to my school-based notes and class slide printouts, but all they were were “words on a page” that meant nothing to me, even after staring at them for half an hour or reading them over again five times. So I ceased accepting new clients, and only scheduled regular, established clients whom I knew well. This eased the stress levels in a tiny-but-important way. And, my partner and I got married! (This post, from my other miscellaneous-themed personal blog, was written on an anniversary, where I described how we “did” (designed, etc) our wedding.)
During our final year of school, I discovered that I might fit the bill for “Bipolar Type II”. About a month or two after that, came my parents’ near-fatal accident that I’d mentioned in a recent post. This primed me for what was to come.
I gritted my teeth and kept on, finally graduating with a “B” average. It wasn’t the 4.0-GPA “A” average I’d held in my general education classes with minimal effort, but it was “better than average” and it was med school after all, so I figured I’d better accept that without complaint.
Six weeks before graduation, I realized I was gluten intolerant. And that I had at least one autoimmune disorder.
After graduation, we moved to a new town and drove our proverbial stake into the ground. We’d set up practice here….from scratch (the hardest of the options to choose after graduation). We had a nest egg savings account that I had worked my ass off for, for the past five years. I’d been socking money away like a squirrel, knowing this day would come. And it did. But that savings nest egg was very finite–too finite. Our new town was almost 300 miles away from our then-current one, and yet we still owned a house on which we were currently making mortgage payments, but that badly needed to be fixed up before selling.
The economy by then was terrible (this was early 2010). Tons of people were out of work, with no new jobs to speak of. Houses were simply not selling. And here we were, attempting to do both: open a fresh brand-new business in a town we’d hardly been to and didn’t know anyone, and attempt to sell a house. We also needed a place to live in our new town, so we searched for the most palatable low-rent place we could find. And drove back and forth, fixing up the house ourselves while waiting to be able to open our new practice. It was a bitch.
But I had finally found my true calling: Integrative and Functional Medicine. It’s the definition of fulfillment with the biggest volume I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The early days were tough. (The more recent days are only marginally less difficult, and I wonder how much of that improvement is simply my ability to get used to it.) Sometime during the first few months of this, I traded the ability to sleep for the increased tendency to sneeze…and endure what seemed like allergy attacks, sudden bouts of histamine that emerged with absolutely no warning. But I keep going.
A few years later, I was diagnosed with PTSD. And the following year, I discovered my Asperger’s neurotype.
And the rest, my pretties, is history that you know, where we joined paths and forces, in love and support.
Hopefully, this series offers some of that support to someone. ❤
And again, I thank you–from the deepest recesses of my heart–for reading this series 🙂 🙂 ❤