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There’s been a big change in my life since I last updated my blog. I now have a job.

I created and am now managing a website for a local nonprofit, as well as handling all their social media and creating brochures and posters and forms for them. The tasks are all things I am comfortable with and come very naturally to me. This is the first time I’ve had a job that is a near-perfect match to my actual skills and aptitudes. I’ve turned out to be good at this job. I am getting a lot of positive feedback on my work from my boss and the public.

The job basically fell into my lap. My husband was already working part time for this organization, and the boss was saying to him that they really needed to hire someone who can do this kind of thing, and he said his wife can. He only said that because he thought that a work-from-home situation could probably be arranged, and when the boss asked to meet me that’s what I thought it was going to be. But that’s not what was offered, and I was so overwhelmed when talking to her that I agreed to everything she wanted. I left there with my head spinning, almost not even sure what had just happened.

It’s only part-time, three afternoons a week. I thought that would be manageable. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder for me to be there.

The environment is loud, noisy, smelly and generally chaotic. I get a headache or nausea almost every time I’m there. I gagged at work twice yesterday. Meanwhile, most of my coworkers are deeply unhappy because our boss treats them badly, and of course I pick up on that. The atmosphere is tense.

Strangely enough, my boss seems to treat me better than she treats many of my coworkers, which greatly surprises me! (I suspect it’s because she’s the one who hired me, whereas most of them were hired by the previous manager and are more set in their ways, which are the old manager’s ways.) But even so, I don’t like her. She’s not a nice person. It doesn’t matter if it’s me getting treated badly or other people; it affects me either way.  I like and respect a lot of my coworkers and feel they deserve to be treated better.

I don’t want to be there. My whole body feels consumed by dread when I have to go there. I like the work itself, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep going there to that place.

The vast majority of what I do can easily be done from home, and I wrote my boss an email before Christmas saying that I want to work from home most of the time and explaining why that would be a good thing for all concerned. No, I didn’t mention that I don’t like her or that I think she treats people badly! I just explained that I have health issues that cause fatigue and I also have sensory processing disorder which causes me to have trouble concentrating at work due to the all the sensory stresses in the workplace environment. I didn’t mention autism, because I still have never sought a diagnosis and I think that’s a pretty big claim to make to your boss when you have nothing to back it up. So I put the focus on my sensory issues and told her that I believe I would be far more happy, healthy and productive working from home.

My boss told me that we could have a meeting to discuss what I’d written in my email, but one thing after another has come up to prevent that meeting from happening.

I had originally taken this job on a three-month trial basis but as of tomorrow I will have been working there for four months. I keep showing up, but I am getting more and more miserable every day. I had some time off over Christmas and New Years and it reminded me how much happier and at peace I am when I get to stay home.


A Positive Thing for Me

Photo by Ronn AKA “Blue” Aldaman via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am now on the anti-anxiety medication Cipralex. It took a while to kick in but it’s now become a very positive thing for me. I’m not having any significant side effects, and my anxiety is greatly minimized. I haven’t had any more anxiety attacks, and I’m falling asleep more easily at night because my mind isn’t racing with anxious thoughts. There were times in the past when I felt absolutely tormented by worries about the future and shame over the past, and all that has been pretty much eliminated now. It’s a great relief.

I had briefly wondered if I would be able to go back into the workforce once my anxiety was lessened, but I was overlooking how many other things are standing in the way of that, such as my various health issues, sensory issues, social difficulties, and fatigue. Even just running errands for a couple of hours leaves me exhausted and sends me to bed upon my return home.

Besides, I like being at home. I really do. (I would like it even more if my husband and I had our own home rather than living in my parents’ basement, of course.) I read and write and learn Norwegian and make jewelry and take online courses and exercise and cook things from scratch. These days it’s seen as shameful for a woman to want to stay at home, like it’s anti-feminist or something, but this is how I feel. Think less of me for it if you must.


125/355 - Symmetrie / Symmetry
Photo by Boris Thaser via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I apologize for not writing for a while. I kind of feel like I’ve already told my story here. My intention in starting this blog was to make sense of my life within the context of my newfound realization that I likely have autism. I think I’ve done that now. Unless there are new developments in my life, I don’t feel like I have much to say anymore.

There has actually been a new development since I last wrote. I’m now, for the first time in my life, on anti-anxiety medication. I was taken to the hospital a few weeks ago with what turned out to be an anxiety attack. I’ve always been an anxious person but this was the first time my anxiety caused something that looked like a medical issue serious enough to be of concern to other people. (While I have always been prone to meltdowns when overwhelmed by sensory input and stress, they typically involve crying and therefore appear emotional in nature and not like I’m having a heart attack like this anxiety attack did.)

I’ve now been taking Cipralex for about three weeks. The doctor said to give it a month before deciding if I want to continue taking it. I was very wary at first, and reading online reviews scared me, as they mentioned things like “dulled emotions.” (I don’t mind a bit if my negative emotions are dulled, but I still want to feel the positive ones.) But I haven’t noticed any big differences, either good or bad, other than some headaches when I first started taking it that have since gone away, and I do seem to be sleeping a bit better. But I cried my eyes out over a video about a homeless cat who found a good home the other day, so my emotions are intact, which is good. Unfortunately though, I am still anxious when something stressful happens. I had a very, very stressful encounter with a relative last week and I was a wreck. But then, it hasn’t been a month so maybe the medication just isn’t fully kicking in yet.

In other news, I had mentioned in a previous blog post that I had started going to church again. I have since quit again. People were asking me too many personal questions and I was dreading going every week. I hate being asked personal questions because I don’t have good answers for most of them. I’m not normal, my life isn’t normal, I don’t have the kind of answers people expect, and I feel judged as a result. So I stopped going.

I am still getting together with my local friend about once every two weeks, and I enjoy visiting with her because we understand each other, but other than that I am avoiding being social at all, because it’s just not worth it.

The biggest source of stress right now is my family. Some of my relatives are judgmental and downright mean. I wish I could live somewhere else.


An Emotionally Rough Week

photo: Daniel
Photo by Daniel Vegel via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I don’t love living in my parents’ basement. It’s humiliating, for one thing. And it’s stressful, because my mom and I are on such different wavelengths that it’s hard to get along with her. It would be easier if I could stay downstairs more, but I still have to use my parents’ kitchen upstairs, and since I try to have dinner ready shortly after my husband gets home from work, I have to be up there right when they have the TV news on.

I don’t want this blog to be about politics, but let’s just say that my political views are very left, and my mom’s are very right. Meanwhile, my dad is economically left but socially right. And there’s been a lot in the news lately to divide the left and the right. And when the news is on, and we’re all together, it gets very stressful. This is not a peaceful place to live.

But while I’m not particularly happy in my current circumstances, most of the time I am resigned to them.

I’ve blogged about this before, but just to reiterate: I get that it takes hard work to create a peaceful, comfortable, prosperous life for yourself, and that with my health, social and sensory issues having made it impossible thus far to maintain long-term employment, I haven’t earned that. It makes sense that someone like me is in this situation. I do not have any sense of entitlement. I am realistic about what I am, and what that means.

But over a decade ago when I married a man with a PhD in physics and big career ambitions, I allowed myself to dream. I thought maybe I could have a comfortable life after all. I was completely delusional about what having a PhD meant, and assumed he would have the world on a string and could do anything he wanted and have any job he wanted. I now know that’s not the case, and again, for the most part, I have become resigned to it.

But then last weekend my husband met a guy through a recreational sports team he’s been playing on. They started talking about career issues, and when this guy found out my husband’s qualifications he started telling him about all the connections he has in this town in the tech industry and saying he was sure they’d love to meet him and he should have no problem landing a decent job. He said there was a tech industry event (a career fair of sorts) that coming Tuesday that my husband should attend, and he would introduce him around to all of these contacts.

When my husband came home and told me all this, I couldn’t help thinking that it all seemed so serendipitous. This event just happened to be on Tuesday, my husband’s day off (from his menial, very low-paid job). And he just happened to talk to this particular guy on the Saturday before this tech event. And the conversation just happened to turn to my husband’s educational and work background. As if it were all meant to be. As if, in response to my prayers, God were orchestrating something. (I get that not everyone shares my faith — no need to tell me how silly I was being!) As they say, there’s no such thing as coincidence, right? So I started to allow myself to hope. And it felt good to hope. I felt happy for a few days. I thought, okay, I still hate this town, but maybe if my husband can get a decent-paying job we can at least get our own place here and have some independence and a peaceful home and life. I started to really picture it, and it was beautiful.

My husband got up early Tuesday morning and got himself ready in his professional attire. He looked damn good. I had spent all day Monday updating and revising his resume (my own training and work experience is in office admin so preparing professional-looking documents is kind of my thing  — not that I enjoy it, but it is something I can do well) and I provided him with several printed copies and a digital copy he could keep on his phone if anyone asked for it by e-mail. He had researched some of the companies online in the meantime and was fully prepared. I was proud of him and really thought something was going to come of it.

It was a complete bust. Everyone was nice to him, but made it clear that they have nothing for him. These companies are only looking for engineers. He has good skills that could in theory have applications in tech R&D, but they’re not interested. Only one of them was even willing to take his resume, and said they didn’t have anything for his skills at the moment, but maybe they would in the future. My husband has heard that line so many times only to never hear back and be given the cold shoulder when he follows up, so I’m well aware that there’s no point basing any hope in that.

My dashed hopes have me reeling in pain and disappointment. I feel like a fool and like I hate my life more than words can express, in comparison to the life I was picturing. I wish none of it had happened. I wish there hadn’t been a reason to hope. It felt good for a few days, but having a few good days was not worth how I feel now. I need to accept my fate, once and for all, and somehow make the best of it, or I will make myself insane.

I also feel so bad for my husband. He has worked so hard to get good qualifications and it’s not like he’s ever failed professionally. He’s had nothing but good performance reviews from his past employers and he even won a prestigious award for his research a few years ago. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do but it’s gotten him nowhere as far as actual long-term paid employment goes. Landing permanent, full time employment in his field or any field that would allow us a decent quality of life has remained a pipe dream. It’s hurting him more than it’s hurting me of course, because for him it’s not just about independence and quality of life, it’s about his professional dreams being dashed and feeling like all his hard work has been for nothing. He talks about how when he was in school, other kids would be going out partying and he would turn down their invitations so he could study, believing that if he studied hard and did well he could get a good job and have a good life one day, and my heart breaks for him that that has not turned out to be the case.

I admire him so much for being willing to do what he has to do to get by now, even though it’s not what he wanted, and I admire him for still being willing to put himself out there like he did on Tuesday, even though his hopes get dashed again and again. I want to see him succeed, not just for me, but because while I may not deserve much in life, he absolutely does.

Books and Letting Go

A very small percentage of my books, disorganized at the moment

I’ve been going through my books selecting which to keep and which to donate to charity. We don’t have the space for them all. But it’s really hard. I love each and every one of them. I have gotten better at this kind of thing though. When I was younger I wouldn’t have gotten rid of anything. Now I can do it, prioritizing saving space over keeping things, even if it hurts.

It helps that the internet is a thing now. I really started hoarding books when I was in my early twenties and lived in the middle of nowhere without a car, cable TV, or internet. I only went into town once a week and would check out several library books, but inevitably I would finish them all before I could get more and I became desperate for reading material. I read everything in the house, even my mom’s Reader’s Digest condensed books (which I thought were pretty lame) and it wasn’t enough. So I started collecting books cheaply however I could, usually at used book sales. Sometimes friends would give me books they’d bought and read and didn’t want anymore. I felt like I couldn’t have too many books. The more I had, the less likely that I would ever feel that desperation for reading material ever again. I hated that feeling.

Now with the internet, that problem is obsolete. I can find lots to read online. And I can download borrowed library e-books to my tablet whenever I want. Unlike some people, I don’t mind reading books on an e-reader or tablet. It’s preferable, in fact, because I can change the font according to my preference and I can read in bed when I can’t sleep without needing to turn on a lamp. Plus, holding an e-reader or tablet doesn’t hurt my hypermobile fingers the way holding a book sometimes does.

But still, as I do my book purge, I wonder, what if there’s an apocalypse? What if society breaks down to the point where there is no internet anymore? I will regret giving up my books. I know it sounds preposterous, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility. I am trying not to think like that though. If I don’t want to be crushed to death one day by a falling pile of books, I have to do this.

Some books are relatively easy to part with now. For example, the ones on personality type. I used to be very interested in that subject because I knew I was different and was trying to find an explanation for it. Now I’ve figured out why I’m different. Mystery solved. I don’t need those books anymore.

As a side note, I do still find it interesting that when it comes to Myers-Briggs typology, both I and the friend who inspired me to start this blog, who was diagnosed with autism in adulthood, are INFJ. My husband is INTJ. And all the women I’ve had serious interpersonal conflict with in my adult life, including my mother, are ESFJ. ESFJs tend to judge and disapprove of me and, even worse, try to fix me. It does not go well.

So there are definite patterns there, and recognizing them has given me some insight into my relationships. But if I ever find myself wanting to read up on all that again, there’s a lot of information online. The books can go.

I’m glad I have reached a stage of growth in my life where I can let go of things. It took a long time to get here.

Reaction Fail

Photo by Anne Worner via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

I was in a situation two days ago where I apparently reacted wrongly to something. I didn’t even know until today when it was brought to my attention. I feel extremely stressed out now, reminded of how easy it is for me to get things wrong and not even realize it.

Two days ago, I heard a person who shall remain nameless yelling. I went to see what was wrong. It turned out she had gotten a minor physical injury. I was concerned, so I asked her if she was okay. I offered to get her some hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound and some antibiotic ointment, but she said there was no need, she already had some. I then set about working to remove the problem that had resulted in the injury. Not that it had been my fault at all, but at least I could be part of the solution. That accomplished, I went back to what I was doing. Oops.

For the last two days, the situation has been playing on my mind (not my reaction, which I didn’t even realize was a problem, but just the fact that it had happened in the first place), so I sent her an e-mail today asking if the wound was healing or if there were signs of infection, and I told her I’d been brainstorming of ways to prevent the same thing from happening again.

She replied that she was glad I’d e-mailed her, because she’s been upset at me for the last two days because I didn’t seem to care that she was injured. She said I seemed to have no reaction; I had appeared completely unconcerned and had just “walked away.” She said I should have paid more attention to her, and she’s been feeling hurt ever since.

I assured her I did care, and reminded her that when I walked away it was to try to solve the problem so it wouldn’t happen again. I only did that because I cared, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. I also told her not to ever look at me for “reactions” because I will always get those wrong. I just don’t have that — whatever it is — in me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything on the inside. It’s just that something is broken between the feeling inside and the outward manifestation of it.

I don’t think she really understood what I was saying.

I’m now feeling all this shame because I got that situation wrong. And I’m feeling anxiety knowing that I might get something like that wrong again. It’s so hard to know in the moment what is required of me, and to act out the correct response. And it would be an act, because even though the feelings are there, the correct actions are apparently not natural for me like they are for other people.

I understand now that I was supposed to show warmth and compassion, but even if I had tried I’m sure I would have gotten it wrong and it would have come across as fake, which probably would have done more harm than good. Again, I did care, and I did feel compassion, but I still don’t know how I could have authentically demonstrated that.

I wish I could just stay away from people so I don’t hurt their feelings all the time, but life circumstances don’t seem to allow me to do that.



My Vivid Dreams

Photo by Stacey Kizer via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

While I am not very imaginative in my waking hours, when I sleep I have extremely vivid dreams. Often they seem so real that I’m certain they’re really happening and then I feel relieved when I wake up from the bad ones, and disappointed when I wake up from the good ones. Some of them have very complex plots and play out like movies inside my head. Recalling them in the light of day can be very amusing.

One recent dream involved a group of people who woke up in a room together with amnesia. Not one of them could remember anything about who they were or what they were doing there. Each one of them left the room on their own and went out in search of clues to their own identity, based on the way they were dressed. For example, one man who was dressed as a fireman went to the local fire station to see if anyone there knew him and could tell him who he was. After my dream followed several members of the group and their unfortunately fruitless search for their own identity, they all came back together and it was revealed that they were all actors in a play and were wearing their costumes. The moral of the story was uttered by one of them: You cannot find your identity in external things.

Unfortunately, most of my dreams are actually bad ones. Nightmares, in fact. I have a few recurring ones. There are a couple that I’ve just started having recently. One involves being lost in a shopping mall. There are endless corridors and passageways that lead nowhere. The mall is closing and I can’t get out. Another one involves finding myself on the wrong bus, knowing there are no more buses that day going back in the direction I came from.

Then there are a couple that I’ve been having for decades. There’s one where I’m in the passenger seat of a car going down a huge hill toward the river in my hometown. The car is picking up speed, and I turn to look at the driver, only to see that there is no driver.

Then there’s my most frequent, longest-running nightmare. In it, I’m in some kind of dangerous or scary situation (the exact circumstances vary) and I’m trying to call someone for help, usually either the police or my mother. But either the telephone doesn’t work, or I can’t make my fingers work to dial it, or I dial it and get a wrong number repeatedly. I am consumed with a feeling of horror and helplessness.

This dream bothered me so much when I was in my twenties that when I came across a TV talk show that had a dream interpreter on it and they were inviting viewers to call in, I did so. The dream interpreter told me that telephones in dreams often represent a connection to God, and she suggested that I was seeking a connection to Him but did not feel that I was finding it. I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I agreed that her interpretation made sense, but I didn’t really feel that it rang true. I do have a strong faith in God and although I sometimes doubt that He loves me as much as He loves most other people, I don’t necessarily feel disconnected from Him. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if churches didn’t exist and no one had ever told me about God, I would still believe in Him, because I’ve always been able to feel Him. People and religion have never drawn me to Him; more often they do nothing but frustrate me and distract me from Him. It’s in my quiet, alone times that I sense Him.

These days, I am extremely skeptical about dream interpretation. I’m not really buying all that. And I certainly wouldn’t call into any TV shows, about anything! In fact, I got laughed at by certain individuals for it at the time, the insinuation being that only crazy people call in to TV talk shows. That was one of those confusing situations where I got a glimpse of how other people perceive things and I realized I’d gotten something wrong yet again. At the time it hadn’t seemed like a crazy thing to do. They were asking people who had recurring dreams to call in. Why was it weird to then do so? I didn’t get it. Maybe I do now though.

I think at the time, I was just really desperate for the dream to stop, and I thought if my conscious mind knew the meaning behind it, it would go away. But it didn’t go away. Two decades later, I am still having it. I have gone through periods of time where it was less frequent. I think I may have gone a whole year or two without having it at one point. But it is back with a vengeance.

One thing I think is funny about it is that decades ago, it was always either a landline or a payphone I was trying to use, and now it’s always a cell phone. Funny how my subconscious has kept up with the times.

New Developments

Photo by Matthew G via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My husband found a local job! We owe a debt of gratitude to my friend’s husband, without whom it would not have happened. There was nothing on my husband’s resume that should have made him look like a good fit for this particular job, but the employer told him, “A recommendation from [friend’s husband’s name] goes a long way!” We’ve often complained that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that is certainly true. This time it actually worked in our favour.

The job is very different from anything my husband has done before. It’s mostly physical and involves a lot of lifting. But he likes it, and is grateful to have something to pay the bills while he figures out his next move. It’s full time, but minimum wage. That’s fine though, since living with my parents we don’t have housing costs except for contributing $100 a month for electricity and gas because apparently we use a lot. And I don’t hate living here as much as I thought I would. It’s going okay (other than some small issues, which I might write about in future posts). It makes a big difference that we can buy our own food and everything. My parents are providing a roof over our heads, but we are not completely dependent on them, which makes it more bearable.

In the meantime, my husband is planning to enroll in an online course (from a reputable university, of course) that will fill in one of his skill gaps. Often employers looking for someone with his particular background also want this one particular skill that he doesn’t have, so he is going to rectify that. With his current job being so physical, he misses the intellectual stimulation of his former work and will be happy to have that with this course in his evenings and days off. I think the course lasts about nine months. So maybe next year he can get his career back on track again. Paying for this course would not be possible if we weren’t living with my parents (it’s going to stretch us financially as it is) so we are definitely staying put for a while.

I stopped going to those awful employment workshops. I had to go to the doctor for a routine appointment and he took my blood pressure while I was there, and it was scarily high, despite the fact that I’ve never had high blood pressure before. Since I was so stressed out when I was at those workshops I did not think continuing to go was in my best interests. I e-mailed my counselor and told her, “For personal/health reasons I need to cancel all my upcoming appointments and workshops.”

I’m supposed to go back to the doctor to get my blood pressure checked again but I’ve been putting it off. I want a chance to try to bring it back down naturally. With moving and all the related upheaval and stress in my life, I was not being as diligent about my healthy eating and exercise habits. I am now back on the wagon, so to speak. I hope it will make a difference.

We have started attending the church I used to go to in this town when I was single. I stopped going there about fifteen years ago after a major humiliation and was determined to never set foot in the building again. Once I realized circumstances were bringing me back to this town, I became certain that God wanted me to go back there and face it. My first Sunday back, it just so happened that two of my closest friends were also attending. One of them still lives here and attends with her husband, but the church has three services and things worked out so that we happened to attend the same one that Sunday. The other friend no longer lives here, but had made the trip to visit her family with her boyfriend that weekend, so she and her boyfriend were there too, along with other members of her family, who, back in the day, were almost like a second family to me for a while. We all sat in the same section. I had been nervous about my first time back, but it turned out that I was almost literally surrounded by people I felt safe with. I was emotionally moved to tears when I realized it.

My husband and I have continued to go, and it’s been good. The church is like a completely different place. The whole atmosphere is completely different, in a good way. The people who were instrumental in my past humiliation are no longer there. In fact, there are very few familiar faces. I encountered one woman I used to know and she didn’t remember me at all. “I have a memory like a sieve,” she said, when I was trying to explain who I was and how we knew each other. I am not offended by that. I am relieved. If people don’t remember me, they won’t be thinking bad things about me based on things that happened in the past.

I don’t intend to get heavily involved there. The last thing I’m looking for is a bunch of activities to get involved with and events to attend. Sunday is enough for me. And if I’m not heavily involved, I won’t be getting overwhelmed, and if I’m not getting overwhelmed, I hopefully won’t make a lot of social mistakes that will lead to people hating me like I did before. I didn’t know my limits then, but I certainly do now.


Workshop Hell

Photo by Justin S. Campbell via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

My husband and I both started attending employment counseling last week. After the first appointment, we came away with very different schedules. My counselor had me fully booked for workshops and appointments every day this week and into the next. Meanwhile, my husband was scheduled for only two workshops and one one-on-one appointment with a networking expert.

I had even been honest with the counselor about how overwhelmed I get and told her I can only handle part-time work (if that). She must not have understood what I was getting at. She would not have over-scheduled me if she had.

The workshops have proven to be pretty much useless. I already know how to write a resume. My problems are far more complex than that. What they’re teaching is so basic I think you’d have to be a complete idiot to get much out of it. I’m not saying I learned nothing though. I learned a couple of sneaky, unethical tricks to get my resume seen by potential employers. That’s the kind of stuff they’re teaching people.

There were really only two things I hoped to get out of all this, which have already proven to be complete busts:

  1. I was hoping to get help identifying a new career path that is a better fit for me than office admin. The only thing that’s come out of this in that regard is the advice to “find a way” to make money using my writing skills. No shit. Easier said than done.
  2. I was hoping there would be some kind of government funding for retraining, but my counselor told me on day one that there is nothing like that available.


I have ended up extremely overwhelmed and stressed by something that is proving to be of no value or benefit whatsoever. The problem is that I don’t know how to get out of it. It goes against everything in me to just not show up, so I know I need to cancel, but I don’t know how to. I will feel like I need to offer some excuse, but I don’t have one. And I don’t want to piss anyone off in a small town like this. In fact, my counselor even goes to my former church, which I intend to start attending again. If I bail out of all this without a good reason it’s going to be really hard to face her socially.

So I’ve continued to go.

My state of overwhelm finally came to a head today in a workshop on “Finding the Hidden Job Market.” This was the most useless workshop yet. It was basically hours of the instructor saying, “You have to socialize and talk to people to get a job in this town,” in a variety of different ways. I was already well aware of this. There’s no new way anyone can say it to make it any easier for me in practicality. So I was sitting there, feeling physically worn out from the week’s schedule, feeling tired from days of having gotten up earlier than my body can cope with, and with a blinding headache from the fluorescent lights. I was trying to look at the printouts I’d been given and the letters and words just started swimming on the page in pools of bright light, blending together, indistinguishable.

And then things took a bad turn, socially. She was talking about how if you’re new in town, employers are going to love that you’ve moved here, because…. she paused… she then looked at me and for some reason decided to single me out. “Do you and your husband have kids?” she asked me.

“No,” I said.

“But of course you will in the future.” Not a question. A statement.

“No,” I snapped, too loudly. “I’m already 43; if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably not going to.”

The room went silent for an awkward moment while everyone stared at me. Or at least I felt like everyone was staring at me. My face started to burn. I had overshared. Typical.

Then she, apparently unfazed, went on to say something… now I will probably not quote this accurately, word for word, because my head was in such a whirl that I’m not sure exactly what she said… but it was something to the effect that if we had kids, we would be seen as more valuable to the community, because our kids would be going to school here and would be involved in things and would be seen as the future of the community.

So, wait. What? She’s telling me I have to procreate to be valuable to the community? That employers would be happy my husband and I have moved here if we had kids? Was she implying they’d be more likely to employ us if we were parents and could contribute to the future population of the town? Is that how people think?! I hope I misunderstood what she was getting at because that is fucked.

I remained silent during this little lecture.

Not long after that, she had each person do a role-playing exercise with her. We were supposed to pretend that she was a potential employer and we were introducing ourselves for the purpose of networking. As she went around the room, getting closer to me, I felt this tightness rise higher and higher up my body. I started wracking my brain trying to think of something to say when she got to me, but my head was in such a fog by that point that I was a complete blank. I could not string a coherent thought together. When I realized that, I started trying to weigh my options for escape. But again, my brain wasn’t really working. My first instinct was to run from the room. But that would attract so much attention. I hate attracting attention. And there was actually someone in a chair blocking the path from my seat to the door. I would have to ask them to move to get out. So that was out of the question.

That was as far as I had gotten in my thought process when she finally came to me. She stuck out her hand and said, in her role as potential employer, “Nice to meet you. What can I do for you today?”

I blurted out, “I’m so sorry, I cannot pull it together to do this right now. I have a blinding headache and am not okay. I don’t want to be difficult but I just can’t.”

“Oh yes, you’re so difficult,” she said jokingly. Then she made some comment about how you shouldn’t be approaching employers if you’re having a bad day anyway and moved on to the next person. Funnily enough, and perhaps fortunately for me, two other people declined after me. One guy said it takes him all day to think of something to say and he can’t handle being put on the spot like that. A fellow Aspie, maybe? I could certainly relate.

As I sat there, I was feeling so awful, physically and emotionally, that I started having — okay, don’t be alarmed here; I’m not suicidal — mental images pop into my head of me shooting myself. I wasn’t actively thinking about suicide, or wanting to do it, or planning it. I don’t even know how to use a gun. It was just these images, unbidden. I used to get them a lot when I was young, but it’s been a very long time since the last time it happened. In fact, it was here, in this town, where I used to have them a lot.

When I got home, I fell asleep for a couple of hours and when I woke up, I didn’t know what day it was. I thought I was waking up the next morning. It took a few minutes to gain my bearings.

I really don’t want to go back to that place. Am I a terrible person if I don’t?

One of My Little Quirks: Bathroom Revulsion

Photo by Kris Krüg via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

This post’s topic is a rather disgusting one. Sorry. If I’m documenting the difficulties that affect my life, I have to include this.

Yesterday I was at the employment centre for an all-day resume writing workshop. During the lunch break I had to pee so I went to use the centre’s only public washroom. The toilet had urine sprayed all over the seat.

So I didn’t go. I held it all day. And even though I never did sit on the dirty toilet, just having seen it and been near it made me feel contaminated for the rest of the day. It’s a wonder I didn’t vomit. If it had been excrement, I would have vomited for sure. I wouldn’t have vomited into the toilet, either, because I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to get close enough to it to do so. I am guilty of having clogged up bathroom sinks for this reason. I am not proud of that.

I loathe having to use public washrooms so much that if I can get away with it, I try to avoid being away from home all day. It makes my skin crawl, having to use a toilet that countless other people have sat on. And when it comes to bodily waste, I would rather hold it for hours, to the point of extreme discomfort, than use a bathroom that does not meet my cleanliness standards. It’s not even simply a preference. It’s that I can’t do it. I can’t make myself do it. I am so thoroughly disgusted and repulsed that it just can’t happen.

But then, I have hated going to the bathroom my whole life, even in clean bathrooms. My mom says one of my very first words was “stinky” when she was potty training me. A couple years later, I started holding in my excrement for days at a time so I wouldn’t have to see/smell/feel it. My mom started to worry and in desperation told me if I didn’t go, it would come out my mouth. That was the most horrific thing I could possibly imagine and got me willingly going to the bathroom again.

I am pretty much horrified by bodily functions in general. My own, other people’s, even my cat’s. I love my cat more than words can say, and yet I wouldn’t even be able to have her if my husband hadn’t agreed from day one to be the one who cleans the litter box. When I have tried cleaning litter boxes in the past, as soon as I start to bend down toward it, I vomit.

I know this is weird. Expelling bodily waste is a normal, daily part of life. But it is horrific for me. And it’s a horrific thing that I have to experience every single day. There’s no getting away from it. All I can do is try to do it in a way and in a place that is as acceptable and comfortable for me as possible. And that employment centre bathroom did not qualify.