Panic! everywhere

For almost ten years on the dot, panic attacks and anxiety have been the bane of my existence. If I experienced anxiety before that, it was minor compared to the monster that was about to be unleashed. I woke up one day as a high school sophomore, and went to bed that night as a whimpering ball of existential terror. One acute episode of absolute panic triggered what will probably be a lifetime of chronic generalized anxiety.

Some details I had left out in my previous accounts of this event to friends and family, but I’m not embarrassed by that anymore. So this is the full story.

At my high school, we had what was called Mentorship Day. The seniors would be assigned to a classroom of underclassmen of varying grade levels and would give a 45-minute long presentation on a mentorship project they’d spent the year on, usually as it related to their chosen career path.

I was not a senior, of course. For the rest of us underclassmen, it was supposed to be a chill day of staying in the same classroom as seniors filtered in and out to give their presentations. The classroom I was assigned to was that of my English teacher, Mr. Scott. The first person did their presentation without incident. I think it was during the second presentation that my brain short-circuited.

The story I’ve previously told involved overthinking the whole presentation thing and freaking out over the inevitable fact that in two years, that would be me speaking to a bunch of kids for almost an hour.

The truth is that I really, really had to take a shit.

I didn’t want to interrupt the presentation, however. So I sat there, sweating, and pleading with my bowels to not cause any embarrassment for me with a fart or whatever. The pressure became too much. I forgot how to breathe. I thought I was dying. I gesticulated wildly to Mr. Scott from my seat and mouthed, “I can’t breathe.” He nodded toward the door, and I silently slipped out of there.

Apparently I didn’t have to take a shit after all. I tried and nothing happened. I also tried to throw up, because I certainly felt like it. Ultimately, I paced in the hallway and then sat on a bench with my head between my legs, hyperventilating. Mr. Scott sent a classmate to check on me, and I explained that I thought I was dying. They walked me to the nurse’s office, and I told her my symptoms: shortness of breath, sweating, clammy hands, fast heart rate, and certainty of impending doom. A heart attack, probably. But she treated it as she would any panic-ridden student, and lo and behold, I began to feel better. She said if it happened again to come back and she’d send me home.

After lunch, I got confused about where to go because the next presentation was going to take place outside of a classroom. Nobody I asked knew where Mr. Scott was. So I just went back to the nurse, said I’d had another panic attack (I hadn’t), and she sent me home.

In the weeks after that, I discovered it was not to be a one-time thing. Every once in a while it seemed like a raging storm was threatening on the horizon; it was like an aura, which usually precedes migraines, but for panic attacks instead. I’d do what the nurse instructed and breathe deeply, desperately trying to keep myself from being swept away.

After a while, I was able to keep my shit together during the day, but when I lay down at night, there was no other option but to ponder how horrifying it is to exist, how death is inescapable, blablabla, basically just chipping away at my own sanity until I managed to fall asleep.

I suppose that was the story of my life for the next few years. I did a great job on my mentorship presentation, considering all the time I’d had to prepare. I can’t remember how often I weathered panic attacks. Over time all the stress of worsening bipolar II, depression, and identity crisis after identity crisis resulted in dropping out of college, going back, dropping out again, going back, changing my major several times, and working several crappy restaurant jobs. Age 18 through 23 was a blur, and I didn’t retain very much from that time.

Things came to a head in early 2014 or 2015 (again, it’s a blur, so I don’t know what the timeline is). My anxiety manifested itself through clamminess and vomiting. I became suicidal. I was so afraid of dying that I wanted to be dead. I knew death itself was infinitely better than the anxiety associated with fearing it. I have always been a huge hypochondriac, and I was convinced I was dying of multiple things at once. I went to the ER one night for suicidality, which was entirely useless. Feeling dehumanized by sitting in a hallway in a hospital gown and no one around me paying me any notice, not allowed my phone, sitting for hours with absolutely no idea of when anyone is going to do anything about me, only to have a five-minute Skype session with a psychiatrist in India, was not helpful in the least.

A few weeks after that, I was feeling suicidal again, so I followed my psychiatrist’s recommendation and drove to Laurel Ridge, a psychiatric and substance abuse facility. I assured them that I didn’t believe I was in any actual danger, and just wanted help, so I was admitted to their outpatient program. And that really turned my life around.

I hear doing inpatient there is a different story, but the outpatient program was pretty good, I thought. I was there from 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM, Monday through Friday. I’d eat breakfast there, always biscuits and gravy. We did group therapy of various sorts, meditation, yoga, and even slack-lining. I learned about grounding, wellness tool-kits, and safety planning. I filled out worksheets that helped me visualize a future for myself. Most importantly, the psychiatrist diagnosed me as bipolar and prescribed mood stabilizers. And wow. I just can’t believe how much I needed that, and how long I’d gone without it.

I enrolled in summer classes at SAC, and applied and was admitted to UTSA as a psychology major. After a while I got the sense that the facility was keeping me there to milk my insurance, because I had cycled through the entire curriculum and things were getting repetitive. I was able to get out of there because the summer session at SAC was about to commence.

The next two years whizzed by. I never knew what an excellent student I could be. I finally graduated with a 3.6 GPA. For the most part, anxiety wasn’t taking over my life.

Things are different in the springtime, however. Just based on various traumas that always seemed to occur in the spring, it is a time associated with great anxiety. It’s also a time associated with the peace and calm of my stay at Laurel Ridge. So seeing as it’s spring right now, I am simultaneously a nervous wreck and a sentimental fool. I eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast several times a week. I sit out on my swing in the morning, peacefully reflective of the things I learned while there. I dry heave at night and go to bed early before the anxiety makes me sick. This is my life, before the heat of the summer evaporates my anxiety and replaces it with straight-up crankiness. Then fall and winter comes and everything is alright.

So that’s just an introduction to my experience with panic attacks and generalized anxiety. I will probably make future anxiety-related posts that are more specific, such as coping mechanisms, triggers, etc., so stay tuned for that and more.

Diligent Cross Stitching

As much as I try to stay organized, like most things in my life, all my cross stitching stuff is in a state of disarray. Bit by bit, I am trying to get it all sorted out to the point that I have a steady inventory of all cross stitching necessities, an organized archive of patterns, a time sheet to keep track of how much time I spend on each project, and a cross stitching planner in which I keep track of the half dozen projects I usually got going at one time. This blog post will serve as a reference point for me in accomplishing all that.

Also, I got chewed out this weekend by my aunt and cousin for not stitching my signature on what are now family heirlooms. So I guess I gotta start practicing my… stignature.

Here are a few bullet points on how to be a diligent cross stitcher.

INVENTORY

  • several hoops of different sizes
  • at least one skein of every color of DMC thread, and I check inventory and re-up every six months
  • several types of fabric: important stock are 14-ct white/black aida and a couple 28-ct evenweaves
  • a small cross-stitching supply pouch in various locations (home, work, travel) that contains scissors, needles, tape measure, fine-point sharpie, anti-fraying stuff, and the plastic thread holder things
  • keep track of all my inventory

PLANNING

  • have a calendar for events, occasions, birthdays, etc.
  • start cards a couple weeks in advance of the event
  • start bigger gifts a month or two in advance of the event
  • keep a list of projects I want to complete within the next year
  • replace threads in my traveling thread holder every week according to finished and new projects

TIME KEEPING

  • spend a couple hours on a couple different projects a day
  • turn on a timer while I’m working
  • keep track of time spent on each project in a notebook
  • take progress pictures of bigger projects every week
  • get all my materials together every month for upcoming projects

Hopefully, doing these things will help me be more efficient and finish more projects. I should try to start all these things right away. I’ll post updates on how it’s going.

For now, enjoy my newly finished needlebook.

Untitled

Coming Out Autistic

When it comes to being queer, it is just something inherent to my identity that I’ve accepted since middle school. I’ve been fully “out” as bi since I was in ninth grade, and came to terms with being agender in college. It’s not something I feel is necessary to hide, and if someone reacts the wrong way then they’ll probably catch, if not my hands, then a good verbal lashing.

When it comes to being autistic, I’m perhaps shier. It’s a newly realized aspect of my identity, and I’m still coming into my own understanding of it. I still feel that nagging sense of, “I’m just talking about it for attention,” “I’m lying to myself and everyone and all my doctors,” and, “It doesn’t even matter.” That oh-so-familiar self-doubt of being halfway out of the closet. Then I talk to other autistic people, and a lot of them feel the same way, especially being newly diagnosed later in life.

There are even research papers exploring the parallels between being autistic and being queer. Knowing there are people who oppose you, who think you should be “cured” or “changed.” Feeling a sense of isolation amongst your cishet/neurotypical peers and a sense of belonging in (segments of) the autistic and LGBTQ+ communities. Getting sick of people trying to debate your humanity with you.

When it comes to those more isolating aspects, I am personally infinitely blessed to be surrounded by people who are comfortable with my queerness and autism, and for the most part my mental illnesses.

Up until today, I think while most people at my workplace knew I was queer, I had told only one or two about being autistic. But then here comes the ol’ “Light It Up Blue”/ “Autism Awareness Month” nonsense that gives plenty of autistic self-advocates a headache, and probably a few anxiety attacks, so I felt like I had to at least say something just in case someone else was planning on “Lighting It Up Blue.” I hate confrontation. Better to take preemptive action by typing up my views on the matter in a mass email to every full-timer in the organization. Thus far, all responses have been very positive. I can certainly rest knowing that if someone missed the memo and does “Light It Up Blue,” I’ve equipped my colleagues with the information to call it out.

There are probably extremely few workplaces in which someone might feel comfortable doing something like that. But in the context of my own workplace, being an outspoken advocate is what we’re all about. Challenging rape culture also means challenging ableism, transphobia, racism, and all the myriad other factors that can affect how a person experiences sexual violence. If I want to be a helpful advocate for autistic survivors of sexual assault, then who better to practice on than myself?

These are my words:

***

Hello everybody!

I’d like to introduce, for those of you who do not know, a cause near and dear to me: Autism Acceptance!

Nationwide, April is widely known as Autism Awareness Month. Specifically, April 2 is designated as Light It Up Blue for Autism. The color blue was selected to represent the fact that boys are overwhelmingly the ones diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorders. A lot of those in the autism community, including myself, feel that this does not paint a very accurate or inclusive portrait of autism – young autistic girls are often misdiagnosed as children and don’t receive their ASD diagnoses until later than boys, because many health professionals aren’t aware it can even affect girls. Autism in girls also tends to present differently than it does in boys, and hasn’t been extensively researched as it has in boys. Therefore, we would like to challenge the stereotype of autism being a “boys’ disorder” by encouraging people to wear RED INSTEAD!

We also prefer the phrase Autism ACCEPTANCE, rather than simply Autism AWARENESS. We feel that while many people are certainly aware that autism is a thing, a lot of the nationwide dialogue around autism stems from misunderstanding and sometimes even prejudice. For instance, the best known autism organization in the United States is Autism $peaks, which plays its own part in producing hysteria and prejudice around autism. Very few actually autistic individuals serve any role in the organization, undermining the activist motto “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Against the wishes of actually autistic individuals, their funds go toward research for finding a cure (that will probably never exist). Because autism is pervasive and colors the way we experience the world, a search for a cure implies that who we inherently are is bad and wrong.

We believe that the real challenge to face is fighting societal ableism and existing eugenicist beliefs surrounding people with disabilities and our right to exist as we are. Many of the challenges associated with autism stem from communication barriers that arise from overstimulating environments and poor accessibility, including communicating with autistic individuals in ways that work for them (which for many does not involve speech at all, and certainly limited eye contact). But whether someone is verbal or non-verbal, communication is key! AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means accommodating autistic individuals’ unique communication needs, which varies from person to person, rather than expecting autistic people to communicate in traditional ways. AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means celebrating neurodiversity. AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means learning about autism from those it DIRECTLY affects – actually autistic individuals!

Because I could probably write a multi-volume encyclopedia on the matter, I’ll leave it at this. Here is a link full of wonderful resources, and of course I’m always willing to answer your questions!

As for myself, there’s only a couple of y’all who I have informed about being autistic, so consider this my coming out autistic! (And as a queer person, I must confess that “coming out” autistic, which I was diagnosed as only a couple years ago, is certainly more intimidating for me than coming out queer, which I’ve known since I was a young child!)

Thank you for reading!

#RedInstead #AutismAcceptance #WalkInRed #CelebrateNeurodiversity

 

Cross Stitch

One of my special interests is cross stitching. If you’re wondering what makes something a special interest as opposed to a regular interest, it’s the intensity with which many autistic people engage with their interests. Another word I’ve used to describe my special interests is obsession. We want to know everything about our special interests. We want to talk to people about it, although frequently end up annoying them. For me at least, my special interests tend to become incorporated into my identity. I’m “that girl who’s obsessed with Freddie Mercury.” I’m “whale girl.” (Those were mostly just in high school.) At least with cross stitching, people seem to be interested in what I do.

As with any other special interest, I want to collect anything that has to do with it, and will meticulously organize that collection. In cross stitch terms, that means owning a billion cross stitch magazines, making sure my DMC thread inventory is complete (I need to re-up on a few right now), and having a Google Drive that stores all my favorite past, present and future projects that no human could ever complete in a lifetime. But I like to dream.

I’m usually working on several projects at once. I have a few abandoned projects that I started a few years ago and will get around to finishing eventually. I have many partly-finished projects that still need to be pillowfied or framed or whatever.

My active projects tend to include: a big, major project that will take several months to a year and is intended to be a special gift for a special someone, a medium-sized project for my own pleasure that I will use to decorate my own space, and a small one that takes from a few hours to a couple weeks that I give as gifts. I kinda switch it up every few days to stay interested.

The big project I’m working on is a Celtic Angel for my grandma. Every once in a while I show her my progress. I started it in early December 2017, and first revealed its progress to her on Christmas. I don’t know how long I expecting to take to finish it, but it was intended as a belated Christmas gift. Maybe by her birthday in November.

20180320_213139

My personal project is this soon-to-be pillow with a fox pattern.

20180320_213112

I’m working on something else for my Uncle Pat’s birthday, but I’ll post a photo after it’s been gifted.

As I mentioned earlier, people tend to be interested in this special interest. And as I mentioned in another post, I don’t really speak about things I’m passionate about until someone else expresses interest. I’ve learned from past experiences that it can be annoying. However, when people see me working on a cross stitch project, they often want to know more. “How long have you been working on that?” “You must have a lot of patience.” “When did you start cross stitching?” “How much time do you spend on it?”

As for my responses: “Oh, I started it on [x date].” “I guess so. It just relaxes me.” “I did some as a kid, but then I picked it up again a few years ago.” “I like working on it during Netflix binges or just whenever it seems appropriate.” I often add, “I’m making it as a gift for X.” “I’m also working on a couple other things.”

If I was an adolescent with poor impulse control as I indeed once was, I’d go overboard by showing them the million other projects I want to do, and listing every project I’ve done in the past four years (and there have been many).

So that’s an introduction to what is currently my primary special interest. If anyone reading this is interested in knowing more, feel free to contact me. Also, allow me to share my Cross Stitch Google Drive, which is pictures of the projects that I have available, frequently updated. On your requests, I could upload PDFs containing patterns that you might want to do yourself.

 

Blogs of Olde

I made this blog yesterday not realizing I had made one on this same website two years ago. I only kept up with it for a few months, and didn’t pay for it (thankfully). Then I apparently 100% forgot it ever existed. I’ve exported the content and deleted the blog.

That blog was created in the beginning of 2016. I was still a year and a half away from graduating, and a few months away from my breast reduction. A few of the posts were about how I felt about my boobs. It reminded me of how much of a freak I felt like. My boobs were the first thing people would notice about me. They earned me a few nicknames in high school. The dysphoria was REAL. I hated going anywhere. I hated wearing bras and I hated how my clothes fit. Seriously, I was a freak of nature.

All those insecurities melted away when I was taken down to a C cup. Bra shopping is cheap. I walk through the world feeling… normal. There are still some aspects about my appearance I’m nit-picky about, but they’re not a huge concern. I’ve gained a bit of weight and am worried they’ll blow up again, but they’re still a comfortable size and look fine when I’m wearing a bra. I’ve met a lot of people since then, people who have never known me as Big Tits. I have some average ass tits, and I’m loving it. Of course, no tits would also be pretty cool, but honestly, I’m fine now.

Another component of my old blog was reflecting on how what I know about human psychology ties into an anarchist vision. These are ideas that I still haven’t really pinned down entirely, but when I do, I hope to turn them into a book one day. And, of course, a social reality. The problem was that I created the blog to center around these ideas, which is probably why I eventually abandoned it. Just too much on my plate. That’s why this new blog doesn’t really have much of a central theme other than “thoughts about stuff.” I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of stuff which I can easily express without having to spend too much time, if any, on research and planning. Low-spoon blogging is what I’m here for.

So here’s to hoping this blog lasts.

Writing Louder

It’s been a while since I’ve kept up with a blog. Tumblr doesn’t count – it’s just for reblogging cool pictures. I have to confess that I’m paying to use this platform, which I’ve never done before. But I figured knowing I’m paying for it will keep me accountable to it. So for $4 a month, I am sharing whatever asinine idea pops into my brain that I decide merits public attention. Most of it will be utterly and delightfully meaningless, I hope. Just me blubbering over all the neat cross-stitch patterns I want to work on or lists about whatever. But I suppose sometimes, I’ll conjure up the spoons to write something thoughtful.

Much of the thoughtful stuff will probably focus on autistic self-advocacy, mental health, anarchism, cats, and the general musings of a social justice mage.

I came up with the name “Writing Louder” after a five-minute ponder. It represents the fact that I generally have a soft and quiet voice and people are always asking me to speak up, and my fiery writing could surprise some people. I write much louder than I speak. When I speak, I prefer keeping things basic and to the point, so I’m much less likely to express all the thoughts and ideas floating around my branium than when I write/type it out. Lately, I don’t really bother speaking out loud the “important” stuff. I don’t want my thoughts to be interrupted by frustration when whoever I’m talking to can’t follow my mumbling and asks me to repeat myself.

A little background information for those who don’t know me very well, though I don’t really have any intention of going viral. I am Katie, a 25-year-old autistic person. They/them best suits me, being agender, but I really couldn’t care less. I have a B.A. in Psychology, and I do data entry stuff for an agency that supports survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, I’m bipolar, have panic attacks (usually caused by catastrophizing normal bodily functions, relating to a bit of underlying existential terror) and social anxiety.

I like things being quiet and perhaps a bit boring. Boring is comfortable. But sometimes it’s worth it to step past the agoraphobia and subject myself to horrifyingly wonderful experiences that make me feel a little disembodied but in a refreshing way. For instance, I hope to pursue my post-grad studies in Mexico. Perhaps it’s unlikely, but whatever – I’m gonna go through the motions of getting myself there. Including finally becoming fluent in Spanish. #goals

Most importantly, I have three kitties and I am Truly the owner the the World’s Most Beautiful Cats. But of course, #ACAB. I met Stormy first, and then she adopted herself into my apartment and had some kittens in my closet that night. Two of those I kept, and they are Midnite and Pikachu. They had one other litter mate who I named Spice, but I adopted her out before realizing I wanted to keep the family together. But hopefully she has a good new home with a good new name. I have no idea how old Stormy is, but the kitties are about five and a half years old. Still kitties, always will be kitties. I’d post pics, but those will inevitably come in the future.

Last thing to perhaps mention: I’m an anarchist. I believe in liberation of all from capitalist and state tyranny, white supremacist patriarchy, and domination of all forms in all our relationships. Also, #ACAB. Again, this will probably come up later.

I look forward to the info-dumping I will now subject you to.