Category Archives: ASD

I try to be good enough

(Jason Gray—Savior Please)

Sometimes I am really proud of myself. On Tuesday when I tried to explain something as me being a picky eater, someone said they knew I wasn’t a picky eater because they’d seen me eat. To me, that was the hugest compliment she could have given me!! I have been working really hard to earn that comment, and hearing it made me realize something about myself I hadn’t realized before.

I have always been an exceedingly picky eater (yep, I have even refused to eat mac and cheese because it was the wrong brand…my mom was so frustrated at that one, because my favorite food was the kind in the red box…except she was at a different store and she looked all over for the kind in the red box and didn’t realize it was a different brand that also came in a red box…it didn’t taste the same and I didn’t eat it). I was the one who stopped eating lunch in the school cafeteria because once they took out the free vegetables, I was paying the exorbitant school lunch price for a pile of food, of which I probably was only going to eat the one noodle at the edge of the bowl that didn’t have gunk on it. The lunches were already excessively overpriced to make up for the people on free lunch, and were even more overpriced once you considered how much of it I would eat. I tried for a while only buying school lunch on days the menu sounded good, but then they would have last minute menu changes and I’d be stuck, I liked chicken strips if they weren’t soggy, and I’d usually at least try to eat chicken nuggets, but I couldn’t even make myself try chicken giggles after the first time they were served, and to the school, substituting chicken giggles for chicken strips was one of the most benign changes they ever made. Moderately unrelated, but I really wish I could have documented a fake milk allergy, because a documented milk allergy earned you an apple or grape juice for free every day and I LOVE juice, but never got permission to buy it a la carte…especially since I wasn’t eating the other stuff I was paying for anyway…

So anyway, that paragraph got a little off topic, but the point is, it never really bothered me to be a picky eater until partway through college. Sure, I recognized life would be easier if I ate a wider variety of foods, but it never was a big deal to me or anyone else. It wasn’t anything I felt was at all important to change. It wasn’t at all tied in to my self worth. I ate what I ate, and that was the way things were.

Then things changed when someone used the fact that I was a picky eater to support her made up argument that there was something wrong with me. At first I fought it, but then eventually it wormed it’s way into my heart as something that made me not good enough and something that would keep people from liking me and something that made me less than. Because I am constantly meeting new people this year and because of my unstable living situation, it became especially important to me to learn how to be good enough and eat what everyone else eats. I wanted people to like me.

Some people think of picky eating as a kid thing, and the fact that I already LOOK like a child made it all the more important to me to be able to eat less like a child…a difficult proposition when goldfish, animal crackers, and cheerios are favorite snacks and I’m still constantly in possession of snacks because food security keeps my anxiety from returning. As I have grown older, not a lot has changed with my picky eating. Sure, I learned to tolerate things that are hard for me instead of whining about icky smells and crying about having to try things I didn’t like (useful skills since today the person sitting next to me decided to eat lunch in front of her computer and it smelled REALLY strongly of salad dressing and I wanted to put my nose and mouth inside my shirt and run away). Unfortunately, what I actually like hasn’t really expanded, so yeah, I’ll try a slightly larger number of things, but I won’t like it.

I think of food as on a continuum. One side is foods I like, then foods that are “meh.” I don’t particularly like them, but I don’t dislike them. Continuing down the continuum you reach foods I do not like and then at the opposite end, Not Food. Things like ketchup fall into that category of not food. Asking me to eat a fry with ketchup on it is equivalent to asking me to eat a fry with conditioner. Neither belongs on my food or my fingers or anything, but if I am starving I will attempt to find a way to wash off the not food to get to the food underneath.

I have been working really hard on this and doing a really good job on increasing my ability to eat. I am proud of myself for the hard work even though I have still felt like I wasn’t good enough. A couple days ago, the lunch served to me was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Luckily the soup didn’t look like the picture on the can of Campbells tomato soup, so while it was right on the border of not food, I was willing to put it in my mouth and try it. Grilled cheese also falls firmly into the category of scary foods I do not like. I wanted so badly to be able to just eat and not just throw perfectly good food away, so I incentivized eating. I took the container of emergency skittles out of my bag and for every reasonably sized bite of grilled cheese in my mouth, I got a skittle, and for every spoonful of soup I got a skittle. I got through the entire sandwich and half of the soup that way…but I couldn’t make myself eat the tomato chunks in the soup, and eventually I just couldn’t force any more soup in my mouth or else I was going to cry which would be really weird in the break room in front of the people who work at this rotation site, so I threw the rest away. Today’s lunch was more successful. I could peel the vegetables off of the cheese and pull the cheese off of the chicken to get most of the nutrition in. I used skittles to get some of the bread in, but the bread tasted like butter and there wasn’t really any way to eliminate that taste, and after a couple bites I just couldn’t do it, so I gave up and had cake instead—hey, it’s really just bread with a little extra sugar in it :).

Someone suggested that maybe the issue is texture. At first that made a lot of sense—a lot of the things that really bother me are similar textures (salad dressing, ketchup, mayo, mustard, barbecue sauce), but some of the things I really like are the same textures (applesauce, pudding). Texture also doesn’t fit into the picture because I like applesauce watered down a little with water or juice, but applesauce with mandarin orange juice in it made me cringe. Similarly, I love clementines, but the actual pieces of mandarin orange were still gag worthy a month or so ago when I attempted them. I can’t figure out anything that ties together the things I don’t like. Someone suggested sour tastes, but I LOVE sour patch kids and lemon.

It is really frustrating that I work so hard and make what seems like so little progress, but I am learning that people liking me isn’t for what I do and don’t eat. Having to re-learn that is one of the things that makes me really wish I had been able to escape sooner before the abuse sunk in so deep…and I ‘spose I am also learning that scary foods won’t kill me. I am strong.

It would be helpful, though, if alcoholic beverages did not fall into the category of things that smell really disgusting to me. It’s another thing I am learning to tolerate, but the older I get, the more often I am exposed to people drinking alcohol in situations in which it is inappropriate to put my hands over my nose and mouth to protect myself. Just sayin’

Totally unrelated like for reals, but my intuition can be scary accurate at times…after just a couple days with this one person who really gets on my nerves, I thought maybe she was on the autism spectrum…and then I found out she actually was…glad to know it isn’t just me thinking that…doesn’t change how much she gets on my nerves and how hard it is to hold my tongue when she is mouthing off and telling everyone around how wrong I am when I know I am 100% correct, but I suppose it is good to know that it isn’t necessarily that she is trying to be hurtful. She just isn’t very good at her job and probably feels threatened by having someone around who does know what is going on. I am learning to keep my mouth shut and nod and say mhmm and keep my frustration bottled up inside. Lol…did you know that apparently according to her even if your kid is throwing up you should be sending them to school because they aren’t supposed to miss school for that? Did you also know that apparently the endocrine society doesn’t know anything about treating vitamin D deficiency? Oh, and apparently 10.7 – 4 is not less than 7…who knew?! I am learning so much!! (True statement, I am learning how to hold my tongue. In fact, I was pretty impressed that my judgement told me in time that I shouldn’t make a joke that the very literal person sitting next to me would interpret as an insult…). Oh, but on the positive side, it is awesome to not be the last to get a joke or pop culture reference!! Yep, I definitely did laugh at something I recognized as a sex joke and then listened to her whine that we all needed to slow down so she could understand the joke. (We’re going to ignore the fact that it isn’t that appropriate to laugh at sex jokes, and revel in the fact that I got it and she didn’t–see, I am not hopeless…and maybe my lunchroom lessons by a certain person who made it his job to “help” me learn that kind of crap were moderately useful).

Also completely unrelated, but I am really glad I use wordpress hosting, because I have exactly zero access to blogspot hosted blogs on the internet here unless I take a walk to the park to get on some normal wifi. I can access SOME wordpress hosted blogs, and although my own blog is not one of them, I can access my wordpress dashboard to be able to check stats and create posts which I wouldn’t be able to do with blogspot. The wifi here is a bit frustrating. Usually facebook has absolutely no pictures, but once in a while the pictures come through. Pinterest, twitter, and Instagram are completely un-accessable without a walk to the park. I do still try to get on every day just in case I get lucky, but so far I haven’t (gotten lucky that is). I miss all the blogspot blogs that I was following, and I miss the possibility of one of my favorite pasttimes—soft research on blogspot.



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Looking back at where you have been

(How You Live—Point of Grace)

So I wanted to write about the alphabet soup of labels that have been used on me over the past few years and my thoughts on each…as always, it is more about thinking things through for myself that for anyone else to read, but I am always happy to share my thoughts to whomever may enjoy them or benefit from them 🙂

So, I started with SI, self-injury…It was a way to grasp onto some small piece of control in a world that I was drowning in. When it had gotten the worst and I finally realized it needed to stop, I had recently stopped swimming, and while everyone thought of me as a swimmer still, to me I had lost that identity and I missed both the water and struggled with the loss of the identity. People at school still thought I was a “smart kid” but my grades weren’t the greatest and I had never fully latched onto the identity of being smart, but it felt that what little bit I had held onto was being ripped away from me…although looking back, the grades were probably at least partially a result of the other things going on in life, although it definitely was partly because I was reaching the point where trying harder and longer was no longer enough to make up for my low reading comprehension level—when reading comprehension only required knowing what the words meant, I excelled, but when it began requiring actually understanding written material I was a little lost. I had made up for it by working harder and longer, but there was more work and it was going farther and farther over my head…and then on top of the school thing, on August 10, 2008, I attended a new church. Taking me away from my old church completely changed what I saw as the course of my life and took away the things I had been looking forward to in the years to come. That was one more thing that was taking away my view of my identity and taking away my sense of control…I was struggling and the SI gave me a way to put the control back into my hands. It could cover up the pain in my life…I mean, yes, it hurt, but it felt better to be the one in control of my pain instead of feeling totally helpless needing to just endure the pain. I never WANTED to hurt; that was NOT the intent…it happens when the pain seems like the only way to feel okay. It isn’t to control other people. It is a way to feel control over myself. I let myself get walked all over, and hurting myself let me feel like I still had control over myself…is it fun to bruise my knuckles on occasion when I bit them too hard, certainly not, nor was it fun to feel the need to pinch myself to control pain, but it felt like a solution to my pain. I knew it was wrong, but knowing and being able to act on that knowledge were certainly different things.

I still refuse to label myself whatsoever with anorexia nervosa…yet…I was headed that direction my senior year of high school, and had I not noticed it and stubbornly known I was definitely not letting myself going there and forced myself to turn around, my life could have taken a very different path. It was NEVER about food, and NEVER about weight…it was simply another way to try to reach for control. I was losing my old church the rest of the way, and I was hurting…I wasn’t going to go back to self-injury, and I guess this was the next best thing I could reach for. It only lasted a couple months, but when I realized it, it was definitely scary to see where it could have gone…At the point I realized it and turned things around, I was NOT at dangerous weight, and was still eating three meals per day and snacks—I was not starving…did I lose weight, yes, but my BMI remained just barely within the healthy range, so it doesn’t feel like I really deserve the label of an eating issues kid, although I definitely know that people don’t usually feel like they deserve a label of AN even when they do…but I feel like for me it never went far enough to really label me that way…

I was going to go in chronological order of when things were suggested to me, and/or became problems, but it is hard to determine exactly what comes next…

I guess I’ll write about OCD next…when I told my friend about the food restriction when I got scared and was turning things around, she mentioned that I should look into OCD…I had no reason at that point to believe I had OCD and I didn’t really understand—I was attempting to research how OCD treatment is connected to anorexia nervosa treatment…and was not overly successful…I never really bought into the whole OCD thing and 99% forgot about it…until first year when I was hanging out with my friend and she said to bring up OCD with my counselor and I agreed to try…a few weeks later I successfully tried…however…when the obvious follow-up question of “why” was asked it was met with an “I don’t know” and the conversation was dropped and never retrieved…I attempted to elicit help later that year when I was terrified because my roommate had gotten sick, but my attempt was completely unnoticed as far as I can tell…which probably isn’t that surprising seeing as how my counselor at this point had not yet given me a way to communicate, and via email I had simply put it as a statement that I was coming unless I got sick because my roommate was sick, so without any way to know how I communicate and without any way for me to get help without drawing attention to myself, it is not that surprising that no one really knew what happened…I think it was that summer that someone else suggested OCD to me, which was what brought it to the forefront again, and when I went back to school in the fall using handwashing as a distraction technique and stuff I was finally ready to actually admit that there was a problem here…It was only the control the people mentioning it had seen at this point—the germ issues were pretty well hidden…If you wanna read more about my struggle with OCD I have written quite a few things about that…but yeah, there is no question that OCD was a problem for me…there isn’t much other explanation for my bloody hands, my refusal to eat and drink, my sanitization of my environment, my holding my breath in dirty spaces, and so much more, and I am SO thankful that I no longer have to deal with that. I thought last year that just not having compulsions would be enough to make me happy…After everything I had been through I had lost hope that freedom was possible. My counselor had told me so many times that it was hopeless and I was never going to be good enough that I started to believe it and lower my aims…but she was wrong. It took some time once I was recovered to really believe this was for real and not just a break or something, but I am so glad that I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. The way it feels when you accidentally touch the oven when it is hot is how your brain feels when you have OCD. But rather than just a brief localized ouch, the whole brain starts to hurt like that. And you can’t just remove your brain from the heat like instinctively happens with your hand…so you do compulsions. Washing and avoidance are like a tiny trickle of cold water…it feels just a tiny bit less hot in just a small point, but that feels SO good you just keep doing it…yeah, the washing is annoying but necessary but it also feels like if you could just stop washing it would feel awesome because that is taking up so much time and energy…and while the OCD isn’t really about the compulsions, it feels like that is all there is, because the compulsions and avoidance seem like the entirety of the OCD—the reason behind the compulsions and avoidance becomes hidden under the compulsions and avoidance…so yeah…I am so glad to have turned off the oven and no longer have to deal with the OCD…no compulsions/avoidance, nor any desire for them 🙂

Completely unrelated side note…I should probably be careful with what I repeat…my radio stopped working like a year or so ago so sometimes I listen to my ipod when I ride my bike…and that was what I was doing a few days ago…sometimes when I am listening to something and I like it I repeat it…so I said “You’re gonna get mean. You’re gonna get tough. You’re gonna get physical. You’re gonna get out there and KILL!”…yep, I said that out loud…haha yeah…anyone who really knows me knows that although I love self-defense, I am not very sure that I could actually intentionally hurt someone even if they were attempting to kill me…but random people on the street don’t know that…

Back to what I was talking about, looking back at where I have been…before my second year, someone suggested that perhaps my reaction to going to the new church had become PTSD. I am not really sure I agree with that, primarily because there was no threat to my life, or anyone else’s…like yes, it was a huge deal to me, but part of the lasting effects I think I kind of brought on myself…I could see that I was being torn away and desperately desired for that not to happen, so I was taping over the weak spots holding it together which meant that when it finally was completely torn away, instead of one straight line taking off a piece of my heart, the was a jagged line that seemed as if nothing could ever match up enough to fill in the gaps…it was my holding on so tightly that I think probably ultimately made it so hard…but when you have built your life around a certain situation, and especially when this is where you have been “studying” social skills for so long but not well enough to have any transferable skills, it is really hard to be forced to leave and completely start over. This year I finally found peace with the situation. Yes, there are things that were hard and things I missed out on through the change, but there are also some good things that would never have happened (okay fine…and some bad things…I would never have gotten into counseling if it weren’t for people I met at the new church…so I would have been protected from some stuff)…but I have absolutely loved doing VBS, and have been the head teacher for the 0 to 2 year olds for the past few years, and that is something I never could have experienced, and while I am sure there are plenty of other activities I could have done instead, this one is not bad and is a highlight of my summer…unfortunately, this year I am unsure if I will be able to do it because of when it falls with my rotation, but I am hopeful that I will be able to at least volunteer a night or two even if I can’t lead (and chances are while I am there I will lead anyway if I make it—it wasn’t until last year that I was even aware that I WAS the head teacher…I naturally am inclined toward leadership so in the past I had taken on that role to some extent, but never knew that I was officially assigned that position…I just thought I was another volunteer in the room…but anyway, I love VBS and am glad I have gotten that experience…and actually, after reading this article , I am more willing to define the experience in the same way as the person who suggested it had defined it.

So yeah…social anxiety…this is another one I am super proud of where I have come. For as long as I can remember, I have been pretty avoidant of social situations. If I really had to do it, I usually could, but if it was reasonably avoidable, it was avoided…which is probably why I had the same group of friends through most of middle school and still didn’t know their names by the end of middle school…and why the new kids were usually my friends until they got in with the cool kids and left me behind…like, it feels good for you to thank me for being your first friend, but it detracts from the thanks when you have no longer been interested in being with me ever since the cool kids accepted you a few weeks ago…You would probably be amazed at how much of life I was able to navigate without speaking out loud and with minimal written communication…At some point first year I was talking to my at home friend and she was shocked to hear that I talked to my counselor even less than I talked to her, because I barely spoke to her…but she was my best friend so I was a lot more comfortable with her, and thus was much more able to speak even if I couldn’t say much…and plus my friend was so encouraging. Some of my favorite memories with her are of how enthusiastically she praised me when I spoke out loud, especially when I said something besides “yes” no” or “I don’t know.” In my records from third year I saw the diagnosis of selective mutism…at first I thought that was stupid because I always could get through the amount of speaking I deemed important enough to push through, but after more reflection, I suppose that I probably was at least on the bubble between JUST social anxiety and having SM…There was SO much more in my head that I really wanted to say that I couldn’t push through my mouth…It was painstaking at times to get words out that I really wanted to say. I would try so hard and not be able to say anything…It was as if my mouth and vocal cords were glued in place, and my feet were glued to the floor…If you imagine that you wanted to do cartwheels in the grass, but were wrapped up like a mummy and tied in place unable to move a muscle without great difficulty, that is what it feels like…it is not fun…I do prefer the older term, elective mutism, to the new term though…selective mutism to me feels more as if there is a choice involved in when to speak and when to be silent, whereas elective mutism doesn’t feel like a choice, rather it feels to me as if it describes more something out of my control that just happens in some settings…I say in some settings, because I have never had a large amount of difficulty in the classroom—that is the one setting in which I could usually speak whenever I needed to…which, unfortunately, means that now that I speak freely to everyone, the amount of talking I do in the classroom is kind of a problem because I start talking to the people sitting next to me, and I talk to myself, and I just say whatever is on my mind as soon as it pops into my head without thinking first about whether it is actually overly important or relevant at the moment…which means I get yelled at occasionally by teachers because I can’t keep my mouth shut and be quiet…but considering I came from being too quiet and getting yelled at by a counselor last year for not speaking enough, I will accept being yelled at for being too loud and obnoxious…although it hurts my heart when my friends tell me to shut up because I am being really distracting, because I try really hard to be quiet and not bother anyone, but it is like I can’t find the turn off switch and my mouth is constantly powered on, meowing like a cat and saying whatever is on my mind, and it bothers them, but I can’t shut up…I don’t WANT to bother anyone…I just want to make everyone happy, and I can’t. Sometimes I feel like I will never be good enough.

I guess next is the last one in my blog title…ASD…There is only one person who ever truly suggested that I had autism. Sure, one person suggested previously that I didn’t really seem to recognize or express emotions, but I believe that I couldn’t recognize them as well as other girls because I had spent so much of my life isolated, and didn’t express much, because expressing emotion tends to bring attention to yourself—attention that I preferred to avoid at all costs. Aside from that, the statement was a completely new proposition…I still do not really know what she saw in me to label me that way…I asked in writing the next week but she refused to tell me, because it is her clinical judgement and that is not my business and not up for negotiation. I was a compliant and respectful girl…okay fine…I was also passive and didn’t know how to stand up for myself…but not knowing is still really hard, because how can I argue against it if I don’t even know your point of view?!…yeah, I do still crave control, which means I want to know everything…I want to know why people have done or said things. I want to know what people are thinking…I get frustrated with books and news articles and movies, because they leave out what I consider the ending…to anyone else all the information needed is there, but I want to know more…One of the times she kicked me out (and then “apologized” and allowed me back) she connected the “autism” to my taking a little time to speak my thoughts…I think anyone with half a brain would realize that if speaking is terrifying then words will not come quickly…without fear I can now hold a conversation just fine…but with the fear, it was hard…The fear clouded my ability to process the words being spoken to me…it was hard to find words to reply, to shorten those words into something I could realistically convey, to force those words out of my mouth…clearly a conversation with me was going to require at least a little waiting if you were going to want spoken responses from me and do not accept written responses, especially if you ask questions that not only require more than a yes or a no, but also requires a significant amount of knowledge that I might not have or thoughtfulness that you are not allowing me enough time to procure…even without fear, I certainly cannot come up with a 10-page case presentation without stopping to think about my response first…in the real world, they call this successfully avoiding impulsivity…yeah, sometimes I start immediately, but I tend to pay for that in stupid things falling out of my mouth or coming out my fingers that I wouldn’t have said/written if I’d stopped to THINK for a minute…So, my opinion currently is that if you are not willing to give me a reason when directly asked why you think I may have autism, then I doubt that your assessment is based on anything about me. If someone I trusted thought there was a possibility I would be more than willing to look into it and collaboratively assess the possibility, working together as a TEAM, but unless/until someone trustworthy objects, I am closing the book on any possibility of autism.

So that leaves ADHD…This one is the newest and therefore the one I have had the least time to reflect on…At first I was a bit offended when it was suggested to me…Although it was someone who likely intended no harm, I guess it just wasn’t coming at a good time and my interpretation of the thought was that of someone looking for something wrong with me to discount my interpretation of how things were going…I thought I was having trouble concentrating because my life was kind of turbulent, and pathologizing that feeling felt to me as if she were telling me that I didn’t deserve to feel hurt after being abused and having my life and livelihood taken away from me…I doubt she intended it that way, but I was already hurting, and upset and this just made me feel blown off, and as if I didn’t matter…I don’t value myself very highly and therefore do not expect that much from other people, but I do deeply crave feeling accepted for who I am…not just tolerated based on what I can do for you, but accepted…the turning point in really believing it was in filling out a questionnaire about ADHD…it was intended as more of a survey than a diagnostic tool, but it kind of opened my eyes to the possibility that I really did have ADHD…every one of my responses fell within the category of possible ADHD…and many of the questions pointed directly at things that really bothered me about myself…I get really frustrated with myself sometimes when teachers yell at me for talking too much in class when I really wasn’t trying to be disruptive…I squirm and am always in motion instead of sitting still facing forward like a mature person…I am impulsive (there is a broken key on my keychain as a reminder from an event in which I acted impulsively…it is supposed to serve as a reminder, but the thing is that when I am about to act impulsively, it is not like I get a little signal or anything to look down at my keychain, see the broken key, and remember to reflect on whether or not what I am about to do is a good idea…but just if you were wondering, cutting your nice (expensive) lock off your bike because you played with and broke one of the keys is not such a good idea, especially when you actually do have four more keys that you could use to unlock it—they just aren’t currently hung on a keychain around your neck…)…and, well, I am distractible (there are a lot of examples I could use here, but a very recent example: I interrupted the sales person at the car place while she was talking about something to which I probably should have been listening to ask what the red button on her computer did—I really wasn’t intentionally tuning her out, but sometimes the background track gets so loud I forget about the foreground…haha…yeah…this is one of the areas in which the social anxiety actually was helpful…when it was harder to talk, I didn’t interrupt my friends or people providing me with information…I may still have been distracted thinking about that bright red button, but my mouth was shut so I at least wasn’t being rude and interrupting them…so yeah…after that long aside…my (former) counselor suggested I either give medication a chance or keep working with a counselor to try to learn to focus better (or do both), but my opinion is that if I have made it this far without official help, that if I set my mind to it I will continue to be able to work around this on my own…obviously if something changes and I discover that the frustration with myself has become too intense or the distraction and impulsivity start causing greater problems in my life then I am all for solving that problem, but I don’t really want to fix something that isn’t really broken…plus, in much of my experience, people are being medicated for ADHD because they are driving the people AROUND them crazy rather than because the symptoms are bothering them, and in my opinion, I am who I am. If you don’t like my unmedicated crazy self then don’t be friends with me, and if you are willing to accept it with open arms I would love to be good friends with you…I have nothing against people that do use medication whether they use it the way I would or not (as long as they are using it legally), but I just think that medication is not really right for me right now…besides how crazy expensive it can be…

…haha yeah…just wondering if anyone actually made it all the way to the end of this post…also, I decided I am tired of being a responsible adult…I kind of want to go back to elementary school where the most important decision I had to make was whether I would draw attention to myself by allowing the teachers to re-assign field trip groups after the groups had been announced when they realized I had accidentally been placed with the bullies, or if I would remain in the group for the end of the year field trip and just assume things would be okay (I selected staying in the group, and it wasn’t really that bad…not perfect, but certainly could have been much worse)…

Spilled my Heart Drop by Drop

(Hold out for Love–Francesca Battistelli)

Alternatively titled: the post in which you find out more than you ever wanted to know…

I have been in counseling for the past three years. This has allowed me to have a lot better perspective on who I am and as I am getting ready to call the end on this story in my life, I’d like to put together some thoughts on some things. As a disclaimer, any motives assigned to other people cannot be guaranteed accuracy; I only know what I have been told, and inferred the rest based on actions. That being said, I am not trying to display anyone inaccurately or in a negative light. For me to really process things I have to put pieces together, and if I am not given the full puzzle I do my best to fill in the gaps. I tend to see people idealistically and excuse any negative actions, and I do not want to hurt even people whom I do not like, but sometimes my words can come across that way…

So yeah, between the parts of my records I have seen and from my experience there have been a few different labels that have been placed on me over the years.

Year 1: I started the year with the general label of stress possibly stemming from transitioning to a completely new environment. From there the label shifted to social anxiety, and though my worksheets continued to be about social anxiety and I was never informed about the shift in perspective, the label changed to autism towards the end of the year. I brought up OCD at one point when my friend told me to, but I wasn’t myself fully convinced yet, and never really got a chance to explore that since I said “my friend said to bring up OCD” and when the counselor asked why I said I don’t know and the conversation ended at that.

Year 2: All year the label on my records stayed pretty much the same: anxiety and rusty social skills. There was a definite discussion about OCD, and I don’t think my counselor nor I would doubt that OCD was a label that belonged on me. At one point towards the end of the year she asked me if I’d ever thought about autism and I was a bit taken aback and wasn’t sure what the right answer to that question was, and gave an answer that was intentionally ambiguous as to my position on the topic to see where she was going with it. She then told me that although certain things might fit that she was confident that my issues stemmed from my anxiety rather than from autism. She agreed that there were definite pieces that could fit but that they made more sense in the context of anxiety. I had not seriously thought about autism at that point, so I didn’t question it–I already was sold on the idea that I had a problem with anxiety, so no need to rock the boat when she also agreed that anxiety was my problem.

Year 3: I have not read the notes about me from this year, but there is no doubt in my mind that at some point OCD will have been mentioned. Additionally, very early on my counselor brought up autism with me and when I questioned it she seemed pretty sure of it so I went through the criteria, and like my previous counselor had said, there were pieces that fit. Looking back now though, I am wondering if perhaps she was already not such a fan of me. My counselor the year before had told me that she had pressured me to follow her because she didn’t think Michelle would have time for me or wouldn’t want to work with me, and perhaps she was right and Michelle was already planning how to get rid of me. I suppose once she got me to buy in enough to the autism thing it wasn’t so hard to use it against me to say that I do not have a firm grasp on reality.

Here is the DSM criteria for autism and for social anxiety in order to decide where I think I fit…and perhaps I need to stop believing people unquestioningly. From experience I know that people’s word is not worth much, but I still somehow naively believe that everyone has golden motives and am probably a bit too quick to forgive and give more chances…I suppose in other words I am Minnesota Nice to an extreme.

Autism Spectrum Disorder 299.00 (F84.0)

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text):

1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
hmm, reduced sharing of interests and failure to initiate social interactions…yes, that does describe me, but if you were afraid of talking to people and what their reaction might be, wouldn’t you, too, share less frequently and be a bit slower to initiate social interactions? The more comfortable I have gotten communicating, the less that this has applied to me. Additionally, while at first I needed help for every situation separately, my growing ability to communicate has allowed me to generalize and social skills I learn in one context help me to communicate in a completely separate context.

2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.

Once again, if you were scared of having too much attention on yourself, and were focused on blending in and staying unnoticed most of the time, wouldn’t you avoid using overly expressive nonverbal communication styles likely to draw attention towards yourself? Wouldn’t you naturally avoid eye contact to avoid being invited into a conversation and having to determine what to say? If you were terrified and constantly trying to figure out what is expected of you, don’t you think your facial expression and body language may be somewhat paralyzed and incongruent with the words coming out your mouth? Finally, if you have spent much of your life avoiding social contact and focused on what you need to do to get through it, don’t you think you might not be as quick to catch on to other people’s communication?

3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

I would argue that it is also rather difficult to form friendships with your peers when you are terrified of communicating with them and it adds an extra level of challenge when growing up you were developmentally more similar to students in the grade above you, and one more level of challenge when you were bullied mainly by students in your own grade, not to mention an incident in high school called moving to a new church where the students your own age where a bit clique-y but the older girls quickly welcomed you in…just sayin’…As for difficulty in understanding relationships, I think that goes straight back to the problem that if you have less experience with relationship due to either being excluded or self-exclusion due to fear then it is going to be something you understand a bit less.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):

1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).

Yes, I will mimic things I have heard people say. That is called modeling. Being scared of and avoiding communication means that I have not had a lot of opportunities to learn proper ways to communicate, so just like a toddler learning to communicate for the first time by imitating phrases he or she sees older children or adults using to obtain desired results, I will borrow phrases I read or hear people say that seem to have the desired results. Yes, at first it may cause very scripted conversations, but as I get more comfortable with the situation, the words become my own and flow as such.

2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).

I have difficulty letting go of control–which is why Betsy suggested that I ought to look into OCD. I am also the first to admit that I do not do change well, but I would also point out that I can handle change in many situations, namely change is made easier if I can look at it as an adventure, if I can be directly involved in the chaos, if it is my idea, or if it is explained to me in an understandable way in advance. It may not always be immediately obvious why I insist on certain things remaining unchanged, but there will be a reason…for smaller things, I would like to point out that humans are creatures of habit. If every morning for years you have parted your hair down the left side, chances are tomorrow you will not wake up and part your hair down the middle for no reason. If you needed to you could do it, but you wouldn’t just do it…finally, one more argument on this. A few years before I started college, I started attending a new church, and I am still dealing with that huge change. Additionally, without good communication skills, as I move back and forth between school and home I essentially am moving to completely new worlds each time. Multiple cross-country moves leaving behind everyone you know each time would cause anyone to want a sense of continuity to stabilize the craziness of all those moves…Okay I lied, one more argument: I do eat the same food a lot. In cafeteria situations that is a combination of picky eating and the fear that comes along with having to communicate what I want to people. When I am buying my own groceries it is a product of the simplicity of picking up most of my food in bulk before the semester starts, and the feeling that everyone is looking at me at the grocery store which makes me get the same things frequently so I do not need to go looking for things and therefore spend as little time as possible at the store.

3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).

I am not so sure this really applies to me. I have a variety of ever-changing interests. Perhaps I do spend too much time on the internet, but when you are extremely limited in your ability to communicate, getting to know people via the internet where it is not necessary to respond immediately or even at all can help meet innate social needs. I will also admit that I used to be fully immersed in being a swimmer, but that was my identity–just like my friend Alyssa talks about and structures her life around being an RA now, that is what I was doing with swimming then.

4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

I do have a high pain tolerance, though I believe most of that is more due to getting used to it because it is very hard for me to express that I am in pain, and I also have a history of self-harm. Additionally, it may appear by my clothing choices that I do not notice temperature, but trust me, I do. Inside temperatures remain fairly consistent year round, so I prefer to inasmuch as possible wear clothes that are comfortable for me inside. This means t-shirts and sandals when yes I do realize it is cold outside. As long as I will not be outside an excessive amount of time, it feels better to me to deal with the coldness outside for a short time in order to be more comfortable inside. This also means that I do get used to the cold and it doesn’t feel as bad…and no one who really knows me would question that I have trouble with heat. Put me in a hot environment and you have the recipe for a crabby whiney sweaty girl.

C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

As far as I know this does not apply to me overly well beyond the way it would apply to any child. I have had difficulty with communication since I was little, but I still remember fear when I was younger, though I think I did fit in better back when it was socially normal for parents to orchestrate most children’s relationships.

D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

I would certainly agree that my fear of social situations has held me back from forming good relationships and from having experiences that would positively shape my communication skills, but occupationally I have not been overly limited. Yeah, I didn’t get interviewed for the RA position, but I am fairly certain that is the only job I have wanted and not gotten so far…unless the reason I have not been asked to be the lead tutor for anatomy is Michelle trash-talking me to Kim…but then that has less to do with symptoms that exterior circumstances.

E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

This is one I suppose I would have to agree with because as far as I am aware I do not have an intellectual disability. I have been teased a lot in college about having dyslexia, but as far as I know I am not actually dyslexic, though I did have a gen chem partner first year who was dyslexic…it wasn’t a big deal though.


A.  A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.

This is definitely true. I am afraid of communicating because I feel like I will do it wrong and bother people and I feel embarrassed.

B.  Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed Panic Attack.

Any situation in which I must communicate scares me, and while I am not sure what I get would be classified as a panic attack, I do get flooded with anxiety. Obviously as I repeatedly put myself into situations and have success I am getting to a point where some previously feared situations are much more tolerable, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point, and it will be very scary at every exposure up to that point.

C.  The person recognizes that this fear is unreasonable or excessive.

Umm, there is no doubt in my mind that most people do not go through life with the intense fear that I do. I am fairly certain that my level of fear is unproductive and over-the-top.

D.  The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress.

Yep. I used to mostly be an avoider, and I still do avoid a lot of things, but now I have gotten more into pushing myself into situations and dealing with the anxiety.

E.  The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.

Once again, it is undoubtedly true that my communication deficits get in the way. I have no doubt that my life would have a completely different course if I were more able to communicate…more friends…more ability to “hang out” and talk on the phone like a “normal” teenager…less reliance on other people to bridge the way for me. I HATE having this fear.

F.  The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting 6 or more months.

Once again, no doubt about it, I have been facing this for much more than the requisite 6 months.

G. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

I am not usually under the influence of any drugs. I occasionally ingest caffeine and even more seldomly take in ibuprofen/Tylenol, but unless someone has been hiding something from me, those drugs do not have any effect on fear and avoidance…I do not have any medical conditions beyond awful vision…I suppose that last clause about another mental disorder is where people could twist this into an autism story, but after going through these criteria, it seems to me that while I fit every criterion for social anxiety, I do not meet as many criteria for autism, and my fitting into the categories for social anxiety seems much more defined and less contrived. If I do decide to try out another counselor at some point, I am willing to listen to her viewpoint on the issue and take into consideration if she thinks I am autistic, but at the moment I have jumped off the autism bandwagon and have navigated back to the social anxiety trail. I guess I’ll have to see where this trail takes me, but at this point it feels more natural to place myself in the anxiety camp.

On a side note, sleep is such a good thing…after a couple nights of crashing while sobbing and then some sleepless nights while I was in too much pain to sleep (blistered arms), it felt so good to finally have healed enough both physically and emotionally to get some real sleep…I have never been a good sleeper, so I mean I am still waking up thirsty and such in the night, but getting some good sleep felt great!

So let the ashes fall wherever they land

(Who You Are-Unspoken)

So yeah, I was watching a video on youtube about this yesterday, and I have therefore been thinking about labeling again. This is a topic that I really don’t understand why it has become so polarized. Some people seem to get their panties in a wad over parts of speech, and I don’t understand why it is such a big debate topic…

Because the video used autism as an example that is what I will use here…No, I am not autism, but it is possible that I might be autistic, which would mean that I would have autism. Some people seem to find it extremely negative to use the adjective form of diseases. I do not understand that. If you prefer using the noun form then go for it, but don’t force anyone else to…What I have seen is that people who actually have a particular disease or are really close to someone who does have it tend to use the adjective form, but people who are outside that group tend to use the noun form…

The “noun-ers” reasoning is that we do not call a person diabetes or hypertension…which is true, but we also do not call people autism. We can call a person diabetic or hypertensive and in the same we it is perfectly acceptable in my opinion to call a person autistic. It isn’t negative; it is just the way that particular person is. They may be able to manage it to make it less noticeable and have less of an impact on their life, but that doesn’t mean that it is not a part of who they are while the symptoms are present.

I have also heard that in the hospital we don’t usually refer to people as the diabetic in room 203 or the asthmatic in room 401, but I have two major objections to that argument. Firstly, when we do not refer to them in that way it is most definitely not because we are calling them the patient with diabetes or the patient with asthma in those rooms, rather it is because we are using their names, and when we use their names the diagnosis whether in adjective or noun form is a non-issue. Secondly, it is not true. Sometimes we do use that terminology. For example, a group of people may not have memorized every patient’s name can quickly get everyone on the same page about what they are talking about by explaining they are talking about the diabetic in room 203, because this quickly lets everyone involved know exactly whom they are talking about and gives a refresher on the disease state they are working with.

Sometimes it gets very awkward and cumbersome to use the noun form, and using the words as a noun instead doesn’t change the meaning of the word. A diabetic and someone with diabetes are both someone who without treatment have a fasting plasma glucose of greater than 126mg/dL, an OGTT greater than 200mg/dL or an A1c greater than 6.5% on two occasions or one of those things on one occasion with a previous diagnosis of pre-diabetes, or a random plasma glucose of greater than 200mg/dL with classic hyperglycemia symptoms. Making it a noun did not change the diagnostic criteria nor did it change the treatment strategy for the patient meeting the criteria. Also, I just feel like the noun form is just awkward sounding a lot of the time…To take it out of the realm of illness, are you happy or do you have happiness? Are you excited or do you have excitement? Are you sad or do you have sadness? Are you angry or do you have anger? Most of the time we use the adjective forms of the words because it is more concise and conveys the same message. There is an occasional time or place that the noun form may be used, but in general there is nothing wrong with using the adjective forms of the word…

I am what I am and that’s all that I am

(song: Please Please Like Me)

…so I was cleaning out some old junk files on my computer and found a page labeled why am I different? I had no idea what I would find there…a blog post I had liked and then a series of numbers that I no longer remember what they mean could be a likely scenario or something even more random…I do occasionally copy and paste random things that I find and like or need to remember into word and just save as whatever the first thing was and then over time the document sits there and the original note to self is no longer then, long since replaced many times with other notes but the document still bears the same name until I get rid of it…anyway, what I actually found was a story very similar to my timeline post…so here is a possibly shorter/just a slightly different version of my life story 🙂

Why am I different:

Starting in elementary school I was bullied a lot. In elementary school the strategy was to keep me away from the bullies as much as possible, but by middle school I just had to learn to deal with it. I learned the b-word was bad because I used it one day—how was I supposed to know it was any worse than stupid-head? I was bullied until partway through ninth grade when people started being really nice to me so that they could ask me to be their partner for group projects because I would do all the work.

August 10, 2008 my family abruptly changed churches, and I did not take that very well. It pulled me away from everything that I knew and had planned on, and I was crying every week for months. I still have trouble thinking about it, but I can see positives now.

March 3, 2009 I started trying to stop hurting myself. I finally did hurt myself for the last time on April 10, 2009! Success! Until my senior year of high school when I realized that I had started inching towards anorexia nervosa. Luckily I realized that in time that I do not believe I was ever fully anorexic.

January 17, 2011 I was accused by a friend of being suicidal. I was most definitely not suicidal, and I am pretty sure that she knew it. Her goal was to get me to tell my parents about my former self-injury. She was not successful at that time, and had she been patient she would have found out in a few more days that I was considering telling my parents in April—and I decided to follow through and tell them in April anyway which was terrifying, but probably the right thing to do.

Because of all these things, there were a few people in my life who had been pushing me to try counseling, so at the beginning of my first year of college I tried out counseling once so that I could say that I had done it—and didn’t know how to get out once I was in so I continued, and now I am still in counseling—but by my own choice. That first year my counselor talked to me a lot about social anxiety, and that seemed to fit considering my fear and avoidance of social situations. I am no longer fully certain that I have this one though—it is still a definite possibility, but it is not for sure a category I fall into.

People had suggested that I may be OCD a few times, but I had either not taken the hint or not really believed them until my roommate got sick first year and I fled my room only returning to sleep, and washing my hands so much that they were bleeding. I tried to bring that up with my counselor first year, but I didn’t have the communication skills to get past that my friend said that I might have OCD. Second year I tried again, and during at the beginning of second semester it became clear that I most likely had OCD and needed to pay some attention to that.

This year I found out that I may have mild autism. At first I was not so sure, but after some time to think I found myself agreeing with that idea. I can make decent relationships with people older or younger than I am but really struggle to know how to interact with people my own age. I do struggle in social situations, but the reason has more to do with feeling like I don’t know what is expected of me than being embarrassed. I do have fear of making other people feel uncomfortable which is actually the Japanese form of social anxiety, but my primary fear is that I do not know what to say which I think falls more into autism. That might also explain why I am a 21-year-old who still has temper tantrums on occasion.

First Semester of Third Year–Memories (Counseling)

It seems a little weird to title this one memories since it just happened…but for the sake of consistency…

So much to say, so little time…I feel like a LOT happened this semester…My life was a bit turbulent this semester, and it showed in my grades…looking back, I think that same thing is kind of that was going on in my sophomore year of high school–I was losing everything I had identified myself by and everything my life and dreams had revolved around, and on top of that was taking difficult classes. In high school I got through this and still had A’s…however in college I wasn’t so lucky and my grades took a hit. I am really upset about that, but all things considered, I suppose I prefer ending the semester with my life and lousy grades than ending it with great grades but without my life…I wish I could have had both, but that wasn’t one of my choices.

At my first meeting in the fall (so my actually second meeting) I spent most of the time filling out a whole bunch of forms, but Michelle also mentioned that she was going to look for the results from the MMPI and MCMI tests that I took first year! I was excited that I was finally going to get to see them!

The next time I met with her, she asked something about autism. I was kind of surprised about that…really I don’t know exactly what I was thinking, but I do know that my first thoughts to that question did not register at all that she might be suggesting that I might have autism…haha yeah, I might be a little slow–but it isn’t totally my fault for not picking up on it considering that Brittani had pretty clearly ruled that out for me. I was not really sure how I felt about that. Hearing the description it seemed to fit in some ways but not at all in other ways, but as I thought about it, the same could be said about social anxiety. Some parts fit really well and other parts–not so much…looking at it, the part of social anxiety that fit me least well was the part that is different in the Japanese version of social anxiety, and I didn’t see how it could divide strictly along geographic or ethnic lines, but looking again with this new idea I realized that maybe that was a part that just didn’t fit. I wasn’t yet ready to let go of the labels I had been given first and second years based on a label I was being given in under 5 meetings, but it was definitely something to think about. I hadn’t really had a problem with being labeled with social anxiety or OCD, and didn’t really see them as a big deal in the broader picture of my life–they seemed pretty manageable…I wasn’t sure I felt the same way about autism…The label itself wasn’t what bothered me, but with social anxiety (and OCD) I was pretty familiar with the treatment and in my head it was a very A+B=C kind of transaction–I expected to work on social skills then have it figured out and be done and not have any problems anymore…my perception of autism was less rosy…I saw this as something that never went away (probably true) which had the potential to shatter my imagination of myself completely leaving behind my frustration with social situations. I remembered in abnormal psych learning about how some kids (I don’t remember what disorder we were talking about) work really hard to catch up and learn the skills their peers already have, but by the time they learn those skills, their peers have continued on and have a whole new set of skills that the child then needs to learn to emulate–this was how I was picturing autism…being perpetually behind everyone else, never able to catch up and just fit in and be like everyone else like I have always wanted to be. My mom has always said that being like everyone else is a bad goal, but for as long as I can remember I have really just wanted to be like everyone else. Being different draws attention to oneself, and I don’t want that attention and I just want to live the way everyone else does without being paralyzed and held captive by the intense fears that have often taken the reins in my life. I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea, because I believe that putting people in boxes can be very useful, and having a definite label would more clearly place me in the box which would let me know what I was up against so I could set up my expectations accordingly, but at the same time I was having a hard time reconciling this new information with the information I already had…I was confused, and I think I am still solidifying my opinion on what autism means to me.

The next time I met with her was the first day of school. We started talking about when I had to change churches. At first I was really glad we were talking about it because it is a very emotionally charged subject for me, and it is really frustrating to be innocently listening to the radio while doing something and hear a certain song come on and need to turn it off as soon as humanly possible and find a quick distractor, and it is really frustrating to be sitting in church and have a specific passage mentioned and just freeze but have to find a way to calm down without drawing attention to myself. I had hope that this was going to make the bad feelings go away so I could move on and not constantly go through life avoiding triggers that could send me into re-experiencing that time in my life. I quickly became very overwhelmed though. I am a fighter and like usual thought I could handle things myself…but I was quickly spiraling out of control and falling so fast I couldn’t even flail myself around to feel anything slipping past me. I continued to go through life like nothing was wrong, but there was something wrong. That Wednesday was the first night of Cru for the semester, and we invited everyone to the roof of the parking garage for a pizza party…people tell me it was a success, but I wouldn’t know. I got there at the time I was supposed to, but after we prayed and talked about our plan for the night, people were going back to setting up and I was trying really hard not to cry, and someone asked if I was okay and I lost it and started crying and said something about how I was overwhelmed with school and felt like I was going to fail everything. One girl tried to talk to me for hours. I have no idea how many people were there. As much as I wanted to hear the people who were talking, I couldn’t because I was still crying. I was finally almost calmed down enough to at least watch the last few people talk and play games, but then I saw Alyssa and she started talking to me, but I couldn’t say anything without crying again. She talked to me for a while and then I went home. She walked me to my car, and I went to my apartment and tried to go to bed, but I was too worked up to fall asleep. In the morning I emailed Michelle and told her that as much as I wanted to work on not reacting to the church thing, that what we had done was too much. The beginning of a semester always makes me feel like I am in over my head, but this was much different than that. This affected me so much that by the end of that particular unit in advanced physio everyone else had declared that chapter an easier one–and I thought it made absolutely no sense…I was so overwhelmed at the time I was reading it that I guess I didn’t absorb much information, and I am not sure if maybe the emotion I was experiencing the first time I read it put a block on that information or if it is just that my notes were lousy for it due to the issues reading and taking notes while completely overwhelmed or crying and it is not the material that skimming works well for…luckily in this case I got away without knowing it…so I had a rough start to the semester…not to mention that I also forgot to take a quiz that day–but enough people complained about unclear directions that I got a second chance at the quiz…

Also the first week of school, Rebecca told me I should ask to eat lunch during counseling. Eating in front of people can be hard for me, and eating in an environment non-conducive to washing my hands is also not my favorite, but I agreed…I mention this mostly because I might refer back to it later…IDK…

One last thing that happened the first week of school is that Michelle brought up the idea of me going to SLBMI…looking back, that should have been my first warning sign that something was wrong…at that point it probably wouldn’t have been too late to bail…I think working with Michelle has been really good for me, but there was one thing that happened in early November that made me wish I had made a different choice…She wasn’t pressuring me into it right then–just bringing it up as a choice…

A few weeks later I got back the results from my first micro exam…and it was awful–most of my problems came in not understanding the directions on the page worth most of the points, so that made it especially frustrating because until I talked to the teacher I didn’t even know why I had gotten so much incorrect…I was really frustrated and scared and started getting close to hurting myself. As hard and frustrating as this was, it led to a HUGE success. I know people tell me that when I feel like hurting myself I should reach out and ask for help, but I usually end up pulling into myself and trying to get through it alone. I guess part of it is that socially reaching out can be really hard so when a lot of the triggers were social it didn’t make sense to try stretching myself even further, and even now that most triggers are more school-related I feel that I need to be cautious and protect myself from further stress that could push me beyond what I can handle. The other part of it is that I don’t want to bother or scare or stress out anyone, I don’t really know what anyone else can do to help besides just BE there, and because of what has happened other times I have shared, I am afraid of having it used against me. So it was a great success when I let Michelle in on what was going on and asked for help. Most of what she actually said just made me feel more stupid and frustrated, but her encouragement that she was glad I had talked to her about it let me feel like I could at least do SOMETHING right even if I was failing at everything else, and really I think most of what I need is just presence while I am struggling, I guess so that I am not fighting alone. I used to say that it doesn’t matter if I am with people or not because I could hurt myself right in front of someone and they would never have to know about it, but I realize now that someone else there does help, because I think my conscience would kill me if I hurt myself in front of someone who knew about that but didn’t tell them…and I don’t want to mess up and have to tell anyone.

While I was very proud of myself for sharing, this pride was very short lived. The very next meeting, Michelle told me that she was considering refusing to see me and tell everyone else on campus to do likewise because she didn’t think I was making any progress. And that meeting came late…but that wasn’t such a big deal because it ended up meaning that I could immediately be with Alyssa afterwards…plus Michelle told me she wasn’t going to be there at the usual time a few hours in advance which, while not ideal, is a lot better than Brittani’s 15 minutes past start time email that she was going to be late once and I could either reschedule or meet until I needed to go…she was usually a couple minutes late, but by 15 minutes later I was about to email her to ask where she was/if I messed something up…anyway, so she said we could meet a few more weeks and if I still hadn’t made progress we would take a break…I was really upset by this. I can’t speak to her perspective, but my perspective was that she didn’t understand that self-injury has a been a fight I have been battling for years, and while I did ask for help, that is a sign of progress, not a sign that I am too far gone for help. She might not have seen me reach out for help with the SI before, but that isn’t because the desire was never there–it was only because I wasn’t willing to share about it yet. The insinuation that I hadn’t made progress was especially frustrating. I am so excited with how much progress I have made. Who I am now is very different from who I was when I started, and not only have I seen it, but other people have commented on it as well. People who don’t even know I have been struggling with things and been getting help have commented on noticing that I have gotten more confident and that I walk more–they attribute the change to other factors obviously, but they notice, so for someone I am working with every week to tell me I am actually not making progress made me somewhere between mad and confused. I don’t understand how someone could not recognize how far I have come, which led me to conclude that the progress was seen but being intentionally ignored to get rid of me which made me mad. Alyssa told me that a more likely explanation is that because the first years this year have had a lot of issues that Michelle has been very busy and was trying to tell me I was doing well enough to be on my own so that she would have time to help someone who needed it more than I did…I wanted to believe Alyssa, but selfishly I still wanted my place in counseling because I knew I still had a long way to go to completely fit in the way I wanted to. Additionally, Alyssa was helping me already way more than she should have to, and I didn’t think it was fair for her for me to be dependent upon her to function, and I thought that without counseling I was probably either going to abandon her completely or end up depending on her even more (It can be hard to tell what will happen with me because so many things are fighting within me). Also, on my cru leadership applications I have been saying that I will not fulfill most of the requirements because socially that is beyond my abilities, and they have been willing to accept that I cannot make it happen right now, but they also know that I am in counseling, and I think the expectation is that I will continue and I was told at the end of last spring that the goal is that by the time I finish at STLCOP that I have attended at least one fall getaway, DCC, or big break. No one is going to force me into it, but they would like me to give it a chance before I am done. The next day I met with Blair and told her about it and she reminded me about Karis house and how they have free lay counseling if I want to try that. I didn’t want to have to do that, because I still wanted to work with Michelle, but it was really good to know I had an accessible option open. That week, just in case I needed it, I started working on the notes I would put in my Karis house application, and on a letter to Brittani in case I decided to go back to her.

Luckily, the next week I shared my concerns and frustrations, and Michelle agreed that she had been wrong about me not having made any progress, and said she would continue to meet with me as long as I felt it was helping me and wanted to meet with her. I felt good about that resolution, and completely moved on. I think it was very important that I not be cut off because that would have validated to me that letting people know when I am struggling is bad and something to be avoided, and even though I know that you are supposed to let people in for support when you are struggling, my attempts at doing so have been used against me so many times that I think this would likely have been the last straw and no one would get to see anything but successes if I could help it…I also told her that the reason I share successes is partly because otherwise it seems like counseling turns into tell [name redacted] everything she isn’t good enough at, and partly because it makes Betsy really excited and I like making people happy. (I told her that because she had said something about it the week before)…She told me not to write the successes anymore, I think she said because she didn’t need them or something, but I had no intention of stopping with writing my successes, because what she sees as my counseling topics, I have always seen (hence the title I have always given the document) as my questions and comments. I have trouble speaking to people in person, so the way I participate and the way my thoughts get heard in counseling is through what I write in that document in response to what happened the week before. I believe part of conversation is sharing things you are excited about, and therefore did not really intend to delete all of those items from my notes. They may be higher on the list for deletion when I was running out of space on the page, but they were not going to be completely deleted unless I agreed with the reasoning. I’ve been fed a lot of stories that I naïvely believed, so I was not going to let go of sharing successes if I was not close to 100% sure that it was not going to turn counseling into telling me what I was doing wrong…

I had one more session with her before fall break. At this session I brought some papers that I decided I was willing to part with if she thought I didn’t need them, because I have always had a problem with getting rid of things, especially papers, and the papers at that point were starting to accumulate faster than I could keep up with. I had gone through the papers many times already to throw away the things I could convince myself I really didn’t need, and to take out anything that I was not willing to part with…I use pictures of people to help me practice my speeches to slowly make the idea of giving the speech to actual people a little more real at a time by starting with maybe just one person who I feel really safe with on the page, and changing who is on the page or adding people to make it progressively more difficult…I had a page in the pile that was a collection of picture of people who would be supportive of me, people who would be in my real audience, and people who I kind of knew but wouldn’t be very comfortable performing for–and Michelle was on that page. When I realized that I braced myself to be yelled at–but I didn’t get in trouble. Second year when Brittani found out that I had used her picture for something similar she freaked out and yelled at me for pretty much the rest of our meeting that day that that is not okay. That was possibly the only time she ever apologized for getting mad at me though–the next week she told me that she still felt that it was inappropriate but that she had over-reacted. Then she started saying like haven’t we talked about this before, and although I didn’t really respond what I as thinking was umm no, first year you randomly told me one day you didn’t want to be friends with me on facebook which I agreed to since I didn’t know you well enough at the time to have any desire to friend you whatsoever, but we have never talked about whether it was okay for me to borrow a picture for like two days that you posted on the internet for the world to see for months…anyway, I was braced for an attack when I realized the picture with Michelle was in there, but she didn’t get mad at me…she wanted to know why I had it and when I had used it, but there wasn’t any insinuation that what I did was bad, just a sense of trying to understand. She said later that she wasn’t mad at me because my use of the picture was intended to be supportive not to pry into her life, so that is okay.

So then there was fall break. Fall break should have been a great time to relax a little but mostly work really hard and maybe even get ahead a little in classes…that would have been great except when I came to school on Monday everyone was not gone like I expected them to be…that wasn’t really a big deal though and wouldn’t have caused a problem, except that Erin started talking about how cute it was that Emma threw up all over her and she asked her husband for help and he said no because she smelled bad, and she just kept talking about it, but I doon’t know the rest of what went on because I picked up some stuff to work on and my hand sanitizer and literally ran to get away from it, because I was feeling really overwhelmed, and I knew the more I heard the worse I was going to feel and the harder it was going to be to get over it. After probably about a half hour or so I had not actually looked at any of the school items I had brought with me, but I had calmed down enough that I could go back to all my stuff and keep attempting to study. The fact that Erin had said that she didn’t think Emma was actually sick, just that she had been coughing or crying so hard she threw up made me able to convince myself there was a possibility I was safe. I was still scared, but it was manageable at that point. I knew Michelle was not at school that day and someone had said something about her not being at some event, but I was perfectly happy to assume she was not there because of spending time with her family over fall break, because a lot of times people take time off for fall break.

My ability to deal with it changed with the events that happened the next day. I was already stressed out and on guard due to the previous day’s events though I was not overwhelmed and not in crisis mode…then people started showing up…and with the people came the stories. Erin had the stomach flu–she was not faking, she got thrown up on, plus Michelle had the stomach flu too.

I do not know if it is a good idea for me to be writing about this, because I really want to be able to share about this, but thinking about it right now is greatly diminishing my sense of safety. When things happen I gradually go back to normal because every extra tiny margin of safety requires an intense extra level of effort and energy, and because I try to get myself to forget about the danger…so I am going to abbreviate this as much as I can while still telling the story somewhat coherently, because I really like having skin on my hands and would like to keep it that way.

When I go into germ crisis mode life gets very overwhelming and difficult and many extraneous rules intended to protect me get set. As much as I would like to stay safe, I do know that I over-react, so the logical side of my brain fights as hard as it can to keep me out of crisis. This time, mentally I was not in a very good place–my mind was more than occupied with thoughts about the germs, but somehow I managed to not go into super strong avoidance…I suppose to anyone who doesn’t know what my germ freak-outs have been like in the past would disagree with that last statement–I still did end up with a very oppressive new set of rules for a while, but the rules were much more live-able than usual, and lasted a MUCH shorter length of time…

I stayed in the success center most of the day, but was very stressed out and all day I was trying to read a chapter of micro–and only made it about two pages from like 8am until like 1pm…Alyssa and I were planning on going to Applebees together that night, and I snuck up to her room to tell her I was too stressed out to go there, because I was trying really hard to get lunch in and it was really hard, and going to a restaurant where there is not much control over germs was going to be extremely difficult and more challenge than I wanted to take on…except that Robert was still there…I thought he had already left…I kind of told her what was going on, but I was kind of thrown off by Robert being there so I didn’t ask for us not to go. Alyssa tried really hard to calm me down, but I was not in a mode where anything was really going to get through…The one useful thing she said that did make it into my head was that if I couldn’t study there then find somewhere else to study. I had to go tutor soon anyway so I went over to Jones where I was going to be tutoring…and I brought a pile of sanitizing wipes with me…Dr. Vandyke came to check on me a couple times and I am guessing she could sense something was going wrong, but she didn’t really comment too much on it. I stayed there until it was almost time to meet with Alyssa. I found Alyssa and after some back and forth we realized that neither of us actually wanted to go to Applebees, and we both had food since she brought a bunch of food back from home, and I had never really finished my lunch, so while she worked on some things I stayed in her room and ate dinner, finished an email I had been writing for hours that Alyssa knew I needed to finish, then attempted to study. I was so stressed out that even being in Alyssa’s room wasn’t letting me be calm enough to really study, and her room seemed dirty because I knew she had been in the success center during the day, as had I, so we had both brought some germs to her room, and since she doesn’t have the same issue with germs as I do, she especially may have contaminated her room. I knew if I went home though that I was only going to clean, and I had washed my sheets the day before so I needed to wait to get home until I was tired enough to let myself go to bed without showering and changing the sheets first. At this point in the semester it was very rare that the sound toy would be not locked up when people were not using it, but that weekend it had been left unlocked, so I decided that I would borrow it because no one would miss it when they weren’t around, and it said not to touch it, but I was very skilled already at “I didn’t touch it, my sock touched it or stuff like that so I figured I could get it to Alyssa’s room…I didn’t account for Jo actually being at school, but I decided to be brave and ask her if I could borrow it…That was really hard, but I asked and she was totally fine with it. I intended to bring it back before she left, but I guess she left early so when I brought it back she wasn’t there…I emailed her to let her know it was back because I know if I were in her position I would want to know that it was back to be sure that it really had gotten returned…and she emailed back that I could have it whenever I wanted it!!!!! So anyway, I went home and tried to calm down enough to get some sleep and tried to plan how I would manage the next day without freaking out too much.

The next day I stopped by the res hall long enough to pick up some sanitizer wipes and then went to all of my classes for the day to wipe down my desk and other areas my belongings or I may have to touch. Then I went to my first class to set my stuff down and went outside to eat breakfast…I had good intentions of studying while I ate, but it was a bit cold outside to attempt to do anything besides get some food in my mouth. When I couldn’t take the cold anymore I went back inside and went on with the rest of my day. I tried really hard to concentrate all day…but that afternoon I had a meeting with Michelle…when I have even the slightest thought that someone *might* be sick I usually avoid them, so knowing that Michelle had been sick meant that really I wanted to completely avoid the success center and first floor hallway in as much as possible, and when I needed to be there I would try as hard as I could to make it fast and not breathe…so being in the same room as someone who had definitely been sick AND talking was terrifying. I knew if I didn’t do it then that I would never come back, because one of the things I do when I am really freaked out about germs is research the stomach flu–I probably end up seeing the same things each time, but I am always on the lookout for ways to avoid it and/or stories about how scary it is…so especially at times when I am stressed out, I am very much aware that the person continues to shed germs for weeks after he or she feels better and depending on the variety of stomach flu bug can also be contagious for a few days before he or she gets sick. These germs can live for months or longer on surfaces, and depending on the specific bug, it is possible that even one cell is enough to cause symptoms–a single sneeze contains millions or more bacteria and viruses…hand sanitizer and hand washing supposedly remove about 99.9% of those germs and bacteria which means A LOT is left over…some germs can even multiply in cleaning solutions!…so while waiting a week might have seemed like it would be easier, in reality giving myself a pass once to avoid the germs would make it really hard for me to convince myself to ever go back–and I knew that would be a bad decision…so that was really scary. Michelle let me go early, because she could tell how hard it was for me. She said she wished I would have talked more but that she understood that it was hard for me just to come. I left and went to the study room which was where I decided was the safest place I had access to where I would be able to study. I made it there, kicked the door closed, sat down with my knees pulled against my body and rocked for a few minutes until I calmed down enough to get my shoes off and turn on simplyRain and some music and use some hand sanitizer and continue to rock and calm down…Once I felt like I could breathe again I tried really hard to get some studying and stuff done…my mind was still stuck in how dirty I was, but I knew I needed to get stuff done so I kept working.

I stayed overnight with Alyssa like I usually did on Wednesday nights…in the morning I used Lysol on the shirt I use to make it seem safer to borrow Alyssa’s pillow because my hair was disgusting from having been near Michelle, and I hadn’t washed it before going to bed but didn’t want to have to remember to bring a clean shirt back to sleep with the next week…I had decided that the only safe place to eat would be outside because UV kills germs…unfortunately, it was not only cold, but rainy, so I couldn’t go outside. I borrowed the noise toy and tried to get cheerios in my mouth in the study room…I think facing my fear so head on by meeting with Michelle really helped me to force myself to get back closer to normal a lot faster–by Friday I was willing to (after using a lot of sanitizer wipes) use the success center to study again, use the first floor sink and microwave, and not run past Michelle and Erin’s offices holding my breath…I still am not totally feeling comfortable about germs in respect to Michelle and Erin and the success center, and there are some rules as usual that have stuck, but mostly I got past it and my life became much more live-able a lot more quickly than usual…from the outside my life appeared to pretty much go back to normal rather quickly and never get as bad as it had been in the past though from the inside it was still extremely intense and I am pretty sure it was no less bad than previous times, and possibly even worse…

Haha yeah, I was going to try to keep it short and that is how much I had to say…I guess it is a good thing I didn’t try to write everything or I’d be writing for months!

Since maybe mid-to-late-September or so I had been supposed to pick items from my questions and comments list for Michelle and I to talk about during our meetings. That was getting really frustrating and I was feeling like I couldn’t measure up to Michelle’s standards for me which was making me feel like a failure every week. The first week in November I finally got up enough courage to tell her that I really wanted something to change. I was really scared to ask for a change, but I also knew that I had been scared to tell Elisha how frustrated and anxious I was getting and when I finally did things got a LOT better, and I didn’t know how to tell Brittani that I was writing things every week to share though she was very rarely getting anything from me, but when I kind of let her find that out for herself by stupidly sending her the document I had stopped deleting things from over break, she started reading what I wrote each week which gave me a way to communicate, so I was hopeful that this was going to make things work better as long as I didn’t impulsively decide to delete that comment and find something else to write. Unfortunately, Michelle told me that if this was feeling too hard for me then she wasn’t helping me enough and we couldn’t meet for the next two weeks. I tried really hard to convince her otherwise, because she had said before that we could meet until I didn’t want to anymore and I still wanted to, and she said that I let other people make decisions for me too much so I was trying as hard as I could to be the one making this decision–maybe it was a test–but it was no use, my opinion held absolutely no weight with her. It was a good thing she let me go early, because I decided if she didn’t care then I didn’t need to care either and after I changed clothes for lab I washed my hands over and over not caring how much it hurt and stuff. Being in lab was very good for me to try to have something on my mind besides how frustrated I was–it gave me some time to cool off and think and realize that even if Michelle didn’t care about me anymore that that didn’t mean no one did, and I could still ask Alicia or Jo for help…I got permission to leave lab a bit early–probably because it was obvious that physically I was in lab but my mind was not present in lab–and worked on an email to Michelle because she hadn’t specifically said I couldn’t get help from someone else, but I didn’t want to get her even more mad at me so I wanted to ask her before I asked anyone else for help…and she pretty much said no…now I was really upset because she wouldn’t help me and was kind of keeping me from the people who would–she did not technically forbid it, but it was clear that she would not be happy with me if I did…that night as I was going to bed I told Alyssa about it because she had seen me crying and I hadn’t been able to tell her what was happening. She suggested that she had seen Michelle at school late a lot and Michelle is probably tired…I was half asleep for this conversation so I don’t remember exactly how it went but I do remember being close to crying as she was telling me that she ahs seen Michelle past Rebecca hours like even at midnight…and I remember hastily wiping away tears as I realized Alyssa was about to pull the covers away from my face to make sure I wasn’t crying…the next morning was the first Thursday morning that I kind of had off because I had finished my site visit hours…so I should have had a really good study session but I was so upset that it was really difficult for me to focus on studying. I wrote Michelle an email, she wrote me one back that wasn’t very nice, so I didn’t work overly hard at being nice back…

That afternoon I met with Blair and I told her what was going on and she suggested Karis house again and looked over the intake form with me. She told me that she knows a lot of people who have gone there and really liked it and one of her friends works there, and at Karis house they would never just cut someone off with no warning when the person didn’t want to be done yet. She told me that usually they schedule one meeting with someone who won’t be your counselor to just collect more information but as long as I wrote a really good background of myself like she knew I would anyway that I could skip that step since it is easier for me to express myself in writing than in spoken word anyway. I still wasn’t sure I was ready to go off campus and would much prefer to stick with Michelle if I could get her to take me back, so I decided not to apply even though she said I could apply and just tell them what was going on and that I was not planning on doing anything until the beginning of spring semester…

Friday I was still really struggling. In prof comm we were learning about suicide and as the teacher was talking I was trying so hard not to cry because what she was saying about people who commit suicide was basically describing me right about then…I was scared, and I started writing about it on my computer thinking that perhaps I would share it with Alyssa because I was really scared and I needed help but had no where to go…that evening I turned that note into an email to Brittani and explained the situation and asked to meet with her. She never responded, but it was helpful for me to have sent it because it helped me to regain some semblance of control. I knew Michelle hadn’t wanted me to contact anyone else, and once I started feeling more in control I started feeling really guilty for going against her will and contacting Brittani so on Sunday I sent her another email to apologize and to hopefully get the word to her from me before she heard it from Brittani, because I remembered about how Brittani told Elisha when I was having problems with Elisha…

Throughout this whole thing I was trying as hard as I could to study for an exam on Monday…I was re-reading my notes, re-writing my notes, and studying in whatever ways I could come up with…Although my heart was elsewhere, to an outside observer it was quite obvious that I was putting a lot of effort into studying even if a lot of it wasn’t sticking very well since when you are in fight or flight mode remembering things like the number of weeks of treatment for each infection for each antimicrobial is not high on the priority list…At one point I took a short break to think about what was going on. One big thing that was probably the biggest problem for me was that I still didn’t really know why this was happening. I didn’t want to be pushy, because I felt like I had already tried that initially and it had failed, but without a reason why I was really frustrated with this unwelcome break coming at a time when I really thought I was making a lot of progress. I decided to give Michelle some space and wait until Wednesday to talk to her, then present the facts that she wanted me to go away and I didn’t so I wanted to ask for a compromise and meet at 11 the 18th which she had said weeks ago was a time I could have, and potentially find out she had reconsidered and would let me meet with her that day. I knew second year she had said something to Rebecca in passing about having trouble saying no, and I intended to use that to my advantage because I was very set in this decision, and thought that probably for most people it would be harder to say no to me if I asked in person than over email, especially for anyone who knows me since they would know that writing is my modus operandum for communication…unfortunately Monday afternoon I found out she would be gone the rest of the week…so that plan wasn’t going to work very well…but I decided that I would email her on Tuesday, acknowledge that talking in person would be better, and state my case…She eventually emailed me back with a time, except that it was not a time I was available…I tried changing it, but when it didn’t seem to be working I was afraid she was going to change her mind and worked on becoming available at that time…and of course it wasn’t too long after I had worked it out that she emailed me back with a time that would work–but I was happy to send another email un-excusing myself from biology help session…so yeah, that happened…oh, and the Monday exam…ouch…it was rather obvious I was not fully present for it…as I was going over it with the teacher I would explain exactly why each answer choice was right or wrong…and be completely correct–apparently the information did stick–but have answered something totally stupid…as always there were also a few that I got completely correct that I just didn’t write the way he thought it in his head and therefore got no points for, but it was really frustrating that something I couldn’t control that wasn’t really even my fault had messed up my grade…I knew considering how I was feeling when I took it I should be grateful for what I answered correctly, but I didn’t really want to be grateful, I wanted to not be stupid and to have the right answers.

So we did come to a compromise and I met with her a week from that Thursday so that she got a break from me but I didn’t have to take too many frustrated weeks off of counseling and could get some closure on the situation. She was willing to take me back on the condition that I do not say “I don’t know” and that I keep talking…and we decided that it was okay if I didn’t choose things from my notes to talk about.

I think it was that next week that Michelle had me make a call during our meeting. Because I get so stressed out when I am making a call, especially since I couldn’t express any frustration by complaining about it since I had promised myself that anything reasonable that Michelle asked me to do I would do, as soon as I ended the call I kind of fell into myself and Michelle tried to get me to talk and I wasn’t really saying anything because I was struggling just to focus on what she was saying enough to comprehend the words and didn’t really have enough energy yet to put into thinking of a response putting it into words and verbalizing it…I was really scared she was going to get mad at me and get rid of me forever this time…instead she said that each week she would have me make another call that was maybe a little more difficult each time…so the next week I came stressed out about making another call…oh wait, I mean I came prepared to make another call 🙂 …except she didn’t have me call anyone…I was a little frustrated about that because I had this plan in my head that I was going to call my best friend on my way home and so I wanted practice making calls and am not mean enough to myself as to make myself make a call when I don’t have to, plus I was kind of craving skittles which are my treat for doing good things like making a call…so that night I took a break from studying to go to community group because I decided that would be good enough to earn me my skittles…

The next time I met with Michelle was after I was done with finals…we role-played calling Betsy…Michelle doesn’t make a very realistic Betsy, but it did make it a little more approachable to call Betsy on my way home, and it was also kind of nice that instead of helping me script the conversation she had me do it myself even though I felt like I couldn’t do it–that forced me to figure out for myself how to do it which was hard, but it definitely made it a lot easier when on the way home from school when Betsy finally answered her phone but my computer died to be able to still talk, because I still remembered enough of it to start the conversation since it was in my own words instead of someone else’s…

That last meeting Michelle and I also set up a couple times over break for me to call her to get some more practice with phone calls…

So that was my first semester of third year, and that is where I am now!