Sensory Life & Suicide

On October 7, Psychology Today released an article discussing the higher suicide risk faced by those on the Autism spectrum. Talk to any #ActuallyAutistic person and they will share their stories of struggle, depression, and anxiety all resulting from living a Sensory Life in a sensory un-friendly world. Sure, it is getting better but the damage of the past still must be dealt with and our Sensational children must be protected to minimize the future possible damage.

Our mental health is vitally important to living a happy and contented life. We all HAVE mental health but 1 in 5 of us suffers from mental illness – disorder – imbalance … 1 in 5. So even if you THINK you don’t know anyone struggling with a mental illness, you likely, actually do know someone – more than one someone – who is struggling. And if you don’t know about it then they are one of the millions struggling in silence.

But back to the focus here – Autism and Suicide. These are extremely sobering numbers to read. According to the article, which is summarizing two recently published studies, those with ASD have a MUCH lower life expectancy rate AND are 9 times MORE likely to commit suicide. Well, duh … HELLO!!!! Living a Sensory Life in this world is hard Hard HARD! Since so many have refused to listen to #ActuallyAutistic people in the past, maybe studies like these will help our voices be heard and valued more. (It is an optimistic day here at the moment.)

The first time I remember wanting to die I was in 3rd grade. In 1980 the school district was working towards de-segregating the schools and towards that end started bussing kids from their own school district into the minority school districts and vice versa. Riding a bus, everyday, twice a day, is murder on a Sensational kid. The new school environment combined with no friends was a nightmare for me. Add the twice daily bus ride and I was in constant sensory overload. For the record, it is not normal for a child in 3rd grade to want to die. My own parents worked full time jobs and I knew I was on my own with no one to talk to. My body was screaming from stress with repeated cold sores forming on my little mouth which made the bullying worse.

Fast forward three decades, and my older daughter is now experiencing her second serious bout of suicidal depression. She has been taking Celexa for a while now but it is obviously, no longer working. Her first bout of depression happened in 2nd grade. It was the deciding factor for pulling her out of the traditional school environment she was in. She was picked on, not just by the kids, but by the teachers as well. Her father had abandoned her and the emotional trauma of the separation and divorce all took their toll. My beautiful Miracle Baby was sobbing in my arms and telling me she just wanted to die so she could have some peace. Has this ever happened to you as a parent? Can you imagine this happening to you as a parent? What about as a kid? Can you imagine an 8 year old child feeling like she wanted to die? At least she has me to talk to – and good doctors – and a good therapist – and a wider understanding and acceptance of the different kind of life we must live. Her mental health is the most vitally important priority I have as her Mother and Sole Care Provider. There are very few other people in her life that she feels a close connection to and I am grateful everyday that one of those people is me!

Moral of the story? Value your Mental Health. Value it – Cherish it – Respect it – and then do the same for others. And help to protect these Sensational, vulnerable children. Let’s help them grow up to be strong, and wise, and strong, and capable because their Mental Health is healthy. They grow up to have positive self-esteem and are able to advocate for themselves in an assertive way when we give them those tools as children. We have our entire lives to learn – to educate ourselves. But these early years – these first 20 years – are precious and vital to our Sensational kiddos future health and survival. We shelter them and protect them while they are young so they may emerge into their 20s as strong, healthy, capable learning machines, ready to deal with the craziness of the outside world. A generally sensory un-friendly world … #SensoryLife


No more SNAP

One of the long term effects of undiagnosed Autism is permanent mental health damage. It is far too common for serious anxiety and depression to be comorbid with living a Sensory Life. We didn’t know back then about the spectrum of Autism. That girls like me were actually on that Spectrum. My confusion about human behaviors started as early as I can remember. I wanted to know why people do what they do from day one of this life. Why? is my favorite question to answer.

My journey can be told using each decade as its own part of the story. After my divorce, during the end of my 30s decade, it was clear that my physical and mental health were at their lowest point. The damage done during my abusive marriage took everything I had out of me. This most recent decade has been marked by unemployment, single motherhood to two daughters on the Spectrum, chronic, disabling pain, horrible panic attacks, and serious bouts of suicidal depression. I like to joke that I entered the Britney Spears phase of my life – taken care of by my parents and the System – a conservatorship, only much less glamorous.

One of the ways I helped defray the costs for my parents was applying for Medicaid for my daughters and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – better known as food stamps – to pay for our food. We were given $400 a month, on average, for the last several years for our food budget. We looked forward to and enjoyed our “Food Card Day” when the card was recharged. Having that grocery money gave us a bit of independence that we didn’t have otherwise.

Now, a new story has begun in our life because I got married again. My sweet hubby works super hard – two jobs – and so we no longer qualify for SNAP benefits. Thankfully, we still qualify for the girl’s Medicaid and he doesn’t make enough to disqualify me from the local health program here called The Blue Card. It would have cost almost $400 to add me to his health insurance! Even more if we had to add the girls. *sigh*

So our relationship with food changes all over again. Why does this matter? Because in our Sensory Life, food is a huge issue. We are very selective eaters (previously referred to as picky eaters) and simply buying “cheaper” food isn’t really an option. Our relationship with food is a contentious one at best. I’d be happy with taking a pill for my nutritional needs. All this buying, storing, cooking, and cleaning up food is exhausting and brings us little pleasure. So no more food independence. Every purchase will be scrutinized and questioned. I will have to go back to defending my food choices once again – why is organic milk necessary, why is organic wheat necessary, why one of my daughters will only eat certain brands of foods (and yes she can tell the difference – no tricking that girl’s taste buds!) …

Hopefully it won’t be too painful. Hopefully we will come out on the other side of this change in a positive way. I will miss our food card and the food independence it gave us. I will miss being able to contribute to the family needs in that way. Being poor is no joke but at least it allowed us to eat with help from the Government. For that help, I am forever and ever grateful! Change is extremely challenging in this Sensory Life. We just have to keep moving forward the best we can and keep eating, although it is a complete pain in the you-know-what to me. 12662901_f1024

Living a Sensory Life

Living a Sensory Life is a lot like living regular, normal life, only louder – bigger – more encompassing – and often overwhelming. All of life revolves around a simply idea: Stress Management. Like many other lifestyle choices, properly managing stress takes work and practice. At first, every waking moment is evaluated. Each minute redesigned to reduce stressors, which, in turn, hopefully keeps the meltdowns from being triggered. There are few things in life worse than being triggered into a meltdown. Ask any kid. As a grown-up, I enjoy the unique experience of having a mixture of panic attacks and meltdowns. One can trigger the other and are often co-occurring. Talk about fun times!

All things affect all people, just in differing degrees. Over the decades of my therapy and research one of the most interesting triggers I experience can be the space weather – Solar storms, sun flares, full moons, etc. Sometimes such things can cause me to feel like I have been run over by a semi-truck or two … or three … or 18. Depends. National and World events can affect me too. Sadness, anger, anxiety … I feel it and it affects my life.

Stress management meant turning off the cable TV over a decade ago. Watching the nightly news was a guaranteed anxiety/depression trigger. Stopped wearing a watch to stop stressing about the time and live more in the NOW. No caffeine after noon to avoid any interference in a good night’s sleep. Learned to meditate. Journal regularly. Talk therapy – I’ve lost count of the different therapists I’ve had since age 18. Avoidance of crowed environments – parties, malls, grocery stores. The noises are a huge issue too. Going to the movies now-a-days is a no-go. Just too loud. And, of course, the pharmecuticals – but that is another blog entry.

So there’s just a glimpse of what a Sensory Life looks like. Just a peek. There’s so much more than you can know. Like all things in life, a Sensory Life is a two-edged sword. There is good and bad. It just all depends on what we choose to focus on.

I Abused Children And SO DO YOU: A Response To An ABA Apologist

Before you start reading this blog entry gather some note taking supplies, something to drink, and find a comfortable place to settle into.
Are you ready to learn about Autism from an #ActuallyAutistic person? Because, WOW. You may need to go through this in stages to really absorb all the information here. This woman goes on my Autistic Heroes list with Temple Grandin and my own two Autistic daughters. Ultimately, the answers are #Love #Peace #Truth and #Unity through #Acceptance


Diary Of A Birdmad girl

This was written in response to this article which was written in response to my first article:

You can read my first article here:

*CW: ABA/Autistic Conversion Therapy, abuse, torture (including graphic images and video of), mention of “awareness,” “recovery,” Autism Speaks, filicide, and links to all of this and other material that many people may find triggering. Please proceed with caution…

*CN: This is a very long read so settle in for a while (or save for later)…

Dear Condescending ‘Autism Mom,’

I’m assuming that’s what you call yourself since your views seem to be right in line with those who prefer that title. I also think it’s fair to make assumptions since you’ve made plenty about me.

Still, I wanted to sincerely thank you for writing your article, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” You see, despite the fact that my article contained language…

View original post 8,409 more words

House full of Autists

In the background the volume of her voice goes up ever so slightly. T-minus 10 seconds until, yes, there it is – EXPLOSION! “Stop IT!!!” screamed at such a tone and level as to shatter my eardrums and my nerves at the same time. Sensory break time!

Off we go into our Safe Space to remove ourselves from the situation and find our calm once again.

That is how we live life here. The volume on every sense is turned up past 10. Bright lights are painful. Loud noises feel like a dentist’s drill in our ears. Food is a constant challenge. Textures and smells are more important than nutrition value for us. Sandwiches are too many different things mixed together to be enjoyable, unless it is peanut butter and jelly; without that we would all probably starve.

For our brains, the world is confusing and strange. Why do people do what they do was the very first metaphysical question I asked myself, at age 3. I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since. Even have a degree in psychology so I can better figure out our strange and wonderous human nature. Mostly I gained a better way to categorize it all.

All my life I have been gaslighted before we even knew what gaslighting was. I knew I was different. Maybe people were trying to be nice and make me feel better by reassuring me that I was not different. But all they really did was invalidate my feelings and make me doubt myself and my intuition. It is something I struggle with to this day.

In our house we use words like Spectrum, Neurodiverse, and Unique. We are Highly Sensitive People and that is, gratefully, in this new, amazing 21st Century, not a bad thing.