Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sensory Issues

I have some sensory issues associated with my autism and some sensory issues that I don’t know where they came from or what they are.  One thing that I know is autism is when someone is talking to me and I hear something else or someone starts talking nearby, I will lose my focus and have trouble concentrating on the person I am supposed to be focusing on.  This has been an issue at my current job at the grocery store because there are A LOT of noises from everywhere.  I’ve gotten better at focusing, but if something interesting catches my attention that is more interesting than my customer, then I have trouble.  When I was a manager at the store, I had to listen to all the intercom calls all the while interacting with customers, which was sometimes difficult.

I recently got a new job at a non-profit for people with disabilities.  I am struggling with deciding when I should tell them about my autism though.  I want to prove to them I can do the job before I dump my problems on them, but I also want them to understand that, for example, the sensory issues I have with people talking nearby.  I think I’ve come to the decision that on the first day, I’ll tell my manager that I have some sensory issues and will benefit from getting directives in a quiet place.

One thing that I don’t think is autism and actually don’t have any idea what it is, is the fact that I loud noises that I expect don’t seem loud to me.  Last week, I dropped a pile of grocery baskets in the lobby and it made a loud enough noise that it echoed, but all I heard was the echo.  This happens quite a bit with other things too, but that’s the only thing I can think of and the most recent thing that happened to me.

Here’s a quick link of some information about sensory issues:
http://www.autismtoday.com/articles/Sensory_Disorder.htm

The Correct Diagnosis

I had an appointment with the autism therapist yesterday where she confirmed that I am indeed on the spectrum.  I took a diagnostic test that I thought was called RADS (maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know) and in order to be considered autistic you need a 65 or higher.  I scored 110.  The therapist and I then went through the DSM IV and DSM V diagnosis tools.  In order to be diagnosed with autistic disorder with DSM IV, I needed a certain number of items in each category and I met the minimum requirements for each one.  So I don’t actually have Asperger’s.  I have autistic disorder or simply autism.

I wanted some help from the therapist about an upcoming job interview (that happened this morning), so she helped me brainstorm some ideas of what I should say and what I shouldn’t say.  I asked her if I should mention that I have autism because the job I applied for is with a non-profit that works with people with disabilities.   She said it was up to me and I decided I wouldn’t divulge it, at least not initially.

About the interview though, I thought it went pretty well, but I was still hesitant to get hopeful because I’ve been let down so many times in the past.  The interviewer said that she was going to call the top 2 or 3 candidates for second interviews and within an hour of leaving the building I got a call asking to come in on Monday for another interview!  I’m still trying to not get my hopes up because again, I don’t want to be let down again.  I want to be hopeful so badly though.  It’s just who I am.

Before my Depression

When I was in middle school and high school, I was highly motivated, crazy so in some cases.  I look back and think “Wow. I had such determination.”  In 8th grade, I joined the cross-country running team at my mom’s insistence.  My mom was training to run the Twin Cities Marathon for the first time and I was an overweight teenager.  My mom probably hoped that running would help me lose weight, but that’s really a whole other issue for another completely different post.  Anyway, I joined the team, went to every practice.  The first meet came and I came in last place, way behind everyone because I was the overweight girl running.  I continued to go to practice until the second meet came and the same thing happened; last place, finishing way behind everyone else, but still I trudged on.  I went the entire season, always coming in last place at every meet, but I went to every single one of them.  I still have the ribbon I earned for participating in the 2 mile race.  It’s in a box sitting on my toilet, which is an odd place, I know.

In high school, despite being suicidal during my freshman year, I never let that affect my grades.  I was determined to do well in life.  I was on the soccer team, still as an overweight teenager, I played clarinet in band, I also did softball and track and field in the spring.  I did this throughout high school (except soccer, I gave that up junior year and did marching band instead).  I never got a D or an F as a grade (except that one F in calculus senior year because the teacher wouldn’t help me).  I refused to allow myself to be average in school.  As I said, I was crazy motivated and driven.

When I graduated in 2004, things changed.  I went away to school where I would skip classes and sleep most of the day.  I had terrible insomnia.  I spent most of my time on the computer.  I was a completely different person.  I had fallen into a numbness; an empty existence where I accomplished little, if anything.

Nine years later, I entered the treatment program, still battling the same depression, that left me unmotivated at UMM, forced me to drop out, and eventually made me feel like I was useless, worthless and basically garbage.  While I didn’t get much benefit from the program, other than the nudge to get diagnosed with autism, it was two months later at my psychiatrist’s office where I finally got what I had been asking for; motivation.  I didn’t know it at the time, but my psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to switch my antidepressant and I said yes.  She put me on Pristiq and I tried it that night.  I ended up throwing up all day which I thought was because of the medication, so I decided not to take it anymore because I couldn’t call in sick anymore days at work.  Not wanting to give up on it though, I had a week of vacation coming up and decided to try again.  This time I didn’t have any problems which made me think I probably just had a serendipitous stomach bug that first day.

Fast forward two months to now.  The medication is in my system and I feel amazing…or at least better than I have been in so many years.  I feel motivated again.  I actually went for a walk today, I decided to change my eating habits and I did well with that today too.  I feel back to how I’ve always meant to feel.  I feel like me.

Autism and PCOS

I don’t remember what led to me being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but I went in for a very uncomfortable ultrasound where they found cysts on my ovaries and concluded I have it.  I am taking Metformin right now to “manage” it but I don’t think it is really doing anything for me.

When I was in the process of getting tested for autism, I mentioned I have PCOS and the therapist said “Good old PCOS…” and it made me wonder if PCOS is a comorbidity of autism.  I decided to do a little research and found a medical study called, “Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions” (I’ll add the DOI at the end of this post).  Basically the study suggests that heightened testosterone levels are present in women with autism spectrum disorders.  They found that “compared to controls, significantly more women with autism spectrum conditions reported (a) hirsutism, (b) bisexuality or asexuality, (c) irregular menstrual cycle, (d) dysmenorrhea, (e) polycystic ovary syndrome, (f) severe acne, (g) epilepsy, (h) tomboyism, and (i) family history of ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancers, tumors, or growths.”  Out of those conditions named, I have/had six of nine (hirsutism, bisexuality or asexuality, irregular menstrual cycle, PCOS, tomboyism [when I was younger mostly], and a family history of prostate cancer).

I’m really fascinated by the many common comorbidities that autism has.  I’ll explore in detail a few more later, but I wanted to post about PCOS first.

DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.02.001

Let me tell you a little bit more…

In May 2013, I entered a mental health treatment facility to manage my depression for the first time.  There the psychiatrist told me he thought I had Asperger’s syndrome.  I didn’t know what I felt at the time, maybe a little bit of denial, maybe a little bit of curiosity because a psychologist friend, who knew me as a child, told me she didn’t believe I was on the spectrum, and I believed her.

I had a pretty normal development, if you don’t count the fact that I stopped talking when I was 3 years old to everyone but my immediate family and a very select few friends.  I started talking again when my psychologist friend, who was the psychologist at my elementary school, intervened.  I was awkward throughout middle school and high school, having very intense interests like writing, presidents, birds, certain actresses, my pets, and TV shows and movies that had a love theme (like Who’s The Boss? [80’s sitcom], Notting Hill [Julia Roberts film], and currently Castle [Nathan Fillion/Stana Katic dramedy]).

I was very smart.  I got very disappointed if I ever got a B- on a report card.  I graduated from high school in 2004 with honors and a 3.6 GPA.  I decided to go away to college and room with my best friend at the University of Minnesota, Morris.  I loved the town and I loved the school and still do to this day, but I struggled being away from home.  I isolated myself in my dorm room the three and half years I was there, I rarely went to class and part of me regrets staying so long, mainly for the massively bill I accumulated.  I finally moved back home and got a job at Rainbow Foods, where I still work.  I am a cashier and I do not enjoy it at all.  It is difficult for me being so verbal and outgoing with people.  I do feel I was meant to be at this job for some time though.  If I hadn’t taken this job, I would still be very quiet and shy, I am still that, but not nearly as bad as I was 5 years ago when I started.

3 months ago, I was introduced to the possibility of being on the spectrum.  I made an appointment to get tested as soon as possible, which happened to be in August.  Now, a few weeks later, I got the preliminary diagnosis from the therapist.  She believes I am on the spectrum in some capacity.  I find out more information the next time I go in a week or two.

I hope this introduction to me helps you understand what I have gone through in this beginning process of diagnosis and acceptance.