Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rehearsed vs Live in SoCal: Learning to *pass* in an NT world!

I have been reading a lot on the subject of adult autism lately.  While there isn't a lot of literature on adult ACC there are some things observed in both our populations. What is important for me to relate today is how adults, learning how to pass as an NT, how to fit in and not be noticed.  One unfortunate result of this is how the skill to pass as "normal" has many of us being misdiagnosed with various disorders, (that may be co-morbid but masking the disability.)  This is why many of us don't receive an accurate diagnoses until later in in point I was 46 when the neurologist discovered my ACC and I was diagnosed with an ASD.

I've had to really work on my bitterness.
It's well known that early intervention can improve outcomes, the earlier on life one recognizes ACC or ASD the sooner we can teach skills to cope or even thrive as a person with a disability. I know had the doctors in my childhood had access to the knowledge about ACC and ASD we have today, my outcome would look vastly different.

The way ACC and ASD kids learn best (generally speaking, of course) is by rehersal.  Actually being prompted to perform the task over and over (far more many times than for an NT.)  Such things have a more profound and permanent impact on children's brains, than their adult counterparts.  We know today that the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord continue to migrate and grow well into our twenties.  The brain and nervous system is by its nature more plastic, or adaptable during these years.

The downside of rehersal learning is that this is how we learned to pass, or to imitate NT behaviors, even while we don't really "understand" why we must behave this way.  So on the surface, we get comments like "you don't look (insert label.)"  But how would they know?  The same is true for many medical professionals that are not at all versed in ACC and/or ASD.  Their attention passes over HFA (high functioning autism) and the need for any ACC diagnostics.  We go through the world like a billiard ball, bouncing off the walls, maybe even learning to cope outwardly, but inwardly we blame ourselves for how we are in the world because we have not been diagnosed yet. (Speaking of the many diagnosed in later life.)

This rehearsal thing has another side too.  I have attended and done very well in various technical schools, the latest was becoming a Notary Public.  But at no time was I able to translate these skills into a real life situation.  The "conditions" present when I learned are different when I am "working" and I can't generalize them over.  Many times adults with DDs perform highly on cognitive or social testing in a doctors office, while failing to be able to translate that into real life situations.  Fortunately there are more doctors specially trained to identify ASD traits, for example, despite the presence of all kind of coping behaviors.

In general your typical GP-PCP knows little to nothing about ACC or ASD, and how best to relate to us and worth with us in a way we can understand and utilize.  Having said that, things are progressing, just not as rapidly as I'd like to see.

Lastly, I just want to mention so that you understand, how exhausting it is to pass, we have to work very hard to do so, it is foreign to us, and I can say personally, a major source of irritation.  Imagine going through life feeling one has to apologize, not even for what one does, but who one is?  I for one, work diligently at being myself and shedding myself of the expectations of others.  One of the most healing gifts I could give myself. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Metaphor vs Meat & Potatos...the bane of literal thinking...

an example of literal thinking
In written form, I have less of issue with idioms, metaphors, euphemisms, puns, hyperbole, sarcasm, exaggeration and implied assumptions. However in communicating verbally with people it becomes really obvious that I can misunderstand. Even so, if I lack sufficient background information I can have a lot of difficulty even in written form. Just what is literal thinking, and how does it express itself differently than the thought processes of an NT?

There are two different layers to the meaning of words, their
  1. literal definitions
    & their
  2. intended meanings...
The literal definition of the words/images in question, what a thing actual is, while the intended meaning is where we get the term "figure of speech" from: a meaning different from the actual meaning of the words themselves. Focusing on the true/definite meaning of words is at the crux of literal thinking.  Those of us who process thought this way have difficulty in interpreting this second or figurative layer.

Those ACC and ASDs that are literal thinker have three distinct differences in their thought process in regards to

  1. auditory processing, 
  2. thinking in pictures, 
  3. & not distinguishing the whole from the part.
Within my own brain I have an auditory processing delay, revealed during didactic hearing studies.  I would wear stereo headphones, and they would speak unrelated words in both my left than my right ear.  It was revealed that I could not (neurologically) hear out of (process) different words out of my both ears, I would only hear one side, and usually it was the right side.  As well, there was a significant audio delay between the spoken word and my hearing of it.  This significant processing delay is apparent in many with ASD and/or ACC.

How it works is like this:
Language get's inputed (heard) and the length of time it takes to process non literal meanings is so long that the other individual is already on to the next word or sentence.  Given sufficient background information, this is why we can pick such things up in written text, because we are not going through the auditory processing system.

We also think in pictures.  We will even take the words we hear and translate them into "visual media" of the "thing." It is a picture, static, therefore literal, "what the thing is."  In order for us to think and understand the second layer of meaning, we have to translate words into pictures, change the picture and translate it back into words. Just consider the phrase "scared the hell outta me." It conjures up darkness and medieval images of Dante's levels of hell.  Imagine getting that out of your mind!

We also have trouble discriminating the whole from the part.  We cannot see the forest for the trees.  We take all these many pieces, like one would a giant jigsaw puzzle and start trying to piece the information together bit by bit, rather than looking for the intended (figurative) meaning within the context of the entire conversation.  We often can't back away from the details.

For example, let's take the English idiom "cool your jets!"  There is definitely only one intended meaning and that is to calm down.  The thought process I go through for just this might look like this:

"Cool my what? I don't have jets?  How hot are they and why do they need to be cooled? Where are my jets? Why do they need to be cooled in the first place?  Jets are cool! I wish I could fly in one! You know the T looks like a (jet) but the the J looks like something else!  What was the question?"

This all happening in two seconds and you're already saying something else...I get frustrated, felt misunderstood (because I can't "catch up" and communicate back to you what I'm thinking/feeling)...the process is utterly exhausting for me.

Some of us find figurative speech really upsetting  It confuses us and can even create unsettling visual imagery. Often others will make fun of us and mock us because we misunderstand.  We can even receive figurative speech as if it were a lie. Both in school and on the job we get pegged for "bad behavior" because we follow instructions literally to the word.

Please don't laugh at my misunderstanding what you said, and never use sarcasm. It can be stressful when you're the only one who doesn't get a joke,  at least take the time to explain the joke so I don't feel left out.

A day in the life of Joseph Galbraith...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Triad of Behavioral Flexibility

Something I have always had tremendous difficult with is behavioral flexibility; something common to both ASD and ACC.  The most successful people in society have the most behavioral flexibility.  While I have compensated and adapted many things over many, many years, I still remain rigid in regards flexibility.

What makes the situation even more untenable is the thought by others that I'm "just stubborn" or recalcitrant.  To be fair, I can be stubborn at times, like anyone else, but this lack of flexibility has more to do with executive function, or the lack thereof. 

Behavioral flexibility is like a camera tripod...if one of the legs is off, then the whole thing is unusable and out of balance.  Those three "legs" are attentional shifting, rule switching and response reversal.  At any given time, one or two legs of the tripod may be working, but the other(s) are not.  While I can't speak for anyone else, in me this produces brain lock, or causes me to freeze, to be confused, and emotionally raw.

Attentional shifting is the process of directing attention to a task to increase the efficiency of performing said task, and includes inhibition to decrease attentional resources towards unwanted or irrelevant inputs.  In the real world this most often has to do with task switching.  This is one reason I always had great difficulty when I would try to work in a job.  In any given job, circumstances come up that one might have to change their activity, adapt and focus on a new activity, then perhaps go back and finish the original task.  This is not something I can do easily at all.

"Multi-tasking" is a myth, not even NTs can focus on more than one thing at a time.  What an NT is good at is task switching, and the rapid movement of attention from one task to another then back again.  Nevertheless attentional shifting remains very difficult for me.  I've learned some ways around it in life, but even then they are not a consistent part of my life.

I'm often so invested in where my attention is, that any attempt to redirect it is met with anger, aggression, and confusion. 

Rule switching is similar...The way we do things, "use this rule for division, not this one", "I'm late for the appointment, so I have to drive on the freeway today, not the side roads."  I can think of the example of when I used to drive for morning coffee, I would always take the exact same route, and if I couldn't I simply would not go to coffee, because it went "against the rules."

Again, response reversal is also closely related to rule switching.  An example of impaired response reversal would be doing the same action over and over expecting different results.  "This didn't get me what I wanted, so let me try this other thing."

And related to this tripod is the general concept of cognitive control; the ability to recognize and understand the context in which an event is taking place and select the right response(s), to alert us to any contingencies in our planning of our task or conflict between two different sets of information. 

For example; driving in a residential area should lead to a change in behavior; the driver should slow down and become more careful, the light turns yellow, we have to either get out of the intersection or stop.  Cognitive control is the first thing to go out the window when the tripod is ineffective.

In all these areas these are common experiences to many ACC and ASD folk.  The overwhelming attitude we get from NTs is that we are "doing" this, we are willful, stubborn, recalcitrant.  It simply is not true.

This is so much a part of my normal process that when I moved to my new home a few months ago, I could not brush my teeth.  Because it was a different surroundings, different arrangement, my schedule had changed.  While I've always had trouble with my ADLs, and particularly brushing my teeth, the six years I spent in my previous home I was able to keep a semi-regular habit going, but just because I changed location I "lost" that habit.  Even when I would go away from home overnight, I could not brush my teeth.

That may be a gross example, but I want people to know how real this is and how it effects us.  This goes for any sort of daily activity, unless prompted I will rarely do it, and regardless won't do it consistently...all this is typed up with cognitive control.

On an average day (making the number up) a person might have 10 thousand thoughts in their head, multiply this times one hundred and that just begins to approach my mental processing.  When I am overwhelmed with stimulus and with cognitive pressure I can only back away, or shut down, or react negatively.

Cognitive therapy (talk therapy) has limited success with ACC and ASD folk, but some years ago I came across Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  DBT is a therapy designed to help change behavior patterns that are not effective, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings and behaviors that lead to the undesired behavior. DBT assumes that people are doing the best that they can, but either are lacking the skills or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interfere with one’s functioning.

DBT has by far been the most helpful of all the tools in my kit.  DBT can be learned in therapy, in groups, or by individuals.  In fact there is an outstanding book, and The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary, to help make these skills a (more) consistent part of daily life.  For adults with ACC and/or ASD I recommend this above any other book(s), the skills you can learn are priceless.  When these skills are mastered behavioral flexibility can come a wee bit easier (at least in my experience.)

I hope this post has helped you peek for a bit inside my head, inside my life.  Hopefully my experience can direct you to find your own answers in life.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Meltdown Madness; Sensory Processing Disorder & Cognitive Overload

I want to talk about the ACC and ASD phenomenon of meltdowns.
First we must establish that a meltdown is not the same thing as a tantrum:

In a typical tantrum from either child or adult, one observes that they have control over their
behavior, choosing to engage in it.  The goal of a tantrum is specific to something one wants or does not want...if the individual gets what they want, the tantrum can rapidly end.  During a tantrum the child or adult focuses on others around them, communicating, yelling at them and drawing their attention directly.  Typical in a tantrum the individual is looking for a reaction, can talk, negotiate but with demands and yelling, even hitting or kicking or destroying property.

Meltdowns, on the other hand occur when the brain is overwhelmed with stress chemicals and has entered the fight or flight stress reaction; the stress building up to the point that the brain overwhelms and loses the ability to cope. 

In a typical meltdown, the individual seems to be in a panic mode, has no control over their behavior.  They are unable to talk or problem solve, negotiate or reason.  Cannot easily or at all follow directions, argue with you, generally so overwhelmed they cannot even engage with you.  Someone experience meltdown feels unsafe and reacting from extreme fear.  If you try to talk to them, it will be nearly impossible to identify the cause of their emotions, or any wants or demands. The two most common causes of meltdown are sensory overload, cognitive stress or social demands that exaust the brain's resources.

Rather than what is seen in a tantrum, the individual is not trying to gain something they want, but escape what is overwhelming them.  They will often attempt to flee or escape the situation, but not seek attention. The only time someone in meltdown would become violent, hit, kick, bite, scream is when you try and attempt to calm or redirect them, if you back away from them, give them personal space, remove any demands made on them and stop interacting, the aggression will likely cease immediately. Unlike a tantrum a meltdown takes time to dissipate, needing time to escape stress, regroup and  reset.  The one having a meltdown often expresses remorse for their meltdown and actions occurring because of it.

In both ACC and ASD meltdowns are precipitated by fright and fear. Fight or flight is triggered and the person tries to escape the source of stress and seeks proprioception (physical stimulus, hitting, self injury, rocking and other behaviors, as these release stress chemicals.  During a meltdown we do not want to interact with anyone or seek their attention, and desire to isolate ourselves, withdrawing for the stressor(s).  If we don't feel safe, we act against the people or property around us to get them to back away, or release stress chemicals.

Sensory Processing Disorder is commonly found in individuals that are ASD and/or ACC and is a common cause of meltdowns. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

Cognitive overload is a situation in which there is too much information to process or too many tasks to perform simultaneously, resulting in the individual being unable to process this information.  This results in a reduction or elimination of the executive functions and higher reasoning, producing anxiety and stress, and sometimes even triggering the fight or flight mechanism mentioned earlier.

This toxic dyad, sensory over stimulation and cognitive overload are part of the daily life of those of us with Autism and/or ACC, and should be understood by parents, caregivers, educators and law enforcement, concerned friends and family (I can think of a few more), and it would make our lives so much better.  Those of us on the spectrum tend towards a lot of self blame and self hatred because what is constantly reflected back to us is that we are choosing our condition/social-emotional situation, that we are inherently broken and "different."

It does not have to be this way.  We can learn to accept the differences of individuals and allow them room to grow and thrive in their own way.  But in order to do this we must educate others.  I hope this post has done just that.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Ability, Dis-ability, Other-ability and Balance...

Finding the balance between independence and interdependence at 51 years old is just as, if not more complicated than it was at 5 years old.

Unlike typical children, at the age of "maturity" or 18, I was still very much like a 10 year old child (still am in many ways.)  After all, it is said of ACC to "expect their teens throughout there twenties."

When I speak about balance, I speak more of a homeostasis or a dynamic balance.  I (personally) don't believe there will ever come a time where I (or anyone else) will find "balance" and never experience imbalance again.  This may be an ultimate fantasy that I (and others) strive for, but it doesn't exist.

Having said that, my life has been a constant struggle to express my individuality, while still needing support for the simplest of things (in life, that are easy for neurotypicals.)  I have spent quite a bit of time over the years in my blog advocating the concept of "Other-abled" and I still believe it valid, but even us non typicals (in my opinion) should not use this as an excuse to ignore our real needs.

After the death of my best friend and soul sister Troya, I find this to be "on the front burner" with me all the time.  She taught me, and showed me what metal I was made of.  I watched her, while she was in remission take care of me while I was on my chemo/immunotherapy, and her strength changed my life.  She was often wont to say "I am not strong because I want to be, I am strong because I have to be!"  Troya had a focus of Will(power) that as yet I've not fully grasped in myself.  Yet her example gave me a pattern to imitate.

I think others are often confused about this issue as well, especially when dealing with disabled/other-abled folk.  People judge by their own standards, looking out of their own eyes, having walked in their own shoes, but rarely (can) take the perspective of the other.  Especially when dealing with developmental and/or mental disabilities there seems to be a constant prejudice that "If I cannot see it, it isn't real."

Many disabilities are "invisible" disabilities, in that you are not walking with me, day in and day out, unless you were "in my head" you'd never really be able to understand what it is I live with and cope with on a daily basis.
I don't (necessarily) judge people for this either, it is almost innate in the human experience to experience the world according to our own past experiences.  The brain craves (firstly) to put new experience on a scale and reference with our past experience.  Only when it is convinced it has never experienced it before will the brain take it in "unbiased" and unaltered.

Many on the Autism Spectrum, as well as many with ACC often are constantly judging our own behavior, over-thinking our every response and communication, because we already know that we are not neurotypical,  we end up judging ourselves and our communications over harshly and with bias.  Sometimes we need to do this, but often it just gets in the way and creates more problems.

ACC while known about for a very long time has only really received clinical attention in the past few decades.  Even so, we know more about it now that we have ever before.  This knowledge can give individuals like me and you (the ACC reader) more hope, more possiblities than ever before.  

Yet where I continue to struggle is the balance between evoking my talents, skills, strengths, and abilities, and recognizing where I fall short, where I need help to function in typical daily life and society.  This is not always easy (it really never is) , because it is so difficult for me to recognize where I'm needing help, I often need the mirror of others and experience to tell me this; and to be able to relate this to those that can help.

I can relate my experiences better in writing than in speech, even though I actually have a very high verbal IQ.  I can know something inside and out, but when asked (on the spot) to relate it, I often have difficulty putting it into words.  This has changed a little, for the better, in recent years, but it will never "be cured."  It is the way of my neurology and personality.

It really is a lifelong struggle, journey, whatever to come to some sort of a balance...being able to ask for help when I need it, and yet being independent and even encouraging independence.

Some would say, "but yeah, look at you, you've been intelligent enough in life and resourceful enough to put out the firestorms in your life" etc...but that's just it, I crave a simple life, challenged in a good way, yet stable and secure in another.  ACC can cause someone to appear wildly inconsistent, and I've never hid the fact that I am no different! 

I am fully aware that even your average/typical human being experiences problems with self-esteem and such, but throw on top of that this disability, and the fact I'm not always aware that I need the help that I need then life as I live it is constantly frustrating.  Human beings are always on this kick of bettering themselves, and that's fine, I'm copacetic with it, but learning to accept myself for who and what I am (or appear to be, at any rate) is turning out to be a lifelong project.

To be certain, I'm farther along that path today, but it has not always been so, even until my recent history.

Having said all of the above, I remain an advocate for the concept of being "other-abled."  In truth, it could describe anybody and everybody.  We all show up in this world with different skills, abilities and the like, we are all unique and uniquely suited to fulfill a role in life that can be acted out by no one else.  I believe in a society where this type of thinking should be encouraged, and acted upon.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

"it's all Greek to me" vs "hammer down the crooked nail"

I amused when I consider, it took the doctors fourty five years to find my Agenesis Corpus Callosum... I have always known that I saw the world differently than other people, but, how the hell was I supposed to tell them that?  That's like I speak Latin, and you speak Greek, and further more I think in Hungarian (I dunno, just picking at languages, to make my point lol.)

What I don't find amusing at all, is the we live in a society that spouts individualism, yet if it doesn't look like "my" individualism, than it's wrong.  Rather than discover how to speak a child's "Greek" to use the above metaphor, and to understand that he is thinking in Hungarian on top of instead we hammer down the crooked nail.

Our society is becoming increasingly focused on children passing a standardized test, yet not teaching them how to think for themselves.  One also has to consider that if a child does not fit into the mold society cuts out for them, they will be ostracized as the square peg in the round hole.  Is this really the legacy that we want to pass on to our posterity?  Those that society cannot hammer down into submission, are then shamed and hid in the darkness (of their minds, and of the world.)

This way of thinking finds its way into many different aspects of American life.  The disabled are seen as burdens, as not benefiting society, as not capable of doing so.  We are marginalized, and hidden; when we demand equal rights, we are told "we shouldn't get 'special' treatment."  And for those that have a "hidden disability" (it cannot be seen with the eyes) Americans often hold even more contempt...we use chemical to drug them into submission, with very little actual attention to the person or their disability. If this doesn't "work" we reject them, jail them, institutionalize them.  I am not only referring to mental illnesses, but also to developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, congenital brain defects and the like.

I can not even tell you how many times I have been told by people "you just don't want to try hard enough, there is nothing wrong with you", and other some such bullshit.  Oh, like I have 200,000,000 nerves missing from the center of my brain...yea, noooooo problem.... I mean what the fV<K, seriously?  I tortured myself for too many years, trying to "fix" myself, when I have never needed 'fixing' ."  I needed to accept the wonderful person I know myself to be, that I will never be  what my parents, society, or any "individual" wants me to be...I can only be myself.

What is even sadder, if all these were not shamed and hidden away by society, not only would they "fit in" or even thrive, no, someone might hold the cure for cancer in their mind and experience.  Someone else might solve the energy crisis and global warming in one swoop.  Someone might fill the hearts of their loved ones, with pride, and joy, and unconditional love.  Someone might smile.

All these many souls, send to the dark, forgotten places of society...they are our mothers, and fathers, brothers, and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or they should be.

The Victorian Age mentality in the United States (and many other parts of the world) is perverse, oppressive, unfair, dangerous to society on so many levels I cannot even count.  George Orwell 1984...from MY point of view, anyhow.

I no longer have to imagine what it might have looked like, had my condition been detected and I'd received early and continual intervention, ( not that my family didn't try, but information and resources were not available to them), what I might have become in life...I don't have to imagine, because I'm beginning to make a difference in the lives of parents with children born with ACC, and with those of us born with the very least, an ear to hear them with, so that they can be heard.

Over the next few months I want to do more research into this area, taping both sociological and psychological studies, as well as national statistics, particularly in regards to those of us with "hidden" disabilities, etc...should be interesting!

~A Boy With a Whole in His Head

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Best Video on Aspergers I've Ever Seen

Hands Down!

This is put out by the Aspergers Experts two young men on the spectrum, and is by far the best thing I've ever heard on it, it fits with my experience directly:


You can find them at

Sunday, August 17, 2014

'Orphan diseases/disorders' and ACC

I find it alarming, as do many of us with ACC that there are so many of us, and yet we don't get the media or public coverage that autism does.  After my Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnoses, I've gotten a taste of the many groups out there advocating for ASD.  To date there are only a few organizations devoted to disorders of the corpus callosum.

The one I have mentioned before, was very helpful to me in the early days of my ACC diagnoses, the NODCC or National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum.  There goal is to educate parents of, and adults with colosul disorders.  Every two years the NODCC sponsors a conference.  I've not had the money to able to attend one yet, but I await the day that I can be in a room with hundreds of people with ACC!  I am also ever grateful to Troya Patch my good friend and spiritual sister, who passed last October for encouraging me to learn about my disability, and further, to reach out of myself and help others like I am doing with this blog...I owe that all to her.

Even with the state of things media and public, there has arisen a few support groups, both on the web, email, and Facebook, of which I take part in. I honestly don't think I would have survived this long without them.

Even today, trying to find someone to advocate for me remains difficult.  There is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that I have learned so very much from, but there are difficulties specific to ACC that we need an "ACC Self Advocacy Network."  I've learned much from my friend Sara Oliver, born with PACC about self advocacy, but the learning comes slowly indeed.  Those of you in our ACC community that are reading this, we need to begin to organize in such a way that we can advocate for ourselves and each other.  I feel we need to begin this discussion now.  There is a "mixup/mashup" between many symptoms of ACC and ASD, and so many children and adults do not get proper diagnoses until later in life, and this really saddens me.  

I know myself, had I been given proper early intervention my outcome would have been different.  There is so much that can be done in the early formative years that becomes largely fixed after adolescence, let alone childhood.  It gives me great joy to see parents of PACC and CACC children actively involved in bettering their child's life, in learning what makes an ACC person "tick," and discovering our strengths and bolstering our weaknesses.

Let the discussion begin!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Web in the Head

One of my ACC symptoms I refer to as the "web in my head."  The spider, is my imagination, my thought stream, 3D holographic images, "real-time."  Such is a great when one needs to call upon creativity, spontaneity, and intuition, this is certain. Where the "rub" comes is that this is a dominant feature of my thinking process.  So much so that it can interfere with logic, and "reality" (the world according to everyone else.)  It is free association, gone a muck. 

The average or "typical" person may even have this kind of access, yet largely this is guided and held together in the larger frame of rational, every day to day "meat and potatoes" functioning.  My thinking process surrenders and sacrifices executive function, planning, organization and regulation skills and puts all it's energy into this web of thought.  The constant dialogue of the subconscious, with whom the typical person is only vaguely aware, but for me it does not shut off, but in my sleep.

I was about 7 years old when I realized that mine was not the mental process of typical people.  My peers in school had already begun to cognitively separate "the world out there" from there imagination, but I had not.  In fact not only had that begun but that my imaginative process only continued to become stronger and more dominant.  In 3rd grade I was laughed at and mocked by fellow students because I still believed a fantasy about space ships and aliens, which for me were just as real as the classroom we all shared.

I think I was about 15 years old when I began to comprehend that the world of my imagination did not (always) represent "reality" "out there." The famous Autistic author Temple Grandin refers to this as "her life in pictures."  My thoughts are primarily represented in very strong, vivid internal imagery, and often this imagery overlays what I am seeing, hearing, communicating.  This has led some to wonder if we were "on the same page" many, many times in my life.

I've often tried to estimate and describe to others what this is like.  One analogy I return to again and again is this: "my 24 hour day of thoughts is equal to your entire week...", over thinking in the extreme.
 I get exhausted so quickly with social contact, as the studies have shown I don't pick up facial expressions and subtle body language, unless they are overt and obvious,  I demonstrate an audio processing error as well.  

While all of this is clinically observed, it is difficult to discover which is the chicken and which the egg.  Phenotypically ACC can effect a person in so many different ways, are the autistic type features of ACC primary or secondary.  I've gotten to the point where that doesn't so much matter to me.  Getting occupational therapy, and DBT and other helfpul tools to work with it as it is, is so much more important than "understanding" it.

While I do rather well expressing thought in writing or monologue I seem to fall short in dialogue.  The entire reflexive process of communication, the "back and forth" of it doesn't operate with me like it does in neuro-typicals.  While I have a higher than average intelligence, and retention of long term information, I lack in the areas of short term memory transfer/working memory that is necessary for communications and higher logic, the "swap memory" that enables the brain to multi-task. (We do not/cannot truly multi-task, but the typical brain itself excels in it.)

ACC often shows up in confabulation, conflation, and correlation of thoughts, images and ideas that the brain creates in order to cope with failed memory encoding and retrieval.  I'm often, if not entirely unaware that this is occurring until it is pointed out to me by individuals or situations that my thinking is not in line with the evidence around me, what others see/think/experience of a situation.  The story in my head and the "solid world" mix, they don't collide.  

I do not and never have "heard voices" or "seen things..." or any of that sort, but the subconscious, internal, free-associative dialogue in my head is never silent, excepting deep meditation or sleep.  Most of you have some awareness of your mind's dialogue, but have never, could never experience it as I do.  Largely it is as if I have no subconscious, or at least not a singular "separately operating" one.  Real-time and memorex are always blending together...which results in easy quick exhaustion.

In my last neuro-psychiatric evaluation it was found I had rather good cognitive skills when tested in a controlled "steady" environment.  However it was also seen that as they put the pressure on, increased the difficulty and speed of task, my executive function flew out the window, and my ability to "follow' quickly breaks down.  It's like my four speed transmission only goes into first and second gear.

I know there are a lot of people out there the push aside the possibility of using medications to lessen symptoms, and I'll respect their opinions, but I'm pretty set in how I feel about this.  The chief of psychiatry and my neurologist have me on low dose Respiridone, an atypical anti-psychotic prescribed sometimes for ASD and ACC folk with varying results.  For me, the results are immediate and profound.  The "web" spinning out of control, happens much much less, I tend to obsess less on the confabulations, and it is easier for me to connect with people "in the world out there."  I've tried several times to go off of it considering that perhaps my cognitive skills would help me cope and think differently, but to no avail.

Sleep is problematic for many, if not most with ACC as well as those with ASD.  In ACC, we have trouble with any of the regulatory functions of the body/mind.  When the average person sleeps they go through several sleep cycles throughout the night.  After REM typical individuals "surface" to a very light sleep state, almost awake, and then go through the next sleep cycle...

I'm different...
Without medication I can easily wake up (fully and completely) after one or two sleep cycles...and this isn't a slow waking up, this is "all the lights are on, and the stereo is blasting."  Whatever first conscious thoughts are in my mind I will tend to obsess on them rapidly, not able to shut them down, and I'll become not only wide awake but particularly anxious and disturbed.  It is at this time (with the meds) that the web in the head spins out, full blast.  So, just imagine you go to bed at 10pm and your eyes open wide at 1am, your mind fully engaged in thought about something (could be anything, something simple to something complex and worrisome...) This is what I cope with on a daily basis.

 I am always caught up in a story, if not sleeping or in deep meditation, that story so visual, so innate and natural that it can blind, confuse and distort "the world out there."  Also when the spider mind is spinning this web, I completely forfeit my ability to comprehend Theory of Mind.  In short TOM looks like "I have these thoughts, thoughts are things, I can listen to, or ignore them, and the same is true of other people."  This is an a priori accepted "fact" for most neurotypicals, not for me.  Even amongst NTs one sees strengths and weaknesses in TOM, but nonetheless on some level it is still present.  For those periods of time where it does not exist for me, I become victim of my own thoughts and imaginations.

For me personally, this is one of those features of ACC and ASD that has frustrated me my entire life, drowning in the ocean of my imagination. I have spent a better part of my life perfecting DBT skills and meditation, they both help immensely, but do not "cure" or "solve" this issue.  Primarily my task becomes and remains one of self-acceptance and the rejection of a victim mentality.  When the MRI came back, and the medical doctors, neuro-psychologists and psychiatrists all came back with and diagnosed me with ACC (first) and ASD, I no longer felt like I was the out of control victim.  In fact, I was never out of control, I was living out exactly who and what I was born (in this body) to be, and that I need not be like, behave like, think like other peoples, and that my success will not look like any other's successes or failures.
“Everybody is a genius.
But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein
I know there are some ACC folk out there that clearly understand the confabulation I am referring to, and the web of mind, etc...and for many of us we thought of it as our "dirty little secret" too ashamed to, or simply unable to describe it to others, as many of us didn't understand until we were diagnosed, at adulthood...I'll say to you though that you are unique, and perfect as you are.  Doesn't mean that life will not be any more or less difficult than other folks, but accepting who you (I,we) are will go a long way (perhaps the longest way) in healing what can be healed...the harsh self judgement, even hatred, the frustration and anger...these things can and do resolve if we start with the base of self-acceptance.

Justa Guy

Friday, July 11, 2014

Encountering My Twin...

"Super Gabe" and I at the mall in Northridge, CA

I'm excited, I live in a somewhat isolating environment...I don't see a lot of people right now.  But my friend Sara who has ACC like me, and her son Gabe who is on the autism spectrum are both coming to spend a week's time with me.

It's not just that I've been isolated, I'm excited, because as Sara puts it, she's my twin, but with a vagina....and that's pretty accurate! LOL  Plus her son doesn't have a dad in his life, and he really has fun and attention when he's with me.

We took him to the ocean for the first (that he could remember) time this first he was scared, then Sara said that he wouldn't stop talking about it afterwards.

Where I live, there is a local water-slide, and I'm hoping that he loves that too, I know I will!

Sara and Gabe!
When I say "twin" I mean more of a fraternal than and identical one.  Sara is her own person, and she is different from me in many important ways.  While she has ACC, and has a similar affect as I do in many ways, she's played it out differently.  

She has three great kids, and I couldn't for the life of me imagine raising kids.  Perhaps I could now, but I'd been without proper guidance for so long I'd not built up the skills and tolerances that she had.  When I think about the awesome responsibility of raising children, it just dumbfounds me.

I won't speak for Sara, although I'm sure she'd agree, there is something really special that two ACC folks can share that no one else can possibly understand (accept for another ACC folk.)  It is at once life affirming and and self affirming for us to be around each other.

When she and I would hang at the mall together with Gabe, we would just tear the place up, become chatterboxes and enjoy each other's company immensely, not something I do easily with others.

I feel that it is of utmost importance for ACC adults to have some kind of connection to their peers.  the NODCC .  There is the National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum to which most of us belong.  They have a meeting every two years for parents of ACCers as well as ACC adults.  I've not yet been able to attend, be it for time or money, but I'm hoping I can go to the one in two years (I'll have missed this one.)

I find it frustrating that the ASD "side of me" has been so researched, and well funded, but ACC is still considered an "orphan illness," really rare, but this isn't the case in truth.  Science says that between 10-14 thousand births, one is born with a disorder of the Corpus Callosum.  That really is not very rare.

This is horrible, actually, that ACC is not scanned for and more identified.  As I've mentioned in other posts, even the most well adjusted ACCer has cognitive and behavioral traits in common.  There are many walking around diagnosed, some with severe problems in life, as I had before I was diagnosed properly.  Not only do these walk around in life with self judgement and guilt, unnecessarily, but early intervention is always key to a better outcome in life.

When I was a kid, Neurologists were trained that if they detected ACC, they many not even inform the parents of it, if the child appears "normal."  The difficulty with that is that it isn't until age 11 or 12 that much of the ACC affective traits become obvious, and all that time will have been wasted.  Neurologists are not all that much better today, but there isn't an outright dismissal either.  To be fair, it is only in the recent two decades that any research regarding those born with ACC might help make a difference in lives.

I'm working on plans to spread public awareness of ACC including tv/entertainment coverage.  It is what is really needed.  So much more research and development and intervention needs to occur that is still waiting in the wings.

15 hours and counting, SO excited to see you guys! <3

Justa Guy

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I wear my heart on my sleeve

This is a repost from a couple years back, in light of sanity and justice and GLBTQ folk beginning to have their civil rights ratified, I'm posting it again...we have far to go...but this sentiment still rings true...  :

It is sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern,
'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at.
~Shakespeare's Othelo.

I no longer apologize for who I am. I have always been accused of wearing my heart upon my sleeve, but as it is the only thing I know, it is who I am, and I am loved and accepted.  

Having said that, I regret some of the ways I dealt with my being gay, in regards to lashing out in anger angainst anyone who wouldn't accept me as I was, then rejecting them.  Given the history of my disability, while I find it understandable, I find it reprehensible.

Regardless,  I am so proud of my country, so proud, even be it political and calculating, yet still from his firm convictions, President Obama.  I don't know many gay people my age that could have ever even imagine a standing president defending our civil rights.  It is called a civil right, justly so, it is not up to the popular vote of the people.  Jim Crow was the "popular" vote of Mississippi, so should we still enforce that law?  There will come a day soon in history, where all of the "haters" and bigots will fade into history, into the background on this issue.  Thank God.   

I also acknowledge the pain of those, that are now standing on the wrong side of history...the pain of not wanting to let go to old ways of thinking, assuming some sense of "permanency" in an otherwise intangible thing we call the mind, me, I, and quite a few other appellations.  One day, when you realize that God is the God of Love, just as the Rabbi said, the scales will fall off of your eyes and you will look with the eyes of Love.  I don't hope this will happen for you, I know that one day it will, just not yet.

Let us be wary though...I recall hearing one media calling this the last civil rights movement.  I am very uncomfortable with this.  Let us not fool ourselves into thinking this is the only situation in which a minority is being biased against.  Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is the disabled.  In a country that promises life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, only 40 years ago, the disabled were routinely "warehoused", not permitted to work at an average American job, was not allowed to choose there own living situation or medical treatment, was denied equal access to public facilities.  Even today there is a bias deep in society.  After all, "that human is broken, I can't look at it or acknowledge it, I might realize I am just like him."

And yet, in a free society, I'm unsure if there will ever exist a moment in history where some minority is not persecuted.  The nature and texture of society changes throughout history,  yet the fabric remains the same.

When you look into the eyes of a stranger today, deep inside of you in your silence recognize "he or she is just like me", and treat that person as you would yourself want to be treated, as the Rabbi said.

Let all beings be happy and free,
~Just Joe

Striving for the Illusive Perfection & All or Nothing Thinking...

I have created sort of a never ending loop of expectation vs reality...This is not as abstract as it at first sounds...

I have always held myself to an impossibly high standard.  I'm not necessarily speaking this with my disabled cap on.  I believe that everyone holds themselves to impossible standards on some level.

Nevertheless, I think this pattern of life and behavior has been a great disservice for me.  It's prevalent both with those of us on the autism spectrum as well as those with callosul abnormalities like my ACC.

I think self shaming on some level is endemic to being an adult with ACC, particularly those of us that only were diagnosed much later in life.  We tend towards average and superior intelligence, although some are also intellectually disabled.  This can make it all the more difficult.  Unlike classical autism I think most with ACC wish to be social, while at the same time we clearly acknowledge we get those signals crossed and sometimes we don't get them at all.

To be clear, I'm speaking from my own experience. I have known other adult ACCers whose experience is similar. And then, there are those with callosul disorders that are very well suited in life and managing for all appearance fine (I don't really believe that though, there are some specific cognitive and perceptual traits present in all tested folk with complete ACC as myself, and they are present in the larger population.)  Their ability to cope with this brain abnormality is something I admire...

Getting back to my point, regardless of this I have always held myself to impossible standards.  That does not mean that I will not reach for the sky, but I have to acknowledge this cosmic meat-suit with it's unique wiring,  it's benefits as well as it's deficits.  If I'm not ready to live life as I show up, as I am, on any typical day, it usually means I am putting myself up against others as a standard.  This is something I think no one should do, disabled or not.

This is the standard I hold myself to; to thine own self be true...

I'm not perfect in this! :-) but it is now what I aim for in life.

This perfectionism is also present in my daily life in the form of rigid ways of doing things, repetitive, predictable, rehearsed...

On a positive note, for me it helps create a sense of order.  Its darker side shows in that when individual or circumstance interferes with the way things are done I'm left in a sort of "no man's land."  The rug has been pulled out under my feet and the world is upside down.  "follow-through" and "stick-to" circuits interrupted or not there at all. If there is any resistance to a mental or physical task, there's just a mental shrugging of the shoulders and on to the next shiny thing.  ADHD on steroids as one of my friends puts it.  With many of us then it is all or nothing. If this normal order was interrupted then I'm likely to completely ignore whatever it was that I was doing.  Self-defeating behavior at it's worst. (best?)

All or nothing thinking is also my reality, my attention very easily swayed from any task, my learn to easily give up, easily surrender.  I absolutely hate conflict, and will give in and just let an other have there way just to get the hell away from them.  I think much of this was learned early in life.

There is so much evidence with ASD  & ACC that early intervention correlates to a better outcome in life.  It's too late for me, but not parents of ACC kids, whatever your experience of your child, around age 12-13 you'll observe for the first time how affected they are socially, how they are impacted.  Be prepared, and you will make the biggest difference in their lives <3

Teach your child to trust themselves, to love themselves as they are, let them flower into the standard that is unique to your child.

I can say with honest forethought my life is good.  Where before I was in the position of victim, now I'm in the position of an individual I have choices, where before I had none.  There is great room for improvement.

as they say,
"The destination is the journey"

Thanks for listening,

Justa Guy

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Neuro-diversity, the (a) Final Frontier...

I would argue that prejudice against the developmentally disabled is at once the most acceptable, and yet hidden  form of discrimination on a social level.

Many my age grew up in  what some refer to as the developmental disability  latchkey times.  

I myself would only find out in my 50s that the entire truth was kept from me, and filtered  and kept from my extended family.  My parents knew of my ACC, and yet did nothing about it (even considering little could be done in those days, it identifies a major congenital birth defect.  

This is how the latchkey thing works:  "(s)he seems to be ok, (s)he walks, (s)he talks, so we'll ignore it."  This advice even came from doctors, betraying there own ignorance of the implications of something like ACC or ASD.  While my parents tried to help when I was younger, by the time I was 12-13 (the "magic age" in ACC when everyone who has a Corpus Callosum begins to socially integrate and mature, and we are left in the dust.  Having talked to many adults with ACC (particularly those more "visibly" effected) I hear over and over again (as is true for myself) that we doubted our sanity, more than once in life, before we knew of our diagnoses.

I have always known that I was different, speaking for myself at least; it was glaringly obvious from a very early age.  My parents, they refused to speak about or acknowledge my difference, sans only with the responses of shame, blame and anger.

The four common ways seen in society today that reinforces this attitude, and even is used to find this form of bigotry acceptable are:

Stereotyping, Stigma, Psychological Discomfort, and Pity

One sees the example of stereotyping every time someone shouts at someone visual impaired, even trying to ambulate them, as if they couldn't use their arms and legs.  A common stereotype one sees is that all mental or developmentally disabled people are violent or dangerous, or that physically disabled people must be mentally disabled too.  Finally, there is the lovely treating the disabled as if they are children.

Stigma; a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. It is a long standing part of Judeo-Christian culture promotes the idea that deviance from physical or mental norms is linked with deviance from moral norms. The Bible begins with the tale of Cain's being physically "marked" as punishment for killing Abel, and continues with numerous other stories associating disability and disfigurement with sin.  One need only look into the tales of the Brother's Grimm, Shakespeare and modern film to see this over and over again.

Regarding psychological discomfort, studies show when individuals are asked to interview a person with an apparent disability, there are more restricted in their communication, express views less representative of their actual beliefs, and  they will terminate the interview sooner than when interviewing the same person when that person appeared to have no disability.  Also people maintain a larger "body distance" from the disabled (or seemingly disabled) person, while if performing the same task with an "abled" person much more up close.

Now to my biggest pet peave, paternalization & pity:

Often people will view those with disabilities as neither incompetent, evil, subhuman, unnerving nor repugnant.  Still, they harbor concepts about them that result in diminished opportunity or outright segregation.

These people believe that the world is simply too much of a struggle for persons with disabilities, and, therefore, that they should be protected from its chalenges. Paternalism enables the dominant elements of a society to express profound and sincere sympathy for the members of a minority group while at the same time keeping them in a position of social and economic subordination.

The outcry that accompanies prejudice against racial, ethnic and religious minorities is rarely exhibited in regards to prejudice against the disabled. This lack of response is a paternalistic notion that persons with disabilities, unlike other minorities, "deserve" to be treated unequally.

Canadian studies found that, although two-thirds of employers expressed willingness in principle to hire persons with developmental disabilities, at the conclusion of the survey only 26% of them would agree to receive job inquiries from such persons.

Often people who would outright deny and disability bigotry, nonetheless respond in a prejudiced and exclusionary manner in real life situations with a disabled person.

You may have noticed, for the most part I have been reflecting on the visibly disabled.  I would also argue that the bigotry affecting the disabled in some ways is more pernicious and hateful towards those with "invisible" or "hidden" disabilities.

Not only those with mental or developmental disabilities, but countless physically disabled also have invisible disabilities.

This bigotry and hatred of the disabled can take most ugly forms.  One has only to look in the "news" to see this.  Who comes to mind immediately is Alex Spourdalakis murdered by his mother, and then his memory exploited by Eugenics based groups such as "Autism Speaks."  (Autism Speaks, does not in any way represent the scientific study of Autism, it's causes, effects, etc, but is based on bogus bs and pseudoscientific claptrap.)
Alex Spourdalakis, alive and happy

The concept of "normal" in regards to neurology, well, it simply does not exist.  The lovely little color charts of human anatomy and physiology that you looked at in high school (or even college and graduate school) are average or "typical" of human anatomy, to be certain, but only typical.  Anyone who has  been exposed to gross anatomy can tell you that there is a huge variety and difference in organs of the body, including the brain.  We are all individuals, we are not carbon copies of "perfect human body" or broken carbon, we are not.

Even taking into account the variation in genetic materials (your genome is unique amongst all human beings) there is also the individuals phenotype.  Your phenotype is your own set of observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of your genotype (genetic material) with your environment/social construct.

The concepts "normal" and "abnormal" are moreso a social judgement than a scientific conclusion.  They are rooted in the history I've mentioned earlier.

In 1973 the (American) Rehabilitation Act became law; prohibiting discrimination in federal programs and services and all other programs or services receiving federal funds.On July 26th of 1990, 3 days before my 28th birthday. George Bush signed into law the Americans with Disability Act. Prior to these laws being established in the United States it was clearly legal to discriminate against me based on my disablity.  Prior to this time, I did not have the legal right to decide my own housing/employment/relationships/medical care.

I for one, have decided that I will no longer strive to be simply "tolerated."  I am a (unique) individual, with unique gifts, talents and deficits, not unlike any other human being alive today.  I will insist, for myself, and all other-abled individuals, that we be allowed our place in society, be given equal rights, equal respect, and equal dignity.

It is time for mankind to move beyond this bias towards the other-abled, in all our forms.  The other-abled, may be your brother, or sister, mother or dad, relative or friend, perhaps not today, perhaps tomorrow, but they (or you or I) will be.  Those that insist on pushing us out of their sight, their memory, their presence, will be in the most horrible shock of their lives, when they find themselves in my (and many other-abled's) position, because, they will, whether or not they wish to remain blind to that fact.

Anyhow, that's enough of my thoughts for ya'll to chew on today

May all beings be happy
May all beings be free
May all beings know Peace


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can you hear me now?

I love Don Adams! :)
Sometimes it can be so difficult feeling that my needs are being addressed & heard; knowing that others just are not getting it. They aren't understanding what I'm saying.  

But   I do not necessarily put the onus on anyone other than myself.  You see, I have this internal disconnect, that was seen upon examination, between volition and action, or the the will to act in a certain way, and the execution of that intention. 

Think of it as A.D.H.D. but on steroids. On a given day I have so many intentions, and so few actually ever get carried out, sans some very basic and rote habits.

I'll want to talk to you about apples, but I say to you I want to talk about avocados.  Often I'll appear to say or do the exact opposite of what it is I'm trying to communicate.  I'll intend to go right, and I'll turn left.

I've spent years now getting neurological, medical and psychiatric support and while the skills I've gained have invaulably lifted my quality of life....none the less this will continue to be how the brain in this meat-puppet works.  While I have no doubt that I can can continue to have improvements I have to also be focused on working with myself exactly as I show up, and not some ideal picture in my head.  The "meat & potatoes" as the saying goes, the practical day to do function....I'm soon to be 52 and there isn't likely to be some magnanimous change...I feel like I should just "settle in" and continue to grow more comfortable with myself as I show up, and learn how to best utilize "me" in the world. 

I was born in '62, so I remember first run episodes of Get Smart with Don Adams...a comedy genius.  Pictured here to the right is the "Cone of Silence", supposedly to create secure conversations that no one around could hear, thing is, they could never hear each other either.  I feel like Maxwell Smart in the cone of silence!

I'm blessed to have known someone in life who "got me" and wholeheartedly and unconditionally embraced me and supported my growth and development, and amongst all my self acceptance.  If you have this gift in life, do not squander it, for you do not know how long it will remain so.  No cone of silence needed, in fact often we understood what the other wanted entirely without words.  Freaky for someone like me who has difficulty with the non-verbal stuff.

I'm afraid that such will never be my average or "normal" daily life again.

I am blessed to know others born with ACC though, and that makes a difference.  Folks with ACC fall along a spectrum of experience, yet we all share common traits that can easily be seen by each other.  For example, I have an ACC friend, Sara Oliver... younger than I, who has three children, one himself, special needs.  To be certain she has many ACC related traits and issues, yet she manages to do something I could never imagine possible; raising children.

I find it difficult enough to "raise myself," let alone three children.   On top of that, my friend lives with epilepsy and hydrocephalus that needs regular medical intervention.

To be sure, she hears me.

I've learned a lot from her though...Many with autism have a "quick to be self-defeatest attitude, and I am no exception to this.  This is the antithesis of my friend though.  She embodies the lifestyle of my friend, spiritual sister and mentor Troya, who said "I'm not strong because I want to be, I'm strong because I have to be."

I admit, I really don't fully "get" this, but I'm learning.  I've been so conditioned to accept complete dependence, even upon situations, so that if something is not to my liking, I'm immediately slipping into the role of victim.  Less so, today, thank God.  She's been a good example for me.

My point it, and I'm speaking to other adults with ACC: wherever you fall along our ACC spectrum reach out to others like yourself. Speaking of myself, I can learn from anybody.  There is nobody "greater" or "lesser" than I, we all have talents, skills, deficits and the like.  Observe and see how your fellow ACCer does something, and you might find a new way to do it yourself.

Until later in life, the only way I knew how to speak up, was in panic, aggression, fear...but I'm beginning to understand assertiveness.  Beginning to embrace self-love and care.  If I am not there to parent myself, then no one is.  I still find it difficult, I hate confrontation, and discord, so I'd rather live in a spirit of avoidance, or at least I have for a majority of my life.  My ACC friend proves to be a positive example in this regard too.  She also embodies the old "F*ck them, if they can't take a joke..." i.e., not apologizing for who we are.

Can you hear me now?