As the end of the month is here, one can say that October has come and gone. Thank goodness November is just about here. I have a lot on my mind including a new placement within COTS, a Photoshop project and a test in abnormal psychology both due Wednesday, and trying to pin down the answers to some deeper, frustrating, thought-provoking questions. Where am I meant to be in terms of a future career, and how can I get the proper support(s) I need to thrive in a world that doesn't understand much less support autistic spectrum disorders.
Today, I contacted the volunteer coordinator at COTS and let her know what happened at MIC and the underlying frustrations of having a neurobiological disorder that my former immediate supervisor didn't grasp. She was very understanding and said that she would speak to her supervisor and either that person or her would get back to me within the next few days with answers regarding the decisions that were made and why. Still, the cornerstone issue that many adults with AS face is a lack of support for features or behaviors that come out into the woodwork without a clear cause of why; or whether certain behaviors exhibited that cause misunderstandings are due to AS or just plain error. Moreover, it has become ever so clear that if I'm to be successful in a "career" versus a "job", I have to have a team of colleagues and a supervisor who both understand and can support other employees with AS. This is tough and finding an organization here in Marin County or the greater Bay Area that works with this sort of situation is tough to find due to how new high-functioning AS is in adults. Places like Department of Rehabilitation, Marin Center for Independent Living, and Golden Gate Regional Center all cater to adults with various disabilities. However, what's most frustrating is that even their knowledge of AS is still severely limited. The key to my being successful in a career and in a smooth transition from graduate school to a steady career will be dependent on my finding an organization whose first love is a level of advocacy for adults with AS.
I've had dozens of jobs. I've lost every single one of them or been "let go". I've tried many academic and vocational programs where I wasn't suppported. I was a failure in the SSU Music Department because all my classmates were popular whiz kids with very intricate social skills I didn't have and the faculty I worked closely with hated me because I wasn't one of those whiz kids. Instead, I was a music student with multiple disabilities and anxiety that got me into trouble. The music faculty didn't want to promote me, deal with me, or even ackowledge to this day that I was a major in their department. The many problems I've faced from being unsuccessful in one academic department after another and being dismissed from one job after another repeatedly has lead to an even worse problem: the creation and sustainability of a strong professional resume. I couldn't even begin to have one on hand due to chronic job loss. How do I get a decent job with a problem like this--related to AS--which no one understands? It's a problem I wrestle with and receive no support for. How am I to get through a graduate program in MFT Counseling or Social Work with being on the spectrum? Will my counseling skills translate to nothing more than a life-long career specializing in AS and advocating for prospective patients/clients on the spectrum? My biggest problem is how to clean up a messy past that has left me dangling in mid air with no support? How can I even interview for a job when I don't have a track record to show for it and an underlying reason that no prospective employer would comprehend? This was the problem at MIC. And whether to disclose AS or not is a double-edged sword that proves to be both daunting challenging. In other words, I must figure out a way to turn a weakness and a challenge into a strength, but do I have to become Temple Grandin to do it? This remains the rhetorical question.
Becoming further independent and successful is about confidence. When you have a disability, however, having confidence simply isn't enough. You have to have concrete answers to concrete problems and firm support systems. For adults with AS, the problem is a facet or a part of you--more so than the NT world would like to admit. Having AS means having social problems and career problems. Having AS means it IS at the center of one's universe because it cuts into every part of an Aspie's life. An Aspie's job is not to make Aspie-ness go away. That won't ever happen. But in order for me to arrive at peace with this aspect of myself, I have to have confidence in myself. They say confidence is sexy to a woman. That confidence won't be within me, however, until I find support systems that will truly help me succeed--financially, socially, and in the career world. I have to roar like a lion and broadcast my Aspieness in order to become my own advocate if I want to succeed--until the emergence of disability clinics occur that specialize in autistic spectrum disorders. I know there is such a thing as a disability clinic in both Sonoma County (Santa Rosa) as well as in Napa, but there doesn't seem to be one in Marin County.
Lastly, I will say that not having the advocacy for a problem such as this one, has kept many doors closed to me, which in turn has kept my self esteem and confidence continually low. If I want a girlfriend, I can't have one. Because since being on the spectrum is such a big part of me and no one gets it, any woman dating me will have a big shock and adjustment not knowing how to deal with dating an adult man with AS. It may make them so uncomfortable that they decide not to date me. And because I can overcompensate, a woman could meet me and at first, be attracted to me. I could overcompensate and look and act like I have everything together. As a woman dating me gets to know me and discovers my AS features, her ability to support something like this will become very difficult. And there is a parallel to the work place: An employer or supervisor will hire me, but as I disclose my having AS, they are thrown off balance and either choose to work with me as problems arise or they choose to label and discriminate leading to being dismissed.
I've now just presented how having AS is a workable yet living hell. My challenge is to advocate and get help being advocated for.
Tonight, I helped my mother end the month by handing out treats at the door to more than probably sixty or so trick-o-treaters. This was our first Petaluma experience and now we know to double our supplies for next year. As the chilly autumn air coarses through the San Francisco Bay Area, we are all tucked in our homes on a chilly night, ready to embrace the start of the busy holiday season, welcoming in the month of November--a month to give thanks for all that we have and for being here.
Happy Halloween everyone!