Daryl Hannah Has Autism

I have been reading with vested interest the fact that 52-year-old Daryl Hannah came out of a spectrum colored closet (not that she’s gay, I wouldn’t know that), but she says she has been diagnosed with autism since childhood. Instead of greeted with open arms and celebration, she is greeted with speculation, doubt, and down-right nastiness.  People proclaiming to work with children, have children, and know children with really, real autism say there is no way Daryl Hannah could have autism.  I would like to know how they would know?  Do you live with Daryl Hannah that would give you expertise on what she is like outside of the Hollywood roles she has?  Are you privy to her personal life?

Those questions bring up another question, why do people care?  And furthermore, why is it when a woman says she has autism, it is met with ultimate skepticism, yet when a man says he has autism it is embraced and expected.  Women with autism have different symptoms.  Women with autism also adapt better to their environments, so they appear to be functioning better than their male counterparts.  And not everyone with autism has severe autism!  I get the benefit of raising a child with autism and having autism myself.  I know in my hear of hearts I have it– I also have it confirmed by three doctors, but that does not preclude me from seeing the negative side of being a woman with autism.

I feel that I have to constantly prove that I have autism.  So I ask how many Neurotypicals do you know that had to be carried to the car during rain storms at the age of 14, because they did not like the look, the feel, or the existence of earthworms?  How many children at the age of 5 made a city move the tornado siren to a completely different location due to meltdowns whenever it went off when she was in school?  How many young officers in the military went into a 30 minute diatribe how we should all run or bike to work on 9/11 to bypass the traffic nightmare at a staff meeting?  How many military officers that you work for do you have to repeat instructions not once, or twice, but 7-8 times, because they don’t understand the instructions the first time?  How many people do you know who pace back and forth when they get overwhelmed?  How many people do you know have to run 60-90 minutes every single day just to get sensory input (and if they don’t run that 60-90 minutes every day, they pace for twice that long)?  How many people do you know have a set of mardi gras beads in her purse, that when she gets incredibly stressed or destressed she goes in the bathroom and watches them as they spin around her hands?  In 37-years I have become an expert at hiding my symptoms and avoiding anyone knowing, I’m sure Daryl Hannah has done the same.  So why is it so surprising, alarming, and an intensely debated fact she has autism?  If she said she had breast cancer, would every one jump down her throat and tell her that she’s a liar?  Where were the naysayers when Angelina got her boobs removed?  It certainly boosted her acting career to have elective surgery, and everyone was so supportive?  Where is Daryl Hannah’s support?

This deployment is almost over…

It’s so close to be over, I can taste it.  I dream about homecoming almost every night.  I’m starting to tie up lose ends.  The roof is repaired, the contractors are coming tomorrow to tear out and fix the wall near the fireplace.  My personal projects are almost done.  I finished the backyard a few weeks ago.  I’m working slowing on my room, and my son’s room.  I hope to paint it this week, while the contractors are here painting the main room. I have been writing regularly, though not keeping up on my blog too well.  My daughter’s room is complete.  I sent more care packages overseas than ever before.  Once he gets home and reintegrated, I’m going to “pay it forward”.  Last week I received two care packages at my door, so I fully intend on repaying the favor for a few friends of mine, who’s husband’s are also deployed.  I’m just hoping that I don’t eat my words the last couple of weeks, and every thing goes to hell in a handbasket.

Hi I’m Jodi, And I have Autism

My Name Is Jodi, and I Have Autism

Well not, really autism, but a condition that is called Aspergers, or some like to refer to it as Autism-Lite.  I am not like Raymond in Rainman, I don’t have the innate ability to read cards and cheat in Las Vegas.  I’m not like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, I’m not overly smart, nor am I a scientist.  I am not what very many people consider as a classic case of autism.  I can talk, quite a lot about varying topics such as Star Wars, running, the weather, and what ever topic strikes my fancy at this very moment.  I’m married.  I am social.  I have children.  So what makes me autistic and why am I sharing this with you.

I have a set of symptoms that according to the DSM-IV qualify me as autistic (though the votes out with the DSM-V, but I’m going with the DSM-IV diagnosis made a few years ago).  First of all, I have listening comprehension issues.  At random times and intervals I cannot control, I will tune out of conversations, this doesn’t just include when people are talking to me, but it even happens when I watch movies and television.  I will often watch television shows over and over again to understand completely what happened and what is going on.  I will also “tune out” sometimes when I’m speaking.  This tuning out is what prompted me to go “get help” in the first place. I tend to tune out more during times of extreme stress.  When my husband was on an extended TDY, we started having issues with my son’s school, and one day my mother told me that for about half of my phone calls I didn’t make sense.  I will just stop mid-sentence, and move on to another topic.  I also have extreme sensory issues.  There are certain fabrics I cannot wear, because they pick at me.  I can’t go on rides because of the lack of control.  I don’t like being touched or hugged except by very few people, in very limited circumstances (sometimes even my kids make my skin crawl when they touch me).  Two years ago, I went to a neuro-psychologist and got a formal diagnosis.  When I went, I thought that maybe I would be diagnosed with depression (again), or ADD, or even ADHD.  But the neuro-psychologist confirmed the Aspergers diagnosis.

This diagnosis has brought me some sense of freedom, but it has also caused a lot of issues.  I lost friends when I told them of my newly found diagnosis.  Many of the friends I lost, think that the neuro-psychologist is wrong, that there is no way I could have autism.  I have many of the same symptoms as depressive disorder.  The problem, I’m lacking a really big symptom—sadness.  I don’t feel sad at all.   Right now, I’m going through a particularly bad deployment, and a LOT of stuff has happened the last 180-days, but even so, I don’t feel depressed, down, or even remotely negative.  Not saying that it is not hard, this is incredibly difficult, but in general I have a positive attitude about the whole thing.  If you are on my Facebook, or my friend, I will mention all the “shit” that’s happening, but really I don’t feel remotely depressed about it, I actually think that it’s quite comical that this much stuff could happen in 5 months, and I know that in a few short weeks when it’s all said and done, the “bad stuff” will stop happening.  Many friends that have left me have children with autism, and they think that I’m lying, or over-stating my symptoms.  For a time, even my mom thought it was a mistake.  She moved in with me after she retired, and has since said, “yes, you are autistic.”

Now, you may ask, why do I make this very private part of my life public?  I have opened myself up to a lot of criticism, specifically in regards to having children.  Why would someone who is genetically predisposed to autism have children?  I found out I had autism after I had my children, it was a little bit too late to take that one back.  Furthermore, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of my children, I have learned how to adapt to my condition, I have been adapting to it for 37-years.  The reason I have come out of the proverbial closet is there are more of “us” than you realize.  The “us” I refer to is women in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, who have worked, gotten married, and have children.  People with autism are not the stereotypical men mentioned earlier in the article, who are barely able to function in social circumstances.  What’s even more alarming is that there are quite a few of us married to military personnel.  There are quite a few of us women diagnosed with conditions like autism, ADD, and ADHD.  Some of us are navigating the military health care system with children on the spectrum.  I’m amazed by the behavioral, occupational therapies our children receive, yet there is nothing for us.  When I first started trying to get help for my symptoms, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression.  The second time, I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and after that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I was given anti-depressant after anti-depressant without having the hallmark symptoms of any of these conditions!  There are behavioral treatments and therapies not available to adults with autism.  Drugs like Ritalin and Clonidine that help our children, could also benefit us.  Doctors are not afraid to diagnose our children with autism, yet they hesitant to diagnose us.  So I ask you, are you a military spouse with spectrum disorder, like autism or ADHD or ADD, and not being treated appropriately for such a condition, please comment below.  Maybe if we unite and come at Tricare with one voice, we could get necessary services for us to function better in society.  Behavioral training, social navigation groups, and even job training could a long way to helping spouses who are feeling lost and alone battling these conditions…