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31: Complex PTSD

I recently realized just how many of my mental health struggles actually relate back to one thing. Trauma. I would argue that most Autistics sadly experience some level of trauma in their lifetimes. Many of us experience prolonged and repeated exposure to trauma and the results can be devastating. For us, we deal with Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD.

I cannot state enough: astronomical content and trigger warnings for this piece. Take care of you, please!

I’m honestly still learning about C-PTSD and how it affects me. It’s complicated, but to summarize incredibly briefly: PTSD is often related to one event. Complex PTSD stems from multiple traumas, and/or longterm trauma. Although many people know about PTSD because of veterans with the disorder, anyone can have PTSD from a wide range of traumatic events and experiences. Symptoms can include: depersonalization, derealization, dissociation, panic and anxiety attacks, flashbacks, loss of sense of reality or time, emotional deregulation, memory loss and issues, and more.

For the longest time, I knew that I suffered from some level of PTSD. But my misunderstanding of the condition in general– coupled with lots of dissociating and blank spaces in my memory– meant that I didn’t really understand just how severe mine was. In a recent therapy session, one phrase really struck me:

“I feel like I spend so much of my time thinking ahead and planning for the future in order to avoid reliving my past.”

Those were words that I spoke, but it felt like someone else had said them. It still feels that way, if I’m honest. But it was a big moment, and I said it. (You know something you said was important when your therapist pauses the session to jot it down…) Since that revelation, I can’t stop seeing how my trauma influences my present by forcing me to live in the future, all while seeking to avoid the past.

For example, my perfectionism and wildly unrealistic high expectations for myself largely come from a need to try to protect myself. Maybe if I plan out the perfect conversation, I won’t get yelled at or bullied. If I prepare excessively for a medical procedure, maybe I won’t have a panic attack or be belittled by the doctor. If I take all the right medication and exercise, maybe an ovarian cyst won’t make me blackout again. If I know more about earthquake safety maybe I will not freeze during another large one. If I can just be perfect, nothing can go wrong. Easy, right?

Even if I arguably did something “perfectly,” when the result is more trauma… I blame myself. “I should have said this instead of that. I looked weak so they didn’t believe me. I didn’t think ahead far enough and predict this outcome. I’m a child and need to grow up.” To me, a bad interaction or event or failure is 99% always my fault. I am at fault for additional trauma because I didn’t try hard enough or plan well enough. Its never the fault of someone else or even a general situation or event. It’s ridiculous, but it is so very hard to break free from. I literally torment myself. Or rather, C-PTSD does.

Flashbacks are horrible: I am out of my body and back in that car when I got hit hard enough to be pushed across several lanes. I remember the song on my CD skipping in the dashboard. I remember shaking in shock–that didn’t just happen. I wasn’t just hit… Is the other person okay? Am I okay? I don’t see any blood…

But more devastating to me are the “flash-forwards“. My brain will anticipate all sorts of dangers in extreme detail. Again, I am out of my body and feel like I am actually there. I see it all in full color in my brain and I live it. I have seen my loved ones die so many times, experienced trauma after trauma… and although I know it’s not real, on some level it is. I “experience” it.

The weirdest thing is that so many of the symptoms my body and mind attempting to protect me. Dissociation, panic attacks, fixation, compulsions, flashbacks… they are often my brain trying to protect myself in some weird way. It’s this highly sensitive security system that has faulty wiring and trips at minor stresses. And unfortunately, I don’t seem to have much control over it at all.

And the difficulty is that any stress can trigger any part of my C-PTSD’s wildly messed up security system. I have trauma from so many different incidents: car accidents, large earthquakes, sheltering while in Japan when missiles were being tested by North Korea, assault, countless medical traumas, death of loved ones, extreme physical pain and sickness, bullying and power harassment, extreme life-shifting events, etc. But they don’t just stay in their own lane and section of my brain. Oh, no. Medical trauma can trigger flashbacks of car accidents or power harassment. News of another large earthquake can cause flash-forwards of losing loved ones to random accidents.

In fact, any extreme stress can trigger symptoms in any or all of those categories for me. It doesn’t have to be a particular related trigger to set me off. Any extreme stress can. COVID-19 is one reason I have realized just how bad my C-PTSD is, because it’s a bunch of triggers all wrapped up into one, tied with a big-old stress bow. And the unfortunate thing is, it’s all related. C-PTSD affects anxiety, depression, ideation, sensory overload, and more.

The stresses of the world today have triggered my C-PTSD into a realm I didn’t know existed. I dissociate more than ever. This is when my mind goes completely blank and I leave my body for a time. Sometimes I am aware it’s happening, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I know how much time has gone by, often I do not. I’m getting better at recognizing when it happens, but sometimes I just have to let myself drift…

My flashbacks and flash-forwards come often and in stunning detail. Breaking through those flashes takes extreme effort many many times before I am able to reorient myself. Something that I still don’t have a full grasp of is the memory loss of C-PTSD. There are very large chunks of my life that I simply don’t remember. It’s odd to me that those memories are gone while the technicolor traumas remain… That’s a rabbit hole I’m not quite ready to go down yet.

What’s Helped So Far

1) Therapy

C-PTSD is something I have only really begun to work on in therapy. One thing that helped me pre-COVID was “Worst- and best-case scenarios are not nearly as common as okay-case scenarios.” That helped me a lot to remember that things are often just meh. Not traumatic, not elating. Just meh. In light of COVID, I’m struggling to use this particular skill, but I have hope for using it again in the future…

2) Music Therapy

I haven’t been able to see my music therapist in a very long time, but one thing he taught me is using a particular song to help guide my brain out of flashbacks and flash-forwards. When I am very stuck in loops of horrors, I will hum or sing this song and it will help me transition out of that cycle. Music is the key to jumpstart happier parts of my brain to allow me to break free.

3) Knowledge and Acknowledgment

Just knowing that C-PTSD is an actual, valid thing is huge. Learning about flashbacks and dissociation and having a name for those things. Being able to read more and connect the dots and recognize triggers. Understanding why things are happening and how to start helping myself. Seeing others talk about their experiences. As always, this is why I am sharing my inner world for all the internet to see. Because if just one person finds light in my words, it’s all worth it.

Thoughts from a Quarantined Autistic

I’m writing this post from self-quarantine, practicing social distancing. Luckily, I have no COVID-19 symptoms (so far). I am isolating myself to help slow the spread of this deadly virus, as well as protecting myself as I’m in the higher-risk category. I’ve had a lot on my mind during this first week of isolation and have been struggling with some pretty tremendous mental health concerns.

Despite all of this, I’ve also found some ways to find some calm and order. I want to share some of them with all of my readers—Autistic or not. As a multiply disabled, introverted Autistic, I have a unique perspectives to offer. I generally don’t leave my house much when I can help it; I have a lot of online friends; I’ve been bed- or couch-bound countless time in my life. Social distancing is kind of my default, even if it’s not always my choice.

While my thoughts aren’t going to help everyone, they may help someone. And that’s all I can hope for.

1) Keeping any routine possible; Adapting what has to change

This is something I practice anytime I cannot follow my normal routine in general. Keeping to a routine—even an adapted one—is key to my mental health. Because I also have ADHD, that can sometimes be tricky, but routine doesn’t have to look like a rigid frame. It can be bendy and flexible if that’s what works for you. A step in your routine can be as simple as “In the mornings I will do something relaxing before work.”

Even though I am working remotely now, I have been doing my best to get up and go to bed at the same times. I eat breakfast at the same time, and start work at the same time. That familiarity and rhythm brings comfort and certainty in a very uncertain time.

But what about things that have to be changed? For example, what if you usually visit your favorite coffee shop with a friend after work? In cases like that, I Skype that friend, brew some tea together and talk as usual. Usually go to the gym at night? Look up YouTube videos of workouts you can do at home, and work out during your usual time.

It’s not the same, but it’s familiar and that can bring calm. It’s taken several days of my “new normal” routine to feel natural, but now it brings me a lot of comfort when I’m anxious.

2) Putting locks on social media apps & limiting news

I often compulsively check social media during my downtime, partly because so many of my friendships are online, and partly because I find social media to be a nice distraction. But right now, that’s not the case. I find myself getting sucked into hyper-focusing on news, perseverating on local events, and worrying about friends and family (and everyone in general).

I ended up setting up Screen Time on my phone for all social media apps. That’s a setting on iPhones that can help you control your app habits; there are similar things for other phones. I gave myself a 30 minute cut off for social media. That means when I reach that 30 minutes, a notification will pop up and let me know. I then have the option to snooze that reminder for 15 more minutes of viewing time, turn it off for the day, or just close that app.

I’m finding that this helps with executive dysfunction and getting trapped in a loop, losing hours of time to stress and panic. It’s nice because it also doesn’t make me feel out of control. I am able to dismiss the reminder, and it will remind me again after 15 minutes when I can then decide again if I need a break or not. It holds me accountable, but also gives me the power of choice when my brain can’t necessarily regulate itself.

3) Dual tasking when I need distraction

I’ve found that if I try to sit down and do something to relax and distract myself from the current situation, I will end up either doing something else by accident or heavily dissociating. (Sometimes both because I’m an overachiever.) That’s not helpful, and actually really distressing!

In the last week I have turned to giving my brain dual tasks. For example, I will cross stitch while listening to the TV. I’ll listen to an audiobook while I play a simple game. Color and listen/sing to music. That’s been the key to me sticking with a distraction long enough to actually de-stress! I’ve finally been able to relax now with that strategy and it’s doing a world of good for my mental health.

4) Being gentle with myself regarding mental health

(Content warning: eating disorder, OCD, mental health spirals, etc.)

In the last few weeks, I’ve definitely noticed an uptick of mental health issues in myself. My eating disorders—even though I’ve been doing really well in treatment—tell me that if I eat too much we will run out of food. Then my husband will have to leave the house and of course he’ll get sick and he’ll die and then I’ll suffer and then I’ll die… Oof. The eating disorder is latching onto very real fears and just running with it.

I’ve also seen a huge relapse with obsessive compulsive issues. I had pretty severe OCD as a kid, but have recovered to the point that I have only really have mild OCD tendencies. In the last week in particular, I’ve really struggled. For example, one night I got “stuck” in the shower for 30 minutes, washing my whole body several times, then standing there as my brain told me I still have the virus on me and if I get out now I will murder everyone I know and love. I couldn’t seem to make my body move. So I thought maybe should call to my husband to come help me, but my brain said if I did, maybe he would trip on the way up the stairs and hit his head! (OCD is a real piece of crap.)

My agoraphobia—which I always struggle with to a certain extent—is absolutely and positively thrilled to have a logical reason to not leave the house. So I struggle to even go on short walks. And I won’t even start on anxiety because… it makes me anxious. Hah!

So yes, it’s been really rough. But ultimately, I have realized that I gain nothing by being critical of myself. This situation is hard. It’s scary. It’s really horrifying. And my brain is actually doing it’s best right now. Strange as it sounds, it’s trying to protect me and it’s just sort of… glitching. It’s similar to the concept that I talked about regarding my chronic illnesses in 28: Chronic Illness: Am I “Broken”?. My body and mind are compromised. And they’re doing the best they can right now. What I can do is be gentle and give myself time to rest and recharge.

5) Positive output

The last thing that’s been incredibly helpful for me is making something positive. My husband and I made a cover video to share with our loved ones. It started as us unwinding at lunchtime and evolved into my husband writing a piano arrangement. It’s not something I expected to share with you all, but what the heck:

 


We made the video because we needed it ourselves. We feel so helpless and powerless. We did it to uplift our family and community, but we also just needed to do… something, anything! Something to put a bit of happiness and hope out into what is an extra dark and scary world right now.

Putting something out into the world doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be sending an email to a friend, making a piece of art, sending a gift to a neighbor, or donating money to someone in need… something to remind yourself and others that the sun will shine again.

A picture taken in the woods during fall when the trees are radiant orange. The sun shines through the trunks toward the viewer.
“Tomorrow”, taken by Alex Earhart

30: Seeking Sara, Finding Alex

Looking for Seeking Sara? Don’t worry; you’re not lost. Turns out, a big part of the Seeking is discovering far more than I set out to search for.

I began Seeking Sara about a year and a half ago in April of 2018 as a place to verbalize my thoughts and feelings freely in a way that was both therapeutic to me and (hopefully) helpful to someone somewhere out there on the internet.

My blog was a place to literally Seek Sara. Who am I under all of the masking? What happens when I try to stop pretending and playing an uncomfortable role, like trying to walk in shoes ten sizes bigger than my feet?

For the most part, I’ve been extremely honest while I tackled a variety of sensitive topics from disordered eating, sensory overload, anxiety and depression, and chronic illness to interviews with my family and friends about my late diagnosis.

But there’s also been something I’ve been working through in the background, even long before I launched Seeking Sara. For about a decade now, I have been fighting my gender identity. But now, I’m ready to embrace it and come out again on this site—this time as non-binary or genderqueer.

gray background with a blue name tag that reads "Hello my name is Alex

Below is a Q&A to briefly answer some anticipated questions:

Name: Alex (gender-ambiguous)
Gender Identity: Non-binary / Genderqueer
Preferred Pronouns: they/them, but she/her is fine for now
Please don’t use: woman, lady, miss, missy, girl, etc. whenever possible.

1) What will happen to Seeking Sara?

My blog will still be here and I will still be writing! Seeking Sara is transitioning to Autistically Alex. Aside from a change in title and design, Autistically Alex will still be run by me, Alex, and the writing will stay the same. (Well, hopefully it will continue to evolve the more I write…) I will discuss more queer LGBTQIA+ topics openly, but will continue other writing like my Sensory Series, eating disorder topics, sensory overload and meltdowns, etc. as well.

2) What’s Non-binary?

Depends who you ask, but for me… I feel wildly, painfully uncomfortable (increasingly so) with being labelled a woman, lady, miss, girl, etc. But I’m also not a trans man and he/him pronouns and man, boy, mister, etc. also don’t feel right. While I am more comfortable expressing and presenting my gender expression (what I wear, how I cut my hair, etc.) toward a more masculine appearance, I’m not a trans man. I’m non-binary, as in “not on the binary” of man and woman in regards to gender identity. I sometimes fluctuate back and forth, and could be considered gender fluid as well.
Scroll down to number 6 below for links to more general information on trans/non-binary/genderqueer stuff.

3) Is that a real thing?

I can confirm that yes, yes it is. I tried for a solid decade to avoid calling myself non-binary. It was ten years of wondering what my gender identity was, wondering if I was a trans man, wondering why neither man or woman felt right, etc. When I found out non-binary is a thing, it instantly clicked, but I still fought against it for years. I’ve had to sort through a lot of internalized transphobia. Trust me. Non-binary is very much a thing and I am it. In fact, many many many cultures have/had more than two binary genders represented in their cultures. The scientific and medical communities also document and affirm the presence of more than two genders. Look it up.

4) Is singular they/them a thing?

Yes, and you use it too! If we describe someone in a mystery novel, the detective might say, “Whoever they are, they sure are smart. They covered their tracks so that no one would suspect them.” As someone who needed to learn to use they/them pronouns for other people, I totally appreciate that this can be super hard to learn to do! Even I still make mistakes. Give yourself time to get used to it.

5) How did you realize you’re non-binary?

A huge part of my journey was realizing how much I identified with a variety of media as a child and teen:

  • Disney’s Mulan, who sings Reflection
    • “Look at me…
      I will never pass for a perfect bride
      Or a perfect daughter
      Can it be I’m not meant to play this part?
      Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?
      Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”
  • Ranma 1/2, a comic book character whose sex changes when splashed with hot or cold water
  • Sailor Uranus, AKA Haruka, who is described as being “both male and female, possessing the strengths of both genders”, and who often presents her gender expression leaning toward the masculine side, though may be genderfluid.
  • Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” book series where Alanna becomes Alan in order to pursue knighthood in a patriarchal world
  • The Takarazuka Revue, a real-life professional troop of elite Japanese performers who play both male and female roles in their elaborate plays and musicals

To be clear, none of these media “made” me non-binary. They were a relief to read or see because I could relate to them. And loving and/or relating to these characters doesn’t automatically make someone non-binary or gender queer!

Another huge part of my self-discovery was realizing how much I dreaded getting dressed each day when I had mostly women’s clothing in my closet, along with accompanying gender dysphoria. Performing “feminine roles” (defined by society) and being called a woman, girl, miss, etc. increasingly causes a sort of nails on a chalk board feeling inside of me.

The last huge component for my journey to self discovery and acceptance was seeing people around me be openly genderfluid and queer. At a conference, a colleague wore a suit and tie and I thought, “…I can do that??” A friend changed their pronouns to they/them and I thought, “I’m so jealous… Wait, I am? Why?” A fellow Autistic blogger was courageous enough to change their site title and pronouns and I thought, “I want that freedom too.” A friend had the courage to change their name and pronouns and I finally spoke the words aloud, “Can I do this?”

Again, these people in my life didn’t influence me to be genderqueer. They gave me the courage to be okay with being myself, and I am forever grateful.

This is a huge part of why I am coming out. Not only is being closeted incredibly painful and draining, I can’t keep silent when others may find self acceptance and courage from me being out and authentically me.

6) Where can I find more info?

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/…/…/Coming-Out-Handbook.pdf
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trv…/trans-gender-identity/
https://transequality.org/…/understanding-non-binary-people…
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/non-binary
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-is-non-binary-gender

Many thanks for sticking around with me through this transition.

Autistically,

Alex

 

Podcast Interview: Autism Personal Coach

I recently appeared on the podcast “Autism Stories” by Autism Personal Coach (@AutismPersonalCoach social media) to answer question about meltdowns and shutdowns, pillars, identity and community, masking, diagnosis, blogging, and more!

Scroll down to listen to the episode or find the transcript!

Autism Personal Coach “celebrates Neurodiversity by empowering adults and teens to be the best versions of their authentic selves” in a world not often built with us Autistic people in mind. They connect their audience with people and tools to grow, learn, and thrive.

Episode description from Autism Stories:

“Figuring out who we are and what we want is a lifelong quest. On this episode of Autism Stories we talk with Sara Earhart about how being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder led her to start a blog, Seeking Sara, and helped to give her a much better understanding of who she is. Autism Stories connects you with amazing people who are helping Autistic teens and adults become more independent and successful.”

A picture of a blue ocean with blue sky with sandbanks on either side. Black text reads

To listen to the podcast: click here.

To view a PDF transcript of the podcast: click here.

Check out the blog posts mentioned in the podcast:

Seeking Sara

2: Meltdowns & Pillars

Video: Meltdowns & Shutdowns

15: Diagnosis & Coming Out

21: Coming Out (Again): Part 2, The Sequel

Anniversary Interview 1: New Friends

Anniversary Interview 2: High School Friend

Anniversary Interview 3: My Husband

Anniversary Interview 4: My Parents

29: When You Don’t Believe I’m Autistic

 

Have questions or thoughts about the episode? Feel free to comment below or on my social media!

29: When You Don’t Believe I’m Autistic

Welp, it finally happened. [Beware (or enjoy?): snarky post ahead!]

Over the last few years, I’ve been coming out to family, friends, coworkers, etc. in an effort to be more authentically me, mask less, feel comfortable in my skin, and help others better understand my boundaries and needs.

I have been very, very ridiculously lucky to have mostly positive reactions when I tell people I’m Autistic. At the very least, reactions have been surprised, but affirming. But I brace for the reaction of each new person I tell because I know that people routinely react ignorantly to Autistics coming out.

And it finally happened. I told someone (whom I no longer work with) that I wasn’t able to take on more of a workload because I’m Autistic and am feeling very overwhelmed. And her response?

Well—laughably—she first completely and utterly ignored me and continued on with the monologue she was currently wholeheartedly invested in. Then about 30 full seconds later she paused and said:

“Wait. You’re on THE SPECTRUM?!? Yeah, okay… we’ll go with that.”

She may as well have rolled her eyes given the tone she used.

She then plowed ahead with her monologue before pausing again and saying:

“Really? You’re on the spectrum? Weird, I can always tell when people are. I work with kids who… never mind.”

So, maybe not the most ideal reaction. (Yes, this is sarcasm. I can do sarcasm.)

Honestly, what I hated most about the situation was my reaction and the feeling of helplessness. I wish I had been able to directly call her out on it, but that’s something that takes time to learn to navigate in real time. I’m the type of person who needs time to really process a situation and react later. The type of person that takes a few weeks of simmering and thinking about a situation and then write a snark-filled post after fully processing.

And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is how this person reacted to me.

So let’s unpack her reaction together, shall we? Class is in session! (Still feeling snarky…)

A photo of a black woman with glasses in professional attire, paper in hand, teaching while writing with a marker.
Learning time! Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

1) “I can always tell when people are Autistic.”

Yeah… No, you can’t. I mean, sure, you probably can some of the time. But I’m sitting here right in front of you. I’m Autistic. And you didn’t know. Ergo… no. You cannot always tell. Autistics are all around you; you just don’t realize. So yeah. There’s my “highly logical brain” for you. Sending you common sense. For free. You’re welcome.

Okay, on to the next one!

2) “I work with kids on the spectrum./My brother’s best friend’s cousin’s niece has autism.”

Ok. Well, first of all… I feel bad for those kids. (Is that mean? That sounds mean.) Honestly, anyone that ignorant needs to be further educated before working with Autistic people.

Literally every person is different. Didn’t know I had to say that, but apparently I do. Why would you expect me to be like another Autistic person you know? I don’t shout “You’re neurotypical? But you’re nothing like my friend Sally!?” into your face while maintaining a disgusting amount of gross eye contact. Because it’s silly. Because it doesn’t make sense. Because it’s absurd.

Bottom line–humans are all complex and highly different beings. No two of us are exactly alike. Why on earth would you expect two Autistics to be exactly alike? As the popular phrase goes, “If you’ve met one Autistic person… you’ve met one Autistic person.”

3) “Yeah, ok. We’ll go with that” (insert nasty, sarcastic tone and/or eye roll for bonus jerk points)

Ohhhhhh boy.

So, first of all, you’re heavily implying I’m a liar. You’re implying that my psychologists and therapists are incompetent or misdiagnosed me. Or that I somehow tricked two mental health professionals doing independent assessments of me.

But more than that, you are denying my neurology. You are denying the entire structure of my brain, the way I think, and the awesome things that come along with that. You’re also denying the terrible things that come along with it. You are denying my experience.

You are being ableist, denying my struggles of past and present, denying my identity, being condescending and patronizing, and just generally being an unkind human being all in one go. It’s not a good look…

Bonus “Avoid alienating or pissing off an Autistic” Guide

4) “You hide it so well!/I never would have guessed!”

This. is. not. a. compliment.

I mean, I guess I kind of slightly sort of maybe a little get where people are trying to come from with this? Finding out that the person in front of you is a literal coping and masking wizard who is 1000% of the time exhausted is a lot. It is a feat. But it’s also messed up.

Think about it this way. As a kid, I knew very quickly in school that I was different. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew. I was bullied relentlessly and I didn’t understand why. I even had a teacher who routinely bullied me.

It was so bad that I started to try to MacGyver together social camouflage to avoid sticking out. (Read 1: Operating Manual for a bit more on that.). My masking, ability to “pass” as neurotypical, and generally inflict extreme harm on my introverted self in order to avoid bullying and aggression is not only an exhausting production that I just don’t know how to turn off, it is the result of years of agony and bullying. Craving friendship and acceptance so much that I mimicked peers I admired. Subconsciously suppressing my neurology, personality, and desires to get by and survive.

After all, that’s such a huge part of why I started this blog—to explore who I authentically am at my core. Because I have had to put so much of who I am away in a little box on a shelf in the back of my mind. And I’m just starting to unpack that box now.

5) “You’re so high functioning!”

There are a few phrases that are bound to make most Autistic people angry, and this is one of them. For one thing, functioning labels are just completely skewed and narrow. Functioning labels hurt all Autistics. Period. (I’m not going to go too far into this, but will insert a link once I find a good one.)

You don’t see the emotional, mental, and physical fallout from my exposure to things like overstimulation, sensory overload, long periods of social activities, or a scary experience. You don’t see my meltdowns or shutdowns (usually) because I have learned to plan out my energy and ability to cope for any given situation or day. This is closely tied to Number 4. Performing “high functioning” comes at a high cost and is just not accurate.

6) “I’m so sorry.”

Don’t be. I love me. I love my neurology (most days). The issues I deal with are related to society:  ignorance, exclusion, assumption, aggression, bullying, inaccessibility, sensory assault, ableism, etc.

7) “Oh, like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory/Rain Man/(Straight white cis man or boy)?”

No.

A photo showing two people sitting at a table, having a discussion. There is paper and pen in front of them, and one person is actively listening to the other.
Listening time! Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

How you should react to someone divulging information to you:

You may find yourself saying, “Okay, Alex. I think I know how to lessen my chances of pissing off an Autistic. So what do I do and say?” While I can only speak from my personal preferences and wishes, these are some things that I would personally love to hear when I tell people:

–Thank you for telling me.

–Thank you for trusting me with this information.

–Cool. My partner is too. (Notice how different this is from the comparison above in Number 2)

–I don’t know much about that. Are there any resources you recommend to learn more?

–I have some questions. Is it okay for me to ask you some?

–How can I better accommodate you?

–What are your needs? How can I help?

28: Chronic Illness: Am I “Broken”?

Chronic illness is something that I talk about a lot in therapy. With diagnoses of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, PCOS, Hashimoto’s Disease, a narcolepsy-like sleep disorder, and more, it’s not hard to see why.

From the age of about 12 I’ve been extremely frustrated with my body. And for many years now, I have loudly and vocally proclaimed my body to be “broken,” daring anyone to have the gall to disagree with me.

In one therapy session, my therapist finally did. She asked me why I use the word “broken.” Game on! Well, you asked for it, I thought as my thoroughly thought out list of angsty anecdotes jumped straight to my tongue.

I launched into the daily frustration I feel with a myriad of symptoms that fluctuate unpredictably, the pain I feel 24/7, fatigue that sometimes leaves me bedridden, and all the other fun-filled things that come along with chronic illness. I talked about the things I miss out on, the things I may never be able to do, the toll it takes on my relationships, and the mental health burdens I have as a result.

As I described it, I all but dared her to contradict me… and she did. “Over the next few weeks, I want you to think about the idea of your body being compromised rather than broken.” She asked me to come back next session with my thoughts on the process and left me a lot of freedom in how I approached the task.

I must have looked at her like I do when people suggest that yoga can singlehandedly cure all of my chronic health issues, but I trust her, so I agreed to at least try. I decided to go about my usual routine and wait for frustration with my body to inevitably surface in my mind.

Over the next few weeks I challenged myself to reframe my negative thoughts about my body being broken to my body being “compromised.” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really expect much out of the exercise, but I was surprised to have a powerful epiphany. The shift from “My body is broken” to “My body is compromised” is incredible and not one that I had anticipated.

“Broken” says that my body is to blame. “Compromised” acknowledges that my body is fighting along with me.

My body is functioning. It might not function in the way that I want. But I am alive. My body often doesn’t have the energy it needs to do what I want it to… but every day it does what it can for me, even if that’s sleep all day. Every second of every day it is keeping me alive, running bodily systems I know little about because I hated biology class. (oops) It endured 18 years of disordered eating and still kept going.

My body is doing its best.

The longer I practiced correcting my mental self-talk, the more I realized how ableist “broken” is and it made me want to tackle and reshape my thinking even more.

I started shifting my frustrations toward the illnesses themselves, and began to think of my body as a vessel that is just trying its best to continue despite daily challenges. The obstacles I face on a daily basis…are things my body is also enduring. Despite the false pain signals it has to process 24/7, despite the fatigue it battles through with me, despite the probably-ever-present warning alarms it must get tired of hearing all day… it functions as best as it can.

It’s amazing how such a subtle difference can make me feel less trapped, more hopeful, and more at peace. Instead of feeling bound to a broken machine, I feel more like I am going into battle with an old, tired, but badass friend.

One Year Reflections

April marked one year of Seeking Sara! Can you believe it? (I still don’t!) I intended to write this post in time for the anniversary. Then by the end of April. Then by the end of May… and here we finally are on June 1st. Better late than never!

It’s been a very strange thing to reach such a huge milestone and goal, feeling so accomplished and proud, and then hit a huge, daunting wall. That wall had “Now what?” scrawled across it in bright, tacky, overpowering paint.

A grey, pealing wall with colorful text that says
It’s about time I start knocking down that wall.


1 Year Reflections

I’m sitting here in my first meet-up with a local writing circle, trying desperately to throw some ideas that might stick to the page—er, screen— and I’m reminded of lyrics from “Seasons of Love” from RENT.

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

How do you measure… measure a year?”

So how do I measure this year? In followers? In views? In insights and number of blog posts?

Well, in this first year, my blog has been viewed 12,133 times by 6,537 readers. Wow!

But is that the best way to measure this past year? Should I look at metrics and agonize over how many posts each reader stuck around to read? Check out my social media accounts and tally followers? Count how many posts I’ve written?

No. That’s not why I write, and that’s not a full look into this past year. So just how do you measure a year?

I answer this question with the response in the RENT song:

“How about love?”

How about the community that I have been welcomed into? The friends I have made this year? Out of everything that has happened to me in this past year, finding lifelong friends within the Autistic community has been one of the single biggest highlights. The number of people I have connected with is quite honestly beyond my wildest imagination. Before my blog, before joining Twitter… I had no idea there were so many like-minded people (pun kind of intended. Sorry. Kind of.) just a mouse click away. I was just hoping for one new friend—one new person who thought like me. And I found hundreds.

This past April, Edge of the Playground (@EdgeofPlayground) and I collaborated with a bunch of Autistics to make a video that’s been viewed over 20,000 times across all platforms! If you had told me last year that I would get to edit and produce a positive video with a bunch of awesome Autistic folks for April, I would have laughed! I wouldn’t believe something like that could happen.

“How about love?”

The support I’ve found in those around me has been more than I could have asked for. I routinely have friends and acquaintances tell me they’ve read something on Seeking Sara that made them think, made them learn, and ultimately—helped them be a better ally to Autistics.

Friends and family agreed to do a series of interviews for Seeking Sara. Groups I’m in have embraced my wearing of noise-cancelling headphones at gatherings. Family friends recently gave me an early birthday gift, and it was something that shows they support and accept who I am.

It reminds me of another line from the song: “Remember a year in the life of friends”.

I’m simply blown away.

“How about love?”

So… it’s been a year. A year since I was feeling so lonely, isolated, angry… It’s startling to look back and remember what I was feeling last April. I felt so alone. There were so many things that I wanted to write and say and shout. But I felt trapped. It felt like I had duct tape over my mouth and a happy smiling mask where my face should be. The feeling of isolation was something I don’t wish on anyone.

I was telling a few people here and there about my diagnosis, but I felt like I had to carry a list of sources around with me to point at to say “Look, I’m serious! Believe me!” I didn’t feel equipped to deal with disbelief and despite being “officially” diagnosed, I didn’t fully trust myself. (Self-diagnosis is valid in a world where so many have been left behind and misdiagnosed!) It felt so strange to carry this secret around with me that I wanted so desperately to share.

If I told my past self that in a year’s time I would be editing and producing a video of Autistics, wearing noise-cancelling headphones out and about as I please, talking with tons of new Autistic friends, telling people I trust about being Autistic, and just so happy… I would never have believed it. But here I am. Surrounded by love.

“How about love?”

How about self-love? In this year, I have tackled topics on sensory issues, being ill as an Autistic, eating disorder treatment, and so much more. I’ve learned about myself, and through that process, I’ve learned to accept and embrace who I am more fully. I found part-time jobs that allow me to have the accommodations that I need, something I never would have considered asking for just a year ago. (I even wrote an article about it!)

I have profoundly changed during this past year. I have grown in more ways than I can truly examine in one single blog post.

I’m so happy to have you all along for the ride, and I truly treasure every reader who takes the time to read my little scribbles on a humble blog.

When I reflect on a year… it’s the love that’s made it so worth this milestone.

Thank you.

Autistic Collaboration Video!

“Who are autistic adults? Like you, we are each unique and you can find us in all parts of your everyday life, not just the stereotypical places you may expect. This April, we are proud to show how diverse autistic people are.” -Mikhaela

My friend and fellow Autistic Mikhaela Ackerman, who runs the blog Edge of Playground, and I have been meaning to collaborate for AGES now, and it finally happened! As April approached, we both found ourselves brainstorming ways to increase positive messages so that Autistics could see some wonderful things against the usual terrible things said about us this month.

Mikhaela had the wonderful idea to do this video, and I jumped at the chance. What a wonderful idea!! Please follow Mikhaela’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter. She is fantastic and very supportive and kind.

A transcript for this video is below.

A huge thank you, too, to the wonderful Autistic people who agreed to do this video!
You can find their information below:

Arianne Garcia– Stairway to STEM (@StairwaytoSTEM)
Yenn Purkis- Yenn Purkis’ Autism Books and Other Things.
Kylie Andrade- Life on the Spectrum
Shadia Hancock – Autism Actually
Kayla Smith – @beingkaylasmith
Adam Walton- The Proud Aspergian
Peri Savidge- Not Raingirl
Cynthia Zuber- The Neurodiverse Woman
Olivia- @chichirinuriko20 (YouTube)

#ActuallyAutistic #AutismAcceptance #AutismAcceptanceMonth

Transcript for “Who Are Autistic Adults?”, a collaboration by Edge of Playground (Mikhaela) and Seeking Sara: An Autistic’s Journey.

(guitar music)

A title screen with “Autistic Adults: Who We Are” written above a rainbow Neurodiversity infinity mark. The screen zooms out slowly to reveal a golden yellow background with many positive words on it including: creative, musicians, caring, proud, mentors, empathetic, thoughtful, spouses, hard workers, poets, interesting, funny, listeners, kind, authors, advocates, etc.

(soft drumming joins the guitar)

A black screen appears, then “A collaborative video organized by:” appears on the screen then fades.

A split screen with both creators’ information appears. On the left: A black background with “Edge of Playground, Tying your shoes is overrated” written and a picture of Mikhaela (a young, white woman) on a swing. A golden infinity mark is at the bottom of her side. On the right: A lilac purple background with the text “Seeking Sara: An Autistic’s Journey” at the bottom. A pink flower is next to a picture of Sara (a young white woman with blue hair), standing in front of Niagara Falls.

The text “Who are Autistic adults” appears on a black screen. (The guitar and drum music fade to the background and disappear.)

(Cheerful and gentle music begins)

Mikhaela (Edge of Playground) appears on screen wearing a floral top. “Autistic adults are everywhere. We are in all parts of your everyday life, even in places you might least expect. We are compassionate friends, artists, teachers, family members, professionals, and so much more.”

Sara (Seeking Sara) appears in front of a multi-colored Tie-dye backdrop. “Like you, we have different strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths are varied, and no two are the same. Success looks different for each person. And one is not better than the other.”

The screen cuts back to Mikhaela who says “We are Autistic people…”

Screen cuts back to Sara who says, “and we’re valuable.”

The screen cuts to black and the words, “Autistic people are just as varied as non-Autistics.”

Arianne, a young Latinx person with long hair appears “My name is Arianne, and I’m an Autistic adult. I’m an editorial board member for Stairway to STEM and a writer.”

The screen switches to Yenn, a white person who is wearing a bright blue top. “My name’s Yenn, and I’m an Autistic writer and advocate.”

Kylie, a young white woman, appears on screen sitting in an armchair. “My name is Kylie and I’m an Autistic advocate, aspiring public speaker, and blogger.”

Shadia, a young white woman with short curly red hair appears on screen wearing headphones. “My name is Shadia. I’m a proud Autistic advocate and I run my own consultancy and mentoring business, Autism Actually.”

Kayla, a young black woman with medium length hair appears on screen. “My name is Kayla Smith. And I am an Autistic adult. I am passionate about disability advocacy and fighting for Autistic rights.”

Adam, a white man with a mustache and beard, appears. “My name is Adam. I’m an Autistic writer, teacher, advocate, and supporter.”

The screen cuts back to Sara who says, “My name is Sara. And I’m an Autistic blogger. I like photography, books, and music. I loved in Japan for several years, and Japanese language is one of my passions.”

Peri, a white woman with dark hair appears. “Hi, my name is Peri. And I am a Autistic blogger. I am very passionate about writing and I feel like my Autism helps me express my feelings in writing like nobody else.”

Mikhaela reappears on screen. “My name’s Mikhaela. And I am an Autistic Corporate Compliance Officer. I am an Autistic advocate and also hold a Juris Doctorate in Law.”

Cynthia, a white woman with glasses and a winter hat and jacket appears. She is standing outside. “My name is Cynthia. I’m a blogger, writer, and advocate at The Neurodiverse Woman. I love to write. I love to cook. I love to be active and go on walks.”

Olivia, a black woman with buns in her hair, appears. “My name is Olivia. I love anime. I like studying Japanese. And I love animals! So yeah!”

Adam reappears and says, “I work for the government at the moment. And I used to work as an English teacher.”

Kylie reappears and says, “I’m creative, compassionate, hardworking, and an insightful individual.”

Shadia appears on screen and says, “I love animals, art, music, and writing. And my dream is to run my own rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary and provide animal-assisted therapy for Neurodivergent individuals.”

Cynthia says, “I love to play tennis, go to hear live music, and hang out with my pets.”

Mikhaela says, “My passions are traveling, reading, writing, and yoga. I’m also a certified yoga teacher.”

Sara appears and says, “I’m a very empathetic and compassionate individual who looks out for my friends.”

Arianne reappears and says, “I’m also an artist and musician. I’ve been singing since before I could talk and I’ve been playing clarinet for 17 years.” Arianne smiles widely at the camera.

The screen cuts to a black background with the words, “You are valued.” In big letters.

Credits begin to roll.

(guitar and drum music from the intro replays)

“Thanks for watching!! Organized by: Concept and Script’ Mikhaela Ackerman. Production and Editing: Sara Earhart. In order of appearance: Mikhaela, Edge of Playground. Sara, Seeking Sara. Arianne, Stairway to STEM. Yenn, Yenn Purkis’ Books. Kylie, Life on the Spectrum. Shadia, Autism Actually. Kayla, @BeingKaylaSmith. Adam, The Proud Aspergian. Peri-Ann, Not Raingirl. Cynthia, Neurodiverse Woman. Olivia, Olive the Lupus Patient.  Music credits: “Beyond the Line” by Benjamin Tissot, bensound.com. “Beautiful Morning” by Mixaund, mixaund.bandcamp.com

End of transcript.

Autism Speaks…

Ok, so…I’ve been debating how/if/when to address this for a full year now.

After all, one of the main reason I started this blog back in April 2018 was to respond to the disheartening wave of negative posts and videos I saw all across social media that month when no one knew I was Autistic. I’ve put it off this whole time because conflict makes me ridiculously anxious. But as April approaches, I feel the need to step up and speak out. It’s time to rip off the bandaid, just like I did last April when I came out as Autistic through this blog.

Please bear with me. I know for some of you this will be a very uncomfortable read. But I urge you to please listen to Autistics!

To put it bluntly: Autism Speaks does not speak for me. I am not a puzzle piece, and I do not “light it up blue.” I do not support eugenics and I reject the notion that Autistics need to be “fixed” or “cured.” (I support assistance, accommodation, and adaptation!)

Phew, ok. I said it.

Now… to address why. (Eek!)

So many others have already spoke about this, so I will use their resources rather than try to re-explain my reasoning. I urge you to check them out with an open mind and consider donating to and supporting other, Autistic-led organizations.

This video by Amythest Schaber (Ask an Autistic on YouTube and Neurowonderful on tumblr) from 2014 is a good place to start. The video raises fantastic points and is worth a watch, though some of the data shared is outdated. (More up-to-date info below and it’s not pretty.)

Here is an image from ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), detailing how Autism Speaks uses their funds. Note that less that ONE POINT SIX PERCENT of funds is now devoted to family services…

A PDF image showing the breakdown of budget, showing Family Services funds to be less than 2%.

If you would like to hear more Autistic voices communicate their discomfort with Autism Speaks, feel free to check out this list of posts, A Roundup of Posts Against Autism Speaks.

***If you are still on the edge of whether or not to support Autism Speaks, please watch this video: I Am Autism. *** Ask yourself how Autistics feel watching this. (Hint: NOT GOOD.)

(Autistics… I recommend you do not watch it. It is horrific and it honestly makes me depressed and anxious. Please take care of yourself and stop or don’t watch.)

Funny how the only voices presented are “Autism’s” and parents. No Autistic people… hmm… it’s almost like they don’t value Autistic people’s thoughts and feelings…


Phew. Okay. I did it. In time for April 1st. Done.

If you—like me before my research into and subsequent diagnosis of ASD—currently or used to support Autism Speaks, please don’t hold onto guilt.

Instead, please consider arming yourself with facts, research Autism Speaks and alternative organizations, and pledge not to support organizations who speak about us rather than including us and amplifying our voices. (As ASAN says: “Nothing about us without us!”)

Please check out:

Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network

ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network)

Instead of “Light it up blue”, check out:

-Red Instead, #RedInstead

-Go Gold for Autism, #LightItUpGold, #GoingForGold

-Tone it down taupe #ToneItDownTaupe

Consider celebrating Autism Acceptance month!: https://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/about/

And of course, another way to support us is by following and listening to Autistic people.

You can find us on most platforms with the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag. If you have questions for us, you can use #AskingAutistics.

 


[Featured image credit: Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels]

27: Eating Disorder Treatment

I’ve now been in treatment for about a month. My first steps out the gate might be best described more as stumbles and falls, but every scrape I earn on the way down is a badge of honor that I hang proudly in my mental trophy room.

Why? Because each time I slip and fall, I learn something new and often profound about myself. And each time I get back up, I reenforce the fact that I can do this.

I have an eating disorder. And I’m gonna kick its butt!


[Content Warning: eating disorders, weight, food, restriction, bingeing, treatment]

It’s taken a lot (and I mean A LOT) of work to take my first steps in treatment. As I wrote in my first post about my eating disorder, I spent over a year in therapy after diagnosis of disordered eating before I finally felt ready to start treatment.

“I feel like I’m starting out across a tightrope, and I look down and there’s no net that I can see,”  I stated bluntly to my therapist.

“Sometimes I’m scared and I want to crouch down, grab the rope, and head back to safety. But everyone around me—friends in treatment and recovery, family, my husband, books I’m reading, my therapist—is assuring me that I am safe and there actually is a safety net below me. I just can’t see it yet. I just have to trust and keep going.”

A meme with a close-up of a pair of feet and legs of a person balanced on a tightrope. Text reads, "Eating disorder treatment feels like I'm starting out across a tightrope and there's no net that I can see. Sometimes I'm scared and want to head back to safety. Everyone is assuring me that I am safe and there actually is a net below me—I just can't see it yet. I just have to trust and keep going." The words keep going are bigger font.

And here’s the thing: no matter how many rational people you have in your court; no matter how logically you look at your eating at times, an eating disorder will try to whisper (sometimes shout) in your ear that those around you are wrong—that you are wrong. Learning to identify that voice takes a lot of work. It takes even more energy and trust to at least ignore that voice, if not fully defy it.

Some days I can laugh in its face and retort, “You are losing and you know it. That’s why you’re so loud. Shout away!” Other days I cower and bow to the voice, agreeing with it for a moment if only to gain some temporary peace.

And it’s strange… treatment is hard. It can be scary. It’s utterly exhausting. Yet so far, treatment has been far, far less scary than my enormous dread of seeking help was.

I spent so long dreading and fighting the thought of treatment, but a huge part of me feels relief at tackling something that I’ve struggled with for eighteen years. While it’s scary to admit I have an eating disorder, it’s also incredibly liberating. As I do the hard work of therapy, it’s often exhausting and sometimes overwhelming, but it also comes with an all-consuming relief that I can’t quite describe.

Initial Steps of My Treatment

1) Six Meals

I started a six meal a day routine, eating three small meals labeled merely as Meal 1, Meal 2, and Meal 3, and three small snacks a day. This is fairly common in treatment. One of the benefits can be reawakening hunger cues that a body has stopped sending for people who have restricted.

I went into the routine thinking it would be very easy, but also feeling like that was a lot of food to eat. (Interesting how an eating disorder will whisper conflicting information in your ear. Once you start to catch on to its little inconsistencies, it starts to lose its grip on you ever so slightly.)

Through this task, I realized that anorexia has played much more of a role in my life than I had realized, and that my bingeing was often a symptom of both conscious and subconscious restricting.

This was a huge revelation for me because: A) I had always thought of it in reverse, that my bingeing lead to restricting out of shame and B) I had the false assumption that someone has to be underweight to be anorexic. (That is NOT the case at all. Anyone of any size or shape can be diagnosed with anorexia.)

I printed out a chart when I realized how difficult it was to remember to eat and how hard it was to hold myself accountable for it. I worked out the math: I needed to eat something every 2-3 hours or so. The only problem? Seeing what I was eating on paper made me fixate too much on WHAT I was eating. But my fear—that I needed to change everything about my eating habits all at once—was unfounded.

My therapist reassured me that we were breaking things into manageable steps. “Right now, just focus on when you eat, not what. Addressing nutrition comes later!” I was so relieved because she was right—focusing on what I was eating in addition to starting this new routine that challenged 18 years of restricting and bingeing was too much. It was setting me up to crash and burn.

2) Talking to my doctor

Another victory came at a follow-up appointment with my primary care physician. This was not strictly part of my therapy, but I made it part of it because I trust my doctor.

Toward the end of my appointment, I had worked up my courage. “There is one more thing. Something I think you should be aware of as my GP.” I took a huge breath and continued.

“I’m in treatment for an eating disorder and I’ve begun a six small meals a day plan in order to return my hunger cues and manage my restricting and bingeing. So far it’s helped a lot to identify that I wasn’t eating as much as I thought I was which was leading to binge eating. So far it’s helped a lot with dizziness and hypoglycemia.”

I paused and finally looked at him.

“That’s great! Most people should be eating 4 to 5 small meals a day rather than the 3 we do. And if you ever want to try medication, there are some that can help with binge eating.”

I could almost hear my eating disorder groan at this response (it had hoped he would shoot me down and I’d have an excuse to stop treatment), but ultimately I was relieved.

“Thank you! I think treatment is going well so far, so I’ll wait on medication, but it’s good to know there are options. Also…” I paused again, looking down at the notes I had written for the appointment, “I… would like to stop being weighed. It’s very triggering for me; It makes me struggle with restricting more. And it’s hard to avoid seeing it on my charts.”

I held my breath the beat it took him to answer.

“Absolutely. No need to take your weight.”

Phew! Another ally in my court.

3) Challenging the voice of my eating disorder

I have made quite a lot of headway in this regard, but am finding it the most difficult part of treatment. For so long, there’s been this negative narrative in my head regarding food, weight, perfectionism, and control. Identifying that voice was an overwhelming experience as I wrote down all the terrible things that voice says to me.

The next step after learning to separate the eating disorder “voice” from my own has been a little harder. I’m now starting to “reply” to it with snark like “Gee, what a terrible suggestion. Thanks, but no thanks!”

And as a close friend of mine pointed out:  the more progress I make, the more my eating disorder is going to fight to survive. It knows it’s losing, and it will do anything to survive.

But joke’s on it—I’m stronger. And certainly sassier!

4) Journalling and continuing to read

I write notes in my journal about what my goals from therapy are and reminders of things to do and not do. That’s been essential to keeping on track and reminding myself it’s okay when I slip up. I also reflect on things I’ve learned in the books I am reading as part of treatment.

Journalling has also helped me to connect some dots on how my eating disorder controls a vast variety of things in my life. I’ve been astounded, for example, to realize how much my eating is tied to my perfectionism and anxiety, and in some ways, my OCD tendencies.

For example, my need to follow difficult tasks through until the bitter end no matter if I want to or not is slowly, ever so slowly budging. I recently had a small but mighty victory of “cheating” while reading one of my books and skipping over a section that was triggering to me. In the past, I would have slogged through that section to be “self-disciplined” (strange as that sounds) even when my mind and body were signaling “This is not what we need right now!”

Journalling also helped me to realize that binge-eating had been a way to stress-stim for me, and that without it I was much more anxious. It showed me that I needed to start stimming as self-care: coloring, squishing clay and silly putty, singing, flapping my hands, holding fluffy stuffed animals, etc.

I see these victories as tied to my treatment in a very real way, and I wouldn’t have noticed them without journalling. The journal also gives me a place to record moments I’d like to share in therapy, and a place to look back on to see how far I’ve already come.

I’ve got a long road ahead, but for now, I am so happy to look back and see how far I’ve already come.

A meme of a forest path with a blue square of text over it. Text reads, "I have an eating disorder. I began subconsciously using food to cope with sensory overload, to avoid meltdowns and shutdowns, and to find some sense of control in my life. As I start down my long path to recovery, I am reaching out to others to say "You are not alone." I have an eating disorder...and I'm going to kick its butt."
[Featured image description: A close-up of a pair of feet and legs of a person balanced on a tightrope. Text reads, “Eating Disorder Treatment: My First Steps. Seeking Sara.”]