Hi, I’m Amy Handy and I’m a mom of 5. I was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety as an adolescent. For the majority of my adult life I thought I was managing it fine. I didn’t realize that I was living my life in survival mode. In 2018 I moved to Northern California and it was at that point, in the depths of the worst burnout of my life, that I began to learn more about autism and how it presents in women. For the first time in my life, things made sense, I made sense.
For as long as I can remember, anytime things got tough or heavy as one of my girls often refers to difficult situations, I would just shut down. I go into autopilot or as I like to call it, robot mode. I now know this is just a part of my neurology, when my brain is trying to process too much, it eventually just can’t compute. It crashes, and the Robot Mom in me kicks in and does the thing that needs to be done because the rest of me is hiding in the corner with eyes closed and her hands over her ears waiting for everyone to go away.
Being aware of my differences has been really helpful in learning to accept and love myself for who I am. I’ve learned to set boundaries and to take care of my own needs first, because just like on an airplane, if I’m not functioning how can I expect the people who depend on me to? I hope that by sharing my experiences in life that I can help other women to feel less alone and learn to love and accept themselves, quirks and all.
Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to my awkward life.
I am not broken and I don’t need to be fixed. I am not a defective human, there is nothing wrong with me as a person. I am autistic. That’s it. I’m just a girl in her 30’s who spent the majority of her life feeling like I was defective and it’s only been in the last few years, since learning about and embracing my neurology, that I have come to understand and except that simple fact. I am NOT defective, I am autistic.
I lived my life in autopilot, trying to do all the things I thought I was supposed to. Like the things they like. Wear the clothes they wear. Talk the way they talk. If I could just build up enough layers I could continue to pass as one of them. But the truth is, I’m not neurotypical, and no amount of studying and masking and attempts to retrain my thoughts and words and actions is going to change that. In general I exist in a state of “almost normal.” There is nothing about me on the surface that screams, “I’m not like you.” And so then when I screw up, I talk too much, I say the wrong thing, or I react differently than is expected, others opinions of me switch.
I have always been a good story teller, but I like to tell the same stories. I like to perfect my retelling of an exceptionally traumatic experience, and then when I am able to regurgitate all the painstaking details I leave the listener in awe of the pure ridiculousness of the circumstances of the events I just described. But this isn’t what they set out for, they didn’t intend to have to listen to me spew so much heavy shit their way and quite frankly its a bit of a turn off for most people.
A few months ago while I was pushing my toddler on the swing at the park after school I found myself talking to the mom of one of my other daughter’s friends. I’d been in California for over a year and had still only made one real friend, two if you count my physical therapist, though most would debate that friendship since she was literally my doctor and nothing more, but we had great conversations. As it always does when moms talk the conversation went to number of kids. Her, “wow, 5 kids…” me, “well the last one was a ninja baby. She was conceived while I was on birth control and nursing and my husband had a vasectomy scheduled but had to reschedule it and then sure enough I ended up pregnant. Thankfully he has got a vasectomy since her birth because I could NOT do this again…” Her “………” and she never made eye contact with me again.
Yep that quickly I just obliterated any chance of friendship with this woman and likewise for my daughter and hers. Because lets face it, when at all possible, particularly when they are young, the parents of our kids friends matter. If you can’t stand a person, it’s hard to want their kid hanging around yours.
Honestly, I walked away from that conversation feeling like it was a good interaction. We were settling into our community and for a second I thought, “hey, maybe I can just make this place home, maybe I can have friends and a normal life.” But the next day at the park she didn’t say hi. I thought maybe I was supposed to be the one to say hi first? But as the days went by I realized it wasn’t about whether or not I said hi first, she had decided that I was not her kind of person, and just like a million other times in my life, I was once again invisible to her and the other moms.
This scenario has played out so often in my life that it has just become my default expectation when talking to new people. I used to try really hard. Calculate out every word or phase that I would need to say in a conversation. Make sure I had the scripts right and knew all my lines. Make sure I’ve got the tone and facial expressions down. But that just created a false sense of acceptance. People seemed to like and accept me when I did all the right things. I created this internal pressure on myself to be the person I thought people wanted me to be. The problem with changing who you are to be what you think others want you to be is that you really can’t know what others actually want. You can think you are doing all the right things, but maybe they are things that they really don’t actually care that much about. And eventually if you spend enough time with a person the conversation will end up going off script. It’s in those moments that I struggle most. I don’t know what is expected of me. Should I just sit silently until you start talking again? Should I just keep talking forever?
I think it’s funny that as a society we diagnose autism based on things like communication challenges and social awkwardness. But then we still continue to judge people who are socially awkward and lack “appropriate” communication skills. We say things like “autistics talk too much about their special interests and don’t pick up on social cues when someone is no longer interested in the conversation.” But no one actually takes the time to communicate these things to us. So we, already being awkward and unaware, continue to be awkward and unaware.
If I am talking too much, just tell me! If you don’t want to talk about the topic we are discussing (or more accurately, I’m discussing) let me know. Sometimes it feels like poeple just don’t want to be rude or hurt my feelings. But what they don’t realize, or maybe they do and it’s their intention, is that by ghosting me, or going out of your way to avoid interacting with me it leaves me feeling like garbage. I don’t know what I did wrong. Is it something I can fix? Did I say something stupid, do I owe you an apology? Is there something I am doing that makes you uncomfortable? What changed? What specific events led to the situation we are now in?
I think that for many neurotypicals its easy to just walk away. To say, “eh this relationship isn’t serving me, I’ll just move on.” But from an autistic perspective it’s a lot harder to just move on. I will analyze every interaction over and over again trying to figure out where exactly I went wrong, because, despite what many believe, as an autistic person I care deeply about the people around me. I do lack awareness. It’s part of who I am. When I’m aware of an issue I can work to fix it. I want to be the best version of myself, but I’ still learning who I am.
If you are like me and you are struggling, stop. Stop letting yourself feel like less than, because you are not. If you are neurotypical and you have ever been guilty of treating someone differently after deciding that they were off/different/weird/awkward, whatever…I’d like you to consider what that other person is going through. In general we all try to put our best face forward. Most people are just trying to do the best they can and awareness is key to acceptance. Don’t be afraid to (politely) let your friend know you want to talk about a different subject, that you would like the opportunity to talk and that that thing they are doing is bugging you. You don’t have to be an ass about it, but you also can’t expect a person to just know either.
For over 30 years, I have been the weird girl. The girl who would bounce between word vomiting and selective mutism and could never quite master what normal looked like. Turns out I’m autistic. I was autistic when I was 6 and 16 and 26. I just wasn’t aware. I didn’t have a name or a reason for why I would inevitably screw up interactions with friends and the people around me would just move on with their lives. I was often left with so many unanswered questions. If you have a friend, a family member, a coworker, with a diagnosis or not, and their is something that they do that they maybe seem like they are not aware of, they probably aren’t. I can’t even begin to try and imagine how many times I thought I was nailing it and I was so far off. Sure it would have hurt my feeling to have a friend say, “hey Amy can you try not to interrupt me when I’m talking.” But I would also be aware. It’s impossible to change what you are not aware is a problem. So please be kind and have compassion for those of us who don’t seem to get it. We probably just don’t know better and would be more than happy to work on our weaknesses if we know they are a thing.
I tried to quietly walk away. To just fade into the background. I didn’t want it to have to be a thing. I didn’t want to have to have the hard conversations. I wanted to pretend that I could just turn the page and step right into the next chapter of my life. I didnt anticipate how hard it would be. How lonely and isolating it would be to start over with nothing and to have to distance myself from the safety network I had grown to rely so heavily on.
But here we are. I know that some of you will want answers. You will want to know why and how a devoted member like myself could just choose to walk away. You may feel sad or sorry for me and my family. You may want to know exactly what brought me to this point in hope’s that you may be able to explain away my fears and hangs up. That you might hold the truth that I was seeking and could be the person to help me realize the error in my ways and return to the fold.
The truth is, like many, my decision to walk away from the church was not an easy one. In fact, I spent significantly more time praying and researching approved materials than I did when I made the decision to be baptized as a 20 year old. The literature is there, if you want to dig deeper and have a greater understanding of why someone would choose to walk away, but I don’t feel like it is my responsibility to provide that information. I don’t want to add weight to someone else’s shelf.
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Or think that I was deceived. I don’t want you to pray for me or send missionaries and members to my door. I don’t want to live my life afraid that people will judge me for my decision to leave, to wear tank tops, or shorts above my knees. I don’t want to feel ashamed of the fact that I have chosen a different path.
I realize that by putting this out there, I am opening myself up to all the things I fear. I know hard conversations will follow, and that I will be judged and criticized and pitied. But I can’t continue to live my life afraid of confronting my own truths.
The truth, my truth, is that I joined a church with very little knowledge of what it actually meant to do so at 20 years old. I spent over a decade trying to live up to a standard that was never easy or natural for me. I continually put myself out of my comfort zone and forced myself to participate in activities that often left me feeling drained and unworthy. I could never live up to the bar that was set for me and trying to do so burnt me out and left me feeling like a failure.
I never intended to leave. No matter the amount of mental gymnastics it took for me to wrap my brain around much of the doctrine and culture, I was committed. It was almost by accident that I began down the rabbit hole that would ultimately lead to my decision to remove my records from the church. Nothing about that decision was easy, but it was a necessary step along my way to living a more authentic life.
I’m going to stop cropping my coffee pot out of pictures, because coffee is super beneficial for me. In addition to helping my executive dysfunction drinking coffee has significantly decreased the number of migraines I experience each month. Taking off my garments was a really hard thing. It forced me to actually see my body in a way that I really had not since I put them on in 2008. Over the years I became more and more detached from my physical body. The longer I spent in garments, the easier it was to hide in them. I did not love my body, I did not even like it for a lot of years and it was only when I stopped hiding it away that I began to see the physical toll I had put it through. There were a lot of body image issues I had to work through before I could begin to see that broken or not my body is not something to be hated or hidden away. That it should be cared for and nourished and loved. I’m still working on that last one, but I’m making progress.
In closing, if you know me IRL, know that I love you and I do not want to hurt you. I am still the same person I have always been and I hope that we can continue to be friends and support and lift one another up. I have no regrets. I don’t regret my decision to be baptized or the 12 years I spent active in the church. I don’t regret the time I spent learning and researching and praying, and I don’t regret the decision to walk away.
Guys, I’m picky. I’m particular and opinionated and basically hard to please. I don’t try to be, but it’s kind of part of being a high needs person. If I’m uncomfortable in anyway my brain hyperfocuses on that and has a harder time processing more important stuff. Over the years I’ve learned that it is often worth it to spend a little more on an item that I really love instead of saving money on a product that I will not be happy with. I’d rather have 1 pair of really comfortable jeans than 10 pairs that don’t feel quite right.
When I find a product that I love, it often becomes a staple in my life. I will rebuy the same shoes over and over again. When I find a pair of leggings that feel just right I stock up. And when I find a bra that is both comfortable and flattering I will make sure I have enough to wear every day. I literally buy my black tee shirts in bulk, because once I find a shirt that is both comfortable and flattering I want to make sure that I always have them around. Companies switch up their fabrics and styles too much for me, I just want to know that when I reach for a black tee shirt it is going to fit exactly right. Is that too much to ask for?
As a mom of 5 and an introvert, shopping is basically the worst thing ever. I’ve been relying heavily on online shopping for years. I joined amazonprime years ago, it has saved me so much time and money over the years. With my recent move to the Seattle area, I now have access to grocery delivery through amazonfresh, wholefoods, and target and it is AMAZING. It is everything I needed in my life when I was a young mom with a new baby, I don’t think I could ever go back to living in a world where grocery delivery isn’t a thing.
I kind of think of myself as the antithesis of a lifestyle mom blogger. Nothing about me is stylish or trendy, my house is messy and cluttered and my walls are mostly blank. It’s a bit ironic that I have decided to blog when I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing in life. But hey I can’t be the only mom out there who feels this way, can I?
I’ve decided to dedicate this portion of my blog to share product reviews. As I add more videos I will try to keep things organized, but for today, here is a link to my first video review.
All my life I just felt like I was floating along. Like I belonged in someone else’s shadow. That I was occupying someone else’s space. I’d try to wedge myself in. Claim my own space. But often I got swept to the outskirts. A wallflower. Other times I would break in, think, “Maybe I have finally found my place?” But I was never sure. Never confident enough to truly be comfortable. To truly be myself.
This past November, while in the process of relocating from Northern California to Seattle, I had a moment of clarity. I was walking along Pier 59 in Seattle with my family. I was dressed in skinny jeans and a slouchy sweater, both purchased from Costco. A charcoal raincoat (also from Costco), knee-high boots and my favorite fanny pack. The one with cupholders on each side.
I was pushing my 3 girls in my keenz stroller wagon while my 2 boys and husband followed behind. I was having such a moment of “Is this really my life?” When I walked past the entrance to the Seattle Aquarium where we were headed. My kids bickered about who was following who. As we turned around I heard another mother say something to her kid along the lines of “watch out, don’t get in their way.” And then she turned to her SO and made a comment about our wagon full of kids.
It was in that moment that, for the first time in maybe forever, I felt like I had finally found my place. This was my space to unapologetically take up. I am finally where I am supposed to be. This is where I belong. I am here.