Know Your Enemy

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” -Ephesians 6:12 KJV

Anybody remember what the Maginot Line was? It was a series of fortresses that France built after World War I in order to defend themselves against Germany. It was only on the border with Germany. However, when World War II broke out, the Germans invaded France through Belgium and the Netherlands, conquered France and defeated the Maginot Line from inside France itself! Why this history lesson? Because the Christian is at war. Whether they like it or not, we are soldiers in an epic battle with a powerful, cunning enemy, who has invaded our very bodies and minds, and has an ally within ourselves! Who is this enemy and his ally? The enemy is one we all know about. The enemy is Satan. The ally is our own sinful nature.

Here is how most spiritual battles play out: Most people, including Christians, think it is someone who is sinning differently than them, point their fingers at that person, and say: “THIS GUY is the enemy!” They mount bulwarks and laws against that person, paying no attention to the fact that they have a sinful nature too, and they are defeated, not by that “enemy,” but by that ally within themselves, who is operating under the distraction the different sinner provides. Trouble is, that is not fighting the enemy; that is distracting from the enemy. The enemy is Satan, who seeks to steal, kill and destroy; it is not the different sinner. Satan and the sinful nature within ourselves brings us down, but only if we let them. We have a true ally who can come live within us to fight our battles for us.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” –Matthew 7: 3-5 NIV

Now that we got who the enemy and their ally is, how do we fight them? There are several ways. One is through study and obedience to the Word of God, the Bible. That will strengthen you against Satan and sin, so you can fight properly. How can a soldier fight without proper instruction and training in their weapons? So it is with you. The Bible, prayer and belief are your weapons; use them. In prayer and belief, refer all complaints and temptations to the Lord. The Lord will fight your battles for you. It is His job to do the heavy lifting and repairs to your life and the person(s) your pray for. Simply ask, and keep asking, and the Lord will give you the answer.

So, where does this leave the “different sinner” in the Lord’s eyes? The “different sinner” is still a sinner. They are hostages to Satan and the sinful nature, just like you. Your task is to minister to them; that is, to tell the sinner that there is a way out of the pit, and it is through accepting Christ as your Savior. So, go and tell the sinner the way out of sin!

Know your enemy, know your ally, and you can be on the winning side.

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Getting Right With God

keep-calm-it-is-time-to-get-right-with-godSometimes one has to wonder whether their blog is more positive or more negative. Strangely, people tend to remember the more negative posts – the rant-filled ones about social injustices. Being a woman hailing from Kentucky with weight issues and autism, plus an ally to other causes, one tends to see a lot to rant about. Trouble is, it can wear on your well-being. I’m not always raging –  far from it. When I see an injustice, I will call it out. With that in mind, my life has been just peachy lately. I owe it all to getting right with God this year.

I have been blessed before – with a lovely apartment that has washer and dryer hookups, furniture, decorations, clothes, plenty of food and even a little dog – but the blessings have been coming back this particular year with increasing frequency.

It started with a goal of reading the Bible daily. It was not easy, and at times it still feels like a long time. The truth is, in spite of my wants, the Bible has become an interesting love letter from God to his people. As an account of the people of God, I am in my Old Testament history section. Eventually (spoiler alert!) Jesus will come on the scene and complete the covenant. I have bragged about going through the Bible ten times, but I remember very little unless it’s one of my favorite sections, unfortunately. I can’t exactly brag about my love for God, but I can certainly brag about God’s love for me. The Bible will certainly help in the process, because it is the word of God. Besides, if God can relentlessly pursue a nation that squanders itself on various neighboring gods and spirits, thereby being adulterous in that matter, how much more will He pursue someone faithful? And, is not everyone the nation of Israel at various times in their life? Putting their faith in different gods, like money, fame, romance and guns? I myself am guilty of this, too. It is not essential to read the Bible to be saved, but just so you know, don’t you want to know what or who exactly you’re putting your faith in?

I’m working on prayer at this time. Listing my needs and wants, getting the courage to ask, and then letting it go – that is my current battle. We recently saw the movie “War Room,” which is about the right way to fight – and who you’re fighting against. HINT: It’s not the people who are aggravating you in your life. It’s the devil who seeks to separate and isolate you from your family, friends and joy – not the people. Please, pray for me as I learn to pray in my life.

We are approaching our one-year anniversary at our current church. It is a small, old-fashioned type of church, independent of any association. We are looking for a pastor right now, but we’re praying that God brings us the right man for the job. Fortunately, I believe that will happen soon. We have enjoyed loving, caring fellowship in our church, and hope to keep doing that in the future.

Please keep my mother and me in your prayers as we continue to grow in faith and love.

More Autism Myths

Okay, let’s shoot down some myths.  I know I have gone over some of these before, but I think it’s time to bring these things up again.

  1. Autism Is Caused By the Mother – This is an earlier, now-disproven hypothesis concerning the concept of the “refrigerator mother” made up by psychology. The theory was that autism and schizophrenia were caused by a lack of affection from the parents. I can tell you personally this was not my mother’s case.
  1. Autism Is A Fate Worse Than Death – People often feel that having any condition that deviates from the norm of those in power is a negative. I personally do not feel that. It’s as damaging as saying that deafness is worse than death, or having dark skin is worse than death. People think that happiness is defined in the absence of struggle, which I can also tell you, is not true.
  1. The Struggle of Autism is Too Great for Any Success to Come – One of the falsehoods that seems to not be discussed as much as accepted. This is often applied to any deviation from those in power.
  1. Autistic People Are All The Same – No, we might have a few things in common, but it’s just plain stupid to think that a person is exactly like your relative/friend of a friend who has autism. They usually do not even like the same things.
  1. Autistic People Will Never Fit In Anywhere – Funny; I guess it blows their minds when people with autism suddenly fit in with
  1. Autistic People Are All Math and Science Geeks – My math calculation absolutely SUCKS. We’re not all rejects from the Big Bang Theory. (Are any of those characters autistic? I have no evidence of this.)
  1. Autistic People Are Too Dumb to Know They’re Being Made Fun Of – This is a common stereotype among bullies. I happen to personally believe bullies are evil. I knew I was being bullied from first grade until high school graduation. It took an apology from one of the bullies for me to even begin accepting their Facebook friendship.
  1. Autistic People Are Sameness-Crazy – We may find comfort in our routines, but I personally will attest to the fact that I get bored very easily if the routines are too much the same. I will not throw a temper tantrum if the furniture is not in the exact same spot, for example.
  1. Autism is a Guy Thing – Yes, there are more boys than girls, but the trouble in believing that stereotype is that it renders autism Women (like me) absolutely invisible – to diagnosis, treatment and other aid.
  1. Autistic People Are All Savants – No, I have only heard this of myself and a few others. However, I have not heard this much from the autistic community itself.
  1. Autistic People are Unlovable – This is more of an attitude than a general stereotype. “I love my child but hate his autism” is a common statement among autism parents. I know my autism did not make me pleasant, but it is a part of who I am. Love and accept your child the way they are, not as you wish they were.

 

Perhaps all these myths and bad attitudes are the reason people think autism is a fate worse than death. I am doing fine with autism, thank you. I want to go back to school and become a psychologist.

Women and Girls: Autism’s Lost Tribe

There is an oft-repeated statistic concerning the ratio of boys to girls with autism: That ratio is 4-to-1 in favor of having boys. I happen to think that particular statistic is not true. Many women with autism are diagnosed later in life, often in adulthood, and many after learning of the autism in their children. So, why are we being diagnosed so late, and so few in between? I believe that since the industry is male-dominated, there is bias towards males in the theories, diagnosis and treatment in relation to autism itself. For those reasons, girls and women with autism often become a lost tribe in diagnosis and treatment.

I was one of the lucky ones, to receive a diagnosis in childhood. I was told to be “a little autistic, a little aphasic…” And by sheer luck, fate, or as we put it, the Grace of God, my mother was able to diagnose autism in me. Here is how my mother puts it:

The first time I heard “autism” was up in Fresno. They said to me “you don’t want to give the diagnosis of autism.” I said “without the label, how was she supposed to receive help?” I fought with the label until she was in fifth grade. I had to go to fair hearing to get your diagnosis accepted – and they still did not acceptance….the label of autism was worse than death. There was no hope until I met B.J. Freeman at UCLA, to get your true diagnosis.

A little background on her statements: We lived in Fresno, California when I was six. I was eight when my mother met B.J. Freeman. I was ten in the fifth grade, held back for a year for “social growth.” The only teacher to take my mother seriously was my RSVP teacher my senior year, and only after an embarrassing incident involving my backpack, but that’s another story.

I still consider myself one of the lucky ones, since I received my diagnosis before adulthood. Most women begin their autism journeys with self-diagnosis. There are harmful biases towards males in the theories, diagnosis and treatment in relation to autism in women. We become a lost tribe.

The biases in diagnosis are the most subtle, because more attention goes to the boys due to the more aggressive “masculine” behavior preferred on boys…but not too much. Let me explain: in this culture, boys are believed to be more aggressive, more assertive, and allowed to be more belligerent in their behavior. However, there is a cliché about “proper” behavior: “Children should be seen and not heard.” So, when boys are given leeway to be belligerent, the autistic ones are more likely to be disruptive. I observed an autistic boy in kindergarten. He was accepted to be what I never really was allowed to be – loud. Girls, however, and supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” We are taught that quietness, passiveness, and going along to get along are virtues. Quietness is rewarded. The autistic quietness and passiveness are rewarded. We mimic behaviors of neurotypicals, too. Simply put, girls are rewarded for being introverted, a stereotype of being autistic. Since “children should be seen and not heard,” the boy attacking another is going to get more attention than the girl sitting quietly and staring into space.

The theories of autism are even more male-biased. Autism has been described, even by an article in Time Magazine, as an “extreme male brain.” Now, this “extreme male brain” theory is due to less empathy, better performance at analysis, and more masculine interests. However, theories must be taken with a grain of salt. They must be analyzed in the current 4-to-1 boy-to-girl ratio of medical diagnosis. Since more boys are diagnosed than girls, the data will obviously skew in favor of the boys. More research into autistic females is needed.

So, in light of biased diagnosis and theory, the treatment is going to come more easily to boys and men, than it is to girls and women. We are finding more and more girls diagnosed in adulthood than boys. The trouble with that is, later diagnosis leads to limited success. The results are clear: Girls and women with autism are more likely to be severely limited in romantic relationships, while boys and men are more likely to find romance and marriage. Even I myself, at age 38 as of this article, am living alone with my mother. My computer is my primary source of interaction with the world. I am also extremely resentful towards most of the Tustin Unified School District of Tustin, CA, for not taking my autism seriously. Due to my troubles in socializing, it took an apology from a former schoolmate to even begin accepting Facebook friend requests from my former schoolmates-and that was only after I explained some of my behaviors. (Check out “Facebook and the Mellaril Nightmare” for background on that.) Also, so many of us, myself included, have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for being raped, abused and manipulated by neurotypicals we should not have trusted. (Fortunately, only abuse is in my history, not rape. Again, lucky.)

I hope I can call for more research into the signs and symptoms of autism as shown in females, because we need it. I may have to donate my body to scientific research in order to contribute further, because I don’t think enough is being done to recognize and treat autistic girls and women. We are falling far behind our male counterparts, and I don’t think it’s really our fault.

Forgiveness, Perspective 2016

I was finally able to watch “The Imitation Game” without getting mad at Benedict Cumberbatch last night. Forgiveness and perspective are the reasons.

First, forgiveness is an essential. You need to forgive who you hold a grudge against. It’s really unhealthy to focus on something so negative, to let someone live rent-free in your head unless they give you something positive. Besides, what is the reward for holding a grudge? Stress? That will age your system faster than weight supposedly does. It will lead you to an early grave. Besides, people who hold grudges are more likely to drink, smoke and do drugs, I think. It can even develop into something that drives you out of your better judgment. Who wants to be there?

Also, there is perspective to handle. Is Benedict Cumberbatch a real expert on autism, like Temple Grandin? Of course not. As far as I know, he does not deal with autism on a daily basis and is unlikely to do it in the future. He may not know all the traits he portrayed add up to autism. When  he visited the school for autistics, he probably did not study for all the signs, so he does not know them. I am simply going to list these traits and present the evidence in the movie.

1) Social Struggles – Examples of this are given several places in the script. Here are a few:

  • Trouble with jokes and idioms
  • Remember the “are you hungry” scene?
  • Joan Clarke had to explain to him this: “They’re not going to help you if they don’t like you.” Turing genuinely did not know that.
  • Accused of being a Russian spy for being a loner who does not socialize

2) A need for organization – remember separating the peas and carrots in school?

3) Extreme focus and drive – who else but an autistic could keep their focus on an early computer under those circumstances?

4) The mental skill for and interest with various puzzles for mental stimulation – crosswords, coding, mathematics

These are only a few of the traits for autism. I am not saying Benedict Cumberbatch is autistic personally, nor am I saying such a thing alone. For one, I received my confirmation recently from my mother, who is, naturally, an “autism parent.” I think that means “parent of someone with autism.” Also, independent of the film, Dr. Tony Attwood, Henry O’Connell and Michael Fitzgerald give light to this as well, similar traits detailed through a blog Here. There is more detail over there, but I believe Alan Turing was autistic.

I seriously do not think Benedict Cumberbatch is educated enough on autism to detect it in his characters, but I think it’s rather suspect to get offended at various characters being called autistic, especially when you think autism affects personality – it does not, and I myself was corrected for thinking this. It’s not like Benedict Cumberbatch has autism bleeding through into his work – or is he? As a former theater major, I can see how the focus and drive given to the autistic helps when you’re memorizing major blocks of lines, working through stage movements, and doing various tasks with getting a production up and running.

Of course, I do not think Benedict Cumberbatch is autistic himself. I think he is a very gifted actor whose talent can literally make him disappear into a role. I just don’t think he is as educated on autism as he thinks. As far as any of us know, he has only met a few of them in one age group. A school-age person with autism can be very different from one who is pushing 40, for example. Autism does not affect personality as much as persons on the outside looking in think it does. For example, I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, and I got ENFP – Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Prospecting. This is how I act when I am comfortable, with the people I know. I know autism might seem introverted, but I’ve also known autistic people whom I can’t get a word in edgewise around.

So I decided to forgive Benedict Cumberbatch’s autism statements. Yes, they hurt me. No, it does not mean I let things slide. What it means is that I can separate his statements from the person, from the way I really feel about them.

Lady Ambrosia and the Damaged Ones

(SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead unless you have watched The Blacklist: Lady Ambrosia, or have no intention to avoid its spoilers.)

Now, on to what has poked my mind tonight. A certain episode of “The Blacklist” has gotten into my head, in a very good way. The episode was titled “Lady Ambrosia,” and was a nod to the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. However, this was no fairy tale. This was a woman who “turned children with disabilities into butterflies” by throwing them down a well. You can guess what really happens. She has a nonverbal autistic son, and a husband who follows her every whim. What I would like to focus on is the final scene between Raymond Reddington, the main character and an antihero, and Lady Ambrosia herself. Reddington aka Red discusses her past, of having a neurotypical child who drowned in an accident involving him and the autistic son. Her rationalizing just makes me sick. She says she “saves” the “damaged ones” from a world that hates and pities them (her words, not mine). Her son reacts by saying he’s “ugly,” (again, I do not agree), and Red tells he is entitled to whatever he needs, including a mother’s love. I’ll end the spoilers here, but the fate of Lady Ambrosia can be read above.

Listen up, neurotypical parents. Lady Ambrosia exists in every person who records a meltdown and puts it on YouTube, or some other public video site. (Do you like David Hasselhoff’s drunk burger on the floor video? It’s the same to me.) Lady Ambrosia exists in every person who “saves” their child by murdering him. Lady Ambrosia exists in every person who insists on institutionalizing and criminalizing autism by denying them help and accommodations until they land in jail. Lady Ambrosia exists in every person who thinks those with disabilities are lesser human beings. What I am saying is, if you pity or hate us, you are Lady Ambrosia.

You may think I am being too hard on autism caregivers…but the point is, if you’re having trouble, and need help, do not hesitate to get any. Keep calling out for help, but most importantly, hang in there. Keep pushing, keep praying, but most importantly, keep living. You do not know how close you are to aid. For instance, one woman who killed her autistic child and herself was one day away from her mother’s help arriving in the mail. If you stop and end it all, you are playing God and taking a life. You become Lady Ambrosia.

The Softer Side of Benedict Cumberbatch

I know I’ve been hard on Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s because somehow his words matter to me. If I ever meet him, I want him to think well of me – doesn’t everybody? With that aside, I am inclined to like him, even in his statements about people like me.

A recent viewing of August: Osage County impressed me all the more. He played a nephew of the main family, which was the ‘cover story’ of what really happened. (No spoilers here!) My mother said he was playing another autistic role, but I disagree on that one. He was thoroughly dominated and criticized. The best part, I believe, was a song he performed for his beloved. I did not know he could sing so well. It was sweet, and well done. Perhaps I am not used to seeing him in a softer role, but I feel better liking him, because he can do these things. Usually, the role Mr. C plays is a hard, somewhat jerky sort of role. I think we need to get him into some softer things…

Then again, I would like to see Benedict Cumberbatch do some comedy. I would like to see him just go all out and look ridiculous doing it. Maybe a tribute to the Colonel from Monty Python’s Flying Circus is in order? I’ve never seen him just go crazy. I think it would help his career, and show off his range, just to see him do outrageous comedy. Who’s with me?