I’m going to walk you through all the awkwardness of something pretty standard that will wipe me of four days’ energy.
I’m at Planned Parenthood. Waiting for a cancer screening and STD test. Annual stuff that’s anxiety inducing and none too fun. But that’s just the very end.
Before that, I have to sit in a lobby, waiting for someone to come out and call my name. It’s not an easy one, it gets butchered a lot, so I have to listen extra close. I have auditory sensory perception issues so I read lips to assist me with human speech. Good luck in Covid times. And they’re calling patients from four different doors. And the nurses have thick accents so I don’t understand anything.
Before that, I had to go through a metal detector. And think of all the metal I might be wearing. I wore none today just for this fact. I thought ahead.
Before that, I had to enter the right building on the street, find out what floor Planned Parenthood is on, hit the elevator ‘Up’ button, wait for the elevator, push the right floor once inside and get out on the right floor while other people were looking at me.
Before that, I had to orient myself on the street as I got off the bus so I didn’t walk three blocks in the wrong direction like I normally do because time is tight and I didn’t leave myself wiggle room like I’m supposed to.
Before that, I had to ride the bus, watching my route on a map on my phone because I’ve never taken this exact route and I’m apt to zone out and miss my stop or get nervous and get off early and 20 stops is a lot to count on your fingers over the course of a half hour.
Before that, I had to get on the bus. Prior to August 31st, MTA has stopped taking fares to protect the drivers from Covid. But now they’ve resumed taking fares. The buses themselves don’t have signs that tell you how to pay. That information is on a website I didn’t have time to look up before I got on. But I had read last night about how MTA was transitioning to a new OMNI system that sounds overwhelming. Do I need an app? An Apple Pay account? Do I tap my credit card? Do I have funds on my debit card if the credit card is maxed out?
These are things I watch for as people ahead of me get on. But in this case no one did. I fumbled and ended up not paying anything because I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t understand the driver. So I spent half the trip feeling awkward and weird about the encounter until I could text a friend who has similar issues and she cheered me on.
Before that I had to decide my route to Planned Parenthood, taking into consideration different modes of transport, their dependability, the easiest route, how long it would take, and whether I would get here on time and then back date it to when I could leave comfortably and still get here.
Before that I had to choose clothing that wouldn’t annoy me and cause unneeded stress. Sometimes this requires trying on five different things depending on my pre-existing level of stress and chronic pain. I chose a jumpsuit. But it’s always a craps shoot.
Before that I had to allocate enough time to taking a shower and getting dressed. I book afternoon appointments almost exclusively because I don’t function well before noon. If I have something that starts at 11 a.m., I have to go to sleep early enough for my medicine to metabolize so I can think clearly in the morning and plan things out without feeling rushed and deal with anxiety or the whole day can cascade into a nightmare of debacles. So my day actually starts the night before.
Before that I had to check my appointment time yesterday and check that against the email I got sent to make sure I jotted it down properly in my phone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written things down wrong or had them hardwired into my head wrong. I’ve shown up to a job on the wrong date. I’ve missed appointments. And I’ve wasted a lot of energy in doing so.
Before that I had to book the appointment. Easy enough, right? Call a number, get online. Just do it. Except phone calls for me with strangers are fraught with anxiety because I always push the wrong buttons under the pressure of an automated system and I can’t understand people on the phone and I forget to ask important questions or they think my questions are stupid and the information I’m asking about is obviously self-explanatory.
Use the internet, you say? Everything is explained there? Is it going to require a login? Because that’s a four step process I will screw up twice, especially if it has a robot test. And if I’ve already logged in once, I might not remember my password or my email or my security questions or a combination of the three. I will inevitably type something wrong, miss a question on a form and not be directed to what I got wrong until just this simple process will make me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock and cry for half an hour.
This is all before I even get tested for life altering diseases by being poked and prodded and palpitated all over my body. My pre-frontal cortex is shot. Even if everything goes as planned (Parenthood), I’m still probably going to go home and cry afterwards.
Doing necessary things like this to someone who doesn’t have my issues goes without much forethought. I, through the grace of God, have a lot of experience and many workarounds and have learned how to limit my exposure to stress. And in doing so, it can be easy for me to forget I have autism at times. It can be really easy for others to dismiss I have autism at all. Not because I’m high functioning, but because I have devoted so many years to understanding my limitations and triggers and doing everything I can to make my limited life livable.
But on a day like today, I feel my limitations so keenly that I want to punch every motherfucker in the face who has ever dismissed my struggle, minimized it, condescended to me or patronized me, and burn the whole ever loving joint down to the ground because the world is not a kind place.
Part of moving to NYC was about finding a place where there are more solutions. For example, here I have Medicaid. Here, Medicaid is automatically recognized by Planned Parenthood. In Arizona, where no one gives a damn, even Planned Parenthood is prohibitively expensive and you’ve got to walk through a crowd of Bible thumpers. I honestly have so much disdain right now for Arizona, but that’s a rant for another time.
It’s now 3:48. I’ve been here for over an hour and I’m still waiting for an internal examination. I already had an HIV and STD test. I expect to be non-verbal for a day or two afterwards. And that is after using all my coping mechanisms and doing everything right. This is why I can’t live a normal life. This is why trying to live like other people doesn’t work for me and why I need to keep pushing for acceptance. Because what I’m going through feels brutal and so many others go through the same thing but lack the visibility and the privilege I have to express it to people who will listen.