Does Not Compute

“If you’ve met one person with autism,
you’ve met one person with autism.”
– Dr. Stephen Shore

I came across the graphic below in my Facebook feed today, and it lead me to consider and consolidate some of the observations I have made about myself. I also cannot stress enough that autism is a condition of fluctuation. On good days, and/or with a lot of preparation, I can appear neurotypical. On bad days, I may struggle with making eye contact and having conversations with strangers.

Every autistic person is unique, but there are some common traits.

Tips for Talking To Autistic People

The more data I have about an individual person, environment, or situation, the easier it will be for me to interact successfully. My relationships tend to greatly reflect the quality of input I am given. If I sound like a computer, it is not a coincidence. I feel like a malfunctioning artificial intelligence at times.

All of that being said, here is what you should know about me:

– My intellectual ability has little correlation to my “people” ability.
– My intellectual ability has little correlation to my “people” ability.
– My intellectual ability has little correlation to my “people” ability.

Did that come through? Being “high-functioning” actually makes autism more frustrating in some ways. People assume I am neurotypical, meaning I get less accommodation and assistance, while being painfully aware of my own deficits. Autistic people have more than three-fold higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts than the general population. Abuse and bullying are rampant.

Data from Star Trek

– I am doing my best to have healthy and fulfilling relationships.
– I want to understand you and your needs, but I need your help for that.
– Texting is easier than talking because I can more thoughtfully respond.
– Real-time communication is stressful for me. Please have some patience.
– I have made progress with small talk, but it is awkward and uncomfortable.
– I will have to learn the “script” for every distinctive social environment.
– I will info-dump and over-explain when I am feeling unheard.

Feeling heard is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to me.

– If you ambush or surprise me, I am likely to react in strange ways.
– If you alter a routine without warning, I am likely to react in strange ways.
– If rules are erratic and/or illogical, I am likely to react in strange ways.
– If goals and expectations shift, I am likely to react in strange ways.
– If given adequate time to process it, I accept change easily.

Robot dog slipping on banana peels.

– Do not make assumptions why I do/did something. Ask me. For best results, without anger or judgement. My brain recognizes connections and patterns that may not be obvious to others, and my internal logic can be pretty opaque. Ask me, because assumptions about my goals/motivations are usually wrong.

– I rely on external data I can verify to avoid being lied to or misled.
– I am blunt and honest. IMO this is a good thing, if you are not sensitive.
– I am likely to take what you say at face value. Hyperbole is confusing.
– I am likely to take what you say literally unless it is BLATANTLY not.
– I am not always capable of detecting sarcasm, even verbally.
– I am not generally capable of clandestine manipulation and ulterior motives.
– I am not generally capable of reading hints and nonverbal communication.
– I am utterly oblivious to all but the most egregious passive-aggression.
– I am utterly oblivious to social etiquette beyond basic politeness.

– Ask for what you want. If I ask what you want, be clear and direct.
– Ask for what you want. Coyness and social niceties are wasted on me.
– Ask for what you want. Seriously, ask. I cannot read you. This is not a drill.
– Ask for what you want. But do not then act like you want the exact opposite.
– The more you help me understand, the more likely you get what you want.
– For the love of Bog just be consistent and fucking explain yourself.

– If you send me mixed signals, we are going to have a bad time.
– Contradictory input WILL eventually short-circuit my brain.
– When short-circuited, my functionality declines rapidly.

Robby the Robot

– BE SPECIFIC. Do not say, “Could you do the laundry today? I need clean underpants,” when you mean, “I want you to do the laundry as soon as possible because I have no clean clothing left.” Do not say, “There are dirty dishes in the sink,” when you mean, “I want you to wash the dishes before dinner tonight.” I will unintentionally “rules lawyer” any request that is not specific enough.

– BE SPECIFIC. If I ask you for a Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s, I do not want a fresh, tempura-battered Alaskan Pacific Cod filet from your local fishmonger on a lightly-toasted brioche bun with homemade lemon dill tartar sauce because YOU decided that is better. I want the Filet-O-Fish I asked for. I was specific.

– When I have no “script,” I may seem cold/emotionless/robotic. This is not indicative of how I feel inside. My circuits are overloaded, I am in an unfamiliar situation, and I am unsure what other people expect or want from me. If I freeze, or become quiet and rigid, gently instruct me what to do, or give me space.

– I do not generally compare myself to other people. I am only in “competition” with my past self. Envy and jealousy are not naturally part of my emotional vocabulary. So I have often failed to recognize those feelings in others.

– I am not an angry or bitter person, and rarely hold grudges against anyone expressing a genuine and sincere effort to make amends after hurting me. All I usually require is to feel heard and validated. Since I do not cultivate anger or bitterness myself, I have often failed to recognize those feelings in others.

Robots playing soccer.

– “Fake” people input bad data that subconsciously scrambles my operating system, and can lead me to act out of character. I have become much better at recognizing this. I now have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who raises red flags for being “fake,” or not entirely who they present themselves to be.

– My memories are extremely vivid and make it difficult to let the past go.
– My memories where I am truly happy are few, and I hold those like treasures.
– On my darkest nights, those most-treasured memories help to keep me alive.
– Because I am weird myself, I have a high acceptance of weirdness in others.
– Because I am detail-oriented, I easily recall others’ preferences, likes, etc.
– When I am helped to understand, I happily accommodate others’ needs.

– I need A LOT of alone time and my own, private space.
– I am extraordinarily sensitive to sound. I AM quiet. I NEED quiet.
– I like conversations to be stimulating, and day-to-day life to be boring.
– I like discomfort that leads to growth, but I am not a novelty-seeker.
– If you can engage with my interests and work, we’re golden.

WALL-E

In conclusion: You will largely “get what you give” with me.

If you are concealing your actual feelings about/for me, dishonest, insincere, manipulative, passive-aggressive, and/or projecting your own negativity onto my actions, we are going to have a bad time. On top of my normal impairments, you have created another layer of difficulty for me with your “false” self. I may accept your statements at face value, but I am empathic enough to sense something is not right. My anxiety will increase until I either break down or break free.

If you are angry, impatient, and judgemental with me, I will never feel safe enough to be authentic with you. In addition to inhibiting the development of a genuine connection, having to camouflage my autistic traits constantly will make interacting with you exhausting. Eventually I will be drained of energy.

If you are aloof, distant, and emotionally unavailable with me, I will never feel safe enough to be authentic with you. Though we may get along, any connection we have will remain shallow and superficial. These friendships and relationships tend to fizzle out over time, because I have little interest in the common activities and pop culture they are typically founded upon. Someone and/or something has to be irresistibly compelling to pull me from my routines and my projects.

Robot arm throwing a bowling ball.

If you are honest, genuine, patient, straightforward, and willing to explain yourself with me, I will feel relaxed and safe enough to be authentic with you. I may have some odd habits and mannerisms, but you will also discover that I am caring, dependable, loyal, low-maintenance, and mainly driven by the desire to feel heard and included. I have spent most of my life feeling like an outcast.

Once a true connection has been established, I am the kind of friend one can go without speaking to for years, and then reconnect like no time has passed at all. I may get sensory overload in a crowded restaurant, but when shit REALLY hits the fan, my ability to be robotic and just do what needs to be done is extremely helpful. My hyperfocus and intensity have fueled my best creative work.

Battle Angel Alita

Improving my social skills is something I will have to work on for the remainder of my life. Especially because I was diagnosed so late, there will be a limit to how much I am able to refashion myself to behave more neurotypically. I will always need a little more compassion, patience, and leniency than some people might believe I deserve. All I have to offer is this promise: I am doing my best.

That is what you should know about me.

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Please Stand By, Vol 2

While running errands on March 5th, I injured my left arm and chest somehow between opening and closing doors, driving, and carrying a bag of groceries. By a couple of days later, I woke up to find the left side of my chest painfully swollen. I began wearing compression and taking anti-inflammatories again, which reduced the swelling. However, there was still quite a bit of pain and tightness.

On the 16th, I had about 20cc of fluid drained from the left side of my chest at my surgeon’s office. I am also on antibiotics because of suspected infection. Due to the swelling, I assume, there is a small area about 1″ long where my incision is attempting to reopen. Tonight it started bleeding enough to soak through several gauze pads and part of my ACE-type compression wrap.

I managed to get it closed and the bleeding slowed to a trickle with butterfly bandages, so I am okay for now. I am waiting to hear back from my surgeon’s office as to what I need to do next. Next week I see my physical therapist, and it is likely I will need more physical therapy than originally planned. My left arm’s range of motion has been set back to where it was immediately post-surgery.

The antibiotics I am on are wreaking havoc on my digestive system.

This is a lot to suffer for getting my mail and a couple of meals from the deli.

Typing is one of the few things I can do without tightening/tensing my chest muscles or risking further injury. Last week I started working on a second #MeToo post, but it quickly morphed into a general timeline of my life. I realized that I am doing the preliminary work necessary to start drawing Queen of Assholes.

My memories are quite clear, except for a certain time period which I do not especially want to remember. However, I struggle with the exact order and the position of events in my timeline. I have been referencing public records, school transcripts, photos with dates printed by the lab, and the third-parties who were there (when possible) to help piece together my past. This project turned into something far beyond my original intention; I’m putting myself together.

Right now the project has about 15.3k words. I would estimate it is one-half to two-thirds done. Even though it is for my comic, I intend to publish it online here once it is completed. It is impossible to explain certain parts of my life without revealing everything. It will give additional context to almost all of my work.

I am sharing snippets on Patreon, if you can afford to help right now.

It is not lost on me that I am writing this while recovering from finally feeling like I am “at home” in my own body. Neither is it lost on me that I am writing this shortly after figuring out I am autistic, finally learning who and what I am.

My life has been full of these synchronistic moments. I lean into them.

After a lifetime of attempting to be something I am not, concealing parts of my past, struggling to navigate a world I do not understand, and being punished for failing to fit into the boxes people build for me — I am done with all that.

If “success” means I have to pile on makeup even when I do not feel like it, tolerate being treated poorly in the name of Good Business, smile at people who despise me, and go through the exhausting effort of always appearing “normal,” then I want none of it. I will draw what I need to draw, say what I need to say, and write what I need to write, and the world can take me or leave me.

I cannot proceed any further until I finish making myself whole.

CATEGORY:

Please Stand By

Popping on to update that I have cleared the follow-up visit with my breast surgeon, everything is healing appropriately, and I am continuing my recovery. My skin reacted badly to the antiseptic “wash” used before surgery, resulting in a rash that worsened in the following days, and became almost unbearably painful in combination with the surgical drain tubing in my chest. I could not sleep. Fortunately, the drains were removed about a week after my surgery.

I have been blogging in more detail about my progress over on Patreon; the drains can be seen in this post. My chest and upper arms are still tight and sore, though I have been able to drastically reduce pain medication. Radiating from my scar is a constant, unpleasant sensation of pinpricks and tingling that oscillates in intensity. I understand this is from the unavoidable nerve damage, and nerve regeneration if possible. The area above my scar has little to no feeling.

I already have a permanently numb area on my face from the removal of severely-impacted wisdom teeth about twenty years ago, and knew I would lose some feeling in my chest, so that does not bother me. I am doing daily exercises given to me by medical staff, and awaiting the start of physical therapy.

Mostly, I am extremely fatigued. I have been out to briefly run errands a few times this week, and found myself wiped out afterward. Aside from the physical trauma of surgery, I am also dealing the after-effects of two weeks of poor sleep due to the drains, compression tops/wraps, and general discomfort. From what I have researched, it will probably be another 4 – 6 weeks before I begin to feel “normalish” again. That is usually when most people return to work.

Please know I am not complaining: I am ridiculously happy and grateful.

For my birthday, I posted an open-shirted photo of myself, which resulted in a notable amount of unfriending and unfollowing from my social media accounts. I expected that, but it was an interesting process to watch play out. My Instagram lost about two-hundred followers within hours. It sparked good discussion.

Jin Wicked Double-Mastectomy Scar

I am still in a somewhat anti-social state of mind, continuing to give myself space to process everything that has happened over the past year. I am also engaging in some reevaluation, reprioritization, and adjustments to my long-term plans and strategies, to accommodate both internal and external changes.

Money is a concern at the moment. There have been expenses associated with my surgeries, including a few moderate insomnia- and oxycodone-fueled impulse purchases. (Mostly creative supplies, post-surgical aids/comfort items, and used clothes for FLAT CHEST.) The immediate goal is to get through physical recovery, and hold the line until my Kickstarter is ready to launch later this year.

Etsy store sales and other support are appreciated if you would like to help.

Below is a watercolour and ink illustration finished in December.

Cherry Lemonade by Jin Wicked title=

$5 Signed Prints are available in my Etsy shop.

» Cherry Lemonade @ Fine Art America
» Cherry Lemonade @ RedBubble
» Cherry Lemonade @ TeePublic
» Cherry Lemonade @ Society6
» Cherry Lemonade @ Spreadshirt

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Freedom

Early in the morning on the 11th, I underwent my double-mastectomy surgery. My procedure was completed around 10:00 AM, and I was allowed to leave the hospital around 3:00 PM. Other than some nasty side effects from an anti-nausea medication (scopolamine patch) that was given to me in pre-op, I am recovering well. Discomfort has been primarily burning sensations in my chest area, along with minor pain where the surgical drains are inserted underneath my ACE bandages, and skin abrasion/irritation on my neck and jaw.

I managed to shower and wash my hair today with a special garment.

3 Days Post-Op

Though I have to be careful and limit activities for the next several weeks, I am optimistic that the drains can be removed within a few days. I have needed to sleep a lot while I heal from both this and my prior surgery, but I am looking forward to slowly getting back to work on my in-progress illustrations.

There are no words for how good it feels to see my flat chest in the mirror.

Such a heavy burden has been lifted, and I look like myself.

CATEGORY:

Not Dead Yet

Sharing a brief update on my health status: Monday of last week I had the second cyst removed from my scalp, followed by my hysterectomy early Friday morning. My surgery reportedly went very well, and I have been sleeping for most of the weekend while I recover. Pain and discomfort have been quite tolerable. My double-mastectomy is scheduled in about another month.

I have been continuing to finish more tasks from my ancient To Do list, including completing my Health Care Directive, Will, and a Durable Power of Attorney. I have also been preparing to get my 2020 taxes filed as soon as possible.

Between follow-up and pre-op visits, I will be back-and-forth to many medical appointments in the coming weeks. I am doing my best to continue work on the final few illustrations for my art book, to be released later this year.

Progress on the art book can be followed on my Patreon. I also launched my once-per-year birthday sale early, and extended it to a month, due to my medical situation. Much of my original drawings, comics, paintings, and sketch cards have been discounted 20%-40% off through the end of January.

Please allow extra time for shipping; I have lifting and mobility limits.

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On Autism and Identity

While inking over the past few weeks, I have had much time to reflect on my recent autism spectrum diagnosis, my current health issues, and how both these things intersect with my identity and reframe the formative events of my past. I am interested in exploring this more deeply when I am ready to finally put pen-to-paper illustrating my early life. I hope my story can benefit others.

“Camouflaging” in autism refers to the process by which an autistic person develops strategies to hide and/or mask their autistic traits so they can interact more successfully with neurotypical people. For myself, this has felt like trying to learn a foreign language that everyone else seems to speak naturally. The inner disconnect caused by rejection of the authentic self, and acceptance by others of the “camouflaged” false self, lead me to the formation of secondary maladaptive coping mechanisms. Along with how I have been treated due to my previously-undiagnosed autism and ADHD, these have mostly manifested in the form of Cluster B Borderline traits that have lessened with age and awareness.

I believe that “Jin Wicked” began as elaborate camouflaging.

Without understanding why, exactly, the self-imposed process I have been engaged in since approximately the beginning of 2015 has been about undoing this camouflaging and its collateral damage. It is a difficult and rocky endeavour to untangle where the camouflaging ends and the authentic self begins.

I believe that camouflaging has been an element of my recurring depression.

Adding another layer to this is the introduction of gender, and gender roles. I have commented in the past that my femininity has often felt performative, and have less-publicly discussed feeling something best described as “agender.” For me, this means that I do not feel especially feminine or masculine, rather than identifying with one, the other, or both. This is not unheard of. As a child, I fantasized about being born a boy because I, at the time, believed it was unavoidable that I would be forced to bear biological children.

Frequently, these fantasies also included having no breasts or nipples, or my ovaries suddenly shriveling up and dying. It is important to note that I did not, and do not, identify as or want to be male. It was simply the only “other option” imaginable to me as a child. This is key to the outsized offense I have felt when facing obstacles as “a woman,” since I do not identify strongly that way in the first place. These days I prefer female pronouns mainly due to my interest in breaking down the barriers of how “being a woman” is defined.

Maybe relevant; there is some interesting research demonstrating that the brains of autistic females seem to resemble the brains of neurotypical males.

Last week I got my first mammogram, at nearly forty-one, which escalated quickly to an ultrasound and biopsy due to a small mass that was discovered. The mass was benign, but my overall breast cancer risk has been calculated at about 42%, compared to the general population at about 11%. I was deeply affected by being a caregiver for my mother, and witnessing her slow decline and gruesome death from metastatic breast cancer. I have a consultation with a surgeon shortly before Christmas to discuss my wished-for prophylactic double-mastectomy.

I hope that will happen in the spring, after healing from my hysterectomy.

It is a strange gift from the grave, indeed, that this illness and my mother are helping to give me the body that I have always wanted for myself.

My sexuality is not something I care to discuss in great detail. However, I have collected enough data, experience, and perspective to realize that the number of people I have been genuinely sexually attracted to over the course of my life can be counted on one hand. The life-long process of discovering this has resulted in many awkward, unfortunate, and sometimes traumatic sexual experiences.

I believe autistic women are uniquely vulnerable to sexual traumas, due to the dual pressures to “fit in” with a confusing, neurotypical world, and meet society’s expectations of women in general. Most of my sexual experiences have resulted from a desire to please or placate a partner, figure out what I am/was “missing” because I felt abnormal, and/or perform my role as a woman “correctly.” This includes situations where I feel my naivete and loneliness were exploited.

It also cannot be understated how addictive and insidious “approval” and positive-reinforcement are to someone that relies on internal scripts to get by; particularly to myself, suffering from alienation and chronic loneliness.

Enduring, and even provoking, unwanted attention and sexual advances from men because I thought that is what I was “supposed” to do took quite a heavy toll on both my self-image and psychological well-being over the years.

This has been compounded by unwanted sexual advances, comments, and inappropriate behaviour coming from customers, convention attendees, patrons, and others who financially supported me in some way — forcing me to regularly choose between my sense of safety and the ability to live. This is a systemic problem most women endure, but autism further complicates it.

I am grateful to the men who were able to recognize my vulnerability, on a conscious or subconscious level, and maintain appropriate sexual and/or non-sexual boundaries and relationships with me. I am grateful to all those who have been patient with me, as I have dug into the past, to understand who and what I am. And I am sorry for those I have unintentionally hurt by not being able to know myself; above all, my ex-husband, who never did anything “wrong.”

If you take only one thing away from this, let it be the importance of early intervention, and recognizing when children need extra help and guidance. Our world is increasingly constructed for a specific kind of brain that easily navigates a one-size-fits-all education system, society, and workplace. It is impossible to know how my life would have turned out differently if my parents’ response to my behaviour problems and struggling was attention and professional intervention, instead of anger, judgement, and violence. I do know that I am one of the fortunate ones — I could have easily been another suicide statistic.

Though I will be looking into if I qualify for SSDI, there are also not many services available to people who can almost, but not quite consistently support themselves. For environmental and interpersonal reasons, I have had significant trouble maintaining traditional employment for more than a year or two at a time. My fundraiser at the beginning of 2020, a dwindling emergency fund, and small business aid have helped me weather the pandemic. Going into 2021, and the long-term, I need to at least double my number of Patreon subscribers.

I will be off-camera for a while as I continue to focus on my upcoming art book, take time to process everything that has happened recently, and recover from medical procedures. I am still currently in a great deal of discomfort — and frequently — pain. More generally, I have been burnt-out and exhausted.

Please stay safe, and I hope you have the best holiday season possible.

CATEGORY:

Walking the Gauntlet, Vol 2

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer regarding the “defamation” case against me. I have also distributed the digital archive of 100+ documents, police reports, screenshots, video, and other evidence I collected to multiple trusted third-parties, in the event that something happens to me.

If you were involved with the JIN WICKED VERITAS page and you provide me with any additional evidence and/or testimony that I do not already have linking Stephanie Cofell, Cory Strode, or Joe Rider to either the Facebook page or the WordPress blog, I will refrain from identifying you or taking any future action(s) against you. Proceeding to a trial may mean you are exposed regardless.

Click for larger image. My “Priority Mail” copy never arrived.

On Wednesday I saw an OB/GYN. Barring any disruptions due to COVID-19, I have a hysterectomy scheduled for January to address the chronic pain and other issues I have been experiencing. It is my hope that once I have recovered fully from that surgery, I will be able to pursue having my breasts removed.

I have lost 3-4lbs in the last two weeks. I find it difficult to even enjoy food at this time, and I am forcing myself to eat the minimum amount of calories I know I need to remain healthy. I am alive almost solely to prove motherfuckers wrong. For the remainder of this year, I will be taking a step back from my social media, except Patreon, to focus on completing the remaining illustrations for my upcoming art book. I am also working on a wearable-art project.

Thank you to my customers, readers, and Patreon subscribers, as always.

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