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My Life Is a Work in Progress

My goal in life is to keep facing my everyday challenges. My life is a work in progress. I want to talk about how I understand things and what is going on in my brain because I have autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I also have anxiety.

My anxiety can be good because it helps me complete my goals, deadlines, and other necessary things. I obsessively focus on the issue at hand, and it can be a good thing; I get my work done! What I do need to work on is not rushing other people to do their tasks. I usually go at my own speed working on my own activities when I am not teaching others. However, I am learning to let others go at their own speed. They may have other deadlines or responsibilities, so I have to learn to respect those as well and not be so pushy. This is important to be a team player.

Angela Chapes

Angela Chapes

My attention (OCD and autism) to detail and structure makes me good at my job and in some ways, the way I teach. In the last couple of years, I have been teaching others. I had a tendency to try to do things for people I am teaching instead of actually teaching people. However, I am getting better at standing back and letting my pupils do the job. I also confuse others with my directions sometimes. This happens because I have a problem called “aphasia” or blank out where I will be talking about something and then stop (either I start to stutter or say nothing) and then start to talk again. Sometimes, I’m thinking one thing and something else comes out my mouth. I have to ask if the person I’m with understands my instructions. At times, I think I am rushing myself, so I mess up. I have to learn to slow down.

When I was younger I had speech problems and I had to go to speech classes. They said I had a condition known as “intellectual impairment.” I was a slow learner, especially in math, but I am doing well at it today. I was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (now autism or ASD) until later in my life. Some of my behaviors are typical of some on the spectrum, even as an adult. I will obsessively talk about things over and over again. Part of the issue is that I’ll say something differently, thinking I’m saying something new. I also have issues understanding people’s meanings; I misunderstand what people are saying to me. It may seem to others that I’m not listening, especially when I ask the same questions or go over things we just went over. Somebody can start talking to me and I stop hearing what they say; I lose focus. I end up saying things that are out of context. These are some of the challenges I face because of my autism. It is a challenge that requires me to pay closer attention and control my responses.

Listening to music and reading can challenge me. I often have to read text multiple times to understand the writing. Same goes with music and movies. I have to listen or watch multiple times to understand what is being conveyed. This is why I don’t really listen to music or watch many movies. In general, when things are fast paced, it becomes more difficult for me to follow. This is where I am also challenged when I give peer support. I was told I seem to hesitate (I’m thinking) and then talk. It is hard work for me. This is where people without autism need to understand the autistic around them. It is not just hard work for me; the people around me also need to understand that I do things differently. If they don’t, I have to adapt and do my best.

My autism is complicated by my OCD. I can start obsessing over certain people, events, television shows or characters. It is a challenge that I still have.

Now that I am older and have had a steady-paced job, I do much better. I can handle some of the stressful situations and be effective. My obsessive behavior sometimes makes it seem like I am stressed when I am not. I don’t understand some social cues and my reactions are not always interpreted correctly. I am going to pay attention to what I am doing more and how people react. Maybe I will figure out why I am acting or people think I am acting in certain ways. I think this might be as social cue I am missing.

I want to keep learning because I want to do more things. The key here is to remember and apply what I have been taught. I think it is the way my brain works because it is harder for me to learn, retain, and apply information. One of my friends gave me suggestions to read old training guides every day. Try to keep applying that at my job. I am going to keep doing what I can. Once I have learned to do something I excel at it. I will figure out ways to get better.

I want to keep working on understanding social cues. I have to get used to my step-mom and dad’s relationship. It is quite different from that of my mother and father’s relationship. My step-mom is more vocal and will talk back to my dad. My real mom was quieter and more patient. I worry about my step-mom and dad’s relationship and that it will go down the tubes. I am assured by my step-mom that will not happen. I am worried that I will lose half my family; that I’ll lose another mom. I have to remember that everybody’s relationships are different. I will get used to their relationship.

Apart of my social cues, I also have to recognize when someone is done talking. I have to learn to realize when people need to move on; I can’t keep carrying on with them. I know it’s not because they don’t want to talk but it’s because they need to be somewhere else and they are busy. I am becoming much better at recognizing this.

Another social cue that has improved greatly is my eye contact. In the past I had a lack of eye contact, talking to the floor or wall and not the actual person. At a job I used to have I would be looking down and then suddenly talk and surprise people.

One of my social behaviors that I need to control is that not everyone needs to be hugged. I hugged a complete stranger during COVID because I felt bad for her because she had so many problems trying to dye my hair. I felt her frustration so I hugged her. My step-mother told me that hugging, especially in today’s climate is a no-no.

An important goal for me now is to understand the social triggers that cause me to eat. I had been very successful controlling my weight and I lost 115 pounds. However, in the last six months I have regained 30 pounds. I was proud that I was able to lose so much weight and I’m disappointed in the setback. For my own good and for my health in the future, I have to learn to understand the stressful social cues so I can continue to lose weight.

I have said I have had communication problems and these were hard on my friendships. This is a work in progress although my communication is improving with my friendships that are special to me. In particular, there are two people that are particularly important. These are people that are mentors in my life. These individuals are much older than me and they are guiding me as I face the world; these people are great influences in my life. I would feel lost if they were not there. One is like a grandmother to me while the other is another father figure in my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve them, but I have been blessed. I can talk to them about anything. They encourage me and because of them, I have learned a whole new way to communicate.

My life is a work in progress. I may have shortcomings but I keep doing. These challenges create opportunities to get better as time goes by. It also helps to have the people around me to understand me. I have to remember that they are in my corner. I can keep moving forward. I can keep learning about understanding myself.

My name is Angela Chapes and I am an autistic adult with anxiety and OCD. I have had depression in the past. I am 39 years old. I was not diagnosed with autism until my late 20’s. It was years later that I started figure out who I was. I am thankful for the positive and supportive people in my life. I have a very encouraging job. I am transforming and growing at lightning speed, learning all I can about leadership, advocacy, and other organizations that can help shape my future. I want to be a voice for individuals with autism and mental illness. I love being busy, writing, and speaking.

For more information, you can email Angela at aechapes@yahoo.com.

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