The Night I Disturbed my Neighbors with Autism

I live on my own.

Not something everyone with autism can do. Only 17 percent of
people with autism have ever lived alone. That should make me feel blessed and
accomplished. I live in a very safe neighborhood in a very nice apartment that’s
affordable for me. I have very nice neighbors.

We don’t want to be bad neighbors. We don’t want to be noisy neighbors. We don’t want
our neighbors complaining to our landlords that were too noisy. We don’t want
neighbors knocking on our doors saying “turn the music down” or “keep it down”
or whatever they may say. I’m the type of person who isn’t a disturbance to my
neighbors. I even take noise very seriously when it comes to my apartment as it
even says that in my rules my landlord gave me when I signed my lease.

But there is one thing that may cause you to violate this rule. This season only
comes once a year in America. Football! I can go on and on about how football
fans are. They’re noisy especially when your favorite team is playing a big
game. I’m a huge fan of the college football team the Penn State Nittany Lions.
They were playing in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl against the Washington Huskies. I
really wanted Penn State to win this bowl game as they were 6-0 in the Fiesta
Bowl going into this game. I was so bummed out when they lost their bowl game
the previous year against USC and heartbroken when they lost enough games
losing their hopes for a College Football playoff appearance and a chance to
compete for a national championship.

So, I just wanted them to win this bowl game.

When they sealed the game to win the Fiesta Bowl 35-28 after my heart was
pounding like a Giant walking, I literally screamed because I was so excited
that they won. I was screaming a little beforehand but my last scream made me
hear a knock on my apartment door for the very first time in my life and I knew
it was my downstairs neighbors. I just knew it. I was like “Oh boy, this is a
first”. He wasn’t mean about it but he did tell me to keep it down and I
apologized very nicely and said the game was over. I decided to do a nice
gesture. I wrote him a letter apologizing again for being a disturbance. I put
it in his mailbox that night. I went outside the next day to see if there was
any mail from the night before as I didn’t check my mailbox that day. I saw an
envelope with my name on it. The letter they wrote back said thank you for your
kind and sincere apology. They understood that sports games can be intense and
told me about them being sports fans as well. They also thanked me for my
business card I left them admiring the work I do as an autism advocate. At the
end they said thanks for the apology, shoveling the walkway as it was winter
and Happy New Year as it was New Year’s Eve. Also said I’m a great neighbor.

You never know what little gestures could mean to people. Try not to be a
disturbance and don’t be mean to your neighbors. If you live in an apartment,
be a good neighbor and tenant as it can give you a good reputation for a
reference from your landlord on a house or another apartment. You don’t ever
want to get evicted for noise. Don’t blast music or the TV. You’ll be complained about for noise and evicted. That’s never a good thing. I made a difference and
I was proud. I finished 2017 on a positive note like I wanted to. I hope this
gives you something to think about.

Check out my website www.louisscarantino.com.

Louis Scarantino is a man on the autism spectrum. He started writing after meeting his favorite singer Shania Twain. He also hopes to become a motivational speaker one day.

The Unknown


Here I sit, at 29 years old ( I know.. I know.. I’m still young), wondering why I can’t figure anything out in life. I don’t think I’m alone. I’m starting to think that this may be an impossible task. How can you ever have life figured out? How can you ever have yourself figured out? Maybe the answer is… that you can’t!

These are questions I am always asking myself. People are changing every day. Most of the time you are changing without even noticing. All of a sudden, a year has flown by and you are nothing like you were the year before. You could have grown for the better, or, maybe you’re not doing so great. Who cares! Your situation will never stay the same.

I am not one to trust any type of relationship to last forever without pain, let downs, boredom, or drifting apart. This can be romantic relationships,  friendships, family, etc…I have grown apart from people I thought I could not live without.

I’ve been hurt by every single person I have ever trusted.

Maybe that is just life.

We are all human.

I do it to other people too. Are people supposed to be like this? Because it seems like we all are the same in a sense. Some people try to be a saint while others enjoy being the devil. Either way, we all lie, don’t say things that we should, say things that we shouldn’t, are confused, think we know what we want, and we all strive to be our version of happy.

You build your own life and start moving in a different direction. You get married and settle down, you lose your friends and make new ones, you raise your kids and lose focus of everyone else on the planet. Most people get divorced and start over again. Changing all over again, over and over. These changes within you, and within the people around you are constant. Every day you go on with your life without noticing how you are changing into someone else.

Some people learn from their experiences and become more humble, while others are terrified of the world and become bitter. Everyone takes a different path. You travel your path with expectations that you can never fully control. You have no idea what your life will bring.

I always wondered what my “purpose” is going to be. Maybe it is to help others and work my life away. Maybe it’s to raise a family. Maybe…it’s nothing at all. That is the scariest, yet the most beautiful part of life. We don’t know anything…and that’s okay.

Why do we feel the need to know what our future holds? Why can’t we just let things fall into place instead of trying to control everything? I am exhausted from trying to control my entire world.

I do not believe that everyone has a soul mate. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I do not believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason. I believe that things just happen, and we are just people who make a bunch of mistakes. We are people who never stay the same.

Love will come and love will go. Friendships will be made and destroyed. Happiness will come and so will pain. Life can be simple; it’s only complicated because we make it that way.

Maybe I should just go with the flow and see what happens. I try to manipulate my life and it never works out. It’s like I have control, but I don’t. I don’t think a person can be truly happy while trying to control every aspect of their life.

I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know who I will be in the next year, 5 years, or 10 years. I do know I won’t be the person writing this today. Who knows if I’ll be married, single, kids, no kids, working my life away, jobless. It’s all unknown. And I’m okay with that. Accepting the unknown might just be my key to happiness.

 

Meghan Farr
Meghan has an Associates Degree in Human Services, Bachelor's in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Minor in Psychology.

What Taking a Selfie Taught Me About My Life With Cerebral Palsy

I’m a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a former honor society president, a respite care worker, a mental health and disability advocate, and a published writer, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is… taking a selfie.

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  While most other 22-year-olds are celebrating graduations and new beginnings in advanced degree programs or in the workforce, I’m celebrating participating in a hallmark of “self-absorbed, social media-obsessed” millennial culture.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a seemingly simple selfie virtually never reveals the complex truth concealed behind it.

I have lived with mild hemiplegia cerebral palsy since birth.  Essentially, the muscles on the left side of my body are significantly tighter and weaker than those on my right side.  Consequently, I perform tasks that many people complete with both hands exclusively right-handed.  Simultaneously holding and angling a phone and reaching over to press a button to take a selfie with my left hand is nearly impossible.

Nearly.

I recently discovered that in the search for self-love and peace with my body and my physical abilities, I was settling for comfort over physical functionality.  In viewing my body through a lens of love and acceptance, I was inadvertently losing the will to foster growth, to push my body to accomplish the impossible.  Embracing my body exactly as it is, tight muscles and all, meant accepting an artificial limit on my physical prowess.  I was forcing myself to plateau in the name of self-love.

As a millennial woman who is constantly inundated with an unending stream of perfectly-posed selfies, I longed to be one of those girls who could snap a cute selfie with either hand — despite my cerebral palsy.  However, I convinced myself that any attempt to take a selfie exclusively with my left hand would result in either a broken phone or a broken spirit, so I carried on with the hackneyed routine of extending my right arm to the perfect angle to take a flawless selfie.

One night, with pin-straight hair, razor-sharp eyeliner, and clad in a cozy, oversized sweater, I felt restless.  Adventurous.  I wanted to try something different, something that would push me in a way I had never dreamed possible.  Despite being caught in the throes of reoccurring body image issues, I was feeling my look, and I wanted to document it.

I immediately knew the perfect way to challenge myself.  With my left hand, I grabbed my phone and began angling it to take a selfie.  Slowly, gingerly, I reached toward the shutter button, trying my hardest to simultaneously keep a firm grasp on the phone and prevent my slightly shaky left hand from wobbling it and, in the process, blurring the picture.

I pressed the button.  The distinctive “snap” of the shutter filled my ears as I discovered that, miraculously, the photo was clear, and my phone remained in my affected hand — not shattered on the floor of my bedroom.  I smiled wider as I realized that I had stopped settling for “good enough” physical capability and had begun reaching towards growth.

Snap.  Snap.  Snap.

Over and over, I pressed that button, relishing the unquellable surge of pride I felt in my body for accomplishing something I never believed I could.  After a lengthy series of critiques, I finally took a selfie I deemed Insta-worthy, and, like a stereotypical millennial, immortalized my left-handed selfie success on social media.

It isn’t the most flattering selfie I’ve ever taken, the prettiest, or the most perfect.  On the surface, there’s nothing particularly special about it.  But it’s more than just a selfie; it’s a symbol of growth, of achievement, of rising to meet challenges, of refusing to plateau.  It’s physical proof that self-love does not equate to settling for “good enough.” It’s a representation of joy in its purest form — knowing the power of pushing the body to its limits to make the impossible possible.

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

Keeping Faith

“Where is it, Where is it?”

 I mutter as I dig through my jewelry box.

My favorite part of my morning routine is accessorizing my outfit.  All the different colors and options; I love collecting jewelry.  But there is one accessory I never leave home without; my silver ring with the word Faith engraved on it.

Frustrated, I exclaim, “How could I have lost my Faith!?”

It’s easy to lose your faith.  Something didn’t go the way it should; your friend lets you down, you miss a deadline at work, you get into a fight with your mom.  You can lose faith in friends, family, coworkers—yourself. So…how do you find it again?

First, tell yourself that it’s okay.  You are allowed to go through a phase where you’re not sure where to turn. When my world has been turned upside down, my strategy is to look upward, inward, and outward.  I look upward to pray, inward to evaluate myself, and outward to my friends and family for support.

Some other strategies that are helpful is to list the people you do believe in. God, your sister, your best friend from elementary school. No matter how lost you feel, if you look closely you will find someone who can shine a light in the darkness to help you find your way back.

List the things you are grateful for. Even if it is just your dog or the free makeup samples in a magazine, it’s something.

What I’m grateful for in my dark moments:

–          My spirituality: I pray a lot and read devotionals, and they are always full of hope.  It is something I believe in when it seems like there is nothing else.

–          My sense of humor: I can typically find humor in any situation and sometimes that helps to alleviate the stress of it all.

–          Friends and family: No matter how many times they have heard it, I know I can always count on the people in my life to encourage me and lift me up.

A few days later, as I clean out my suitcase from a recent trip, I spy a little twinkle of something near the lining.  I pull back the zipper and there it is…my Faith ring.  And isn’t that how it always goes—Just when you’re about to give up, a little glimmer of hope catches the light.

Sabrina Deshner has over 10 years’ experience teaching leadership concepts within higher education and non-profit organizations and has a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. She strives to make a positive impact on individuals through teaching them the importance of personal and professional development and in her spare time does health and wellness coaching. She has a passion for learning, creating new things and sharing stories. You can typically find Sabrina reading, writing, dancing or traveling...oh, and watching Netflix. The quote that she lives by is from George Bernard Shaw, “Life is not about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself.” Some of her favorite things include: visiting NYC, her nieces and nephews, the color pink, Disney Princesses, and the Golden Girls.

You Look Good But Looks Can Be Deceiving

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said ‘you look good’ when I was in pain, fatigued and feeling broken.

I like to use to an iceberg as an analogy for what my lupus looks like. Most people only view the tip of the iceberg but there is more than imagined below the surface. The iceberg analogy can be applicable in describing many different illnesses, such as depression. They may look ok on the outside but hopeless on the inside. It’s difficult for people to understand that you’re experiencing health difficulties when you look normal or ok. It’s not like a broken leg with a cast or walking with crutches/cane/walker or using a wheelchair where everyone can see the disability.

My rant begins with an experience I had recently when using my handicap placard. While walking into Jewel to pick up my prescription, I had an older woman approach me who proceeded to inform me that I parked in a handicap space and should be ashamed of myself for taking that space away from someone who ‘really needed it’. At first, I was dumbfounded by her gall but recovered enough to say I have Lupus. She continued to appear agitated with me so I said do you know what that is? A little less annoyed, she said no. I openly admit that I was frustrated and felt like telling her to kiss my @ss but attempted to explain that she had no idea what health issues I was dealing with and tried explaining that I have a heart condition and pain with swelling in my ankle and hip joints. The woman rolled her eyes and walked away before I could tell her that looks can be deceiving. I was raised old school and wouldn’t be disrespectful even though she was disrespectful and rude to me but I would have liked to tell her to mind her own damn business!

There are many disabilities that are not obvious and we should not be so quick to judge! As for my lupus, sometimes I actually have a limp when my ankle, knee and hip joints inflame but most of the time my symptoms are relatively invisible to the untrained eye. There are times that are obvious and others a mere rash on my face or redness revealing the butterfly rash. At times, when I get palpitations I stop, sit or lay down until the episode passes but it can last for hours at a time. I always carry my medicine with me to relieve some symptoms however it can take at 30 minutes for it to work. With my joint pain, sometimes it’s difficult to hold a full glass or cup in my hand or simply button a shirt because of my swollen, painful joints. I cannot lift a gallon of milk due to my joint inflammation! The fevers and fatigue take me down to where I’m confined at home and sometimes to bed. If my hip or knee is painful, sitting, standing and walking takes more effort and I compensate to get around and use a cane also I avoid the stairs. I keep a pull-out couch on my first floor when it’s too difficult to climb stairs due to fatigue or pain. Some days I can paste a smile on my face and fake it while other days I feel ok enough to enjoy activities and other days I’m unable to leave the house.

It’s hard to explain exactly how much having Lupus effects living a ‘normal’ life. I never know when or where that traveling circus of inflammation is going to put down stakes – that means I don’t know how bad the inflammation will be because it can vary from day to day. It’s difficult to make plans since I don’t know how or what will be affecting me most on any given day.

Life, in general, can be unpredictable for everyone.

For me, life is extremely unpredictable every day. I can wake up feeling ‘good enough’ but by noon experience palpitations with a heart rate of 120 at rest without any apparent reason which leaves me feeling fatigued for the rest of the day. Or run a low-grade fever preceded by body aches and chills. Or be up every hour during the night with palpitations or joint pain. Therefore, I try not to commit to activities by keeping everything tentative. When I do give my time to someone or something it’s truly giving a piece of me. It takes genuine effort to get to an activity and be social. True friends and family have realized what it means when I attend functions and don’t take it for granted.

Along with unpredictability, the loss of control is one of the hardest things to deal with. I’ve learned over the years to compensate so I can enjoy life to the best of my ability. On bad days, I rest with only bare necessity activities, on good days participate in minimal activities but get to socialize! Every day I try to anticipate by planning out my day and spacing activities with rest periods in between. I’ve learned to accept when my mind says go go go but my body says no no no!

Living with Lupus has its limitations but it doesn’t make me useless! Yes, some days are more challenging than others but I’m still me, caring, kind, considerate and helpful. I like to think of the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out. It’s about how one person touched the lives of many others without really knowing it. I may not be able to climb a mountain or run a marathon but I can be supportive of those around me and be a good listener. I am a devoted mother, sister, and friend. I can still make a difference in other people’s lives. I try to find the goodness in others as well as myself. Personally, I try not to compare my before lupus life to life after my lupus diagnosis but I think I’ve become a better person over the years, definitely more compassionate, appreciative and in tune to my surroundings.

A little self-awareness goes a long way. With self-awareness, we become better humans, better people. We need to find compassion and acceptance, to accept others for who they are. Life is about acceptance and so is Lupus. It has taken me many years to come to terms with who I am with lupus vs. the life I lived before my diagnosis. Every day I choose to be a survivor, NOT a victim. A life with Lupus is better than no life at all. Right? What’s the alternative… A dirt nap!

I start every day by saying The Serenity Prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr(1892–1971).
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Michele Palermo
Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That's where she learned there's a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus after going through a divorce has taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.