Tag Archives: Love

Autism and Friendship #Write31Days

Welcone to day one of #Write31Days for 2017. This month’s theme on my blog is autism. One of the most characteristic impairments in autism, at least according to diagnostic criteria, is an impairment in social interaction skills. In DSM-IV, the diagnostic manual under which I was originally diagnosed, failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level was one of the impairmetns under the social interaction deficits criterion. “Peer relatioships” refers mostly to friendships, though I reckon it can refer to romantic relationships in adolescents and adults too. Today, I will discuss how autism impaacts my understanding of friendship.

Many years ago, I read an article by famous autism expert Tony Attwood on the topic of development of friendship skills. A typically developing child starts to develop friendship skills at around age three. They realize that friendship requires some level of turn-taking but their approach to this is egocentric, based on for example sharing of material goods or playing together. When someone asks why a person is the child’s friend, the child at this stage would typically respond: “Because they live next door.”

Children between age three and six are typically at this level. Autistic children (and in a way even adults) typically remain at this level longer. When I was nine, for example, I’d consider someone a friend because they gave me candy. Admittedly, I’m still at this level in a way, though I realize this is inappropriate. For example, when my now husband said that he was in love with me, I wasn’t sure whether to reciprocate it, since I didn’t know whether I liked him just because he was the only one who’d visit me in the psychiatric hospital. Also, I still can’t sem to move away from materialistic aspects of friendship like sharing candy.

At around age six, typically developing children move into the next level of friendship skills, which is based on shared interests and games. When asked why someone is a child’s friend, a child at this stage would say: “Because they let me play the games I want to”, “Because they’re nice to me”, etc. I relate to this level of friendship too.

Another criterion of autism in DSM-IV was lack of social reciprocity. This means that an autistic person doesn’t understand age-appropriate rules of give-and-take. Many autistic people can come across rather self-centered. So do I. For exampel, I rarelys hared candy (here we go again!) in the institution, even thoug I did accept it from others when offered. Give-and-take, however, seems not just based on material things and there aren’t many clear-cut rules for it.

I have a rather literal interpretation of reciprocity: when my husband, for example, gives me something, be it material or immaterial, I have to give him the same back. As such I feel extremely bad about being dependent on my husband for many things, like transportation, food, etc. He says that I give him love in return, but I barely understand the concept of love.

Practising Self-Love

Today, I have been reading up on self-love, in a continued effort to learn about self-improvement and therby improve myself. Self-love still sounds a bit weird to me. It sounds arrogant, bordering on narcissistic even. There is this concept of radical self-love. It says goodbye to “I am okay, you are okay”, because we are all more than just “okay”. We are great! However, though the aim is radical self-love, this self-love also extends into high esteem for others.

How do you practise self-love? There are many ways. Some people see it as spoiling themselves, but it is much more. We don’t just spoil the other people we love either, after all. We also take good care of them and we tell them we love them. In addition, we encourage them to go out of their comfort zone. We should do the same to ourselves. I am the most important person in my life. You are the most important person in your life. Treat yourself like you are.

The first step towards self-love is realizing that you are the most important person in your life. Practise positive self-talk everyday. You could do this by:


  1. Starting the day with an affirmation. You can choose standard affirmations, but it also helps to say something that makes you happy about yourself specifically, such as a positive thing about the previous day or the day to come.

  2. Challenging your inner critic. Don’t believe everything your mind tells you. You cannot always control your every thought, but practise thinking positive thoughts about yourself and challenging negative ones.

  3. Stopping to compare yourself to others. You are unique, so there is no-one who will be exactly like you. Therefore, there is no need to compare yourself to others, who might be better at some things than you are. Only compare yourself to yourself.

  4. Celebrating your wins, no matter how big or small. Be proud of what you have achieved. Reward yourself in a caring way if it helps.

  5. Forgiving yourself for mishaps in your life. We cannot always be cheery, positive people. Beating yourself up over a negative attitude, however, makes that attitude worse.

Another step is self-care. Self-care means giving your body the nutriiton, exercise, rest and comfort it needs. For exaple, eat healthfully, sleep well, avoid cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, and exercise regularly. You need to take extra care of your body when physically ill.

Mental self-care involves taking good care of your mind. For example, practise mindfulness, meditation or relaxation techniques everyday. I do yoga a lot to take good care of both my body and my mind. You can also take good care of yur mind by challenging yourself cognitively and emotionally. Cognitive challenges include brain gym, but also lifelong learning. For example, take up a distance learning course in a subject that interests you or go on a site like Busuu to learn a new language. You can emotionally challenge yourself by challenging negative self-talk and by going out of your comfort zone with your goals and aspirations. Emotional self-care also involves following your passion.

Self-love is also reflected in the relationships you have with others. Eliminate toxic relationships and surround yourself with people who appreciate and care about you. In turn, you will need to practise being appreciative of and caring towards othes. For example, express gratitude when someone is kind to you. Treating others with love and respect will make you feel better, too.

Everyday Gyaan

Valentine’s Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t get to write as I spent the afternoon and evening at my husband’s and the night rediscovering IRC chats. I didn’t know they are still active, or at least some of them, and I certainly didn’t know how to access them. Last time I tried, some years ago, I got some malware on my computer. Now I just went with a web client.

I honestly hadn’t expected my husband to come pick me up at all, since I thought he’d go visit a friend. I knew it was Valentine’s, but I didn’t think that was a big deal. But when I called on Friday because i’d badly screwed up my computer, he said he’d come and fix it.

We don’t really have Valentine’s Day traditions, or not that I know. I know in 2008, when my now husband had already told me he was in love but I hadn’t answered him yet, he sent me a card. It was really not a card, but a piece of paper brailled with some kind of sharp object in place of a slate and stylus. I couldn’t read it, but kept it on my nightstand for a few months at least anyway. Not really because I intended to, but it just happened.

Ironically, on the same day, I wrote this really embarrassing (for my husband, and probably it should be for me too) post on my old blog about my ideas about having a relationship. I’m not going to link to it, but it laid the foundation for the decisions we made early in our relationship, and possibly without that post, I wouldn’t have had the courage to enter a relationship. I just can’t express myself that well in direct contact, as the fact that I waited over a month to answer his E-mail about the post illustrates.

Each year for Valentine’s, I resolve to give my husband some special treat. Each year, I forget or get overwhelmed in the process. I remember probably in 2009 looking for somethign special and finding pepper-spiced dark chocolate online, but somehow not being able to order it. My husband on the other hand has given me chocolate probably actually every single Valentine’s. This year, they were chocolate flowers. Yummy! Maybe my husband being the romantic kind and me thanking him (on my blog!) has to be the tradition.

This year, in addition to my husband picking me up and giving me chocolate, we went to Domino’s to take out pizza. I didn’t even remember I’d told him I wanted to get pizza there someday, as we used to do sometimes when he still lived in the college dorm. It’d been on my mind recently too. I got one of my favorite pizzas, but no, not pepperoni this time.

One thing I hope won’t be a Valentine’s tradition is my husband having to fix my comptuer. He did, for which I’m hugely grateful. I just don’t want to make a tradition out of burdening him with my computer ignorance. Then again, I guess he’d be happy if I made a Valentine’s tradition out of it, if I just left it at that.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Post Comment Love

Random Questions #TuesdayTen

Today for Tuesday Ten, people are answering ten random questions from the 100 random questions list. I love these questions. Would love to answer them all, but it’s Tuesday Ten and besides I’m too lazy, so here are ten.

8. When did you last step outside? What were you doing? I last went outside to go to my husband’s car so he could take me to our home. This was at around 3:15 this afternoon.

10. Do you remember your dreams? Usually, yes, but I don’t always realize they were dreams. Sometimes I dream that I checked my E-mail and then when I really do check my E-mail, I’m surprised at the number of new messages. Yes, I do dream about checking my E-mail!

17. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? I’d love to live in the United States just so that most people I know online would live in my country. The health care system in the U.S. sucks though, so I guess I’d go for the UK.

27. Type of music you like most. Country.

36. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? No, but to my defense it has fifteen strophes. In school, most people learn the first and sixth strophe. I can however barely remember the first as I write this.

58. Do you believe in love at first sight? No. It took me almost eight months to decide I wanted to be in a relationship with my now husband. I do believe people can be attracted to someone at first sight, but love is something much deeper than sexual attraction.

73. What do you do most when you are bored? I’d like to come up with something that doesn’t make me sound like the laziest creature on the planet. Go on the computer, read, listen to music… Truth is however most of the time I go into bed and sleep.

76. What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer or a teacher.

85. What kind of books do you like to read? Autobiographies, true stories (mostly from doctors), and juvenine fiction.

99. What is most important in life? Happiness, oh duh.

The Golden Spoons

What Does Unconditional Love Mean?

On the World of Psychology blog, Eve Hogan wrote an interesitng article about unconditional love. This article got me thinking about the attitude we have towards people who harmed us, and the attitude people we harmed have to us. It is often thought that family members and spouses unconditionally love each other, but what if a parent becomes abusive towards their child, a child towards their parents, or one spouse towards the other?

Hogan says that spouses and family members love each other unconditionally with their hearts, but do not necessarily and should not accept everything their child, parent or spouse does to them. I can relate to this in my personal life, having grown up in a family that loved me with their hearts but did not accept everything I did. I still struggle with this, having a hard time distinguishing conditional love from accepting the person but not the behavior.

Hogan says that spouses really should view their vows as saying that they will love each other with their hearts no matter what, but will only stay together so long as the other doesn’t become irresponsible with money or time, doesn’t lie and doesn’t cheat. This leaves a lot of room for unlikeable behavior which doesn’t warrant a divorce. Similarly the integrity agreement Hogan discusses with teens only mentions not harming their family (or anyone, for that matter). This is where I struggle. I do know that setting limits on unlikeable but relatively harmless behavior such as laziness regarding schoolwork, is okay. This is quite different from not accepting the child or teen into the family home.

There is a grey area, especially with teens and young adults, where parents can decide their child’s life is no longer their responsibility. In this sense, there is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional caretaking. I know that married spousess and parents of children or teens under eighteen (or 21, in some situations) have a duty of care, but, once spouses divorce or children reach age eighteen, unconditional love becomes quite another thing than catering to each other’s needs no matter what.

Love with Actions, Not Words

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV)

Many people experience on a pretty regular basis that words sometimes contradict actions. I personally experience that the words tht come out of my mouth often even contradict my own thoughts or what I wanted to communicate. Many people with mental illness or developmental disabilities find it hard to comunicate in words and, for some, this especially goes for affective communicaiton. This is why it is sometimes hard for people who do not know the person well to understand what they’re feeling. It is however also why people who know the disabled person well do appreciate hte person’s love and affection, because it is not shown in words but in actions.

I remember when I was yougn, when I and my parents had an argument or a fight, one of us would often say in an emotional voice: “But I love you!” This may’ve been so (I’m pretty sure my parents love me, and I love them), but it didn’t come across to me (or them, when I was the one doing this). Actions did.

These actions do not have to be material, but they do not have to be all immaterial etiehr. I still have a hard time balancing material gifts with gifts of kindness, mostly because I can be pretty, well, inconsiderate without meaning to. I know that the person who showers their partner with gifts, is not necessairly the most loving partner, but just communicating love, through either words or body language, isn’t always effective either.

Then again, a simple offer to help, a “Thank you”, etc. are actions of love that do not literally scream “I love you”. These actions, too, can be done to people other than your partner. Now I am not sure that in our modern society, “love” is the right word for our affinity to strangers, but you can perform acts that indicate appreciation to anyone.

Love Survives Mental Illness

Over at Bipolar Mom Life, there’s a great post for Valentine’s day on love surviving mental illness. This is a very powerful story. Unlike in my case, the author had not become mentally ill yet when she got married. Then again, with mental illness being unpredictable, it isn’t like my husband knew what to exppect when we started dating or even when we got married in 2011. IN fact, I didn’t know what to expect. Until roughly a year ago, we were expecting to go live together within the foreseeable future. We still hope to one day live together, of course.

Love does not always survive mental illness. In fact, love does not always survive the test of time, with around 40 percent of marriages failing in general. Then again, according to an article in BP magazine, 90 percent of marriages in which one partner has bipolar disorder, end in divorce. I bet that with borderline personality disorder, this percentage is at least as high.

There are several obstacles to a successful marriage for someone with BPD. There are of course those characteristics that are inherent in the disorder – higher risk of infidelity, aggression, idealizing and devaluing, etc. There are also problems that are not necessarily inherent in the condition, but which are more likely to occur due to the dynamics of partners not only being partners, but also having the patient or carer role. I cannot go into detail about this, but I want to warn mentally ill people who are in a relationship that their partner is their partner first, may be their carer second, and is not their therapist.