me and medication

So like, I wanted to write about my experiences with medication for a number of reasons.

  1. Because I’m hyper-aware of my body/cognitive processes, I can describe the differences between how it feels to be on vs. off medication in a lot of detail.
  2. Because, in the pantheon-zoo of kinds of autistic people, I fall within the subset of autistic people whose autisticness results less from a family history of classically autistic, non-verbal people or classically “Aspie” types, but from the combined effect of family histories of mood disorders, extreme neuroticism, eating disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and other things more peripherally related to “classic” autism. This means that medication plays a larger part in my life than it probably does for many “higher-functioning” or highly verbal autistic people.

My current medication regimen involves two meds: a high-dose stimulant (for ADHD), and an SSRI (for everything else). I like to joke that I have one prescription for each side of my family. I’ll talk about my experiences with each prescription below.

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sickface squishface

sickface. naptimes. flhhhhhsdhkfjskd. back soon. the ends.

i want a sandwich. but my body does not want a sandwich.

cognitive dissonance. sandwich dissonance. cognitive sandwich.

send me your executive functionings in the mail i need to borrow some.


cloth and water

space feels like water, usually. more accurately, space feels like part of me. the inside of my chest seems to act like an echo chamber of sorts: it catches even the slightest vibrations in the air and magnifies them. but at the same time, space also feels like cloth. layers and layers of it. sometimes it moves and i move with it. sometimes i move and it moves with me.

i remember being small and having to ask someone at our local deli for macaroni and cheese. i spoke too quietly, and they couldn’t hear me. there’s always this feeling (still now) in the moments before i know i have to try to speak louder, where my head and ears hurt, because they know i have to rip all this soft fabric open with my voice.

and then there are times when the fabric is so tight it suffocates, when it becomes restrictive. loud voices, and eyes watching and feet tapping and pressing expectations covering my mouth. then i scream and the world tears open around me, air flows in and i run to it, free and cold and alone.

at some point in my childhood (probably around puberty, maybe even earlier), i learned that it was not acceptable to break open space for yourself, even space was suffocating you. “there’s no reason to have a temper tantrum” people would say, “we’re not asking you to do anything unreasonable.” air is not fabric, they would say. you can still breathe. you’re just making yourself feel that way. you’re throwing a fit.

i was a logical child, and could extrapolate just fine: if the space around me wasn’t what was making me feel like i was being buried alive, it must be me. i must be not letting the air in. so i learned to tear myself apart in my head.

there are lots of stories from my life (so far) that are really about me and spaces. even ones that seem unrelated are actually about that.

like the many times during my adolescence and young adulthood when i would punish myself for being irresponsible by not allowing myself to buy any food. i actually could not physically do it; when it was my fault that i was hungry (because i forgot to go to dinner, because i spent money on something else, because i couldn’t sit in the dining hall because it was too loud, etc.) asking for more money, or borrowing it from someone else, or asking for someone else’s food…all that is tearing the fabric. it’s irresponsible. it makes no sense. it’s being selfish. going hungry because i made a mistake, on the other hand, made perfect sense. i was taking responsibility for what i did. i was conditioning myself to not make the mistake again.

and the conversations with adults. those ones. where they’re talking to you and telling you about things you need to do or responsibilities you need to take care of. and you can feel with every word like you’re in water, and a weight is pulling you down further and further. your voice is muffled because you know that what they’re saying isn’t bad. it isn’t wrong. it’s normal. they just want you to do normal things. be a normal person. they’re being perfectly reasonable. so you pretend like you aren’t drowning. like the air around you isn’t being wrapped, tighter and tighter, around your body.

i’m learning to break things other than myself again. learning that my world is real. that i make sense. that needing to tear things apart to breathe sometimes doesn’t make me a bad person. that maybe, making a space for myself makes space for others like me.

i’ll be a kid again, but this time, i won’t need to be cold and alone to feel free.


I’m six, and wearing my favorite blue dress with long sleeves (it was soft cotton and amazing) and my dolphin necklace. I’m sitting in a weird hammock chair in a beach-house my extended family used to rent for vacation.


i am too tired and not words enough to write the coherent things i was planning. so i just went back through old tumblrs/social media things, and compiled a small sampling of ridiculous things that i’ve said to the internet in the recent past. for kickz. enjoy.

I. emma is bad at sleeping, and also bad at un-sleeping after sleeping.

  • “5:30 AM: fall asleep with alarm set for 11 AM. all is well.
  • 8:30 AM: wake up. try, unsuccessfully, to fall back asleep. but too much tiny light.
  • 9 AM: eat entire box of cheez-its in bed. glower at teddy bear. hate all sunlight. 
  • maybe i will wear a soft shirt and then not be an asshole for the rest of the day.
  • maybe i will carry one of my squishy footballs in my backpack.
  • maybe acquisition of further bagels. eyes on the bagels. motivational bagels.
  • 9:20 AM: plaintive and insufferable sighing. i am a four-year-old.”

II. emma hearts poemz.

“blerg blerg blerg blerg. blerg blerg. blerg. william blake.”

III. emma has cavities, must be drugged into complacency.

“Nitrous is amazing. But all the big words I’m typing look misspelled, and it’s making me paranoid. One of my ears is numb, but there’s a headphone in it and that’s weird. One of my eyelids is also numb. Misspelled looks misspelled. My dental assistant divorced her husband because he wouldn’t let her have as many cats as she wanted. She tricked him by having three identical cats with the same name. He didn’t figure it out for four years. This program was brought to you by my teeth.”

IV. emma celebrates a holiday.

“How The Cool Kids Do The Holidays: 1. Ask for gift cards. 2. Get gift cards. 3. Use gift cards to get additional, exact copies of important belongings, because change is terrible. 4. Feel accomplished and mature. 5. Nap.”

V. emma is an insomniac and she sometimes goes on research binges in the corners of academic buildings for 24+ hours at a time during midterms and loses all ability to censor her thoughts before she posts them on the internet.

  1. “i live in a pineapple under the sea. i named the pineapple “ford hall [science building].” i am a sponge of knowledge.
  2. 43 hours of intermittent pineapple and counting. i am spongebob’s stylish gay cousin, spongefrederick skinnyjeans.
  3. i am wearing a tie.
  4. i have no filter. i am unfiltered. i figured out a crossword clue while i was taking a miniature nap, and now i can’t remember what i figured out. oh, wait. and it’s back. and it’s blatantly incorrect.
  5. i’ve been replacing the word “prostitute” with either “snowmen” or “frosty” when outlining my paper on whiteboards (for the past few days, not like…just now), because i don’t want people to like walk by and see me writing about child prostitutes all over a whiteboard in public. but now i’ve started picturing all of the characters as snowpeople. literal sentence from a on-the-board outline right now: “the artful dodger provides the best contrast with oliver, since he’s definitely a snowman.”
  6. “spongefrederick skinnyjeans”  is actually gold. like, i’m really proud of myself. totally spontaneous.”

and with that, i bid you goodnight, and BANANAPHONE.


I am ten and I am curled up on the couch in my living room on Christmas Eve (there’s a Christmas tree and stockings behind me). I am wearing a t-shirt, and soccer shorts over a pair of thick tights (because sensory things), and sneakers. All of my large-Beanie-Baby-sized stuffed animals lined up on the top of the couch in a row facing towards the fireplace. I am holding my two tiger stuffed animals. “Emma Pretzel, under-dressed and over-prepared since 1992.”

cats. literally.

[This post is dedicated to autisticook, because of literal brains, cats, and the kind of inside jokes that are only jokes inside your head…]

So like, autisticook was talking about how she often gets totally ridiculous mental images because she interprets things people say/write literally. I also do this. It entertains me greatly. All the time. However, it also sometimes is a recipe for heartbreak, because a lot of times, my literal interpretation of what people say/write is just so much more awesome than what it turns out they actually meant. And then I’m super disappointed. Case in point (I have no excuse for the third-person narration, it just happened):

It is a rainy day in 2013, and Emma is browsing one of the science journal databases she frequents (for fun, duh). She takes a look at articles available online from one of the journals of autism research. She sees the article circled in the image below [click to enlarge], and excitedly shouts “YOU GET A CAT!?” Now she’s super pumped and takes this screenshot and sends it to her ASD cat-loving science friend because she is so pumped that there is a therapy where they just like, let you bond/hang out with a magical service cat. COPING CATS! Emma would love to have a Coping Cat!


This is a screenshot of a journal website Table of Contents, where I’ve circled one article, titled “The Coping Cat Program for Children with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” I’ve drawn an arrow pointing towards the circled article, with a giant all-caps caption saying “THEY GIVE YOU A CAT!!!?!?!?!?”

I was super giddy…until I went to read the article abstract.


There are no cats. There were never any cats. Coping Cat is just the name for a cognitive behavioral intervention program for anxiety. The only cat is a cartoon on the cover of the “Coping Cat Workbook.” I still haven’t quite gotten over this. My literal interpretation was so much better than the actual thing they were talking about. I want a coping cat! Literal cats are always better than non-literal cats.

The end.

teenage emma introduces herself

I struggled to think of a way to introduce stories of my younger self.

I have a bad memory for my childhood and adolescence, and even those memories I do have tend to be very atypical in structure and content. I remember sensations, movements, places, but few coherent narratives, or entire events. I can’t search for memories in my head by thinking of an emotion–were I a witch, I would suck at conjuring a Patronus–except for one, which I don’t know how to name. It’s almost like “awe,” but would probably be best described as a kind of “flow” (it’d be a specifically autistic kind, not quite Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow”). Memories of that feeling are easy to find, and comfortable. For the Wordsworth fans in the audience (wow, I’m really going full-scale-nerd in this post): they’re like spots of time.

Anyways, that tangent aside, I really didn’t know how to bring people with me into my head so that they could see what the world felt like for me when I was younger. But then I remembered that, in fact, I do know a way to try and bring people into my world. I always have, to a certain extent. So I figured that, with a bit of help, younger me could probably speak for herself…
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prompts, cues, questions

So I have this thing about words and prose and fluency.

An example: whenever I am sick enough that I’m forced to go to a doctor’s office, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to bring someone else with me. Not because I won’t be able to talk at all, but because when people ask me broad questions (like “Why are you here?” or “What’s wrong?”) I am often unable to answer spontaneously. But if someone else attempts to answer in my stead, or gives me possible answer options to choose, I’m able to say how that answer is either correct or incorrect. So like, I’ll go to the doctor with a friend, and when I’m unable to answer, my friend will be like “Uhm, well, she’s been having a stomachache, and has had a fever for uhm…-” and at that point my verbally hyper-precise self will jump in like, “Actually I’ve been feeling like I was going to throw up, not hurting, and my fever doesn’t look like a fever unless you know that my normal body temperature is one degree below normal and…” Et cetera.

The point of this post is that even though I love to write and am very articulate, I really, really struggle to produce spontaneous writing/speech without a cue, prompt, or specific question that I can respond to. It’s why when I comment on blogs, I tend to produce three-paragraph long comments; given something substantial to prompt me, I can talk for ages.

So since I know that lots of people (parents, teachers, other autistic people in search of fellow weirdos, etc.) have lots of questions and ideas that they want someone to write about (or just answer), I thought I’d ask people to either comment on this, or email me with their questions and ideas and I’ll write about those things! The email address I made for this blog is on the About page, if you’re looking.

I await with bated breath, folks.

P.S. I fought the urge to cheekily subtitle this “why autistic people make great theatre technicians.” Because I mean really. But it was both kind of an inside joke, and totes irrelevant. So it’s a P.S.


I am like five and I am sitting on a bench with a great-aunt, who has her arm around me. I am wearing a dress with roses on it that has poofy short sleeves (it was my Favorite Dress (TM) of the moment). I’m smiling, but instead of looking at the camera, I am sitting with my knees to my chest, with both hands holding on to my sandals, and staring at my feet. I may or may not have titled this .jpg file “Peak Cute” on my desktop. Because, I mean…really.