Tag Archives: Behavior

Getting the Details on Neurodiversity

by Lillian Csernica on October 8, 2015

Juliette Wade devoted one of her recent Dive Into Worldbuilding Hangouts to the subjects of neurotypical symptoms and those which are characteristic of the autistic spectrum.  She was kind enough to invite me to participate as a guest speaker because of my experience with raising John.

You can find the write-up at Juliette’s blog, TalkToYouniverse.

The blog post includes a video of me, so for those of you who don’t know what I look like “live and in person,” brace yourselves.  Just kidding.  I did dress up for the Hangout, as opposed to wearing my usual working clothes of my bathrobe over my sweats.  If anyone has any questions about the subjects discussed in the Hangout, I’m more than happy to answer questions and suggest resources.


Filed under autism, fantasy, neurodiversity, parenting, research, science fiction, special education, specialneeds, Writing

The Top Five Things I Hate About Keeping Up My Mental Health

by Lillian Csernica on June 16th, 2015

1) Putting up with other people’s unmet needs, perception gaps, etc.

I’ve had enough therapy and psychiatric help with my depression to have some understanding of psychodynamics.  This means that now and then I can make a somewhat educated guess about why certain people are doing certain things.  This does not mean I have any right to grab such people by the collar and give them a lecture on how they could stop being so aggravating.  Such understanding of their suffering compels me to show compassion.  Yes, that’s the high road, and it’s the best road.  I will admit that there are days when I’m stuck in emotional traffic and the Low Road is the only one I can travel.  There are other days when I am sick and tired of putting up with some people and whatever it is they do that makes my life that much harder.  When I’m having a bad day, I do try to warn the people who have to live with me.  I’ve been told more than once that Person X is sick of living with my problems.  Guess what?  SO AM I!  I don’t want to be the way I get on my bad days.  Which brings me back to putting up with other people.  I think a few of them really do enjoy the emotional drama.  There are others who are trapped inside their problems just like I am.  For their sake, I have to take a deep breath and show them the understanding I hope for when that’s happening to me.

2) Knowing you really can build a ladder out of the Pit, even on the days when you don’t want to try.

Accountability is a pain in the ass.  One of the annoying but necessary functions of a therapist is the way he or she keeps me honest.  I used to say things like, “I hate life.”  The therapist I had then would say, “Really?  All of life?  Everywhere in the cosmos?”  Of course not.  There are kittens and ice cream and sexy movie stars and good books.  So we’d narrow it down to what I was actually hating on that particular day.  Get the sense of being overwhelmed under control.  Check.  Discuss why I’m hating that particular person or thing on that particular day.  Check.  Hate?  Really?  What are the feelings underneath?  Check.  Achieving a more balanced perspective on the situation.   Check.  Yes, all that is helpful.  Yes, all that is what I’m paying the therapist for.  Still, there are days when what I really need is a damn good hissy fit.

3) Enduring the armchair psychoanalysis of idiots without smacking them upside the head.

God save me from the fans of Oprah and Dr. Phil.  Thanks to the boys and to working at home, I don’t go out and mingle with the public as much as I used to do.  When Michael was little, if we took him out in his wheelchair people were constantly bugging Chris and me with all kinds of nosy questions and “helpful” suggestions.  Michael’s problems are largely physical, so they’re more obvious.  I don’t wear any kind of lapel pin or Medic-Alert bracelet that says “Major Depressive Disorder,” so people can’t see what’s “wrong” with me.  There are those people who have whatever empathetic abilities who seem to pick up on my gloomy vibes.  This is why I stay home if at all possible on bad days.  If there’s one thing I do not need when I’m in the Pit, it’s attracting the psychic vampires like a bug zapper at a Kentucky truck stop.  This is  just Stage One.  We move on to Stage Two when people start making all kinds of helpful suggestions.  Uh huh.  If I could just thank them for their concern and then run for it, I wouldn’t mind so much.  What really gets me are the stories.  This person’s sister.  This person’s aunt.  This person’s cousin.  After about ten minutes of listening to these people tell me all about what they know is really the problem, I am bitterly tempted to point out the probable cause and effect behind the behavior patterns I’ve witnessed just in the time they’ve been talking.  That never ends well, but now and then I feel justified in claiming self-defense.

4) When you do have a bad day, the people you live with think that just because you have a lot of good days, you should be able to snap out of it.  It does not work like that, but there’s no getting some people to grasp that fact.

What more can I say?  I’ve been married for twenty-seven years come next month.  I’ve been under treatment for my depression for a bit more than half that time.  (The depression had existed long before I got married, so please don’t assume it’s all my husband’s fault.)  There have been days when my mother, my sister, and/or my husband has asked me why I’m not better now.  There is no “better” in the sense of being cured.  Clinical depression cannot be cured, it can only be treated.  This lack of understanding makes good days difficult and bad days even worse.  Please see #1 and #3 for further details.

5)  Hating myself for being so needy on my bad days. 

It’s really grim knowing that I’m behaving like the very people I’m complaining about right here.  My own personal hell is lined with photographs of what I look like in the mirror when I see my face all blotchy and tear-streaked again.  A long time ago I learned when to tell my husband, “Stop trying to reason with me!  I am not rational right now!”  You know how men are wired.  Problem?  Solution!  Another problem?  More solutions!  I don’t want solutions.  I just want to scream and cry and do whatever it takes to lance the emotional boil inside me and drain that poison.  I realize this is not pleasant for the people who live with me.  This is why I lock myself in my room and I lock my pain up inside my head and I don’t let anybody know how much I need help.  This is not healthy, but it’s what makes sense at the time.  It’s what keeps me from being the kind of person I can’t stand, the kind of person I never want to be, the kind of person that I fight to understand and support on the days when I have enough strength to do so.

There’s that saying, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”  It’s not true.  For people who suffer from serious depression, life’s a bitch and then you wake up in the morning knowing you have to live through another day.

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Filed under charity, Depression, Family, therapy

How to Avoid Avoidance Behavior

by Lillian Csernica on October 3, 2013

There’s a paradox that every writer experiences from time to time.  You really want to get that daily word count written, but the minute you sit down to go at it, your mind starts fighting itself.  Oh wait, gotta get those notes.  Need more coffee.  Did that e-mail reply come in yet?  Time to rotate the loads of laundry.  And there’s always the eternal lure of Spider Solitaire or Bejeweled.  Why does that wall of resistance pop up between you and your work?

Speaking for myself, I find it’s a combination of fear, fatigue, and inertia.

FEAR:  Every day I face the blank screen.  Every day I have to summon up more words to build on all the others I wrote yesterday.  Can I do it?  Do I have the words?  Do I have the right words?  Am I ever going to get all the way through to the end of this project and maybe see the day when other people buy it and read it and say good things about it?  This is an anxiety spiral.  It feeds on itself, pumping more and more adrenalin into the system.  It’s hard to concentrate when your heart is racing and your fight or flight response is making you climb your own mental walls.  Solution?  Get outside.  Walk it off.  Be mindful of the present moment.

FATIGUE:  Do you get enough sleep?  I know I don’t.  Is it quality sleep?  Mine frequently isn’t.  Good sleep hygiene is essential to the proper functioning of brain chemistry.  Believe me when I tell you proper brain chemistry is a happy thing.  Sleep also gives the subconscious time to sort through ideas.  You might wake up with the wonderful gift of What Happens Next.

INERTIA:  Remember Sisyphus, from Greek mythology?  He was condemned to push that boulder up that incline until he finally got it to stay at the top.  Every time he almost made it, something would happen to send the boulder rolling back down to the bottom again.  Writing is a lot like that.  You push that boulder up that hill and get your daily quota written.  Yay!  You’ve done it!  Wait a minute…  Oh no….  NO!   There goes the boulder.  Tomorrow you have to push that same boulder up that same hill again.  Sooner or later you will get that particular novel or story finished and off to market.  Trouble is, there’s another boulder waiting for you at the bottom of a new hill.

How can we train ourselves to withstand the self-defeating lure of avoidance behaviors?  Motivation.  Strong motivation is a powerful weapon against avoidance and procrastination.  Don’t take my word for it.  The key to motivation can be found in

The Long Answer:

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.   — Woodrow Wilson
The Short Answer:
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  —  Jack London
Motivation is a subject that deserves its own post, so let me get us back on track with curing avoidance behaviors.   I was in the audience for a panel discussion at a SF convention when a successful writer answered most of the questions that came up with one word: “Deadlines.”  That says a lot.  Accountability can force us to stop making the excuses that come so easily when we answer to no one but ourselves.  If there’s somebody else expecting us to deliver that thousand words, five thousand, one hundred thousand, that person will hold us accountable for our commitment.  Different switches get thrown inside our brains and suddenly we can shake off that lethargy and focus.

How can we manufacture such accountability, assuming we don’t already have editors tapping their fingers on contracts that bear both specific deadlines and our signatures?  People have diet buddies.  Exercise buddies.  Sponsors and tutors and study groups.  Find somebody you know who’s willing to trade accountability with you.  Agree on the amount of productivity.  Agree on the frequency of deadlines.  If possible, agree on some congenial meeting place like a bookstore or a coffeehouse.  Otherwise, meet up online via Skype or your webcam or whatever works.  If you know that by Thursday next your Writing Buddy is expecting to see the complete roughdraft of that new short story, you’ll be amazed at how your perspective and work ethic change.


Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.  —  Erma Bombeck

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Filed under Depression, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Uncategorized, Writing

Five Ways to Make Life Easier for Special Needs People

by Lillian Csernica on April 14, 2013

While I’ve been occupied with the A to Z Challenge I haven’t said much about Michael and John. Michael is sensitive to loud noises, certain types of music, and some pitches of voice. We believe minor key music causes him physical pain. John has sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, speech delay, and some of the other symptoms that are part of being autistic.

I want to share with you this important article written by Aiyana Bailin, a lady who understands what life is like for Michael and John. She understands what they have to endure minute to minute just getting through the day. What’s more, she can explain why some adults make life really hard for special needs people like Michael and John because of the “challenging behaviors” those adults inflict on them.

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Neurotypicals

By Aiyana Bailin

Many neurotypical adults have behaviors that the rest of us find difficult to handle.  These people are generally unaware of the stress their challenging behaviors cause for autistic friends and family members.  Even the most patient autistic people whose loved ones have challenging behaviors may become frustrated and find their time and energy greatly taxed by the demands of dealing with these behaviors regularly.

Challenging behaviors in adults include insistence that others make eye contact or physical contact with them frequently, difficulty understanding non-speech communication beyond certain stereotyped facial expressions, difficulty tolerating stimming and echolalia, narrow perceptions of what constitutes “learning,” “empathy,” and “age-appropriate behavior,” inability to recognize the sensory needs of others, and obsession with social rituals.

How to positively address challenging behaviors in your friends and family members:

1) Gently remind them that their ways of communicating, learning, succeeding, and socializing are not the only ones.

2) Regularly let them know (preferably in carefully chosen verbal or written words—remember, they respond best to “polite” requests) when their behaviors are impeding your sensory processing, communication, de-stressing, executive functioning, and other important aspects of your life.

3) Be willing to repeat this information for them as needed. Remember, very few neurotypicals have the precise memories many of us take for granted.

4) Be patient and understanding. It can be hard for neurotypicals to grasp the importance of special interests, the joys of sensory play, or the irrelevance of their social games and hierarchies.

5) Remember to love your neurotypicals, and focus on their good points. At the same time, practice self-care. While your loved ones never mean to be a burden, dealing with them alone for long periods of time can be exhausting and stressful. Remember to take time for yourself, be firm about your own needs, and recruit a good support network to help you manage the challenges that neurotypicals bring into your life.

It’s up to the parents, teachers, and caregivers of autistic and other special needs people to see to it their own challenging behaviors are corrected, and to protect the special needs people in their care from suffering at the hands of people who don’t realize they have challenging behaviors and how much distress they cause.


Filed under Family, Special needs