My friend Melissa is here for two weeks. She is one of those Gen-Y jet-set types. But she flew here, to Wisconsin, from Hong Kong, where she just quit her job in finance to become a nanny in Italy.

I was going to tell you that I love her because she is taking amazing photos with her zillion-dollar camera of stuff on the farm that I can see but I can’t figure out how to get in a photo. Like this. It’s just my house. But it’s the magic of my house in the winter.

What I really want to tell you about Melissa though, is that she quit her $150,000/year in international finance to hang out with some nine-year-old Italian after school. She speaks Chinese, which is how she got the family to pay her enough money. The family really wanted a nanny who could fix the kid’s English accent because English tutor was from Sweden. But now they’re getting a two-for-one: Their kid will learn English with an American accent and Chinese with an American accent, too.

Like me, Melissa has Asperger’s Syndrome. So I can finish her sentences for her, and she can finish my sentences. Which is funny because neither of us ever shuts up. So there are really never any sentences to finish.

We are both very high-functioning for people with Asperger’s. Both of us were in special ed classes in high school. And both of us were in honors classes as well. We spend a lot of time helping each other deal with Asperger’s. Here are things we do.

1. Stop circular thinking.

When I want something to happen that does not seem to be going to happen, I cannot stop talking about it. Like, somehow, if I keep talking, nothing bad will happen. Melissa tells me: Shhh! And snaps her finger like I’m a dog. If she does that, I am quiet. Not because I want to be, but because I know I have a problem that I can’t shut up when I don’t like something, so if someone tells me to shut up, I need to do that.

When she arrived at the house, there was a huge pile of dishes in the sink because I was too upset with the farmer to keep the house clean. I had to obsess about how upset I was, and then I had to tell her, and I told her I was going to die. And she said, “Shhh!” And then she started taking pictures to document the mess.

So often if I just stop talking about something, it goes away. But I don’t have that natural inclination.

2. No emails longer than 300 words.

Melissa sends endless emails. She is generally right, about everything, but people don’t care. They don’t want to read anyone’s discussion of why they are right for five paragraphs. So Melissa tries to just send 300 words, no matter what topic is. I do positive reinforcement by not reading anything from her that I think is too long.

This goes for talking, too. I mean, it doesn’t really matter if you’re right if you’re boring. Melissa and I help each other to know when the talk is getting boring. That, or we just talk over each other.

3. Xanax as a backup

I never used to be a Xanax person. In fact, I’m scared of it because I think I could become addicted. But it’s so easy for someone with Asperger’s to go into an anxiety attack. Many people with Asperger’s choose not to vary from their routine at all. They eat the same thing every day and go to the same places every day. Some people like routine so much that they will drive ten miles out of the way just to drive on roads they already know. Melissa and I know tons of self-soothing mechanisms: yoga, hot bath, meditation. But if nothing works, Melissa decides it is a chemical imbalance, and she takes a Xanax. Now, when I am panicking about the farmer — it’s almost always about the farmer: he doesn’t love me, he’s leaving, he wants a dog instead of me — I take a Xanax.

4. Serotonin replacements

I haven’t written about medication on the blog. And look, I wasn’t even going to write about it here, but I can’t write about Melissa with out writing about it.

Do you know who diagnosed Melissa with Asperger’s? Me. I can spot someone a mile away. Then she got herself officially diagnosed and then she found this doctor who explained to her that she has extra dopamine because her serotonin is absorbed too quickly. She needs to slow down the serotonin uptake to balance her out. Then she read on my blog that I can have a day where all I eat is bread — actually, I have had probably ten million days where all I eat is bread — and she told me I need to replace bread with a serotonin uptake inhibitor.

5. There is no five.

This post is digressing into a post about medicating yourself for anxiety. Okay. So all of you who have ever written to me about how you think numbered-lists are for philistines and if I want to write a numbered list I should write for Cosmo. Well, first of all, I’d die of happiness to write for Cosmo because it would mean that someone finally acknowledged that I have skills in the bedroom. But look, now I’m doing the un-list. I have a list that is not a list because list item number five is that Melissa got me to take medication, and I’m happy.

If this were a list with sub-points — like, a, b, and c — they would be about all the reasons I don’t take my medication. Just yesterday I was talking to my therapist about how the only reason I’m trying really hard to take my medication regularly is because a big sign of manic-depression is that the person doesn’t take their medication.

She laughed. She said it’s not just manic depressives — it’s everyone. They feel better and then they stop.

Maybe this is true. Here’s another thing. Next time I write a post where I’m sad or happy or I don’t know what, I don’t want you guys saying, “Did you take your medicine?”

You know how when you throw a fit at your boyfriend and he asks you if you have PMS? It sucks, right? Because whether or not you have PMS, the premise of the fit is still true — the boyfriend, or the world, or whatever is still pissing you off.

At the beginning of the post, my ideas were nice and organized about what I was going to write about Melissa. Now, I’m on shaky territory. I hate people telling me I’m crazy because crazy is not interesting. I want you to think I’m like you. I like being around Melissa so much because she makes me feel normal.

She has never visited my house before, but when she got here, she immediately gravitated to our yellow disc. She said, “What’s this for?”

I said, “For standing.”


“It’s calming to people who have self-regulating issues.”

But I didn’t need to tell her. She was already using it.