I want to take a moment to consider how much writing this blog has helped me personally. I started out writing it because I was angry. Angry that some people didn’t accept I was autistic or that I was always having to explain myself, now I enjoy sharing all my experiences with people and talking about what autism is like with me. It has helped me to process everything about myself, my traits, my coping mechanisms, my past and actually develop acceptance of myself and who I am, every little part of me even the bits that frustrate the hell out of me at times. I know its okay to have a rough day and a down day. I can’t stop them and of course there will still be times where everything feels too much and I feel like I would be better off being ‘normal’ (my perception of normal that is). But you know what, I like being me. I love that I invest myself so fully into things like my job and I get enjoyment from all my obsessions and immersions. I am quirky and actually that makes me interesting and I’ve found that people actually like some of these parts of me. Of course there will be people who don’t, and yeah that hurts when sometimes its for things you can’t control, but I am happy being me. This is me.
These past couple of weeks I have spent some time thinking about ‘autism’. My aim when I began was to educate people close to me about how autism presents in me but now it feels bigger than that. I want to help educate the world on how autism can present in high functioning girls. I want people to be aware of the signs and how to spot these earlier. I want autism to be celebrated for the amazingness it allows people to be. A whole different perspective of the world that is just waiting to be tapped into. I’m not sure yet how to go about achieving this goal but writing this blog is as good of a start as any. Even if one more person in the world is educated and understanding of autism in a different way then I have achieved something.
Learning to control and minimise my reactions to my obsessions is something I struggle the most with. They give me joy, make me excited and its something I am actually good at being able to communicate about, however this can become very annoying to people and I know I can be too much and go on wwwaayyyy too much! For example, I was having a conversation with a friend at work the other day and she began talking about the lego games for ps4. I love these games, especially the marvel superhero ones! (obviously) and we were discussing them and I could feel myself wanting to just talk and talk, it bubbles inside me, excitement rushing through me like I’m going to explode, pop the cork like champagne. I knew I was going to start talking about little details within the game that would be too much, little details she wouldn’t even care about like how I love that it has the rescue version of pepper Potts or start going into detail about different missions and parts that chances are she wouldn’t be able to remember. When someone starts talking about one of the things I am interested in then I get a bit carried away. I get too excited and want to just talk and talk and talk. I don’t see the problem with it at first because someone is actually communicating about something I love and isn’t that a good thing? Its great to share interests but then I go too far and I end up loosing them, or going completely overboard and then when this happens and I loose their interest or they start not knowing what I am talking about then I feel the fear and melancholy coming on because I know I’ve over done it and messed up socially. Yes people are normally really polite about this and don’t act like ive done anything wrong within me I know that they aren’t like me and don’t really care as much as I do. I move on from this pretty quickly thankfully, often immersing myself in some fan fiction or watching clips to make myself feel better. I can’t change this fact about myself but I do apologise to anyone who falls into conversation about one of my obsessions with me, it really won’t be easy to get me to shut up, but it could be worse at least im excited to talk to you!
This week at work we have begun completing some assessments which we do regularly throughout the year, anyways, as it isn’t something we do daily like some of the other jobs I wanted to double check a detail that I was sure we included but wanted to confirm. Well I checked the policy which confirmed my theory but I noticed that none of the completed ones had it included. Well this made me begin questioning myself. I asked the others who said they had never added it in before and one of my managers wasn’t 100% sure either but said as I’ve worked for the company for so long I was probably right and to let the others know to add it. I started going round talking to the team when one of the others whom has recently transferred across to our setting said she couldn’t remember doing them either. Okay so maybe I was wrong, that didn’t matter right as it meant less work right? Well not for me, being wrong is a horrible feeling even over something so small and silly as this. I began to feel anxious, nervous energy inside me and the possibility of a melt down edging in. I know my job, and I know it very well. It’s the one thing I am confident about and am often referred to with questions similar to this concern so being wrong about it is a big thing, it makes me doubt myself completely. I feel like a failure. Well I went back to my manager and suggested calling across to one of our other nurseries. Anyways turns out thankfully I was right, but it took a while for the uneasy feeling to pass. I know this sounds like I am being big headed but it isn’t meant in that way at all. When it comes to my job I strive for that perfection, to know what I need to know, everything I can so I do the best I can do. I know that no one likes the idea of being wrong about something but I believe that for me, and as part of my autism this is magnified further and the negative feelings are a lot harder to control resulting in a possible sensory meltdown. Thankfully this time it was averted but each time does make me aware and make me want to strive to be better at my job.
Finally I would like to end this weeks blog by discussing the emotion and understanding of empathy. People will often comment and perceive people who are on the spectrum as lacking or having no empathy. The real issue isn’t that of empathy at all, I may not always know when someone is upset with me or not, read the cues that others might as well but when I know that someone is upset with me of course I feel empathic. If anything I think I feel more empathy than others when I realise as I worry enough about upsetting people or messing up socially that when I have done something wrong I feel terrible for it. Also drawing back to something I discussed in a previous blog post I tend to ‘feel’ rather than ‘think’ so it actually breaks me to realise that I have done something to cause hurt to someone else. This will often lead to me over thinking and asking people regularly if they are upset or annoyed at me, reading too much into comments or silences and assuming that this must mean I have done something to annoy the person. I feel anxiety regularly over the idea that I have inadvertently done something to someone. An anxiety bubble sits inside of me until I cannot think of anything other than checking with the person. I’ve learnt I am mostly better to ask, but that this too can then annoy people.
Thank you all for reading once again, if anyone has any ideas on how else to promote and develop understanding of autism in girls I would love to hear your ideas.
Tammy xx fff
Feeling poorly this morning which I hate. I don’t do very well with being ill, I see it as a weakness and I don’t like showing any sign of weakness because I feel like I am going to be judged for it. I know that’s silly. Everyone gets ill and that cannot be helped. Sometimes I really do need to be less hard on myself and have realistic expectations…not something I find easy!
Anyways on with todays update. I wanted to begin by thanking everyone who read my last post and commented or sent me messages regarding the aspects that they like about my autism, and how they make me well me. I thought to begin I would look into some of these in a little more detail. (staying positive whilst battling feeling poorly). One common message that came from the messages is that my passion is infectious, and my nature makes me a peacemaker. This relates mainly to my job. As I have said before I absolutely adore the job I do, and I am very passionate about it. I do think that this positivity helps to support my team and me being this way allows them to access their passion and remind them why they enjoy doing the job too. It takes a lot for me to feel overwhelmed whilst doing my job as its my safe place and I think this helps to support my team and keep them from becoming too stressed out too.
One of my favourite comments and one which I keep revisiting to read again was “Your different way to approach things makes people stop and re-think, you have an understanding that is on a different level, you ‘feel’ things rather than think them perhaps?” This comment really hit home to me, it made me think about how I feel about the children in my care, my relationships and everything and I think this absolutely sums up the way everything is processed. I do feel rather than think. This explains the additional sensory output and overload that I feel, especially when dealing with trickier situations. Everything within me is more intense because of this. I wish I could articulate better what I am trying to put across but basically being autistic to me, is about how it isn’t just my brain that reacts to everything, I feel it in every part of me. This is a positive because it allows me to be empathic, it makes me fight for the children so they get the best from nursery they can, it gives me an understanding and love, especially for any children whom have additional needs, and makes me the practitioner that I am at work. It may be exhausting feeling rather than thinking and in my personal life especially, but I wouldn’t change this aspect of myself if it meant it would change the type of person I was with the children.
My wonderful partner has decided that everyone with autism has what he refers to as superpowers (which makes me tremendously happy given my avengers/iron man obsession!) which, yes may make us seem different but actually are amazing features within us. One of the main ones for me is he thinks I am very intuitive when we watch tv programmes, I often comment about what’s going to happen, it drives him crazy just as much as he thinks its cool though I’m sure. I’m not sure if this is really a superpower or just that he doesn’t pay enough attention but the point he is trying to make is the most important. I do agree, everyone I have ever come across with autism has their own superpower. It may not be obvious at first, especially in nonverbal situations but we do. Whether that be being amazing in subjects such as maths, able to retain bucket loads of information about things we are interested in, feeling rather than thinking, whatever they are give us a unique way of viewing the world. A unique way of handling situations or addressing a problem. Yes, sometimes these are the things that make it most difficult for us to function in ‘normal’ situations but when people take the time to see beyond the difficulties they may find a way to see things differently and actually benefit from our approach.
I have recently started watching a programme of Netflix called Atypical. The programme is about a teenage boy of 18 who is autistic. He is high functioning and it has been such an interest to watch. Although I am what people would classify as higher functioning than Sam, the boy in the programme, so much of what he says and feels and does is what my brain is dealing with all the time. I am just able to deal with it and not show it as much. Of course, there are differences, no person with autism is the same just like no person is the same, but it is even helping me to deal with and address some of the things I deal with daily. Whilst watching an episode last night one line that really stuck with me was “When I get used to new things I come to rely on them.” Here Sam is discussing how new situations are so difficult but yet once he becomes used to the new, he relies on these. This is something I feel strongly. I hate new, breaks in routine, meeting new people, changing rooms at work or nurseries etc but once I get used to the change, I heavily rely on it. Therefore, my relationships can become so obsessive to begin with. It takes a while for me to build relationships but once I do, I cling to this. This statement sums up my life.
Well I feel like I have blabbered on enough for this week but thank you again for taking the time to read, please share away, until next time…
Firstly, I am by no means stating that people who are on the autistic spectrum are in anyways broken. I didn’t have the greatest parents, suffer from depression and anxiety and have had to have therapy to help come to terms with some of this. Being broken refers more to that aspect and also broken in the sense of feeling different than others, knowing you see the world in a way that is different from others.
The title and reason for writing this blog comes from Kelly Clarkson’s amazing new single broken and beautiful. It has got me thinking a lot about everything I have been through and how I don’t want to be changed I want to be accepted for me, and that I am just as important, and that people won’t try to change me.
The point of this blog is to highlight the parts of me that are beautiful, that are amazing and how my autism isn’t a negative it makes me who I am and brings the positive aspects of my personality to life. For example I am fiercely loyal. This is in every aspect of my life, friendships, relationships and work. Work is a big one for me. I throw myself into work with everything I have, I use it to help support and take away my bad days. Committing to my job each day stops me from thinking about and worrying about other things, it gives me a purpose. I give everything I have and more to my work, often going above and beyond to do jobs, attend meetings etc. I don’t do this to make me look good, I do it because it is good for me. It makes me feel good and honestly once an idea is in my head its very difficult to get it out so I may as well start work on a task as soon as the idea strikes. Rules are something I like, they give reason and control. I can’t go wrong when I follow rules. Work has rules so again it’s a safe place for me. Mostly I enjoy it. It gives me pleasure doing all the little things I do, all the extras I am not expected to do. Yes, sometimes this means people will say I am being used but honestly, I know when things are too much and I have to say I can’t do it. Doesn’t mean I won’t have tried everything possible beforehand but I know where the line is. I retain information about my job amazingly well and often can be called on to remember policies etc. Again I don’t do this to a know it all, I just like having all the information I can have and knowing I can then do my job to the very best of my ability. People say I am crazy sometimes with how committed I am, getting to work early and doing all the extra things I do but I absolutely love my job. It isn’t just a job to me. It is a passion, my life, my heart. It makes me the person I am.
This loyalty translates through to my relationships with people too. If I hold you close to me then I will do anything for you. I will stand up for you always. I will protect your secrets like my own and it takes an awful lot for me to loose this loyalty I have for someone. Again sometimes in the past this has resulted in me being played, or used by people and I have to listen to other people close to me to know when a situation isn’t necessarily right. But overall I think this is a positive aspect of my autism. It means I do my very best to be a good friend, I am trustworthy and love to an unconditional level.
Another aspect that I love about my autism is my ability to remember scenes and moments from tv shows and films that I love almost perfectly. Yes this is because of complete immersion in to them but I love being able to remember facts and information from them, some of this information even comes in handy within other topics and if not it still gives me something that I can have full blown conversations with, without the social worries that come from general chit chat. This skills gives me a good attention to detail (about things I am paying attention to, don’t ask me a question about the person that just walked by I didn’t even notice them) which can be handy when recalling an event of remembering where something was as I can picture the scene or experience in my head to recall things.
I have very little danger. Yes this can be a very dangerous aspect of being autistic but for me, so far, it has always served me fine. I am not afraid of spiders, so often become the person rescuing them, using my bare hands to pick them up and deposit them somewhere safer and away from everyone else. I will climb up or over to retrieve things if needed, fences, ladders, bin stores, through windows, onto sides whatever is needed really with very little thought or worry over the consequences of me falling. This is also helped by the fact that I seem to bounce, I am very accident prone (probably due to undiagnosed dyspraxia when I was younger) but I never seem to seriously hurt myself (fingers cross, touch wood and whatever). I always manage to just bounce back and carry on, normally covered in bruises but what’s a few bruises hey? I also have a high pain fresh hold, takes quite a bit to actually hurt me. This is probably due to how much I have hurt myself over the years to be fair but I am taking it as a positive.
These are only a few things but I have been really been working on trying to see myself within a positive light more, see the positive sides to my autism. It would really help with me this if anyone who reads that knows me would comment or message me with any other things that they like it would be nice to hear them. This isn’t a way of gaining attention its about raising awareness of the fact that autism isn’t bad, it doesn’t make you less, it makes you unique and I would love to know the things people think make me unique. This will also give me ideas for the types of things to write about and go into more detail about ‘why’ in the future.
Thank you again to everyone who does take the time to read these, I hope they continue to be informative and also give you a little bit of an understanding from inside my mind.
Beginning with my teenage years I suffered from Depression and anxiety, much of which came from my obsessive relationships with people or lack of understanding over personal relationships and from the lack of relationship I had with my parents, and how my mother only cared for socialising down the local pub. I started self harming around the age of 13 and from then suffered on and off with depression. I tried lots of different medication to treat the depression and anxiety but none seemed to make much of a difference. I tried different councillors throughout but this is where my social skills really became and issue. I couldn’t talk to them. They would expect me to just sit there and real off what the issues were and tell them everything, I couldn’t do this. I would sit there in silence for the whole session awkwardly waiting for something to happen or the session to finish. I can answer questions but I cannot just sit their and talk at someone. It didn’t work for me.
I remember once at my university counsellor after about the third time of me attending and spending the whole time just staring at the plant in her office she told me that maybe this wasn’t for me and I should consider not coming back. Makes you feel even worse when the professional cannot even help, doesn’t know what to do. After that I gave up on seeking help for a while, decided I could just get through it myself. This worked okay for a little while, yeah sure I knew I was still depressed and everything but I was coping okayish.
Then everything came back with a vengeance. I was the most depressed I had ever been and the self harming was getting worse. I was having panic attacks all the time, was cutting myself and banging my head against the wall to try and stop feeling the way I was and because doing this focussed the sensations in my body into pain. My doctor was brilliant and tried lots of different medications to help, sent me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with a condition called cyclothymia (similar to bipolar) and personality disorder, both of which I have recently learnt can be misdiagnosed before an autism diagnosis in adults, referred me for different types of therapy to help, sent me to day centre to attend classes to help with anxiety, I had a care coordinator for a while with whom I had to meet with regularly to check in with in case I got suicidal but nothing was really making any kind of difference. I didn’t know what to do anymore. Was it better to just give it all up?
Finally after being on a waiting list for a year and a half I was referred to a therapist. She was fantastic. Asked me questions to get me talking, seemed to understand the difficulty I had in just talking at her. Of course, there were moments of silence and where I struggled still but it was the most open I had ever managed to be. There were times where I wanted to give it up and it felt pointless and I couldn’t wait for my sessions to end but in one of my last sessions everything changed. My therapist asked me what I knew about autism. Given my job in early years I knew a fair amount about autism and many of its traits, in fact during training sessions team members had often joked about how I do some of these. She asked if I had ever considered the possibility that I could be and gave me a questionnaire to fill out. She explained how there was some things that we had dealt with that we could put in a box and say these were because of my parents and there was these other things which she couldn’t fit into this box, they were bigger than this and could all be explained by the autism. So I filled out the questionnaire which confirmed the diagnosis and here we are now. As much as the diagnosis does not define who I am it made a huge difference knowing why I wasn’t seeing everything the same way others were and that all these sensations and feelings inside me had a reason.
Since my diagnosis I have been able to look at myself and see what things are autism related and which are more likely because of my past. This has helped me greatly to move on from the past and although the autism isn’t always easy even for myself as there are days where I long to see the world I assume everyone else does and not over process everything; my diagnosis was the best thing that happened to me. It liberated me to look into the condition more, it made me better at my job working with children, and most importantly it allowed me to understand myself, accept myself and know that I am allowed to see things differently, I am allowed to be me.
Being hyper is sometimes just as hard to handle as when I am in a low and I imagine just as frustrating and annoying for people. I’ve been referred to as tigger when I am extra happy, I will literally bounce around. I move at a faster pace and it’s like my feet don’t even touch the floor. I can’t control myself and it makes me want to flap my hands even more and I feel like I’m all twitchy just in a good way. Speaking also begins coming extremely fast and I cannot stop the words flowing, cannot let anyone get a word in edge ways. This is especially the case if it’s related to something I am obsessed with. My brain buzzes, but in a good way. Adrenaline rushing through me making it hard to focus and yet also the only thing I can focus on too, which I know makes no sense but it’s the only way I can explain it. I can literally feel everything rushing through me. It can be difficult to calm me down during these moments. Once I’m up it’s hard to bring me down again but beware of the crash that will sometimes follow. It’s like a sugar rush I suppose is the best way to define it. Highs can last a few minutes or even a few hours depending on the situation. In the past events that have been like this are when I met atomic kitten for the first time. I couldn’t keep still, legs jittering, hands flapping gently, hyper aware of everything around me every sensation strumming through my body. Other times that have led to this were seeing wicked the musical, going to friends fest, seeing Jess Glynn, watching new episodes of my favourite shows or the next film in a series I enjoy. Even thinking about it all is making me buzz a little inside.
When I am interested or a little too hyper about something then I can take things too far, it’s hard for me to draw back from it and not over do it by either what I am saying or how I am acting or responding to the situation. Similar occurs when someone even shows the tinniest bit of interest into something I like. For example if someone says that they have watched castle, or likes it, even knows what I am talking about then it can start me on a verbal onslaught about it. Discussing my favourite episodes, overloading on information about the characters I like, talking about spoilers etc. All this to a poor person whom only mentioned one tiny thing to do with my obsession! I would apologise but I cannot help it and honestly it allows me to let out all I’m feeling about my favourite things. I do apologise to those closest to me who have had to suffer my conversations even though they haven’t a clue or care about the things I’m obsessed with. You all listen well and let me vent about whatever tv show I’m currently immersed in. (Not that I really give you much choice!)
Something can either mean the absolute world to me and I will hold onto it forever or I can be over it in a flash and show no care or concern for something people think I should. Once I’m done I’m done, it just takes me an awfully long time to get there. (maybe I am kidding myself maybe I am never done really). There are friendships that I have fought for in the past even though they were toxic to me and I should have let them go, these I still hold onto. Friends I have lost from when I was younger still float through my head and cause me a lot of pain and I wonder what could have been done differently. This is something I have been thinking a lot about recently considering how things stand with some people I never would have thought would hurt me or people I thought would always be there for me. People I may have messed up with and don’t know how to fix, how to make things better, I don’t know how to let go, and truthfully, I don’t know if I want to.
I struggle to move on and let go of anything really. I hold onto programmes that finished years and years ago. I remember this programme called peak practice, it ended on a literal cliff hanger (two characters literally fell off the cliff) they decided not to make another series. To this day this is something that plagues my mind, I cannot let go of never knowing what happened next. Of course it doesn’t effect everything I do day to day or I don’t constantly discuss it anymore, my obsession has moved on to other things but I do still think about it and mention it occasionally during conversations. This is the best example of how I am with everything. My best friend from primary school, I still think about her. Over the years this has only got worse as my feelings and emotions have evolved and I have greater understanding of relationships. The people I have close to me now are the closest I have ever been to any other people in my life. Thinking of my life without a single one of these is the worst feeling. Yet every day I know the chance is very real, given how difficult I can be to be around, or when I immerse myself, when I retreat into my own bubble, when I have meltdowns, when I don’t understand things the way others do or when I react in ways which they don’t understand. Yeah there are a lot of reasons for me to have no one in my life at all.
There are reasons to keep me around too. I am utterly faithful and will protect the people I care about. I will do anything and I mean anything to make them happy or to stand up for them, even when this isn’t the right response. They come first no matter what is happening in my life. This had lead to me being silly with money, buying presents I really couldn’t afford, putting myself on the line even though I knew it would end in arguments with people. All the things I would normally avoid I will do for people who are in my inner circle. The truth of the matter is if there was ever a really good reason I would properly kill for these people. I know that isn’t something I should announce, and I am honestly the most honest, caring, nonviolent person, I hate even raising my voice, but I know I would do anything for the people I love. Honestly, I just have to have enough trust in the people that I let in that they would never abuse this side of me, it’s a very scary concept. I am literal. Don’t ask me to do something unless its exactly what you want me to do. I remember one time I was at a restaurant with some work colleagues and one of the ladies whom I was close too joked that she had a set of salt and pepper pots like the ones on the table and one of hers had broken, she joked I should put one in my bag. So I did. I would never steal anything for myself, hell I wouldn’t ever still anything really but she told me to do it and I did. Moments like this are rare and this is an extreme case but it helps to explain how everything you say to me I will take literally.
I am lucky enough that I am able to understand social aspects such as sarcasm, and jokes enough that I now don’t take everything as literally as I could and I am more able to understand exactly what is meant of me but when I am particularly emotional or love a person deeply enough then this becomes worse. It’s a complete conundrum inside my head, the practical part of me knows exactly what I should do, what the rules and ‘right’ thing would be, but the emotional side has no filter and will do whatever it takes. I’m not if any of that makes any sense and it may be the only people whom will understand are those who have seen it but I hope it explains a little about the way my brain functions and why I do what I do, and possibly why others on the spectrum do what they do.
It is the most difficult thing in the world to listen to my brain and try to decide whether something should be taken literally or not. Sometimes it will take me longer to respond or answer or I will just slowly nod as if I have understood but really I am still processing and overthinking it all. Every comment someone makes, every single conversation that I have over processes in my mind. It can be overwhelming and exhausting at times, leaving me physically drained. Its one of the reasons I hate disagreements so much, not only because the whole thing makes me physically uncomfortable and over stimulated but because I cannot process quick enough to deal with everything which is going on. I don’t have time to think or to take the things people are saying in the right way. Trying to keep up and keep things together leaves me in melt down mode, fighting exhaustion and trying not to ease the pressure building by doing something people would classify as self-harming such as biting myself. I don’t do it for the same reason many people self-harm, I do it for the automatic release it gives me, I can literally feel the knot loosening and some of the built-up pressure to ease from me. Over time this has consisted of different forms of self-harm, another common one I feel is the want to just bang my head against anything, in the past I have cut, though not for years now, biting my nails and the skin around certain nails, washing my hands and body in as hot water as I can possibly stand, anything to just ease the pressure inside so I don’t start to sim too much or completely melt down. Thankfully moments which lead to these responses are a lot less now, I have learnt of other coping mechanisms which aren’t as obvious or physical but sometimes things still become too much. Putting this out there is a scary concept as self-harm has been an area which has been used against me in the past, it is not attention seeking in any way, it is not because I am suicidal, it is in fact quite common for people on the spectrum to respond in a physical manner such as head banging, etc. Please do not think any worse of me because of it. I am just trying to stay focussed and make things manageable for me. I am not crazy. I am trying to fit into a world which doesn’t understand me and which I don’t understand enough. I just want to be accepted, to be acknowledged and treated the same as others.
Its important to understand that sometimes these things will become more prominent dependant on peoples reactions and attitude towards me, if someone doesn’t understand and treats me differently or makes comments such as im using my condition or that I’m getting worse, or never used to be like this then it makes me more on edge and then although I am doing my absolute best to be normal or the same as you my body is so wired that I am then more likely to react in the ways which are seen as issues. Someone’s attitude or response will make me do these things more even though it makes the situation worse. The pressure I put on myself is the worst and I wish people would understand that the more understanding or normal you try and be with me the more at ease and therefore normal I will be. I am by no means saying this is any easy thing to do, I do totally respect the difficulty in being around me but all im asking is for people to try, try and see past the mess to the real me. The one who loves deeply, cares immensely, can be funny, will work hard, do anything to fit in.