Broken and Beautiful…

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.

How my diagnosis came about…

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.

A short piece about the hyper, happy side!

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!)

Meaning the world to me, being literal and self-harm…

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.

Having a bad week…

So this week has been pretty rubbish to be quite honest with you all, Sunday things just seemed to fall apart and it has lasted the whole week, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss what happens and how I feel and cope when things go bad. Before I go any further I would like to say of course when bad things happen its going to affect us and can last for more than the initial moment, I am purely drawing on my own experience.

As I was saying, Sunday hit me hard. Sent my emotions spiralling and I know that much of what I felt and lead to the meltdown was due to the social anxiety and lack of understanding or ability to understand certain situations that I do have.  Following this my auntie, who is more like my mum, ended up at AandE (thankfully she is all fine). This has led to an empty almost numb feeling to come over me this week. My body is functioning and acting as it should be but inside I feel like everything has shut down. I’m spaced out during moments where I am normally engaged, such as conversations. Its not that I’m not listening its just my brain is too full, to busy trying not to break down that it cannot handle anything else. This has presented with me seeming distant from people I would normally pull close. The people I would turn to for support and to talk to are just there. I cannot fathom what to say, how to put anything into words to explain that no I am really not okay but I also have no idea what to do. Its like wearing a mask. I am functioning and in fact unless someone really knows me they probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference in me this week, in fact all week I have convinced myself I am fine and there is no difference, until Friday.

Friday morning started off fine, I woke up, I felt normal. I hadn’t slept great but really what else is new? I was opening up at work, got there really early like I normally do and went to get my work keys out of my bag. Now my work keys have a particular place which they live and they never leave unless I am opening or locking the door and then they go right back in. They weren’t there. Okay maybe I had accidentally put them in the main part of my bag, unlikely but of course possible. I emptied my bag out 6 times before I reached the conclusion that I didn’t have them. My skin started prickling and I wanted nothing more than to cover my ears and cry but I knew I had a responsibility and if there is one thing I can do it is fall into work mode and deal with the situation. Contacted one of the other key holders and drove to hers got the keys and opened up. Yes 30 minutes after I would have normally done but still way before we opened so no real problems. Except this started me out on a spiral. I hadn’t done things in the order I normally do in the morning, I wasn’t doing the cleaning I normally do or opening up in the order I would, but I thought everything was fine, I was on tack the nursery was ready, it was open. Then came the other little things throughout the day, I forgot to prepare the flapjack for breakfast, I missed someone of lunch shifts completely, I didn’t sign the opening checklist. Yes all small things and none that couldn’t be very easily rectified but so unlike me. I don’t forget things like this, things I have been doing for years. In fact, I pride myself on my ability to function at work. This got me thinking back over the week, there had been a time when I had totally miscounted how many team I had (again nothing major, even joked about it), but little things like this really bother me. They are the things that people normally praise me for being able to deal with without thought and here I was just forgetting little things. My manager even jokingly asked me if I was okay on Friday because of all these little things and I could feel the rush of tears prickle behind my eyes, she knows me, knows this was how I was feeling so continued to joke it off with me to help me through but honestly everything felt too much right then in that moment. Of course, I pushed it back, put my work persona on, took on the role I know I needed to do, the role I can do and got through the rest of the day, making jokes about it all to help me look okay with it all. When the end of my shift came for once I was relieved, now normally I am not a person that counts down to when I finish, I love my job and honestly it doesn’t bother me how many hours I spend there or if I leave on time but today, I was happy to be finished. I could feel all the emotion pushing to release as I collected my bag and my things to leave. I went to say goodbye to my managers as normal on my way out, they wished me a better weekend and my manager commented how its okay to not be perfect all the time. I know she was messing around and just trying to make me feel better about the week but its not okay to me. Work is sometimes the only thing I know I am good at, so I word my damn hardest all the time to make sure that I can be the very best I can be at it, and that includes all the silly little things. I know that we all make silly mistakes like the ones I have this week and I would be the first one to reassure anyone else who felt crappy after them, but I hold myself on a different level. I expect myself to be perfect at it, to give it everything, to not do these things and therefore see myself as a failure when I do. I ache with the knowledge that even if only in small, no big deal, not even massive parts of my role parts have been affected by things that happened. Work is my safe place. The one place where I battle to keep myself okay.

I know most of this update its mainly just a rant at myself but honestly it’s all I can manage right now, Right now I just want immerse myself and try and bring my brain back to functionality. I would even welcome the buzzing back right now over this numbing sensation. Next week is a fresh week, new start and hopefully have a better ending… I just

Physical relationships, Intimacy and bodily contact…

Firstly sorry for such a long time since updating, I 100% haven’t stopped, work and life has just been particularly busy the last week. This is has also been one of most trying posts to bring myself to write. This is one subject that has haunted me and caused much upset during my adult life and an area that many haven’t understood about me. Physical relationships and Intimacy.

To begin lets start simple, sometimes as previously mentioned I can be the most cuddly, need to be close to you person, probably too much so, and on the other hand I can cringe away at the most simplest of touches on other days and feel absolutely terrible about it.  This can be with anyone. I do not like people I am not comfortable with touching me in any way, my skin crawls when they get too close and my whole body feels tense. Obviously, I have learnt to control this, as you cannot avoid contact all the time and I can normally act ‘normal’ during these circumstances. If I am feeling particularly anxious, upset or angry at all then this is all magnified and it can feel like razor blades attacking my skin, I feel the need to physically scratch or brush off the area which they have touched. I can feel the touch for some time after too, depending on how bad I am feeling beforehand. Oddly this can be worse with people I am close too. It is like having two different people, I can either be glued to you and seek out as much physical contact, no matter how small. Laying an arm against your side, sitting up close, snuggling into you or I cannot even cope with the air between us if we are too close and I need space, to breath, a bubble of my own to escape inside so that I can pull breath into my lungs, calm the buzzing sensation within my brain and stop the horrible itchy, dirty, painful feeling running along my skin and nerve endings. Understandably this can be hard for people to understand, especially as it isn’t as simple as being okay with one person and not another and really can depend on many things, some that I still can not pinpoint.

This has lead to many failed relationships or issues within relationships over the years with friends and more specifically with partners. How can I expect them to understand that one minute they can hold my hand,  hug me, kiss me and the next its like I am physically repulsed by the very idea of it all. I spent years and years beating myself over this before my diagnosis. What kind of freak was I? Why couldn’t I just get over it, let things be. This lead to me forcing myself to let these situations happen sometimes, which I know may be seen as a form or therapy but honestly it just made me feel worse. My body would almost shut down, block everything out or go into complete melt down mode resulting in panic attacks. Of course this would make guys believe that I didn’t like them, which just wasn’t the case. How could I express something that I didn’t even understand myself? How could I make them understand what my body was feeling when none of my friends or the people around me were clearly suffering the same way I was. I was broken. My body and brain were a traitor.

Being Intimate was even worse. I could be completely in the mood, okay with being touched, lets be honest turned on, body reacting the way it is supposed to and then suddenly nothing. No sensation, the need to stop overwhelming me, pain, panic, fear or just absolutely nothing at all and the feeling of is it over yet? Again this made me feel utterly broken. When you hear everyone around you talking about how much they enjoy sex, anything sexual in fact, and how amazing it is all supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong its not that everything was bad or I didn’t enjoy it at all it all started out good, just would all suddenly go away and I was done, not in the orgasmic way it should be just a total sensation ending. Naturally this lead to a lot of issues within relationships too and a lack of explanation from me probably didn’t help matters. The most frustrating thing is it wasn’t for lack or desire on my part, lack of want or trying. Just seemed physically impossible. This lead to bucket load of upset, worry and avoidance when beginning new relationships which I knew was going to make things worse but I didn’t know how to prevent it. Friends would often comment that maybe it would all be better if I pushed through it a few times, let it become more familiar. This didn’t work. Also maybe if I met the right person it would all just fall into place. I hoped this was so but put a lot of pressure on every relationship I started. Amazingly things have got immensely better in this area. I don’t know if it was the diagnosis that allowed me to understand and therefore accept myself, and take the pressure away from things or if I have just been in a better place with the last few people I have been with. Now with my current partner things couldn’t be better, he understands so well. I don’t feel any pressure, and if I am having an off day or one of my random cannot deal with anyone in my space moments he understands. He doesn’t push me or make me feel bad even if I can’t be intimate or cuddle up. I have never been happier or more comfortable and actually want all these things physically with a person rather than my brain want them and my body protesting profusely. I finally feel okay within myself to admit that these feelings in my body sometimes are okay. They are part of me. My body and my brain sometimes process things differently and can be overwhelmed and that is okay. I will come through it. People won’t all leave me because of it. Not everyone thinks I am freak. I can be desirable and loved for every part of myself. (Even if not by me all the time.)

I am sorry if this has included too much information for some people, it is meant only in an informative manner. Also if there is anyone reading who would like more information or to talk about their own experiences please contact me or leave a message.  

imagination, submersion and being ‘crazy’

For some reason this has been harder to write than much of my previous posts, maybe its because it is recalling more of my past but it has also helped to reflect back on everything and signs that I missed, that everyone missed with my autism so that hopefully I don’t miss them in someone else.

When I was younger I had the most amazing imagination. I loved taking on a role and pretending to be a mum and play with my dolls. I would create stories and events based on these and I could talk for hours about what we had been up to, what the 10 imaginary children and I had been doing. I remember walking to my nans and literally talking the whole way there as we walked, about this imaginary family I had invented. I was so invested in my game that to me it was almost real. Problem is I really immerse myself in these games, and this wasn’t the only time. All throughout my childhood I would enjoy playing the same games, especially imaginary ones, over and over, and I couldn’t work out or understand why my friends didn’t want to play the game constantly too. The game would be all I could think of at times and in the end I suppose I became too over the top that people didn’t want to play them anymore, Also if they just got bored or grew out of the game this was something I found very hard to understand. I think this is an important aspect of autism to me. Most people wouldn’t assume that a child with autism would be able to play imaginatively very well and this would be an area they struggle in, which makes perfect sense considering autistic individuals tend to like literal, practical and things which are logical to understand. I believe that this imaginary play is more common in women and girls with autism than boys. Girls have a more social desire, they want to be like everyone else (okay I’m generalising but I know this is how I felt.) and as I have explained with my job, it’s a role. I can mimic a role, I can be and try and understand many of the things that I struggle to deal with. For me this was a way of fitting in, to understand the world the way everyone else seemed to; until I became too much of course.

As I developed the understanding that not everyone wanted to play the game quite as intensely as I did I would often create my own little worlds to delve and submerge myself in. This was a way of escaping and I could do this on my own and not worry about the world around me for a little while. I know part of this was due to my loneliness and abandonment I felt from my parents too, which just enhanced these worlds of mine. I would be someone else, whoever I wanted to be. As I got older this evolved into being characters that I was addicted to such as Sara from CSI. I could be her, I had studied her enough on the show to know how to be and what things might be happening in her life. This was my biggest coping mechanism at times. When I couldn’t handle the real world then I could retreat to my little bubble and be safe in my little world, mimic being someone whom I classified as ‘normal’

The more I progress into adulthood the less I feel the need for these little worlds of mine, there are times when I am particularly stressed, emotional or destressed about something when I can feel these creeping in and my mind wanting to take me into a little world where I can escape these feelings. This often occurs in the times when I am most tired, in that space between being awake and being asleep submerging into someone else and not having to process everything my brain is dealing with means I can fall asleep easier. This doesn’t happen often and writing about it fills me with panic, as I know how crazy it all seems and how difficult this idea is to understand, but this blog was all about being open and honest and sharing my personal experiences so here we go…

Next time round I am going to delve into an area that is difficult to me and difficult to discuss, physical relationships and finding love.

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As always thank you to everyone who takes the time to read xx

A little something different…

I know in my last upload I said I would be discussing my coping mechanisms and how I respond in situations but I have decided to take a slightly different approach. I will still be touching on these but instead of listing them off I am going to write about the week I have had…

As many people reading this already know I work in a nursery with children. I absolutely adore my job. It is my focus, my biggest obsession, my escape from my brain at times. Of course every now and again things are going to flow over into this world, I can’t ‘hide’ all my autistic traits even though for a long time I strived to be normal and not let these show. I have accepted who I am now, and see the benefit and support these little traits can have (sometimes anyways lol).

Something very minor to most happened this week. One of the girls I work with received new work shirts to wear and she pointed out to us how the name of the company and the size of the logo has changed slightly on the shirt. Now this is nothing major right? Its still the same company I work for, nothing has really changed. But I wasn’t aware that this was going to happen. I could feel the unease seeping through me, beginning small and slowly spreading. My hands crept up to rub my neck, below my ears and I could feel myself babbling. Its not that the change is bad at all, the fact that I didn’t know it was coming was the issue, and now we aren’t all the same. Our uniform is universal throughout our nurseries and that’s how it supposed to be. That’s the rule, we have a very clear dress code. This throws that out. For a while this will trickle in and some of us will be one way and some of us will be the other. This is taking some times for my brain to process. The idea of it all, the fact that our badges will change, the signs will all have to change buzzes through my head. This isn’t even my issue…I do not have to do any of this none of it actively effects me. Anyways I joked it off, continued to babble about it all day but acted like I was all fine with it. It still runs around my head now, days later, not enough to make me twitchy but the buzzing in my brain is still there.

I am going to refer back to one sentence in particular from above “My hands crept up to rub my neck, below my ears…” This is one of my coping mechanisms. I cover my ears. Push so hard towards my head that I cannot hear anything except the blood rushing through my head. I block everything out and just try to breath. When things aren’t too bad or I’m trying to hide the feelings flowing over me I rub below my ears, my neck, anything within this area that doesn’t look as suspicious. My amazing partner bought me ear defenders to support me during these times which made me fall even more in Love with him. The way he supports rather than tries to change me is outstanding.

Because of this and my mind feeling the way it has I have felt the hyperfixation streaming through me, controlling me, helping to settle things in my brain but it isn’t easy to control it. At night I have been dreaming about Castle and Beckett, all day in the back of mind I have thoughts of Tony Stark and Pepper fighting to take centre stage. I am obsessed with finding things online to quench my hunger for it, reading fanfiction when ever I get the chance, looking up theories on what will happen in the next avengers movie. Yes this all sounds very obsessive and I know many will think this is unhealthy and part of that may be right. But this is how I cope. I have learnt and continue to fight and learn to control it so it doesn’t overcome me and become the only thing I focus on. But it helps me, and I am no longer afraid of the rabbit hole it may pull me down.

Something else from this week was a discussion I had with a team member. I always ensure to ask if a team member wants to swap or would like me to do a job if I feel they have done a lot of it recently, such as changing nappies, and this team member always says its fine. I always worry that this is something people say because its a very social norm to just say that everything is okay and it is also appropriate for the other person to offer to do the job anyways. I cannot read this. I never know what way a person is being, If they are genuinely okay doing a job or are just saying it to be polite. After a few days of this I decided to come out and just say this to the team member. Thankfully she laughed and understood and said she would say if she didn’t want to do something. I know that some people find this rude but this is genuinely what I need. I need the black and white. No grey area thankyou. It doesn’t mean I will let people walk all over me and not do a job if they need to do it but I know where I stand and what my response should be.

I know this only scratches the surface of how things can be and how I cope with things but I thought it would be a way of explaining part of a typical week for me. These is much more to come and I will continue to explore my past, my present and the idea of my future and explain how everyday life has evolved and works for me and my autism.

Finally it has also been suggested to me that I should consider vlogging on youtube with these extracts. I am not yet sue how I feel about this, I would love to reach a wider community and continue to see this grow but I’m not sure I can do it. I was just wondering what peoples thoughts are on this matter. I would also really appreciate it if you could like and/or follow the posts on this website so I can see what the interest is. Also feel free to leave any comments on what you think was good, anything I could improve or anything you would like included.

Social interactions…

To many people who know me casually or through work they would probably tell you I have quite good social skills, I am friendly and join in with social norms. Its only the people who are particularly close to me or who have known me for a long period of time who see the social struggles I encounter every day.

Work is easy, its a role. I am meant to be social to the people there and we all have something in common. I absolutely love my job it is one of the most important things in my life. I can talk about it again and again and never get bored. Every day is new and I can fill my time discussing these things or my previous experiences. Ironically talking with children is something I find much easier than I do with adults, which is rather handy seeing as I am an Early Years Teacher. Within my job I go out and I teach other team members, I visit local colleges and give speeches about our nurseries but this is something I can do with ease. I can immerse myself within the role I am playing, the role I know I am good at, share knowledge I am extremely passionate about. Its different than trying to have ‘small talk’ or begin a conversation.

The social side which I struggle most with is small talk with people. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how to begin and then I panic and this becomes even harder for me. I will happily reply to someone and I try extremely hard to listen to everything someone has to say but I do not always know how to respond. I don’t know what someone wants me to say, what the correct response would be to keep the conversation going. I am fine when it comes to answering questions, ask me and I will tell you anything. I cannot lie, omit the truth but never lie. Once I know someone well and am comfortable then this becomes much easier and its harder to shut me up than to get me to talk. This is because I can talk about my interests, the things I love and I know a lot more about how a person will respond and what kind of response they want from me. There are still times where I get this wrong and mess up but then don’t we all occasionally?

My next issue comes when there are group conversations, even just three people. I can very easily become lost during these times. I begin fine, listening but if a conversation doesn’t directly include me and I am just a listening participant to the discussion then I tend to faze out of what is being said. I will end up being lost to something else such as the television or something else that is happening around us. Often I am pulled back in by someone trying to reinclude me for example with lines like “like when this happened hey Tam?” or “don’t you think so Tam?” and I genuinely haven’t got a clue what was being said. I don’t mean to and I know that this comes across as rude but there is just so much to process during these moments that sometimes fazing out is easier to deal with or I loose my concentration and I don’t realise I am even out of the conversation until it is too late. I apologise for all the times I have done this, it is not because I am not interested and I hate people thinking that.

Putting myself in the centre of a circle is my way of protecting myself when I am out with a large group. I do not even realise that I am doing it until I am already in the centre. This is a method I use particularly when I am out dancing for example for a work do or if on the odd chance I ever attend a night club (love the music and dancing, hate the crowds, over stimulation and anxiety it brings.) I always end up in the middle of the group. This helps to prevent other people touching me, getting too close and the sensory overload that can come with this. If this isn’t a possibility then I tend to situate myself very close to a person that I am friends with, it helps to level me keep me from freaking out, anchored.

Anxiety is something that I have always struggled with throughout my life and much of this is often bought on because of aspects from my autism. This is something that I will be discussing further as we go through this journey however it does effect me socially in a couple of different ways, like many with anxiety it can prevent me from attending events, include me creating excuses not to attend even if I really really want to. Mainly when I am anxious or worked up in any way I loose my ability to talk. This is very frustrating to me, I can know exactly how I want to respond to someone or how to answer a question but if I am emotionally worked up in any way be that anxiety, upset or anger then I just physically cannot do it. The words are there on the tip of my tongue, running through my brain and I am pleading with myself inside to just say the words, any words so that I don’t look like a complete idiot or emotional wreck but I physically can’t. I just cannot do it, no words will come out. Sometimes this only lasts a couple of minutes and then I can bring myself back around but sometimes this can last for much longer periods. Makaton helps me. I have been fascinated with it as part of my career in early years and have found that it helps me to express myself during these times, as long as I have someone who understands what I am doing. I have also learnt to write down what I want to say. This may take some time but it is much easier than trying to verbally communicate,. maybe its the reason I am doing this blog. Verbally I struggle to express myself at times but writing allows everything to flow freely. No blockage.

I am sure there are more things which I could write about but I feel like this is long enough. I hope you enjoy reading and stick with me through my journey of expression. Over the coming blogs I would like to focus a little more on some of the day to day feelings I encounter and some of my coping mechanisms for the days when everything is a little too much.

Overwhelmed and amazed!!

So I wasn’t actually planning on updating again so soon, but I have been so shocked and amazed by the response to my first post that I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has read what I have to say and how grateful I am for all your comments on my Facebook, where I shared my blog! The responses have been outstanding and I really do hope people enjoy reading further and hopefully learn something.

Following on from my previous post I wanted to discuss the social aspect relating to my autism. People often assume that autism means you don’t want to be social, you don’t care about having friends and we live in our own little bubbles. I will admit that I do enjoy my bubble, it’s safe, I don’t have to question or worry that I’m messing up or going to be overwhelmed and yes I can immerse myself in my current hyper fixation. But this is lonely. I enjoy talking to people, I may sometimes struggle with it if the topic isn’t a subject I can babble on about but of course I desire the closeness of friends just as much as anyone else. I am lucky to have some awesome friends within my life who do (amazingly!) love me for me and I can assure you that it isn’t always easy, especially when I become stubborn.

The hardest thing for me when creating relationships with people is my tendency to be obsessive. Just like with everything else in my life I commit wholly to it. It controls me. A person I feel particularly close to becomes all I think about, spending time with them, talking to them, making them happy and sometimes this results in me going a little overboard. But I do move past this, it can be tough to stick through this stage with me but I’m forever thankful to the people that have. As a child this was much harder and my best friend was my best friend. I wanted to spend all my time with that person, I found it hard to understand why they would want to hang out with other people sometimes or if they didn’t choose me for something. As I have got older this has got easier. I have a better understanding of social situations and how friendships should work. Sometimes these issues still haunt me but I have got better at hiding them (most of the time) and not let them ruin the friendships that I do have.

Growing up much of these ‘obsessions’ were with teachers who took their time with me, I saw something familiar in or whom I saw as strong. I think this was one of the harder aspects to deal with, no one really understood and to be honest I didn’t understand either I just knew I couldn’t help it.

For much of my teenage years into my adult hood people would tell me I was a lesbian. I didn’t feel like I was, physically I had only thought about boys but everyone kept telling me I must of been and all my obsessions did seem to be with girls or female characters so they had to be correct in their assumptions right? I was the ‘weird’ one and wasn’t acting like everyone else was with people so what did I know? Deep down something kept telling me I wasn’t attracted to girls but it took me a long time to believe this in my head. I went back and forth thinking I could be for years, every time someone made a comment I believed them again. It wouldn’t of bothered me either way if I’m honest I just wanted to know what I was thinking, and who I was. Thankfully the older I get the more I have been able to figure out what are my feelings and differentiate them from the ones everyone is suggesting to me and know that the strong female role probably relates to the mother figure or person I strive to become, and now I have an absolutely wonderful man in my life who is the most understanding and caring man who accepts me for me, the good days and the bad.

Thank you to all who take the time to read this, my next update will be about how I find larger social events and when I am having a ‘bad’ day.