Sunday, 22 September 2013


So...I finally finished my degree, and was awarded a BSc First Class Honours, and am totally thrilled about that! (That's my first lie of the day by the way! Thrilled is not how I'm feeling at the moment, it's just my kneejerk reflex whenever I get congratulated).

I've had a few weeks off before I'm due to start my first job as a nurse, and have noticed how dependent I have become on my coping mechanisms over the last year and a half or so. I've always been an obsessive reader, but it's gone to another level now. I'm very withdrawn when I don't actually have to be out of the house seeing other people, it's like I'm so overwhelmed by the stuff that I'm doing to be successful at my course, on work placement, and seeing family, that when I'm at home, I don't even want to think for one minute about how I'm doing, or be aware of myself.

I'm pretty sure I'm depressed, in the sense of having an anxiety disorder, something I was diagnosed with a few years ago. Even when I'm on my own at home,while the kids are at school, something which has hardly happened for years, I don't want to leave the house, or preferably my bed.

I'm having tests for chronic pelvic pain, which comes and goes regularly, and varies from mild to severe, and my jaw problems have returned, due to nighttime toothgrinding and daytime jaw clenching.

I have a feeling I should be doing something about all this, at least I have finally tackled the pain issues, which I suspect are stress-related. But the mood stuff, I just don't want to go there. I know when I think about it that the low mood is preventing me from asking for help. I have had lots of counselling in the last 15 years, most recently I did start counselling about 3 years ago, after my self-diagnosis of autism, once the kids were diagnosed and it was crystal clear that I also had it.

I wanted to talk through some stuff about being autistic and how it's affected me throughout my life. The counsellor had a different agenda, to do with short-term fixes, and indicated that obsessing about the past was not productive. I suppose that ideally I would like to go back to a Jungian therapist, and explore how I deal with being autistic on a daily basis, and the shame that I feel around my difficulties, and concealing these in the workplace.

Another classic quote from a mentor I had in the workplace:

"I don't understand it, you're fine when you're working with me, but with other people, you just seem to put their backs up."

When being supervised by people who work with people for a living, it's difficult, I pass for normal most of the time, but people find it hard to understand my inconsistencies, brilliant at some things, but startlingly bad on occasion at other things. I take longer to learn things than other people, but once I have it, I never forget it. I get very anxious if I feel somebody is close to spotting my autism. I had real difficulty with a nurse I worked with briefly who had an autistic child. She massively objected to me and tried to get me thrown off the course. I don't think she knew what it was, but there was something about me that just drove her crazy.

I think my personal tutor has sussed me out, she more than anybody has seen my inability to fill in an attendance form correctly (too impatient), and my written work being sometimes below what she knows I'm capable of (same thing), while I can convey my knowledge and passion on unlimited topics verbally for hours, no problem.

So the course is over, but now I have to take my autistic tendencies and my anxiety into the real workplace, and deal with all the NHS bullshit that I have managed to avoid up until now by dint of not being employed by them! Needless to say, the prospect of 'passing' as normal, long-term while surrounded by empathetic and observant women, is quite scary.

Hopefully I will continue to get away with brilliant and eccentric, and occasionally surprisingly clueless. There's enough of us out there! In the meantime, I have to come to terms with the question of anti-depressants or not again. I couldn't take them during the course, as they fry my brain too much to manage all the coursework. But I think I could manage to work while taking them, I did it before. While I'm reluctant, I think I need help digging my way out of this ditch I'm in.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

So...I've been reading lots of Sherlock fanfic, in fact, quite obsessed with it (surprise, surprise!). It's been really interesting reading different writers' take on Sherlock's apparent social difficulties. Some follow the BBC Sherlock suggestion that he has Aspergers, as voiced by John and Lestrade in Hound of the Baskervilles. Others focus on his self-defining as 'high-functioning sociopath' in the first episode. However, the sociopath diagnosis has some serious problems with it, mainly because his whole character arc through both series has been about us gradually seeing Sherlock coming to terms with his emotional needs and consequent vulnerability.

It's great to see yet another brilliant TV character who appears to be autistic, and is living life to the full, regardless of how other people react to his frequent episodes of social blindness. I wish that I was a consulting detective sometimes, so that I could do the same, open up my naturally flamboyant nature to its full measure, and say "Fuck it" about anybody who's offended. He's lucky to have John Watson who finds him brilliant and amazing, but it's noticeable that he's single.

In fanfic world, his infuriating habits and obsessive behaviours just make him more adorable, more amazing, more brilliant. Sadly, in real life, not wanting to talk to anybody for days on end, because you're obsessed with something, doesn't go down well, especially if you have children. I've been in that kind of headspace for the last three weeks, in the last year of my course, and just wanting it all to be over, trying to get my studying done, and just wanting everybody to get lost, so I can have some peace and quiet, to soothe my stress levels a bit.

I've been getting zonked in fanfic, as an escape from real life. Reading has always been my favourite way out of my head, where I can completely forget who and where I am. I read extremely fast, (hyperlexia) and can spend easily 14 hours a day reading when I'm trying to get out of my head. I am aware that this is not 'normal' behaviour, and probably is turning into an addiction, more than a coping strategy.

I have always been very careful about letting my addictive personality out to play, I became addicted the first time I fell in love, which was a cautionary tale. Since then I have pulled back on relationships, so I can stay in control. I never use illegal drugs, after using them for a long time, and finding that even supposedly soft drugs generated addictive tendencies. Even over the counter painkillers are a temptation for me, and benzos in particular are problematic.

Is there a connection between autism and addiction? I feel there must be some  crossover between obsession/addiction, please comment if you have a view on this, I'm sure I'm not the only autistic person who has these kinds of issues.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Parents' evening - one year on... Tissues ready

So... Pippi has a new teacher, as her previous teacher, who was fabulous, left to take up a headteacher position.

Went to parents' evening last week, and was so depressed afterwards, couldn't even blog about it. Basically, the first words out of her mouth were "I don't like labelling kids, I just like to meet them where they are." OK, fine. But I would like to let her know that Pippi is starting to display higher levels of anxiety at home, and that I think this is related to her difficulties with social skills, mainly in the playground. She loves school, and is always happiest in structured activities.

I get the beginning of this out, but she interrupts and says "Well, all girls find that sometimes, don't they, it's difficult getting along with other girls." I continue to try to explain, and we end up in a cycle where she keeps saying the same thing, and basically cutting me dead every time I try to explain what I'm talking about. When I mention Pippi's language difficulties, for which she's been receiving intensive speech therapy for the last 18 months she says "speech therapy?" in a tone which leaves me in no doubt that she had no idea this was happening.

It finishes with me saying "I know that all kids have difficulties sometimes, but for Pippi, this is not a sometimes thing. It's an everyday, every playtime thing, it's her life all the time. She really needs some help with social skills, I would really like it if we could work something out for her." She kind of nods.

And then we leave. DH is a bit disturbed by the fact I kept interrupting her, and wouldn't let her talk. I'm too angry to even argue with him.

Anyway, a few days later, we were back in school for Lucas' parents' evening meeting. Down the corridor was Pippi's new teacher, and she beckoned DH over, I was holding on to Pippi as we waited for our meeting. When DH came back, I asked him what she had said.

"Oh yeah, she said she felt really bad after our meeting, she felt she didn't know enough about autism and Aspergers. So she's been on a course, and now she knows a bit more about it."

So we met with the SENCO, which was our next meeting, and she confirms, like it's no big deal, "oh yes, Ms X has been on a course on autism this week, she's got lots of new ideas on ways she can work with Pippi on her social skills, she's very excited about it."

Lump in my throat. This truly is an amazing school. Pippi is a lucky girl.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Putting Pressure on myself

So... I woke up this morning and couldn't get out of bed. I was suddenly full of stress about this seminar I'm in the middle of preparing, my brain was pumping out various different scenarios about what bit of the work I needed to do the minute I got out of bed, and I just froze.

This happens sometimes, used to happen a lot more, and it's usually when I've been putting unrealistic expectations on myself, e.g. I will do 10 hours work a day for the next 4 days without a break. Then I kind of burn out and anxiety takes its toll.

I eventually got up, and immediately began to eat for England, and compounded that by digging out a library book I hadn't read and completely lost myself in it. (Even though it was really badly written!) I didn't come out of this until 3pm when dh went to do the school run. I finished the book, and looked up, and suddenly realised that the feeling I was feeling was fear. That was what was paralysing me. Quite often I don't go outside myself to look at what's going on, it's something I need to do more of. Once I realised that it was fear of not finishing the work that was paralysing me, I immediately made a cup of tea  and went upstairs and sat down on the big computer and started pulling my research together.

Seeing the fear as not based in reality just made it evaporate. I've proved to myself that if I just put my head down and keep doing the next one task and the next one task, I will eventually finish the piece of work, without any panicking or last-minute stress being necessary.

In my first degree (when I was much younger), I had no idea about my Aspergers, and was living in a chaotic, confused, and often drunken state, I struggled to undertake any work at all, and was very unhappy. I had the constant suspicion that I didn't understand what was going on around me (I was right). I was also horrendously bullied, which I hadn't expected at Uni, I thought that was school stuff, and people would be more mature.

Thank god I'm in my forties. Thank god my kids got diagnosed with Aspergers, allowing me to walk the path to self-diagnosis.  I love being this age and actually understanding what's going on around me, being able to own my own shit and disown everybody else's.

Life is good.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Writing - A Very Aspie Obsession

So...been thinking about writing and how important it is for me, I suppose it's a way of making sense of the world, and a way to connect with other people without having to consider their needs overly much (!).

It's just a magic combination, aspie, special interest and keyboard. The need to get stuff out of my brain is on occasion, quite overwhelming. I have always been an obsessive list-writer, and advance planner, and loved creative writing in school. Once I had graduated, I missed the academic writing, and eventually turned to lobbying to get my writing fix, lots of press releases and more strategies, tactics, planning etc.

For me, a lot of writing is about problem-solving, it's not enough to just get my thoughts down on paper, there has to be flow, and plot, and entertainment value. And there is the editing process, which is so vital, and so difficult.

Since the very beginning, this blog has been a start-to-finish writing exercise with no editing allowed, except backspace to correct misspellings. Don't ask me why it's like that, my aspie mind just generates rules sometimes. My last big project was my novel, and that was all about re-reading and editing, and plot control. Now that I'm studying again, my writing isn't so much fun, there are other people's rules to learn, like scientific referencing, and basing everything on research. But there does come a point where it's all about flow, that's my favourite part, where it all comes together and starts to read like there's an argument to be had.

I'm noticing that a lot of the adult aspies that I'm following on Twitter are writers, whether for fun or publishing, there's a big interest in language, correct use of, and language, silliness around. I do so love that aspect of it, as well as the 140 character rule, it's so arbitrary, I can really relate.

What does cause this obsessive interest in language and writing that so many aspies share? Is there an over-development in language areas of the brain that corresponds to damage in other areas? I'm almost over-sensitive to language, if I see an ugly phrase, or a misspelled word, I will mentally shudder.  I can spot a misspelled word at 20 paces. I'm also a really fast reader, I seem to read a page of text more as a picture than as a collection of individual words. I don't know if that's what they call eidetic memory. If I read something more than twice, the actual phrase lodges in my brain quite thoroughly.

But I haven't really found the optimal use for these skills, I don't want to do editing work, I'm more creative than that, novel-writing or academic writing is probably the best idea. After I finish my degree, I have a resolution to find ways to use my writing skills productively (and for cash!)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Aspie in the closet - unknowable consequences

So... I was having a chat in the staffroom with the only other person present a couple of days ago, and I was talking about my two kids, their autism and the challenges that's causing towards the end of term, with excessive tiredness, and pressure around school plays/carol concerts as well as general Christmas anxiety (am I going to get the present I really really want?). In my defence, the day before had been very tough, and had resulted in a big row between myself and dh, and I was feeling quite vulnerable.

But at some point in the conversation I realised that I was getting carried away and was about to start talking about my own autistic traits. I did mention one before I caught myself and got up and made myself a cup of tea, and changed the subject.

I'm going to blame a cup of caffeinated coffee I'd had in a meeting that morning, caffeine has a very powerful effect on me, making me hyper, sociable and very chatty. This is not a natural state for me, and I find it difficult to control once I get started. I know that when you stop taking any kind of drug and then have a little, it has a disproportionately strong effect, same with alcohol and cigarettes. I've been off the caffeine for a few years now, and generally feel better for it, but visiting people can be difficult. It's hard to bring your own decaf teabags out without looking rude!

For quite long periods of my life now, I forget about my aspie status, and start to believe I'm quite normal, then something suddenly reminds me.  My big struggle at the moment is with my self-limiting preference to spend time alone, at the expense of my family, and especially my kids. I feel so guilty when I come home totally peopled out and just want to sink onto the sofa and watch TV without talking to anybody. I am trying harder than ever to do better at being a parent even when I'm shattered.

This is the stuff that's floating around my head when I'm talking about my family, and if somebody asks questions and shows an interest in the autistic side of things, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to actually talk about it in real life, and not on Twitter (lol) that I get carried away. Especially because it's a huge special interest as well!

In the end, I have to remember that not everybody has my best interests at heart. I need to protect myself, because once I get out of that closet, there's no getting back in, and the consequences are unknowable.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Long may it last...

So...bit of a sad day today at work, a lovely lady that I've been looking after for 5 weeks on and off, had a scan yesterday for possible recurrence of pneumonia, and they found cancer just about everywhere.

She doesn't even know yet, her family is coming in tomorrow once the specialist has had time to review her scan, and they will be all told together. She has absolutely no idea, we just did her home visit recently, with a plan to discharge her soon.

I also heard a really upsetting story today at the team meeting about one of our patients and how they came to be in hospital after an overdose.

I came out of work today in overload with too much running round in my head. I was lucky that I was leaving at the same time as one of my fellow students, and was able to offload slightly with her, it always helps to debrief slightly. I've no idea how the nurses cope with this kind of upsetting news, I had to go in the toilet to cry, and was nearly in tears all afternoon. I know I won't be telling dh about any of this, it doesn't feel right to add to his load of stuff he's carrying around at the moment.

So I'm sharing on here, where I can moan and nobody is going to tell me to shut up (I hope).

When I look at the elderly people on the ward, I think about my parents, and hope that they never end up in hospital. Not that the staff on the ward are bad, in fact I've been impressed by their professionalism and efficiency. But it's so awful to be living long-term in such an impersonal place where you have to adhere to somebody else's routine and live in a clinical setting, with blue paper curtains, and people with dementia in the same bay as you, getting upset and shouting. And while the staff are efficient, they are always thinking about the next job, as they put you on a bedpan or change your sheets. They're always in a hurry, and don't have the time to spend chatting to make people feel more at home.

These may sound like small things, but the great thing about being a student is that I don't have a 'to do' list in my head, and I can find time to chat to people and get to know them, so I can treat them as individuals. The ladies I've been looking after said today that they were sorry I would be finishing on Thursday, because "You're the only one with any patience".

My Mum is 76 and my Dad is going to be 78 in January. They're both currently in pretty good health. Long may it last.