‘Always thought you were a bit weird.’

Autism In The Workplace – The Guardian

This is an article I could have written myself!! I stay out of the tea rounds at work because it’s way too stressful to try to get the drinks done to everyone’s liking… I’m very particular about my tea and just prefer to keep it where I make my own tea, don’t have to worry about anyone screwing it up, and I’m not then indebted to others for making my drinks for me.

Secret Santa does my head in too. Do you get something practical? Do you get something funny? Do you know the person particularly well? You’re basically screwed regardless, so I tried to stay out of it last time (because I was actually asked if I wanted to participate), but ended up getting sucked into it anyway!! I know it’s all in good fun and holiday spirit, yadda yadda yadda, but to the Aspie person, it’s a social construct which is just not worth the hassle.

It’s nice to see that stories like this are being published more!!

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Anxiety overload and not able to do anything about it

Good morning folks. I’m having a bit of a wobble and feel the need to share another part of my self-diagnosis ‘manifesto’, which I compiled to evidence why I want to proceed with an assessment as to whether I have Asperger’s/Autism or not.  So far, my first post, sensory post and ‘Just put it back!!’ post were all from this document (I just realised that I’ve not fully explained this before).

Today, I just feel like a raw ball of nerve endings… I’m aware that my pulse is a bit elevated and I just feel a bit on edge… but the annoying thing is THERE IS NO REASON FOR IT.  It’s just a general day, nothing new or exciting or unexpected happening (other than a meeting which I will have absolutely nothing to contribute to), but I’m so off-kilter, I can barely concentrate – hence why I’m taking a few minutes to try to settle myself down and recalibrate before trying to do some actual work again.  I’ve put my iPod on and am listening to This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours… I can’t explain it, but this album soothes me.  The last few weeks I’ve been habitually listening to Rewind The Film and Futurology back to back on repeat, and right now This Is My Truth is hitting the spot… quite apropos that I’ve used that in the context of this blog too.

I feel like my anxiety is constantly at a low-level ‘hum’ in the background – kind of like a running refrigerator – and I can only honestly recall one time in my entire life when I was able to fully relax (cruise holiday in 2010, because I pretty much had nothing to worry about – all meals didn’t need planning, there were plenty of activities to keep us amused if needed, we could do whatever we wanted whenever).  I feel like I have carried this around my whole life, like a type of armour almost, keeping me rigid, hyper-vigilant and alert.  Because of the issues listed related to living with Paul’s mother, whenever I come home, I can’t relax – I have to check things and feel like I have to do this because no one else will because no one else cares.  I don’t feel like this is newly-acquired OCD, because I’ve never been in a living situation like this before where conditions were similar, and I don’t feel like I have an Anxiety Disorder, as it’s been around as long as I can remember, but at a low level, and again it’s only been exacerbated by the living situation.  Up until we’ve smoothed things out, I even restricted how much she saw of my Facebook profile, because I felt like she already had too much of an overview of my daily life by living with us, and I’m entitled to some privacy; just because anyone is listed as a friend on Facebook doesn’t automatically entitle them to full access to anyone’s stuff and I can share what I want with who I want, and it’s none of her damn business.

The misperception of this sensitivity is that we are hard to get along with…paranoid.  Watch for signs of physical and emotional discomfort in your child and don’t expect them to just “get over it”.

The Aspergian need for R&R – ritual and routine – is a way of controlling our world.  It is our security blanket; knowing what to expect, where to expect it, and who to expect it from.  Whether by eating the same foods each day, taking the same route to work, lining underwear up by colour in a drawer: these things make us feel safe on an otherwise precarious planet.

The need for ritual and routine is simplistically labelled as having “control issues” when an observer doesn’t know a person is autistic.  Saying someone has control issues sounds like an accusation – it connotes a psychological neurosis that has an incident or incidents at its base and is within our control to change or get rid of.  This implies that if we just do the work we can eliminate the need for control.  We can lessen our need for rituals and routines, with mindfulness, therapy, and effort but it will never be gone completely.  We need others to understand and tolerate this. (Rudy Simone – Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome) [UK Kindle Edition]

 

Bras + Swimwear = RAGE

I’m giving you fair warning now – this will be a quite ranting post that will revolve a lot around body image and living within one’s body.  I will not tolerate and do not need any fat-shaming comments here – anyone with negative comments have no business to pass judgment as they are not my health professional and have no business commenting on what they don’t know.  Sorry to start off defensive, but I know how horrible people can be online.  Like I’ve said on my About Me page, I want this to be a safe space to share my thoughts.  I moderate negative comments anyway and will just delete them, but it’s still hurtful – so just be nice.

I’m not a small woman.  I’m quite curvy and  I have big boobs.  I have sensory issues with clothing and I hate wearing underwired bras.  I find them extremely uncomfortable because the wires poke the tender side areas of my boobs under my arms, the cleavage wires overlap and rub between my boobs because they’re too big/free-flowing to allow the gap the wires try to create, and the pressure of the wires under my boobs on my ribcage just feels restrictive and horrible.  I have managed to find one brand of non-wired bra (which is not a maternity brand!!) which I like and I own a few of the same style; once you find something you like, stock up in case they discontinue it!!  This gives me context for my swimsuit rant.

I have this one-piece swimsuit which I bought from Bravissimo (for bigger boobs) a few years ago.  It is a non-wired swimsuit with a high strap along the back, which gives it a restricted ‘opening’ to climb into the suit at the top to pull up to get around my bottom and hips.  I have grown weary of this because, after a workout around the gym, my sweaty body does not like being manipulated into this particular swimsuit, and Paul wonders why it takes me so long to come out to the pool when we’ve gone into our respective changing rooms at the same time.  I explain that all he has to do is just strip and pull on his swim shorts – job done.  I have more to take off and more of me to fit into this swimsuit.  So I started searching online for plus size/big boob swimwear… the former does not necessarily cater to bigger boobs (just an amorphous shape with presumably small or amorphous boobs), and the latter does not necessarily cater to plus sizes (just skinnier bodies with ample bosoms).  When I can find a site that meets both criteria, I rejoice… until I search for non-wired suits and get landed with one option (usually black) and they’re usually out of stock.  Well, great.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally found a site where I could get a two-piece tankini type thing that fulfils my plus size and big boob criteria.  I ended up buying tankini bottoms from a different site that I love, as they were on sale for £8, and bought the tankini top from this new site, as it was quite expensive on its own and it would have been nearly £100 for the two pieces from that new website alone.

Fast forward to when I received both parts in the post and tried them on – bottoms were fine, but the boobs had virtually no support.  Looked at the tags for the top and it said “best worn with the [branded] swim bra”.  Okayyyy… so I ordered that, thinking I’d give it a try, and it arrived yesterday.  Well, it’s not one of those “put it on with the clasp at the front then turn it around” types, and it’s not exactly easy trying to connect two pieces of plastic smaller than a 50p coin behind your back!!  I got so frustrated after a few minutes of missing that I actually screamed, threw it on the bed and walked out of the room.  Paul offered to help me, and I said there was no point because he couldn’t help me in the locker room at the gym (and there’s no way in hell I’m asking a random stranger to assist either)!!

After a few minutes to cool down, I tried again and succeeded in getting it on… and I’m pretty sure it’s too big.  I bought my bra size, but there’s excess fabric on the cups.  Paul says it looks fine, but I’m not convinced.  I put the tankini top over it, and try on the bottoms with it too… needless to say, I feel more girdled and trussed up than I did on our wedding day (and that was a Trinny & Susannah body shaper)!!  I said that this was definitely not a swimming swimsuit, which Paul quipped, “well we don’t really swim-swim, do we?  We tend to just float around.”  I said, “that’s not the point – if I wanted to ‘swim-swim’, I’d like to be able to feel like I can move and breathe and not feel restricted by what I’m wearing.”  Obviously one must expect that swimwear won’t be as forgiving as normal clothes, but come on – should I really feel like I can’t breathe?!  I’ve decided to try the swimsuit out tonight with one of the Belvia stretchy bras underneath, as that isn’t quite as constrictive as the swim bra, and it should hopefully provide a smidge more support than the tankini top on its own.  If successful, the swim bra is going back – £38 is a lot for a piece of swimwear that is potentially the wrong size and just not nice to wear. (Update from when I first started writing this – Belvia bra it is!)

Ultimately, my issue is that just because underwires make our boobs look good to those around us, we should not sacrifice our comfort for the sake of pleasing others.  I strongly believe in comfort above style, and I think even if I didn’t have these sensory-type issues, I wouldn’t like wearing that type of bra.  I’m a big supporter of Taryn Brumfitt and the Body Image Movement, and am all about EVERYONE loving their bodies regardless of shape or size, so the fact that I got so frustrated with my body and my boobs in particular last night, it was horrible, but it was also kind of okay because it wasn’t me feeling like society says I should look different, but that I’m just frustrated in myself, which I will work on, along with Paul’s support.

I wish to state that he is a supportive partner and wants to be healthier himself and wants to embark on this journey with me (we already go to the gym and Pilates together, we just need to improve things on the eating side); not once have I felt that he wants me to change or is pressuring me to lose weight.

I will admit this was a very ‘stream-of-consciousness’ post and I hope it makes sense… it’s not always easy to decant these frustrations in a coherent manner!

Anxiety and Stress in one’s chosen career

I moved to the UK to be a social worker, but I lasted in the career less time than it took for me to complete my higher education combined.  I trained to do more therapeutic-type social work; ideally this would have been in a school, focusing more on group and individual work with children and adolescents.  When I arrived in Britain, I found that such roles didn’t really exist for a social work degree (needed a counselling qualification separately) and my first job was in a very busy Children & Families team.  My levels of anxiety and stress were through the roof when I worked in social care – the unpredictability of every day and the high risk of conflict with service users made me incredibly anxious and stressed, leading to periods of being signed off ill by a GP. Since working in SEN, I’ve only been off work when I’ve been genuinely unwell, because I feel far more relaxed and content in this type of work. I still have intermittent ‘spikes’ of anxiety when a case becomes a bit more challenging or complex, but it’s far less intense than when I was a social worker. SEN is much more structured and predictable, as the Code of Practice is quite prescriptive and I like working within clear bounds.

  • Many of us will become interested in psychology and the helping professions along the way, either because of our diagnosis or in search of it. We find we want to nurture and help others in their journeys because we know how hard it can be.
  • Because of a combination of high intelligence, low self-esteem and eagerness to begin our new careers, we sometimes bite off more than we can chew.
  • One of the key things to realise about female AS is this: Society expects us to handle things well based on our intelligence and appearance of normality. Unfortunately, we often demand the same of ourselves.
  • Even if we can handle it academically or intellectually, it doesn’t mean we can handle it physically or emotionally. We need extra time, extra patience, and more sensitivity than most people. Full stop.
  • Of course we must, but we’re not told how in a way that we can actually manage. And unfortunately we find that other people don’t always try to get along with us.
  • Less tolerance for stress also comes with age, but even that has its positive side. Since our anxiety levels have always been very high, and our nerves have been a taut thread pretty much forever, we will now find we have to do something about it or the thread will snap. That means clearly defining to ourselves and others our needs and our boundaries.
(all italicised bullet points quoted from Rudy Simone – Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome) [UK Kindle Edition])

I live to fall asleep

When I was a teenager, I’d end up staying awake quite late into the night and sleeping in very late, especially during summer holidays because the lack of structure and regular activities made me feel very disengaged and I thought I might as well sleep.  At university, my erratic sleep pattern continued because there were always far more interesting things going on with my hall mates, so again I’d survive on only a few hours of sleep.  By the time I made it to grad school, I needed to have more discipline with my sleep routine, as my classes were more regularly timed and my work and internship patterns were more consistent.  In the US, Melatonin is available to buy without a prescription, and I started to take this and found it helped my sleeping pattern significantly.  I brought a bottle over with me when I moved here, but when I realised that it was only available on prescription, I panicked.  I have since found that a supplement that Holland & Barrett sells (5-Hydroxytryptophan) mimics the effects of melatonin, so I’ve been taking that for years – almost as long as I’ve been in the UK.

I feel that I would benefit from a melatonin prescription, but felt like up till now that I wouldn’t have been taking seriously and would have been prescribed sleeping pills, which I do not want to take; melatonin and 5HTP help me to fall asleep without feeling groggy or drugged in the morning.

Also, since about 2010, I’ve been using a white noise app to help me get to sleep and stay asleep.  I cannot sleep in a quiet room, as I end up hearing every creak and groan in the house, which keeps me awake and alert, and my brain is constantly running, thinking about what I have to do over the next few days, and I need the white noise to drown out the running commentary in my mind about what’s to come.  I put the timer on the app to turn off when I want to wake up, and I’ve naturally been able to wake up like this for the last three years with no supplementary alarm.  I also have to sleep with the window on the latch and a fan going to move the air around in the room because otherwise, I wake up with a headache due to the stuffy and stale air.  Also, I have to sleep with the sheet tucked up under my chin, because I don’t like the ‘draft’ created by my breathing on my skin.

…but it’s routine!!

I have a very deliberate sequence for doing things and get quite upset when I can’t follow it through… e.g.  running out of a particular product for the shower (I always pack my own toiletries whenever we go anywhere because you can never be sure of what a hotel will offer; one will have shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel, while another only gives a measly bar of soap, which I don’t like using anyway).  I worried that I was actually OCD or something, but then would move away from that thought because I’m not super-rigid in that I’d cease to function, but I do like to have a certain level of control over things… does that even make sense??  When I’m able to have control over my surroundings and what products I use and what sequence I use them in, I feel secure and at peace.  When things are out of place or I run out of products I like to use and don’t have more, then I feel a bit cross and off-kilter, but then the more rational part of my mind says I’m being absurd, but it still doesn’t shake the feeling of being off-balance and annoyed.  There is so much in life that we have little to no control or influence over, so being able to have some level of control over certain aspects of my life makes me feel a little less helpless.

The several changes of jobs over the last few years was nearly enough to throw me into a tailspin, but because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goal of buying our house if I wasn’t in work, so despite my significant difficulties, I built myself up and persevered, though it was extremely challenging.  I found it interesting to read that there’s a significant number of people with diagnosed autism who are not in work (n.b. I don’t know how much of that applies to those with high-functioning Asperger’s)… I can certainly see how it would be explained by being unable to conform to workplace cultures, finding the demands of social interaction within the workplace absolutely exhausting, and just being unable to find something which matches our unique set of skills and needs.  I consider myself lucky and fortunate to be in work, but it certainly doesn’t mean that there are times that I wish that I could take a break when I’m feeling overloaded without any negative consequences of needing that break.

It’s not that I’m impatient…

…I just have to recalibrate my expectations when things do not come to fruition the way that I want them to, or at least expected them to.

It’s hard to adult. It’s even harder to adult when you suspect you have Asperger’s/Autism.

We started the remortgage process back in June. Paul just kept telling me that it moves at a glacial speed and to not expect it to go quickly. The mortgage advisor said that all going well, it should complete by the end of July, mid-August at latest. So, my mental goal post of the 1st of September, I thought, was a reasonable deadline to have this all complete. Just over two weeks ago, we had to take in yet another piece of identification to prove who we were and our address (regulations changed at some point in July and we had to provide it, so we couldn’t really complain), and she told us that the mortgage offer would go out to the solicitors on Monday and that we should hear back from the solicitors by Wednesday to arrange the completion date. I don’t think I’m wrong to take someone at their word, so I did. The rest of that week went by without word. The majority of the following week went by with no contact from the solicitors. So, I decided to ring up and find out what the situation was. It did not appear that the solicitors received anything from the bank. Now, things had already been delayed slightly because our mortgage advisor had been on holiday for a few weeks and nothing had been done in her absence. I emailed her to find out what’s happened, and it seemed to me like she’d only sent it across to the solicitors that day (judging by the date on the electronic documents sent to me). It all seemed so, “Oh dear! Did that not come through?” so casual and cavalier and I’m just thinking, “this is my life here. Please do not just treat it like a little miscommunication. I’m less than impressed. Now, the 1st of September is tomorrow and I have to completely recalibrate my mind into thinking it’ll all be completed by the 1st of October. I don’t like this feeling that I’m being an impatient brat, but I have been very patient living in this situation as long as I have done and I’m ready for it to be over already, and when it feels like the motion in the process is under someone else’s control and I am completely powerless, it’s extremely frustrating when it feels like no one else is treating it with even a shred of the urgency with which we would like this to be completed. I don’t even know if what I’m saying makes any sense; I’m just decanting the thoughts out. It’s been a busy week and it’s taken me a while to write another blog because my energy reserves have been tested to the limit at work and when I get home, I need quiet and non-thinking time to recharge. I’m hoping that now that I’ve prodded the process along that we’ll finally get a completion date soon and I can relax a bit, knowing that the end is in sight. I’m keen for Paul’s and my life alone with each other to begin, and I’m losing patience that this hasn’t happened already. I don’t need a lecture or anything… I just needed to rant and that is what I’ve done.

Sorry that this post isn’t probably the most engaging or interesting… hopefully my subsequent posts will be a bit better.