Losing A Parent Through Isolation, Not Death

Here’s the true story of how I started losing my mother, Ann, in late 2005/early 2006 and completely lost her in mid-2008, just as I was leaving the US to move to England. (Names and place names have been changed.)

I did not speak to my Dad for the majority of my junior year of undergrad (Aug 2004 – May 2005), as this was when the divorce was wrapping up (either the 11th or 13th December 2004 – it was close to Ann’s birthday – “the best 50th birthday present ever” in her words) and my Dad’s and my relationship hit a bit of a rocky patch and it was easier for me to just not speak to him so I could concentrate on myself at university.¬† Talking about it with him years later, he was devastated by this, but we have both agreed and reconciled that it needed to be that way at that time; thankfully, our relationship has remained strong ever since and it continues to strengthen.¬† I’m proud to call him my Dad.¬† He sacrificed a lot to make sure that my brother and I were never without; I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be able to express to him how grateful I am for all that he has done my whole life.

By the summer, I needed help with my computer, so I “extended the olive branch” and arranged to meet up with him after I was settled in my dorm room for the summer on campus for my summer job.¬† He came to work on my computer and we ended up having a long heart-to-heart, all-cards-on-the-table conversation.¬† I confronted him with several questions that had been bothering me for the last several years, which he openly answered.¬† After a quite difficult discussion, I felt like things had been sorted, but (understandably) I was going to approach things with caution because I didn’t want it all to blow up in my face again.¬† As such, I did not tell Ann straight away that he and I had reconciled because (knowing what she’s like) if it all blew up again and we fell out, she’d just go “well I could have told you that was going to happen”… she was very good at that.¬† So when I eventually told her that Dad and I were on good terms again (including that when I finished undergrad I was going to move in with him and Rita in the summer to commute to Uni for grad school), and needless to say, she did not take it very well.¬† Even though I explained that commuting from Suburbia (7.3 miles) made more sense than Smalltown (19.9 miles), especially in winter, she just saw that I had “switched alliance”, even though a child should never have to pick sides between their parents, no matter their age.

Over the two years of grad school, I barely saw or heard from Ann.¬† In my first year, I was living with Dad & Rita, interning in the city, and spent a lot of my time on campus or at a friend’s place writing papers late into the night.¬† By my second year, my course load was lightened a bit (thanks to doing two summer courses), I had moved to Littletown (less than a mile from where she worked at a supermarket) with a friend from the graduate programme and was interning at two schools in Biglittletown (i.e. much closer to Smalltown than Suburbia or the city).¬† Ann never once came to see my apartment, and when I showed up at the house in Smalltown one day when I finished my internship early, I was given the cold shoulder upon arrival, being told, “you know I don’t like cold-callers”… not realising that I had to make an appointment to visit the house I grew up in!!¬† She was pushing me away with both hands, despite me trying to maintain a link.

Ann has also succeeded at turning my only sibling, my brother Danny, against me as well.¬† Rita’s youngest daughter had messaged Danny on Facebook, which led to Danny blocking me on Facebook, because Ann convinced him that I was behind it all.¬† I realised that he blocked me and spotted him in the Student Union at my university (where I was finishing grad school and he was a freshman) – which wasn’t difficult as he’s over 6’5” with bright red hair – and he was not interested in hearing my side of the story… he said he’d unblock me but to this day, he still hasn’t… that was roughly April 2008.¬† So I ended up losing my only biological sibling before I lost Ann because of the poisoned thinking she had instilled in him.¬† Growing up, my Dad always reiterated to us both that we have to be each other’s best friends, as one day we may only have each other.¬† Funny, but Ann never echoed that sentiment.

I had to corner her at the supermarket one day to get her to sign a document for my UK passport – which was a declaration stating that both she and my Dad were legally married at the time of my conception and birth – but knowing what she’s like, I had to say it was for a work permit identity document rather than my passport, because if she knew it was for my passport, she would have refused to sign it – and I had far too much riding on it for her to mess it up for me at that point.¬† She would have flipped out also over the fact that my Dad informed me of his previous marriage – a detail which she forbade my brother and I ever being told – because I would have found out anyway when applying for my UK passport (needed to provide the Divorce Decree from his first marriage and the Marriage Certificate from his marriage to my mother).

The last conversation I ever had with Ann was on Sunday the 13th of July 2008.¬† I can’t remember the entire conversation, but the one aspect that rings in my head is her final statement to me: “have a nice life.”¬† No goodbye, no “I love you”, nothing.¬† Just “have a nice life.”¬† Talk about gut-wrenching and devastating to hear from your own mother – the woman who carried you and brought you into this world… who kissed and hugged you when you were crying inconsolably or painfully ill.¬† I was 23 when Ann disowned me, but today at 31 I’m still bearing the emotional scars.

I planned our wedding without my mother.¬† I didn’t get to go try on wedding dresses with her, or pick out a cake or anything with her, like most girls do when they’re about to get married.¬† I couldn’t invite her because I knew she would not have made the effort to travel to the UK, plus it would have been too difficult for my Dad (he’s been emotionally damaged by her too).¬† I’m eventually going to go through my first pregnancy without her to ring and complain about morning sickness or ask what her experiences were with me and my brother.¬† I will have to explain to our hypothetical children that they have a grandmother who lives in America, but that she doesn’t talk to their mummy so they won’t ever know her.¬† How is that going to make sense to them?¬† Will they fear that when they reach 23 years old that I’m going to stop talking to them too, like some sort of sick family tradition??

I had thought that she would have broken her silence towards me when my Grandpa was ill in hospital and ultimately passed away… nope, I had to find out through an email from my Auntie Pam (married into the family so no actual blood relation to me) that Grandpa was in hospital, and through a Facebook message from my aunt Theresa (Ann’s younger sister) that Grandpa had passed away in the night.¬† I cried for days and still cry when I think about him.¬† I couldn’t afford to fly back for his funeral, and even if I could, I doubt I would have been welcome thanks to Ann.¬† Earlier this year when my Grandma passed away, again I found out through another family member (my cousin Jean, Theresa’s eldest and closest in age to me) and not from Ann.¬† That pain from both of their passings cut me deeper than I could have imagined and reopened the old wound from 2008 that I thought had healed over.¬† THAT PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY.

When one actively chooses to write off one of their own children, it’s not over when you exchange those final words.¬† It’s like throwing a stone into a still pond; the ripples keep going on for ages before the water stills itself again… which will be after the culprit’s demise, no doubt.¬† This is worse than mourning a death, because you know that person is still alive and going on with their daily life, and you can’t help but wonder if you ever cross their mind like they cross yours every day.

I mourn the loss of the person that I thought my mother was.

2015… over already?

The 31st of December.

The last day of the year.

A lot of people become reflective about the year that’s gone past and tell sanctimonious stories of how selfless they were and how they will be an even better person next year.

Some may call me a pessimist, but I prefer to identify a bit more as a realist. ¬†This year has been very challenging in many ways. ¬†The remortgage was a fucking nightmare, but I am grateful that the effort put in has paid off handsomely. ¬†I’m looking forward to living alone with my husband for the first time since April 2012… nearly four years… that’s longer than we were together when we got married (three years to the day). ¬†As hellish as things got, I have to reframe it and look at it like this: if we made it through this less-than-ideal living situation and stuck it through together, then our relationship is stronger than either of us may have perceived previously. ¬†That is something to be very grateful for and proud of.

I also look at this year as a year of two halves, as it was in June when I had the realisation that perhaps the overarching explanation for why I have always felt different may be because I may have undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. ¬†The more I read, the more I am validated and the more I am convinced this is the case. ¬†I just wish that the diagnostic process didn’t have such a long waiting list¬†because I’m sure if I was able to present my evidence, I’d be rubberstamped straightaway. ¬†I know that a diagnosis will not suddenly make me okay or normal or whatever, but it helps me to explain my subtle quirks so much better. ¬†I have spent so much time and energy my whole life to appear “normal” to others whilst feeling like I’m wading through treacle in order to function. ¬†It’s exhausting. ¬†I worry that because I’m articulate and appear sociable that people won’t accept my suspicions of a diagnosis and will discredit me.

Case in point, just last night I sent a “break-up” email to the Musical Director and Section Leader of the acapella chorus I started attending in August and joined in November (after finally passing audition) because it wasn’t shaping up to be quite what I was hoping for or expecting. ¬†I wrote a page and a half email explaining my feelings, yet I was terrified about sending it to these two women. ¬†I spoke to my Dad and read him the email, breaking down crying as I read the last paragraph. ¬†In the body of the email, I had referred to my suspected Asperger’s and that as they haven’t seen me in a broader context, they would not necessarily have picked up on my quirks.

Basically, I was driving 58 miles after a day at work to participate in a 15-minute warm-up to then sit for the next two hours while the rest of the group sang repertoire songs with¬†maybe a 10-minute crack at the end of the evening at one song that I had been sent the teaching track for (after all benefits of the warm-up had worn off). ¬†One evening when I had suspected that I’d be sat doing nothing for the majority of the session, I brought my Kindle to sit and read, thinking that would be less distracting than checking Facebook or playing games on my phone. ¬†Halfway through, I was approached by my Section Leader and told that my reading was “distracting to others on the risers” and to please stop. ¬†Needless to say, I was shocked to be told off like an errant child at school and that took the shine off the apple and left a sour taste. ¬†After a few weeks of not making the long journey, I decided it was time to just put my views down and make a clean break. ¬†I referred to my suspected Asperger’s because I wanted to give a bit of context to my feelings, but I really worry that they’re going to read it and not believe it. ¬†I can’t verbalise how upsetting it would be for me if they react negatively to it all. ¬†I apologised for wasting their time… what it boils down to is that I like singing in a choir because it’s a double sensory experience – the singing itself in harmony with others and listening to the harmonies around you. ¬†Performing is not the most important thing for me; it’s the singing itself that matters most to me. ¬†I’m devastated and horribly embarrassed that I’ve gone this long trialling it and pulling the plug so soon after joining, but I really feel like it’s for the best. ¬†I’m going to try finding a community choir to join where I can just go sing and not worry about being a pitch-perfect performer and just enjoy the activity of singing.

One of the things that touched my heart so much last night was after I finished reading my email to my Dad, he said that what I wrote was perfect and that he wouldn’t change a thing – that he is very proud of how I write and how I’m able to articulate myself in writing. ¬†That made me feel so good when I really needed it¬†because I felt so utterly horrible about what I had hanging over my head. ¬†I feel like it’s been very positive that I’ve started this blog and that I’ve been able to utilise this creative outlet to get my thoughts out, even though my overall reach on the interwebz is quite limited. ¬†I wish that I could write professionally like some of the female authors of books about their experiences of late diagnosis of Autism/Asperger’s… but one has to have a slightly wider reach in order for that to happen. ¬†It’d be nice if a publisher or similar came across my blog and was like, “we love how you write! Please write for us!” ¬†But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Oh, and I sent the email after I hung up with him and have yet to receive a response; needless to say, I am dreading opening up my inbox now¬†because I don’t know if I can face the response just yet.

I’m not one for going out on New Year’s Eve… can’t stand the crowds, drunk people, loud music, or anything that comes along with it. ¬†I saw something on Facebook (might have been a Buzzfeed thing) with Jennifer Lawrence’s picture on a late-night talk show in the States where she is quoted as saying something along the lines of: “I hate New Year’s Eve; I always end up drunk and disappointed.” ¬†Being the wife of a guy in a reasonably good covers band, more New Year’s Eves than not have been spent as just me and the cat, and tonight will be no different. ¬†I blame the media for hyping up how great New Year’s Eve is when really it’s just another midnight… because I like dates and numbers, it’s nice to mentally “turn the page” and “clean the slate”, but other than that, I just don’t see the point of going nuts over it.

In conclusion, this year has been quite challenging in several ways (mortgage, unsuccessful job interviews), but it has been punctuated by a handful of really nice occasions (weekend away to Croyde with friends, Manics concert at Cardiff Castle, meeting up with a friend from elementary school in London, and my cousin’s week-long [yet all too short] visit for my birthday to name a few). ¬†Rewind The Film has just started on my iPod playlist of the Manics’ chronological albums playlist (the only way to listen to a band’s back catalogue), which has been described by Nicky and James as being a very reflective album (as they enter middle-age), and it certainly seems to fit the mood I’m in right now.

To those of you who took a chance and signed up to follow my blog, my sincerest thanks. ¬†Please feel free to share with others, as I hope that my writing can help validate others in their everyday lives in one way or another, suspected Aspie or not. ¬†I wish you all the best for the new year¬†and having a clean slate… the sense of renewal is nice and comforting.

Much love,

Cherry Blossom Tree xx

 

I’m sick of being sick.

Hello to my handful of followers. ¬†Sorry it’s been a while… took a chance with attending a party for our friends’ daughter’s first birthday, aaaaand¬†as to be expected, there were sniffly babies (January, ya know) and I came down with a viral infection which knocked me out of work for a week. ¬†I’ve still got the cough lingering, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a few weeks ago. ¬†Needless to say, I’ve been trying to get myself feeling better and back into my routine, which has been thrown off by being poorly.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost as well. ¬†I sang with Rock Choir locally for about three years and made the decision to leave at the end of 2014, and had the break from singing from January to August 2015. ¬†I miss the friends I had in Rock Choir, even if they were only “I see them once a week to have a laugh and a sing” friends.

I think I’m experiencing a bit of after-effect trauma (without trying to sound dramatic, but I cannot think of another word for it) from having to leave the a capella group that I had started attending in late August [see 2015… over already?]. ¬†While they were lovely to listen to, I was getting bored with sitting doing nothing and not being up there singing. ¬†The expectation for perfection was quite high, which I didn’t think was realistic for me to achieve consistently in the long term and began to intimidate me and make me doubt my singing abilities. ¬†The final straw for me was being told off for sitting and reading my Kindle one evening because some people on the risers said it was “distracting”… I don’t know how sitting still reading could be distracting, but like I said, it was a long way to go to sit and do nothing, so I thought I’d just read because they weren’t singing anything I could participate with. ¬†I haven’t felt that sinking horrible feeling since I was in school being told off for some slight like chatting when we should have been quiet or something.

I had befriended several of the women on Facebook in my time being there, and I found that several had unfriended me after I decided to leave. The level that this actually upset me surprised me, because I figured, on the one hand, I was quite unlikely to see any of them ever again, but on the other, I was not adverse to continuing to support them by attending future shows, etc. and I was hurt that rather than messaging me to see what was up (because I was too distraught to message them all individually), they just unfriended (or in one case blocked!) me. I don’t know if I’ve just sabotaged it all by being truthful about my feelings about what happened, but I guess I’ll never know.

Following that, I was trying to find a middle ground between Rock Choir and that a capella group. ¬†I stumbled across an a cappella community choir, but one that’s not about perfection, but just singing with other people. ¬†I attended one session in mid-January and have not been back since as I became poorly, which has had me coughing a fair amount, thus hindering my ability to sing. ¬†Because it’s a community choir, a lot of the people who attend are local residents, so I feel a bit of an outsider because I’m not part of that immediate community; I never felt that with Rock Choir, because I know my back row buddies both traveled from even further than me. ¬†The leader of the community choir was so lovely and was very welcoming; I guess because I lost my momentum after the first session because of being poorly and I’m questioning my return because I’m still not sure if it’s a proper fit for me.

Why I came to the very difficult decision about leaving Rock Choir in the first place was because I was just not enjoying the song selection anymore, and it was a lot of money to pay to not be 100% enjoying it anymore. ¬†I stuck with it for so long because I enjoyed the social aspect most, but also I suppose because it became routine. ¬†Now, I find myself in a position of, “Do I keep trying this community choir, or do I go back to Rock Choir?”

I don’t like this feeling that I feel. ¬†I just feel icky inside, that I don’t like myself, that I feel like I’ve somehow done something horribly wrong. ¬†I was really surprised at some of the people who unfriended me from the a capella group… ones that I thought I had struck a bit of a friendship with. ¬†But I guess it’s a bit like an exclusive club; you’re either in or out, and I worked my way out. ¬†Part of me wishes I hadn’t even tried¬†because I’d have been spared the emotional turmoil. ¬†But on the other hand, that’s a very slippery slope into becoming a total recluse.

I just wish I knew the answer.

Just a quick one for now.

I know it’s been a while again, but work has really been using any extra CPU (computer analogy of how my mind works) and by the time I’ve gotten home, I’m too cognitively exhausted to write anything.

I’ve just this morning discovered a Facebook page called the Autism Women’s Network and read an article shared a few days ago which perfectly explains how I feel while I have this diagnostic assessment pending.

This was what I commented on the post and (hopefully) it’ll make sense when you read the article (link here: As a Woman on the Autistic Spectrum, My Diagnosis was Delayed because of Gender Stereotypes):

“I’m a bit nervous posting publicly, but I’m going to give it a shot. I am awaiting assessment for AS (more specifically Aspergers) because after attending a convention/conference last summer, hearing various women speaking about their experiences of late diagnosis felt like they were telling me my own life right back to me. I started having conflicting feelings, thinking “how could I possibly be?” which shifted to “how could I not see this before?” I’ve always been a bit quirky, but because I did well in school despite being subtly bullied, and managed to go through university and get a job, and landed in a relationship where I could more clearly see Aspergers traits in my (now) husband, I was too busy looking outwards and not seeing how any of the traits might have applied to me… But this may also be down to the male-centric understanding of Autism up until recent years. I needed to decant the things swirling in my head and started writing a document outlining how I thought I might fit the criteria, and that came out to be 29 pages long – single spaced, size 11 font. It took me a few weeks to build up the courage to print this and request an assessment from my GP, which she immediately agreed with. I’m now still waiting for an appointment to be made. The more time goes on and the more I ruminate on things, the harder I’m finding it to cope with things that I was somehow able to before because I had to¬†because I couldn’t articulate why it was taking me more effort to cope than those around me. I’ve not mentioned to many people that I think I’m Autistic/Aspergerian because of the exact same reason this author highlighted – #SheCantBeAutistic. I just hope that I can make it through the assessment process and have a certain sense of closure on the one hand, but a new way to explain myself in the context of society on the other hand. Thank you for reading this.”

I have also had a harebrained idea about a charity/social enterprise that I would love to start… But I may have to keep you waiting a bit longer before I show my hand on that one just yet.

Addition (25/03/2016): found another two links today which share other women’s stories about the problems presented with gender stereotypes and being failed by the system – How Gender Stereotypes Prevent Women With Autism From Unmasking Their True Selves and Is the NHS failing women with autism?

Join the Thunderclap

From an email received by The National Autistic Society today:

World Autism Awareness Day is fast approaching and we’ve been hard at work to get the UK to take notice like never before. This Friday sees the launch of Too Much Information, our biggest ever campaign to improve autism understanding.

Check out the¬†trailer for a short film¬†we’ve made to give viewers a chance to see the world through the eyes of someone autistic. This film launches on Friday, but as you are one of our loyal supporters, we wanted you to see a¬†sneak peek.

We need this film to go viral so that as many people as possible understand what it’s like to be autistic.

You can help by signing up to our¬†‚Äėthunderclap‚Äô today. Everyone who joins the thunderclap will automatically share our film on Facebook or Twitter at the exact same time. If lots of you do it, the film will be hard to ignore.

I’ve pledged my support – will you? ūüôā

That took effort.

So, just over a week ago, I emailed my client questionnaire to the Autism Spectrum Condition Diagnostic Assessment Team… Well, actually three versions of the same questionnaire: the first being a quick overview of things, the second being a much more in-depth explanation of my needs and experiences with quotes from Aspergirls (which, if you have been following this blog, has greatly helped me in the process of requesting an assessment), and the third being a slightly abridged version of the second one with the quotes from the book taken out.¬† I felt it necessary to embellish on things after completing the first one because it did not really give much by way of explaining what I find difficult in particular¬†but realised the extended version may be quite long.¬† This way, the clinician can look at whichever one they wish – I know that all information has been shared from my end.

I also asked in my email for an update in terms of timescales for an appointment, because I feel that my mental health is becoming progressively more fragile the longer I am waiting for this and the uncertainty is heightening my anxiety greatly.  Even if I could be given an estimate as to which month I am likely to be given an appointment, I would have been most grateful.  The lady I had been emailing had said a few months ago that the service was looking to recruit more assessors and I was (understandably) wondering if this has affected timescales for appointments.

It was, needless to say, disheartening to have the one line reply to my email: “Thank you for the attached documents, I will be in touch as soon as I have an appointment for you.”

In every email exchange, I have made mention of my anxiety, stress, and fragile mental health… but it appears to mean very little. I feel like, if you’re going to be working in a service for people who suspect they are on the spectrum, then it would be beneficial if you have a shred of empathy for the clients you’re encountering.

So, just over a week has passed since this email exchange and it’s been playing on my mind… not helped by the increasing stress at work. I finally mustered up the courage to ring the service to ask again about timescales.¬† The crazy thing is that whenever I need to talk to someone on the phone for virtually anything else in life, while I don’t like it, I can manage okay enough… but today, I was stammering and finding it difficult to keep myself together to ask… I can’t quite explain it, but I almost felt like my articulate self ran for the hills and left my vulnerable self behind without any support. I was told that they’re seeing clients referred in June/July (2015) currently, so we’re looking more at July/August for me, as (through no fault of my own!!) they only added me to the waiting list in September. I feel a bit better knowing that it shouldn’t be too much longer, but at the same time, I’m frustrated that it was such a palaver in the first place. Had I not chased up my referral because I hadn’t heard anything back in the estimated six weeks, I would still be waiting!! The fax from my GP surgery was never received (honestly, who uses fax anymore???) and it took me nearly having a meltdown over the phone to my surgery to get it sorted out… It still gives me a flutter of anxiety when I think about it now… quite similar to the anxiety I felt when things were pending with the mortgage and taking AGES to finish. I suppose it’s the whole “managing expectations” and not being told one thing and it being something completely different or just flat-out wrong or late.

Anyway, I’m hoping that before the end of August, I will at least have had my assessment and, hopefully before my 32nd birthday, I’ll know for sure and have the validation I’ve been after since last summer. It’s crazy how much time has passed, yet at the same time, it feels like it’s dragging.

I’ll quit blithering now… I’ll be back soon with hopefully something more interesting for you all to read. ūüôā

Hello, World!

A special “hello” to anyone stumbling across this blog for the first time. ¬†I reached out to Bryan on the Facebook page, Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy, asking if he would check out my blog and, if he felt it was worthy of sharing, to please share on his page. ¬†I messaged explaining how I have been doing an anonymous blog on WordPress to share my journey and to hopefully help other women who have made it into adulthood and still feel like they’re not entirely understood. ¬†I’m not about gaining followers (like people on Instagram or Twitter), but I just want to share my experience and hopefully help others (especially women) out.

Well, I was humbled that Bryan obliged this morning and since 10:36 this morning (when Bryan shared the link on Facebook) to 16:36, I have had 600 views from all around the world (update: 800 views by 22:15!). ¬†I hope that someone finds what I’ve written thus far helpful, even if it is just one person. ūüôā

Happy Friday and have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you may be doing! ūüôā

I don’t know what the answer is.

Had a long chat with my Dad this afternoon which, while I know his intentions are good, has left me cognitively exhausted. We were chatting about the possibility of me making a career change out of what I’m doing currently (as I had the realisation last week that after only 20 months there, I’m now at the top of my pay scale, which is depressing in and of itself) and maybe putting my aptitude for computers to use. While I see where he’s coming from, the idea doesn’t excite me greatly; sure, I managed to teach myself HTML when I was 13ish, but at 31, I don’t know if I’d be able to pick it up sufficiently to be able to enter the field at my age without any formal qualifications in computer sciences. Plus, I feel that I’d just be moving from one high-stress area to another with little personal reward (i.e. feeling of satisfaction or making a positive difference).

What I would love to do is open a sensory and support centre for people on the spectrum, especially support for adults. I have been looking into local support for adults on the spectrum and any groups I’ve found are for parents with children on the spectrum, but not for adults on the spectrum themselves. I work outside my county of residence and in that county’s main city, there are two such support services that I would love to combine into one in my local area. One service is a sensory centre – think like a sensory room in a special school, but several rooms in one place – for children, young people and adults with special needs… I would have so much fun picking out and setting up the sensory toys and objects, lighting and surfaces… It’d be AMAZING. The second service is a social self-help group for adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. As there is nothing like either of these services in my local area, why not use my social work skills to help bring support like this to life? I am certain that there is a viable target audience for it and would love to pioneer this, but I would need help because the businessy side of planning would be overwhelming… plus I have no money to do this and would need help finding whatever funding avenues may be available.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think I can stay where I’m at for much longer because I can see myself burning out, especially because there isn’t much room left for progression and I have no aspirations to become a manager… I don’t envy any of the nonsense the managers in my team contend with on a daily basis.

If any readers have any ideas, I’d gladly welcome constructive advice.

I’ll leave you with an image shared on the Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy page today which resonated quite strongly with me.

image

Thoughts on Recent Celebrity Deaths

So, I think it’s fair to say that 2016 so far has taken many well-known and influential people, musicians and actors alike.¬† The reactions on social media are all quite similar (“OMG I can’t believe it! RIP” “Another legend taken too soon” and other sentiments to that effect), and I just feel like I’m maybe taking too pragmatic of an approach to it, because I just feel a brief moment of sadness, have a quiet reflective thought and then carry on.¬† If anything, I feel like as a member of humanity (and a self-confessed hyper-emotional person) that I should feel sadder than I do, but then feel worse when I don’t.

It reminds me of an episode of Daria, the cartoon television series about a teenage girl who I identified quite significantly with when I was in high school… perhaps Daria will be the subject of another blog post in the near future.¬† For those of you not familiar with Daria, here is a brief description of her character: “Cynical, pessimistic and sardonic to a terminal degree, Daria’s intellect and academic insight is often counterbalanced by her pronounced lack of motivation… Her trademark characteristic is that she rarely changes her facial expression or the tone of her voice, except for a small satisfied smile akin to the Mona Lisa’s when she is pleased, and sometimes a high-pitched “Eep!” sound when something is suggested or hinted that involves Jane’s brother Trent. In the later episodes, she was more frequently drawn as sad when under emotional stress. Bemused by the world around her, Daria usually reacts to the stupidity of her classmates, faculty and family with a caustic remark, and only lets her emotions show in times of deep frustration.”

The episode I’m referring to is entitled The Misery Chick, where famed Lawndale High alumni quarterback and all-time jackass Tommy Sherman manages to annoy or anger everyone he encounters.¬† Shortly after his exchange with Daria and Jane, he dies in a freak accident, crushed by the football goal post that was meant to be dedicated in his honour when it falls over on him.¬† Other students keep coming up to Daria to talk to her and get advice on their sadness and grief because she’s “The Misery Chick”.¬† In conversation with Brittany (the ditzy cheerleader):

Brittany – It’s like, I feel bad, but I think I should feel worse, and not feeling worse makes me feel bad all over again.
Daria – The truth is, Brittany, is that you are nice, or you wouldn’t be feeling bad at all right now.
Brittany – So… you’re saying that feeling bad about not feeling worse is good?
(pause as Daria lets that one sink in)
Daria – Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
Brittany РThanks, Daria! (runs off)
Daria –¬†(writing on notepad)¬†“Feeling bad… not feeling worse… good.”

Jane (Daria’s best friend) gets weirded out by Tommy’s death as she and Daria were the last ones to speak to him before the accident, so she spends most of the episode avoiding Daria.¬† When Daria finally gets to speak to Jane towards the end of the episode, she beautifully explains why she’s been struggling:

Daria – Are you avoiding me?
Jane – Um… not anymore?
Daria – What’s going on?
Jane – Nothing. I just haven’t felt like talking to anybody.
Daria – I’m not anybody, and I’d like to talk to someone.
Jane – But you’ve been talking to everyone.
Daria – No, everyone’s been talking to¬†me. There’s a difference.
Jane – Well, what do you want to talk about, anyway? You don’t care about what happened.
Daria – How can you say that?
Jane – You’ve been treating it like, “Oh well, another stupid day.” The guy died.
Daria – I know he died! I’m sorry he died! But I’m not going to pretend that he was some great person when he wasn’t. People aren’t upset because Tommy Sherman died; they’re upset because they’re¬†going to die.
Jane – That’s understandable.
Daria – Okay, but you know what I’ve been hearing? “You know how I feel, Daria. You’re gloomy. I knew I can talk to you, Daria. You’re always miserable.” Tragedy hits the school and everyone thinks of me. A popular guy died, and now¬†I’m¬†popular because I’m the misery chick. But I’m not miserable. I’m just not like them.

Bringing it all back to the celebrity deaths that have hit this year so far…

People die every day.¬† Sometimes it’s someone we know personally, but oftentimes it’s someone we don’t know at all.¬† I think lately it’s seemed that more celebrities have died in a shorter space of time (than at any other time) because it’s people who have been very visible in the public eye who have died.¬† You think about it, there were loads of actors and musicians in the first half of the 20th century who died without much acknowledgement because the media and information sharing of today was non-existent back then.¬† People who have died recently may have started their careers in the 1950s/60s (or even 1970s/80s), and with the advent of television and globalisation of the media and information sharing over the subsequent decades means that these people have had an impact across generations, so their passing makes it feel more personal to us because we feel like we’ve grown up with them and have fond memories with strong emotions attached.¬† But ultimately, it’s the stark realisation that if these seemingly superhuman people are just as mortal as the rest of us, then that means one day we will face our own mortality, which as humans we’re very good at denying and avoiding.

I don’t want to come across as an insensitive person and I hope I’ve made sense… I may come back in a few days, re-read it and think “geez, you really screwed that up!” and do a full re-write.¬† But I’ve gone back and read it aloud and it seems to make the point I had set out to make.

In summary, I don’t think it’s a case that proportionately any more celebrities have died than at any other time in history… I reckon that it’s a case that more people are known through the media (film, television, and the internet) and it just seems like more well-known people have died, but it’s only because there are more of them that are known to us as the general public (that was very difficult to word!).

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost, but I am thankful for the impression left on the world that each and every one of them has made. Love & light xx

Edit: 22/04/16 at 23:45 – I was right! Look at this article published on the BBC News website (which only just appeared in my news feed, despite it being shared on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page this morning).

Protecting Oneself

Alternate title: Letting People Down & Feeling Deep Shame and Guilt

I’m having an ethical dilemma… before Christmas, I said I’d go along to this Peter Kay’s Dance for Life event in Birmingham with Polly (a person I am friendly with from this singing group I used to participate in)… and my anxiety was starting to creep up because I couldn’t find any details about it, and then when I realised that Paul & I were going to attend a Thanksgiving service (like a Christening but not) the day after (even though I’d technically agreed to go to the Peter Kay thing prior to the service’s arrangement), I messaged Polly saying that I’m worried about having a very late night when we’d have to get up early for this service where I’m participating in it as well (which isn’t a lie!), but I just feel horrible letting her down and she’s not given me details (bank or PayPal) to pay her back for it.¬† We’ve left it last week that she was going to try to find someone else to use the ticket, but I’ve not heard back yet and I REALLY do not feel comfortable going anymore… I found a video on YouTube and it basically looks like sensory overload + too many people…

Like, my biggest frustration is that I want to want to go, because it could be a lot of fun, but I’ve already psyched myself out of going and I just can’t bear it.¬† The primary problem being that the last thing I want to do is upset Polly, but it doesn’t help that I haven’t seen her in months (not since the funeral of a former member of the same singing group) and I’m not close enough with her yet to be able to share this whole Aspie journey that I’m on… I don’t know what to do. ūüė•

When I’ve had a very full-on experience, it drains me mentally, physically and emotionally… and I worry that if I went along to the Peter Kay thing that I would be coming along to the Thanksgiving service tired and overwhelmed from the night before, especially since I’d be getting back late (after the crush of trying to get out of the venue and ultimately back home) and I don’t fare well on limited sleep, particularly when I need to be my sociable self in a group setting.

It’s very troubling being in my brain… like all of the time.

I feel horribly guilty and am probably beating myself up more than necessary, but that’s what I do best. ūüė¶