Second appointment…

… And disappointment. I think. I’m not quite sure.

So, I’m home after my second appointment which was with the speech and language therapist I saw last week along with a clinical psychologist and it was primarily the ADOS assessment with more talking on my part. They went away and deliberated over half an hour and came back to say that I don’t fulfil the criteria, but they recognise the difficulties I have, especially around sensory processing, are quite significant. But frankly, I’m just too damn sociable and capable in daily life. I will admit, I cried. A lot. Their debriefing with me took a long time before I was okay enough to drive home. It’ll be a couple of weeks before the report comes back, and they said that I could have a third appointment along with a psychiatrist to evaluate things further. It’s gonna take some time to process all of this because I had it in my head that Asperger’s (Autism) made the most sense to explain “me”. I’m glad they acknowledged the sensory stuff and I’ll be waitlisted to see the Occupational Therapist at some point (they couldn’t confidently tell me how long the wait list is) which will help me at work. I just feel a bit numb right now and I don’t know what to think.

First appointment down…

So, with all the last-minute nature of things, I was quite anxious Friday morning and went in with my stomach in knots.  I was welcomed in by the lady I’d been emailing and speaking to on the phone.  She handed me a clipboard with a brief sensory questionnaire which I completed quite quickly.  Just as I finished, another woman came in (I assume another client) and sat down diagonally opposite me.  The therapist  who ultimately was going to be assessing me came into the room and addressed the other woman first (before me) and they started talking about going running etc. which I just tuned out to, mildly annoyed when she finally looked over to me and said, “Ready whenever you are.”  and I said, “well, if you’re ready to go then…”  I didn’t mean to be deliberately rude, but small talk like that when someone might be quite anxious and irritated by the whole thing isn’t exactly helpful.

We went upstairs and into a small office which was comfortably dim but scantly decorated (no lights on but just indirect daylight through the window).  The therapist was a retired Speech & Language Therapist brought back in to work with this service, which was only established two years ago.  She spoke casually to help bring my anxiety down and started asking her questions to embellish on my responses for my questionnaire.  Can’t remember if I mentioned it in a previous entry (and I’m too lazy to go back looking), but I sent three versions of my questionnaire through… the full version, which primarily was comprised of long passages from my “This Is My Truth” document I started writing last year, embellished with quotes from Aspergirls by Rudy Simone to back up my responses; a significantly redacted version to make it more brief, because I thought whoever got landed with it might not want to read the full long thing; and then a ‘medium-sized’ version, because I thought the redacted one might have taken out too much, so I put some stuff back but kept the Aspergirls quotes out.  She said that she had read the redacted version, so I said at various points that some of my answers were expanded upon in the long version.

It was crazy how fast the time went with answering the questions.  Some were harder to answer than others; remembering stuff about my time in school was particularly difficult, as was talking about my mother, but talking about how people using my desk at work and moving everything around upsets me (more than it reasonably should) led to me becoming quite animated.  I had some advice from the public speaker I had befriended at The Autism Show last year to make specific mention of my “American-ness” possibly masking my traits even more because we’re encouraged to be more “bubbly” and outgoing.

After the open-ended questions (which took up most of the session), I was asked questions from another scaled questionnaire (similar to the AQ Test but quite a bit different) where I had to answer questions as “Always True”, “True as an Adult”, “True as a Child”, and “Never True”.  Some of these questions I was able to answer quite easily (sometimes with a dropped-tone “yes” with a shade of embarrassment and an uncomfortable giggle) and the others I really had to think and make a best-guess answer.  I think she said it was 50 questions long too, but it didn’t seem to take too long because it was quick responses instead of long explanations.  She explained to me at the end of it (as a means to assuage my anxieties about being misdiagnosed with a mental health condition instead of Asperger’s/Autism) that when they have a client who presents with clear mental health needs (above and beyond what occurs in Autism) that for the second appointment they would ask the psychiatrist to attend, but she assured me that she did not think that I have any other co-existing mental health needs, so that was actually a relief.  Next week is the ADOS assessment with the same lady I saw then and a clinical psychologist, and I was advised that I should know my diagnosis relatively quickly, as they recognise how difficult it can be to be left wondering for too long after.  So, I think that means that by the end of this upcoming week, I may have my diagnosis after nearly a year.  I can’t quite process it.

Believe it or not, I walked out of there (after three hours and forty-five minutes!!) feeling surprisingly happy and light, rather than overwhelmed and done-in.  The worst part of the day was trying to get back to my office… let’s just say the motorway was crawling with people travelling back north after their half term breaks on the southern coast… aaaaand it took over an hour and a half to get to my destination.  The only reason I went back to work afterwards was because there was a caseworker evening out planned over a month ago and I didn’t want to not go (yeah, a roundabout way of saying that I wanted to go).  A nice evening was spent with my caseworker colleagues… cold drinks, conversation, a delicious dinner and sweet dessert.

Yesterday was another full-on day… met my tattoo artist first thing in the morning to go over my tattoo design that is going to be inked in three weeks’ time, then went to meet three friends from the admin part of my team for lunch and hung out with my closest friend from that trio for a few hours afterwards.  I came home and sorted out my iPod with the second set playlists from the last two Manics concerts we saw – Cardiff Castle a year ago today and Swansea Liberty Stadium last Saturday.  I was especially excited to find the BBC Radio 2 compilation of 80s songs which included their cover of (Feels Like) Heaven which was included in last Saturday’s second set.

I listened to the Swansea playlist this morning on my way up to my chiropractor appointment, which helped me feel calm despite waking up feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I adore my chiropractor and it’s not so much that I was feeling overwhelmed or anxious about my appointment specifically because I know what to expect, but I think I’ve just had a lot of input this weekend and I feel my energy levels are diminishing.  What didn’t help things on the drive there was that my Google navigation always seems to take me a different way to her new clinic, which means I have to keep using my navigation app because I’ve not yet learnt the way there so that I can drive without using it.  What especially didn’t help were the frickin’ cyclists on the twisty-turny country lanes I was driving to get there and back.  If I had £1 for every cyclist I encountered on the round trip, I’d have enough to have paid for my appointment.  The worst was a man who was running uphill towards oncoming traffic… like, a good three feet over from the edge of the road.  I was getting more and more cross as the journey went on and had to just come home.

I texted Paul to say that I wasn’t going to be going grocery shopping because I’m fed up with going on my own (which he’s tasked me with the last few weeks despite my protests) and am not leaving the house again (today, not “ever”).  I’ve come home and put a load of laundry in the machine and started writing this entry… it’s taken me a good nearly four hours to get it all done, with a few breaks to hang the laundry outside and have lunch.  I came across this article about Executive Dysfunction which beautifully explains what I feel when I become too overwhelmed with things and start “moving like molasses.”

And that leads up to this exact moment in time, wherein I will bid you adieu until after my second appointment.

It’s happening… It’s finally happening.

So this morning I had a phone call missed from a number that I thought I recognised… it’s local(-ish) to where I live, so originally thought it might be the dealership where I bought my car begging me to test drive their latest whatever.  Googling the number elicited no hits, so I went to my Gmail inbox and searched for it… and had one email thread as a hit – the Autistic Spectrum Condition Diagnostic Assessment Service.  It was only six minutes since they rang when I called back… spoke to the lady I’ve been emailing and she said that she had to “remember why [she] rang [me] in the first place” and that she’d ring me back in five minutes… fifty five minutes later, she rang back and informed me that there was a cancellation and could I be available tomorrow morning at 9:30 and next Thursday at 14:00… I said of course and thanked her for ringing me.  She confirmed my email address and said she’d be sending me the letter, map to get to the clinic and a photo of the building.

Oh. My. God.

Bearing in mind that in April (see my blog post That took effort.) I was told that I could expect an appointment in July or August, I had been preparing myself for that eventuality, so to have this come up so quickly [especially after emailing my MP as part of Autism Awareness Month through the National Autistic Society, but more on that in a minute], I have had no time to mentally prepare for what is going to happen tomorrow… but perhaps this will be for the better, because it’s not like an interview where you have to put your best self forward… it’ll be better if they see the raw, unmasked and vulnerable version of myself that no one has ever really seen…

I know that writing to my MP (which sounds so uppity and Daily Mail reader outrage-ish) had no impact on there being a cancellation, but I can’t help but wonder if my name has made its way up the list because of sharing my story with him.  I shared a very abridged version as part of a form that the NAS had on their website prior to the Parliamentary debate on 28th April about the national Autism strategy.  I had an email back from him thanking me for sharing my story and:

Delayed diagnosis of autism causes needless suffering, and I am committed to ensuring that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, a commitment the Government shares.

Delivery across health care is a Government priority, and the Adult Autism Strategy means we are improving care for those with ASD. Government guidance sets a clear direction for how health and social care can continue to improve services to deliver fulfilling and rewarding lives for people with autism.

The Government has introduced a new birth-to-25 education, health and care plan which sets out in one place all the support families will receive and help bridge the gap between education to employment and independent living.

For children, the Government is funding £750,000 in 2016/17 to the Autism Education Trust to provide autism training to teachers. This ranges from basic awareness training and practical knowledge through to more advanced training for school leaders. To date, the Trust has arranged training for around 90,000 education staff.

NICE guidelines on autism make it clear that people should wait no more than three months to start diagnosis. Every part of the National Health Service should be keeping to these guidelines, however decisions on how money should be spent locally are for clinical commissioning groups.

I know this means a lot to you and I will continue to monitor the situation closely.

I sent back that I was aware of the Education Health & Care Plans as I write them on a daily basis and that, unfortunately, I’m a few years beyond the age range (and to be fair, knowing the criteria, I don’t think I’d fulfil it anyway!) and that “If NICE guidelines indicate no more than a three-month wait (which I was not previously aware of), then things urgently need to be reviewed within the local NHS Foundation Trust, as I am still awaiting confirmation of my assessment appointment.  I have chased up a rough estimate and was advised “possibly July or August”, which will be just over a year after requesting an assessment.  As I originally wrote in my first message: ‘It will be a year in July since I requested my assessment, but because of a breakdown in communication between my GP surgery and the Assessment Team, I emailed and called to chase up my referral (as I’d not heard anything) and it was never received by the Assessment Team. As such, my referral and subsequent place on the waiting list was delayed by 6 weeks, which has caused me a great deal of undue anxiety and stress. Because I have adapted and built up a repertoire of coping skills over the years, I was able to chase it up myself without anyone else’s help, but I must stress how terribly upsetting the whole thing was and I had to emotionally wrestle myself back from the edge of a colossal meltdown.'”

After sending that email reply, a few days later I had a letter from the House of Commons in the post on my MP’s headed paper, saying: “Thank you for emailing me about Autism.  I am very sorry to learn of the challenges you have faced with getting an assessment and support.  I have raised this issue on our behalf with the local NHS Hospitals Trust Foundation and I will let you know of their reply in due course.” [He also included excerpts from the debate but I doubt you’re that interested in all of that from my letter, but you can find it on Hansard – World Autism Awareness Week.]

Thankfully, my managers were both really supportive and wished me luck for tomorrow (not that they wouldn’t be supportive working in a SEN Team, but they could have been a bit awkward with how short notice it was).

On a completely separate note, we went to the chip shop this evening and I opted for a burger instead of my usual battered sausage and curry sauce.  The girl brought over the empty bun to put salad and sauce on it… and I was horrified to see that she had brought over a buttered roll.  Like, a buttered bap that is individually wrapped by the till.  WHAT!?  WHO PUTS BUTTER ON A BURGER?!?  That sounds like an American thing if anything… my polite filter wasn’t on and I said, “Um, I don’t want butter on it.”  and the girl was a bit taken aback and had to warm up an unbuttered roll from the fridge.  I’m sorry, but if we’re paying money for a burger, I should be able to have it how I want it… never before in my life have I ever had a burger with butter, nor will I ever!! Blech!!

So, wish me luck for tomorrow…

My White Whale – The Interview

I’ve titled this entry referring to the White Whale in Moby Dick to use in this context: “To describe an opponent/nemesis who is extremely difficult to defeat; can also apply to miscellaneous games or events which are difficult to master.”

So, I realise it’s been a little while again, but to be fair, I’ve had another few cognitively exhausting weeks which included preparing for an interview which I was originally convinced that I didn’t get offered.

I’ll rewind a bit.

I saw a job posting for my local Local Authority for a Fostering Social Worker post in the fostering support team (i.e. supporting carers directly versus recruiting them, which was my downfall in the independent fostering agencies I tried working for a few years ago).  I was on the fence about whether I wanted to re-enter the field I’ve been out of for over three years but thought I had nothing to lose by at least applying.  So I did, and I had expected to hear back exactly two weeks after the closing date (which was the first May bank holiday).  When I heard nothing by the end of the Monday a fortnight later, I thought that it wasn’t meant to be… until Tuesday morning when I received the email inviting me to interview.

Because the last time I tried applying for a SEN Casework role with this Local Authority and I didn’t get offered the job because I didn’t fully answer the questions – (because how can you ask a three-part question and expect ANYONE to be able to answer it fully??) – so I actually went so far as to ask the Recruitment Team if I could have the written questions available to me in the interview (n.b. not asking for them beforehand), as I am awaiting an assessment for Autism.  Beyond that, I spent time on the phone with my friend who is a Kinship Care social worker and chatting to a couple of my friends in my current team, doing my best to prepare for this interview.

Well, the interview was two days ago.  I’ll give you the spoiler alert now: I didn’t get offered the job.

I got to the first part of the interview at 10:20 (for a 10:30 interview), but the lady on reception didn’t ring up to the team to say I was there until 10:32 – which made me mad, because surely that would say to them that I got there late!! When the admin came down to collect me, I made it a point to say that I was there early and that I couldn’t understand why the receptionist didn’t ring up sooner… especially since there were prolonged silences with her and a man who I could only guess was a security type person (walkie-talkie on his belt) interspersed with awkward chit-chat.

Anyway, get into the interview room and have the questions put in front of me, introductions made to the interview panel – the team manager for the post in question recognised me from when I applied to this role about three years ago where I missed the benchmark by 5 points.  They asked me the questions, I re-read them to make sure I understood them, and I did my best to answer them.  I was even given the opportunity to return to any of my responses to give more information, which I did for one question wherein it was about research or serious case review informing practice… I mentioned my interest in Autism and I brought it back to relating to foster carers looking after children on the spectrum.  I walked out feeling fairly confident.

I then had an hour to kill before the second part of the interview… all that was mentioned in the email was an hour-long session with “young ambassadors” with the other candidates… delightfully vague, right?  So I had no idea what to expect.  I get led into the room with the other two candidates – one slightly older and one slightly older than her – and in front of us on the table was a range of arts and crafts supplies with big pieces of paper taped to the wall behind us.  The activity was also delightfully vague – “illustrate what you think a good fostering social worker looks like”.  Not being funny, but I am not a super crafty person anyway, let alone when put on the spot and expected to be instantaneously creative.  I couldn’t hide my horror and tried my best to follow the lead of the other candidates.  I can’t really draw for anything, so rather than illustrating, I was just writing words on the side of the outline of the person.  I did the best that I could despite feeling horribly uncomfortable.

Fast forward about four hours after the interview and I get the phone call.  Something along the lines of, “thank you for coming in, it was lovely to meet you, you have a lot of warmth and passion, however….” and then the most infuriating thing: “the candidate we selected, it was apparent in her responses that she has had more [quantity] recent involvement of direct work with children and that did not come across as much in your responses”.  I was starting to fume.  I reiterated that I answered the questions as they were presented to me, and if they wanted me to talk about that, then I would have done, but I didn’t feel like that was asked in any of the questions.  At this point, because I had nothing to lose because I already didn’t have the job, I explained to her that I’m awaiting an assessment for Autism (as I wasn’t sure if the Recruitment Team indicated this or not), and why I asked for the questions to be written out for me to read after asked verbally was because I wanted to be sure I was answering all parts of the questions.  She didn’t seem to respond much to this revelation, but thanked me again for coming along and best of luck, etc. all the same bullshit you dismiss someone with.

I realise that a diagnosis is not going to change much in my day to day life, but I realise that it’s probably gonna make it harder for me to get a new job because I can’t get past the interview part when there are veiled questions behind the questions I’m actually being asked.  It’s almost like I need a subtext interpreter in an interview… is it so wrong that I take things at face value?  I don’t think people understand my difficulties with language interaction because I am very articulate… but processing verbal information takes me a long time and it’s hard for me to read into the subtext or find the implied questions.  I’m so mad about this.  It’s not even like I was that desperate to get the job, but I’m more upset about the fact that I didn’t get the job is basically because of my language difficulties, which I’ve only become aware of since delving into this whole diagnosis journey.  I feel like I want to complain to someone… the Recruitment Team, or the National Autistic Society (to seek an advocate to help me complain)… but then, on the other hand, I wonder if it’s even worth it.  People will just continue to find other reasons to not hire someone even if it’s not directly because of their Autism.  What frustrates me even more is that I have successfully worked as a social worker for nearly five years before I even discovered that I may be on the spectrum… but clearly that counts for nothing.

On the other hand, I’m in a good position because I still have a permanent job within a team where I have several friends who understand and support my journey to diagnosis; now whether this is just because of the nature of our job (Special Educational Needs) or that I’m just lucky enough to be around caring, understanding people, it’s hard to say.

Like all my other recent interview rejections, I’ll eventually get over this one too, but I’m still angry about it… but for the first time, I’m not mad so much at myself but rather the unwritten rules of the interview game which I’m clearly not privy to.

Until the next one… 😥

Understanding the Spectrum

I came across this on Facebook by Katherine Green [Wishing On Jupiter], an Aspie author I follow, having heard her speak at last year’s Autism Show and befriending her afterward. 🙂
The original post is here: Understanding the Spectrum

The author of the comic has made the images available for sharing, which I am doing here now.  Please note that I am not taking credit for these images and that no copyright infringement is intended.

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All image credits to Rebecca Burgess.  I’m grateful to her for illustrating this so beautifully and simply.  This explains quite clearly what I’ve been struggling to fully express. Below is some text from her original Tumblr post which explains a few bits:

Last but not least, some explanation for anyone unfamiliar with some of the language used…

Neurotypical = the majority/average brain, in context to this a non-autistic person

Neurodiverse = the opposite, but some people use this term to refer to more then just autism, things such as dyslexia, adhd etc.

savant skills = being extremely good in one area of thinking, I guess the most common one is being extremely good at math and having a perfect memory.

Also, my depiction of ‘the spectrum’ is simplified (to be used as a starting point/simple explanation), if you look into it there are a lot of different traits or factors that make up the spectrum!

What is wrong with me??

So, it’s a bit of a running joke between Paul and me that I occasionally have “a case of the dropsies” wherein I just seem to fumble and drop EVERYTHING.  Thankfully I’ve not dropped any dishes or glasses, but I’ll drop my keys when trying to hang them on the hook, or when I’m getting my tablets out in the evening, I’ll end up knocking too many out of the bottle and send one or two pills flying to the floor (or the bottle itself after screwing the top back on)… and I’ll do that with more than one bottle of tablets.  On Friday, I had a mini-meltdown after I dropped a container of Chinese food leftovers as I was trying to put them on a shelf in the fridge… rather than pushing another container out of the way with my other hand, I tried pushing it aside with the container of leftovers I was hoping to refrigerate for the next day… it fell in slow motion, and as the top came off, it all had to be binned.  I was so upset… like, not just at the waste of food, but that yet again I’ve fucking dropped something and it’s so stupid.

Now, in my research into Autism and seeing a correlation with Dyspraxia, I couldn’t help but wonder if I may have a certain degree of Dyspraxia too.  I was NEVER good in gym class in school – like, any game which used a ball, you could guarantee that it’d hit me in the face at least once.  Tennis?  Sheer hilarity as I flailed around with the racket trying to hit the ball… and if I did manage to make contact, it’d go flying over the fence and I’d get a disappointed tut from my partner and gym teacher.  And when it came to art class, I couldn’t draw or paint or do anything particularly well – despite having fabulous ideas in my mind, I just could not translate them to paper (or any other medium) because I just didn’t have the right level of manual dexterity, which always frustrated me.  The only reason I didn’t graduate nearer the top of my class than I did was because my gym and art grades were lower than my academic subjects (before final grades were issued, I was estimated ranked 9th, but years later when I requested my transcripts for UK equivalence verification, it turns out that I was actually 8th out of 150-odd in the class #HumbleBrag).

I thought that because I am just not athletic by any definition, I just thought it was down to everyone being different.  It never occurred to me that there might be a name for it other than just “clumsy”.

I have been feeling quite stressed lately, especially in regard to work because I’ve had a few quite complex cases blowing up and parents persistently ringing (“stalking”) me which has been enough to make me want to retreat into my bubble of solitude and protection, which is not exactly easy to do when you have a job to do.

Is it possible that my stress is manifesting itself into me just being a bit more clumsy than usual, or is it indicative of something more sinister??  Holding my hands out in front of me, they’re not shaky or anything, so I don’t think I’m having any sort of nerve issues, but it’s really making me cross when I keep dropping things.  I don’t know what to do, other than maybe keep track of how often and under what circumstances I’m dropping things.

If anyone has had any sort of similar experience, I would appreciate you leaving a comment below.  Thanks, folks x

I’m so proud of him.

So, Paul was on a team building-type conference today for the banking corporation that he works for… mandatory attendance jobby, despite the fact that he’s IT and not banking.  Anyway, they were focusing on all these soft-skills things and interviewing techniques (which candidate would YOU hire?) and he explained a scenario where you were shown a video in two parts – initial impression (“hello, I’m here for an interview”) and then the interview itself (about a minute long).  The video was stopped after the initial impression and people had to say “to hire” or “not hire”.  In one of the videos, a middle-aged woman walked into the room, was quite nervous, shy, didn’t make eye contact, and tripped over her words when saying she was there for the interview.  At this point, about 60% of the room showed “not hire” cards.  The video was then resumed and she continued to not make eye contact, couldn’t get her words out, and asked to look at some of the questions again.  Now, just on reading that, I’m sure many of you may think that she may be on the Spectrum, perhaps at the Asperger’s end of it.  Please bear in mind that while the example was not illustrating neurodiverse interviewing techniques (as she later showed lack of interest and other non-ASD related behaviours).  By the end of the video, 99% of the room said “not hire” and Paul was the only one to hold up the “hire” card, but unfortunately was not called upon to explain his position.  He explained to me that, after watching Employable Me on the BBC, he understands more that those who are high-functioning intellectually but perhaps lower-functioning socially do not often get a fair first impression when it comes to interview situations, and probably explains why so many people on the Spectrum end up going years without being able to successfully land a job; just because one is ‘bad’ at interviewing does not automatically mean that they would be bad at the job they’re interviewing for.  I know I personally have failed at interviews because of my short-term auditory processing difficulties have let me down (before I knew that’s what they were), and I wonder if I had asked for the written questions if that would have also worked against me anyway.  Paul recognises that he himself is most likely on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s part of the Spectrum, but he is not interested in pursuing a diagnosis for himself because he reckons that he’s developed his own set of coping mechanisms to get through day-to-day interactions.  He acknowledges and supports my desire to pursue a diagnosis for myself and as such “waves the flag” for those with Autism and embracing neurodiversity.  While we both say that neither men nor women on the Spectrum “have it easy”, he accepts where I’m coming from in my perception that it’s almost easier for men to get through life without the context of a diagnosis, whereas it benefits women to put them into that context so when seemingly uncharacteristic behaviours present themselves, they can be explained within a framework.

Even though he didn’t get to explain his position in the training session, I’m still so proud of him for recognising that the way that interviewing scenario was managed was not inclusive nor showed recognition of neurodiversity.

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. 😥

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. 😦

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 – Thanks, 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).

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. 🙂