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.

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. 🙂

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?

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.

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

 

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.

Bah, humbug.

Christmas… called by some “the most wonderful time of the year”.  I personally consider it a massive inconvenience, expensive and full of unrealistic expectations.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really question things, as this is what the adults around me were doing as it was normal.  Why would I question it?  I liked the prospect of getting presents (what kid wouldn’t?!), and I loved the Christmas lights… especially the bubble lights we had on our mantle and there were a few ornaments that I particularly liked… either the look or the feel of them.  I loved sitting in the living room watching TV with the normal lights off, bathing in the glow of the tree and mantle decorations.  Seeing my cousins and playing with our new toys was always a highlight.

Now that I’m older and living away from my place of origin (n.b. I consider England “home” now, as the house I grew up in ceased to be my home when my mother stopped talking to me), and particularly because there are no small children in our immediate family (that responsibility will rest on Paul’s and my shoulders eventually), I don’t see the point in going nuts for decorating just for us.

Firstly, whilst our mortgage finally was sorted last month, his mother still has not been able to move into her flat due to a busted water heater (who would’ve thought that a flat sitting empty and unused for nearly a year would have a detrimental effect on the appliances?!), so I’m upset that it’s another Christmas where we’re not independent; she is going to be out of the country for Christmas, but it’s the principle of it all.  As such, I still don’t feel like this house is completely “our own” yet, and I’m not motivated to decorate because I’m feeling depressed.

Secondly, we have not yet accumulated any sort of Christmas decorations, so if we were to decorate, we’d have to go out and buy loads of tat, and we have more important things to put money towards other than silly decorations that would only be out for a few weeks and spend the majority of the time in a box in the loft.

Thirdly, even if we had decorations, (as briefly touched on in point 2) I don’t see the point in hauling stuff out to put up for a brief period of time just to put them away again after a few weeks, especially if we’re not having any guests over… so what is the benefit?  For ourselves?  The greater benefit would be for us to just leave our house as it is… requires a lot less effort!

OK, so that’s decorations addressed… now, presents.

Capitalism at its finest.

It’s cute when you’re a kid and you buy your dad another pocket-sized toolkit with money your mom gave you for the Secret Santa shop set up in the gymnasium of your elementary school.  When you’re in your 30s and you know your dad has what he needs and would really only benefit from gift cards for petrol… it kinda takes the excitement out… because there’s nothing worse than getting something for someone that you think they’ll really like, only to be greeted with “Present Face” (very funny video by comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates).  Or worse… when you’ve not been asked what you would like for Christmas and you’re given stuff which either you don’t need or you don’t particularly want… and you’re trying to avoid giving “Present Face” yourself… when you know for a fact that your face regularly betrays you and reveals what you’re thinking to other people.

Expectations are also set waaaaaaaay too high by advertisers.  Light fluffy snow, happy families, big dinner, loads of presents… no one’s Christmas is ever that perfect.  Never.  Stop perpetuating this falsehood.  It’s just wrong.

Going on a slight tangent… homelessness, especially at this time of year, breaks my heart.  In the book A Pony In The Bedroom (which I have referenced before in this post), Susan Dunne talks about a period of time when she was homeless, which gave me a different perspective about homelessness.  When we were in Birmingham last week, I saw several rough sleepers on the pavement, and it made me very sad; what made me feel worse was that we kept walking by, just like everyone else around us.  Later on, I was heartened by seeing a Homeless Outreach Team wearing high-viz vests going around and talking to them.  I think it’s because I feel conditioned as a woman to feel scared about approaching strangers, especially homeless folks, as the assumption is that you’ll get robbed or attacked in some other vicious way.  I might look into supporting a local homeless support service so I feel less guilty about not stopping to help.

Anyway, there was a reason for that tangent.  Perpetuating the falsehood that Christmas is some sort of magical time of year and everything is perfect couldn’t be further from the truth for the homeless and the impoverished.  People seem to become blinded by these truths and choose to ignore it.

I suppose it just all frustrates me so much.  It’s too much for one person to put right on their own.

Another thing that bothers me is the assumption that, unless otherwise identified as affiliating with another religion other than some derivation of Christianity, you “celebrate” Christmas and are often wished “Merry Christmas”.  Simple and inoffensive, one may think, but I honestly identify myself as Atheist… that is, Atheism, meaning “a lack of belief in gods”.

I have never subscribed to any religion and if life has taught me anything, religion causes more harm than good.  So I feel like I can’t actually say that I don’t believe in Christmas as I don’t believe in Christianity, because I don’t really feel like I have to justify my beliefs (or lack thereof) to anyone who will not actually ever convince me of a bearded man who lives in the sky.  So, if anything, I feel like it’s hypocritical to buy into the whole Christmas malarkey just to not be a social outcast because everyone (n.b. obviously I don’t mean everyone, but you know what I mean) else does when I don’t believe in it.

It’s not like I’m against the whole “peace, togetherness, kindness” stuff that comes with the season, but that’s just being a good person – you don’t need a religion to make you not be a dick to other people.

Plus, there’s the whole thing how Christmas was actually stolen from the Pagans’ celebration of Yule, so…

I’m not a Grinch in that I’m not saying that no one should celebrate Christmas or that those who do are hypocrites (there are hypocrites everywhere); all I’m saying is that I would feel hypocritical if I partook in the whole Christmas thing in the way that society expects me to.  That’s not to say that I’m not going to be having Christmas dinner with Paul and my dad & Rita; if anything, Christmas is a nice excuse to have a lush homecooked meal. 🙂

If Christmas is something you celebrate, then Happy Christmas to you and your family.  If you celebrate anything else, I send you good wishes as well [I’ll leave you to fill in the blank].  Or, if like me, you don’t choose to celebrate any of the above, then good for you.  Happy December.

“Just chalk it up to good experience.”

I’m tired of interviewing.  I hate it.  It’s a performance for which you can have no rehearsal because you never know what the questions are going to be.  I had an interview last week for a team that I had worked with before over 2 years ago and I felt more relaxed because I knew the people on the interview panel.  I walked out of there thinking I did a spectacular job and floated through the weekend… until Sunday night when the catastrophising feeling sunk in and I started feeling severe anxiety… “what if they don’t offer me the job?”  I didn’t sleep overtly well that night and was really tired and down on Monday morning.  Thankfully they put me out of my misery quite early (just after 10am)… and to hear the words, “I’m really sorry but we will not be offering you the job,” you just want the world to open up below your feet and swallow you whole.  What the feedback boiled down to was that I didn’t fully answer the questions with robust-enough responses.

Now, this is where I feel that my suspected Asperger’s/Autism comes into play; when I’m asked really long questions, I usually need it repeated or (ideally) written down in front of me to be able to read and process.  The one particular question where I gloriously fell flat on my face was a two-parter (explain a situation where you had to say No to a parent and how were you able to positively maintain the relationship afterwards).  I’m sure most of you reading that would start thinking of several situations, but then you have to completely recategorise whatever you retrieve from long-term memory to make it fit both conditions set out by the question.  Because I had completely forgotten the second part of the question (or possibly not even fully processed it) my example used was just completely wrong and they couldn’t score me any points on it.  “Gutted” doesn’t even come close to explaining the feeling.  I’m so annoyed with myself, because if I could have just processed the questions the way “everyone else” can, then I might not have cocked up my opportunity and would have maybe even offered the job.  I know I’m a damn good caseworker; if they observed me in my current post, they’d see that in the short time I’ve been out of social work and in SEN, I’ve adapted to the different world quite well.  However, they’re not interested in that; all that matters is the impression you make in that 30-40 minute interview, which (in my opinion) is bullshit.  You can have someone who interviews beautifully, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be any good at the job!!

Thankfully, I’m working in a good team where I am and have very supportive colleagues who were genuinely disappointed for me, but were selfishly glad that I’m not leaving.  I have been rationalising it like this: I’m secure in my job (for now, pending potential commissioning out, but that’s a whole other issue), I’m happy with my team, I’m happy with my manager, and things could be a lot worse.  I just was looking forward to not having to commute over an hour (both ways together) every day, as well as the step up professionally and the higher salary.

*sigh*

Until the next job comes up… perhaps I’ll have my diagnosis by then and can have some extra help.  I’m not expecting to be given the job just because of having a diagnosis; I’m just becoming increasingly frustrated that I feel like I’m being judged when I say I have difficulties because I don’t appear to have difficulties.  I have managed to hide my difficulties for so long, but I think it was easier as a kid, to a certain degree; being an adult is hard, though I still have times where I feel like I’m not quite an adult yet… it’s hard to articulate.

My next blog post will be about my disdain for Christmas.  Stay tuned!

Catastrophising

The tendency to leap to the worst possible conclusion—the “everything will be ruined” option—is known as catastrophizing. Like perfectionism, it’s a common trait of ASD and closely tied to black and white thinking… Autistic individuals are supposed to be bad at generalizing but when it comes to catastrophizing, we’re experts… Thinking, thinking, thinking. That’s what catastrophizing is, right? A bunch of thoughts, one worse than the next, feeding off each other… I don’t understand why, but catastrophizing has a self-soothing effect, even as it makes me feel terrible… I can look at all the logical reasons that I’ve listed to justify how detrimental and unproductive catastrophizing is, but then I get to the last point and I’m right back where I started.   (Cynthia Kim – Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life [UK Kindle Edition])

I could have written all of the above myself… I honestly thought that something was wrong with me because I am so fucking guilty of doing this on an almost daily basis; it’s how I function (or not actually function at all?).  This was quite possibly the most difficult chapter to read so far in this book because it was like being faced with hard truths, but at the same time, I was being validated that the way that I think is actually more associated with Asperger’s than just on its own.  If anything, I feel like the more I read, the more I’m just writing my own diagnosis.  I would feel so much better if I could get this actual assessment started sooner rather than later, but I just cannot afford to pay to go privately to get this done, so I have to wait for the NHS to be able to see me.

Having lost my temper a few times recently with all the mortgage nonsense and having to put up with the daily annoyances of living with a chronically-untidy individual who takes no notice of the impact on their seemingly harmless foibles on someone with suspected AS, when I read the following excerpt from the book, I felt like Cynthia had written my own User Guide to a Meltdown.  If only I’d had this when I was a child, as a stroppy teenager, and as an adult having to deal with more than she expected to… it would have made the resultant flipouts/tantrums/meltdowns less traumatic for all involved.  I suppose knowing now is better than not knowing at all, but my god, this is in the simplest language possible and is just a perfect explanation of what it feels like and what I want from those around me trying to provide comfort and calmness.

What I don’t want to hear:

  • “It’s okay.” [It’s not.]
  • “You need to pull yourself together.” [I will, when I’m ready.]
  • “Everything will be fine.” [I know.]

What I need:

  • space
  • time
  • absence of judgment.

Please don’t ask me if I want to talk about it, because:

  • there’s nothing to talk about
  • I don’t have the resources necessary for talking.

“Will comforting me help?” [No.]
“Do I want the meltdown to be over?” [Yes, but not prematurely.]
“Would I like a hug?” [No.]
“Am I in danger?” [No. I’m conscious of the boundary between stimming and serious self-harm.]
“Do I want company?” [If you’re okay with sitting silently beside me.]
“Can you do anything to make me feel better?” [Probably not. But you can
avoid doing the things that will make it worse.]

Meltdowns are embarrassing. They are a total loss of control. They are humiliating. They make me feel like a child. They are raw, unfiltered exposure.

What I need when I’m winding down:

  • deep pressure
  • quiet
  • understanding
  • to pretend it never happened.

(Cynthia Kim – Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life [UK Kindle Edition])