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. 😦

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?

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

 

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.