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

 

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])

I live to fall asleep

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

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

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

Anxiety and Stress in one’s chosen career

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

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

Anxiety overload and not able to do anything about it

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Always thought you were a bit weird.’

Autism In The Workplace – The Guardian

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

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

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

Sensory Stuff: Seeking, Sensitivities & Differences

What happens when we experience sensory or emotional overload? Well, different things. Sometimes we get migraines, nausea, sometimes we have meltdowns, and sometimes we just stim. Stimming is simply something we do to soothe ourselves when we are upset, anxious, overloaded, or in pain; to release unpleasant feelings or energy. Soothing stims happen because someone or something is pushing our autistic buttons. We stim from sensory issues, and we stim from anxiety and social or emotional issues. Not stimming when you feel anxious means you’re not releasing the build-up of tension and you risk having a meltdown, or migraine, or acquiring a tic. The trouble with repressing stims is that we tend to pick up destructive habits, or else we just internalise our anxieties and pains instead of releasing them as they happen. (Rudy Simone – Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome) [UK Kindle Edition]

Upon reading more about sensory seeking, sensitivities and differences, I started thinking about what I do which could be associated with it, and I was blown away by the length of the list when I came to the end… and I don’t even know if this is everything!  It’s really hard looking at yourself in this respect because you know that you like what you like, but you don’t necessarily realise that you like it because of your sensory needs.

  1. Coarse face scrub – face doesn’t feel clean without it – been using St Ives Apricot Scrub for years.
  2. Chewing gum – I feel anxious when I don’t have gum in my handbag. I like the strong minty flavour and don’t like my mouth feeling gross.
  3. Nail biter for YEARS – I had to start getting gel overlays to stop, though I will still pick the polish off when nearing my next appointment, particularly if I’m bored or need to do something with my hands. I first got gel nails in Dec 2011 before my wedding so I would be used to having them on my hands before the big day (it wasn’t routine!). I will still occasionally tap the grown-out part of the nail between my teeth, though not to bite it off.
  4. Lip Balm – I cannot go to sleep without putting minty Burt’s Bees lip balm on my lips, and I feel anxious when I don’t have a tube in my handbag.
  5. Back Scratching – ever since I was small, I always loved having my back scratched by my parents, and this has carried on with Paul.
  6. Hair Brushing – I really like having someone else brush my hair with a bristly brush, as well as the ‘spidery’ wiry head scratcher.
  7. Hair Style – I hate having wispy strands of hair falling into my face and when I go for a haircut, I tend to ask for a tidy up of the same style and ask for the fringe bits to be kept long enough for me to tuck behind my ear (because I get really cross when I cannot get it to stay behind my ears). Otherwise, I end up tying my hair back part way when it starts driving me crazy. There have been one or two occasions when my anxiety was particularly piqued that I very nearly took a pair of scissors to my hair to get it to stop bothering me, but the more rational part of my mind stepped in and I ended up tying it back. When I pull my hair back, I need to smooth it down at the top of my head, because I don’t like having any bumps in my hair… I don’t know how else to explain that, but I think it looks untidy otherwise.
  8. Twiddle objects – I keep a tiny tin of pliable putty in my bag and use it at work to help me concentrate in meetings or at my desk. I find it very calming. I also always keep a hair tie on my wrist in case I need to tie my hair back (see above), but it also acts as a good discreet twiddle object. I also love ripping used sheets of paper (about 10-15 sheets at once) going for recycling.
  9. Drinks – I like water to be ice cold (or as cold as possible), as tepid/room temperature water makes me feel ill. I can also taste the difference between tap and filtered water, and find unfiltered water makes my stomach feel weird.
  10. Crocheted afghan on our bed – I’ve always loved this Technicolor blanket my mom made, and to this day, I love to weave my fingers through the holes in it (like between the stitched bits, not stretching through the actual stitching). I especially do this at night as I’m falling asleep, and I always have it on the bed, regardless of the weather.
  11. Dirty fingers – I hated “messy play” as a child and always needed a napkin or paper towel nearby. The only messy food I like is chicken wings, and even then I have to clean my fingers between bites. I also really hate the feeling of a long strand of hair stuck on my hand after a shower (especially if it’s someone else’s, which doubly grosses me out) and I don’t like touching rusty metal with my bare hands (e.g. side gate and garage locks).
  12. Dirty dishwater – I have a severe phobia of putting my hands (ungloved) into dirty dishwater, because I remember as a kid putting my hands in the warm soapy water, thinking it was nice, and then pulled my hand out and had a scraggly bit of egg on the back of my hand, which sickened me. Now, if I need to do washing up, I have to wear gloves, because I can’t bear the thought of a rogue piece of food floating in the dishwater ending up touching my hands.
  13. Hot surfaces/water – my fingertips are super sensitive to anything hot. Paul likes to warm plates in the oven for tea, and if he leaves them in a few minutes too long, I can’t pick them up without an oven glove or towel, even though Paul has no problem picking them up (he says his hands are “made of asbestos”). Same with hot water when washing up, I need the gloves on because I can’t touch the water directly without it causing me pain.
  14. Tapping/drumming fingers – If I’m trying to refocus on what I was last working on and my concentration was broken, I’ll sometimes tap my fingers rhythmically on the table to help refocus my mind. I’ll sometimes do this on the steering wheel when I’m driving and listening to music.
  15. Food 1 – at lunch, I always alternate bites of a sandwich/roll (soft) with a crisp (crunchy), and don’t like having a sandwich/roll without a packet of crisps. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. This will sometimes extend itself to other meals, but not every meal every time.
  16. Food 2 – I have some very strong aversions to a few foods, namely bananas, mushrooms, pickles and sliced tomatoes. My Dad always tried to get me to eat bananas when I was a kid, but I always hated the taste, the smell and the texture of them – still do. I’m convinced mushrooms do not agree with my digestive system, because even when I wasn’t aware that they were finely chopped into spaghetti sauce my stepmom made, I ended up having *ahem* a bad time of it afterwards. With tomatoes, I love ketchup and cannot get enough of it when having chips or a burger, but I cannot stand the large slices of tomato that come on sandwiches or burgers at a restaurant, so usually ask for it to be left off (and get a bit annoyed when that request is ignored). I used to love pickles when I was a kid but I think I’ve grown out of it, because they make me feel ill now and, like with tomatoes, I ask for them to be left off (and get a bit annoyed when that request is ignored). Even when they are put on a burger (for instance), it is easy enough for me to remove them, but I see that as wasteful and it taints my burger with the juices from those respective foods, which I don’t like in the first place. I never send it back because that just irritates staff and I don’t want to wait longer for my food but it will reflect in any gratuity left because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not the best level of service provided.
  17. Food 3 – Paul and I do tend to stay to the same few set meals and I do get bored with them, but it’s difficult to branch out too far and try anything new. We see food prep in three levels: 1 – ready meals (which we don’t really do except for a frozen or fresh pizza from a supermarket); 2 – food assembly (cook fresh chicken and add jar of curry sauce and microwaved packet of rice and naan bread); and 3 – cooking from scratch (we both work full time and don’t have time for this, nor the freezer space to bulk-cook meals and freeze for later). We end up getting into meal ruts but I’m on both sides of it – It’s routine, but it’s also boring!!
  18. Food 4 – I don’t like my food touching… never did when I was a kid, and though I’m more tolerant of it now, I will still separate items (e.g. a small pile of mixed veg next to oven chips, I’ll push the veg away from the chips so they’re not touching and any water from the veg doesn’t make the chips soggy). I will also clear a spot on my plate for sauce (e.g. ketchup, etc.) so that the wrong foods (e.g. veg) don’t touch it. It sounds crazy writing it out, but it’s something I’ve always done. When I was a kid, my Dad would mash together his whole plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes, veg, etc. and it would make me feel ill looking at it, even though I had the exact same meal on my plate. I like knowing what I’m eating by being able to see it.
  19. Glasses and sunglasses – I end up needing to wear sunglasses even when it’s overcast but bright, because it just hurts my eyes. I struggle in the open plan area I work because there are a lot of windows, which is nice to see outside, but as there are so many windows around the building, the sun invariably ends up reflecting off other windows, which means trying to close the blinds to stop it shining onto my monitor or reflecting into my eyes can be a nightmare. This was particularly difficult in winter when the sun was setting earlier and was lower in the sky; it’s not so much a problem now. But there are times that I feel it’s too bright, but I look ridiculous wearing my sunglasses, which actually make things too dark. Since switching to contacts, I’m disinclined to go back to wearing glasses full time, and I hate the look of ‘transitions’ lenses and find that I end up feeling pressure points on the sides of my head behind my ears from wearing glasses for too long. I don’t know what to do about this though. Also, I got irritated wearing certain pairs of glasses because while they were even, my head isn’t (I don’t think anyone’s is perfectly symmetrical!), one lens was too close to my eye and I was hyper-aware of my eyelashes brushing up against it with every blink, so I couldn’t stand to wear them anymore. Contacts are so much better for me because there are no smudges which need wiping off, there’s no chance for ‘rays of light’ to shine down when I’m stood under a light because of smudging on the lens, and I am not constantly having to push them back up my nose because of them sliding down!!
  20. Computer screen settings – I have the window settings on my computer with a grey tint because I find looking at a plain white window too bright and strains my eyes.
  21. Listening to music while working – being in an open plan office is a nightmare for extraneous sound, so I have sound-isolating earbud headphones which I use with my iPod to listen to familiar music. I choose music that I don’t need to actively listen to, so it literally just acts as a “sonic barrier” from everything else going on around me which causes sensory overload (phones ringing, random conversations going on around me, noises from outside when the windows are open, etc.). It drives me CRAZY though when people start talking to me without getting my attention first, because despite me explaining that I can’t hear them until I take the headphones out, they still do it!! It’s not even like I’m listening to the music that loud – I can still hear my phone ring if it goes – but because I’m focused on whatever I’m doing and not actively listening to what’s going on around me, I am not always aware if someone’s come up next to me and started talking… it does my head in.
  22. Bright colours have always soothed me… I love rainbow LED lights with a slow fade between colours. It’s difficult to articulate this any further, but I’ve always loved pretty colours. When I discovered that Sensory Rooms were a thing (and subsequently found out what ‘snoezelen’ is), I just thought I’d end up spending most of my time in a room like that… soooo soothing, soooo relaxing…. taking my mind away from everything that worries me. I’d LOVE to make the 3rd bedroom in our house a sensory/snoezelen room, but I know it would cost a fortune. I also have a dedicated folder of apps on my tablet that I call “Calmers” which are a handful interactive sensory apps, with soothing music and swirling colours. Perhaps I knew more about my own needs before I knew I had them!
  23. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I like to cuddle up next to Paul and put my head on his chest, as listening to his heartbeat always soothes me. He knows that this is what I do and is very comforting to me when I need a cuddle in this way.

Like I said, this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a fair representation of my sensory differences.

Am I or am I not?

Just started reading another book about Autism called I Think I Might Be Autistic [UK Kindle Edition] by Cynthia Kim [Musings of an Aspie]. I read how Asperger’s Syndrome is now wrapped up into the overarching Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, and reading the technical terminology of the criteria, I thought, “geez, what if I’m wrong about this??” but thankfully Kim broke it down as to what questions to ask which can help to answer the diagnostic criteria – most of which I ended up highlighting as either More Often Than Not Yes, YES and OMG DEFINITELY YES.

It’s very weird being in limbo right now. It fills me with too much anxiety to ring the GP to find out what’s happening with my referral, as it’s probably out of her hands anyway.

I just worry that I’ve adapted my behaviour so much to fit in on a day to day basis that when it comes down to the actual assessment (however that plays out), I’ll end up not being “Autistic enough” to qualify for diagnosis… Then I’ll be back at square one, so to speak.

I’m just going to keep reading and highlighting… I hope that the more information I gather and denote as being relevant, the easier it will be for me to evidence that my experience of life is not the same as the majority of people out there.