“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!

Fate vs. Destiny?

or, How Much Are You In Control Of Your Own Path in Life?

I always felt like the path my life was on was very linear and pre-determined… after high school, I went to university.  After undergrad, I went to grad school.  [Those steps were accepted without question because that was just how it was meant to be.] After grad school, I moved to England.  After I moved to England though, it suddenly became unregimented, undetermined, unclear and confusing.  Somehow I managed to float through – got somewhere to live so I wasn’t staying with my Dad & Rita for longer than I had to (but even that was quite serendipitous and didn’t require a whole hell of a lot of effort on my part); landed my first job and subsequently my first permanent job (which then evolved on a yearly basis thanks to council restructuring, so it almost felt like every year was a new ‘school year’ for me again)… it wasn’t until I ended up going to that first fostering agency which threw my life into a tailspin.  In the interview, I only remember the words “recruiting foster carers” being thrown in casually, not identifying it as the core purpose of my job; if I had, I would not have been keen to take on the role, because I felt that my skills did not match that.  I persevered, though it was a nightmare for me, sitting vulnerable in shopping centres and supermarkets, hoping that someone would come and talk to me.  I could not have been more miserable.  I also felt like my manager wasn’t that happy with me and I feel she engineered my exit because, despite my difficulties, I was not getting any support as to what to do (they just assumed I’d “get on with it”, but how can you if you don’t even know where to begin??).  I counted how many days I’d actually worked there, and how they could possibly expect me to recruit a whole caseload of new foster carers in 36 DAYS absolutely baffles me.  GOOD RIDDANCE to the lot of them.  All the short term jobs which followed led to more changes to my routine… teaching assistant roles, Outreach work with teenagers, then the second fostering agency which went down the same avenue as the first eventually… after that, I had consoled myself by saying that I wasn’t actually a failure at being a social worker – I was only failing to find the right role for me and my abilities and skills.  Landing into SEN face first ended up being a blessing in disguise, though I still have little struggles here and there, but I am much more able to handle the demands of this role because it’s far more structured in relation to social care, which was chaotic and reactive rather than planned and regulated.

To a degree, that’s how Paul’s and my relationship progressed too, as I learnt from the examples set by my parents and grandparents: first you date, then you get engaged, then you get married, then you have kids.  I never felt comfortable with the idea of having kids before getting married, obviously not because of religious reasons (see first full paragraph on page 2), but because that wasn’t the right order in which to do things… what makes it “right”, I cannot define… but I feel quite rigid in that respect and can’t explain why.  Obviously, I don’t have to worry about that, because we clearly dated, got engaged and then got married, but I think I would have panicked a bit if I became pregnant “out of sequence”… but again we were both taking the appropriate steps to ensure that didn’t happen.

It’s been a while…

…and a ridiculously busy and hellish month.  My life is not that interesting to divulge all here but I felt I needed to “check in” as it’s been a few weeks since I last posted.

The month started in a pretty standard way, and the first weekend saw me attend my first “proper” hen weekend [n.b. my own hen do was VERY low-key because I knew that the usual shenanigans weren’t for me and I am a bit of a control freak and did not want to relinquish responsibility to someone else].  I was borderline petrified because I went into it really only knowing the bride-to-be and her soon-to-be sister in law, and was pleasantly surprised when I found that I got along really well with most of the other attendees (there was one girl who had a serious grump on the whole two days and I gravitated away from her), especially one of the bridesmaids, the bride’s sister, and the honorary “rooster” – a good friend from Sixth Form who happens to be a guy.  He got fully into the whole thing, wearing custom t-shirts, a hot pink tutu, fishnet gloves and a hen party headband with springy boppers on them.  It ended up being a lot of fun… we started off all meeting up in Bath and having a spot of lunch, then a ridiculous uphill walk to the hostel where most of the party were staying (the rooster and I were both going home and coming back the next day), getting into our tutus and other gear, then going back into Bath town centre for a crafty session making fascinators (for those who don’t know, they’re delicate hair decorations which women in the UK wear to weddings).  After beautiful fascinators were made, we went for a drink then dinner at a Thai restaurant and finished the night off at a pub with an open mic night.  The next day we had a spa day with half hour treatments and time spent in the pool and sauna, followed by a late lunch at Prezzo before parting ways to end the weekend.  I was looking forward to the wedding even more following this weekend because I would know more people there and knew that we’d have a great time.

The wedding was yesterday, and even the officiant said it: “I’ve never seen a couple more excited about getting married.”  The bride and groom were both bouncing with excitement and absolutely radiant.  The ceremony was beautiful, the meal was delicious, and the evening entertainment was fantastic.  The groom’s dad’s band played a few cover songs to warm the crowd up, followed by Paul’s band (the groom is the drummer) playing a few songs with the groom himself on the drums, later filled in by the drummer from the first band so the groom was able to enjoy the evening entertainment with his new wife.  It was just a super fun evening from start to finish and I’m glad I’ve got a quiet Sunday to myself today – Paul’s gone off to watch the F1 with some mates.

We’re still not done with the remortgage either… though finally the solicitors seem to have gotten their act together and are speaking with each other.  Annoyingly, we’ve been sent through loads more paperwork for the Land Registry, a lot of which required our signatures to be witnessed… again.  We had loads of paperwork initially to do for the solicitors which required witnesses, and it just boggles my mind, that if all this was going to need to be done anyway, why were we not asked to do all this at the BEGINNING of the process!?!  It’s just so frustrating.  I’m so over all of this and I need it to be done sooner than later.  It looks like at this rate I’ll be lucky if we get this sorted (including the work done to MIL’s flat before she moves in) by my birthday in November!!  It’s been a very long process and I’m just exhausted and sick of it.

OH.  And I nearly forgot.  So, back on the 17th of July, I finally mustered up the courage to take my ‘manifesto’ to the GP to request a referral for an assessment for Asperger Syndrome.  The same day, I was called back by a lovely receptionist to say that my GP agreed to refer me and that she had a form for me to collect, fill in and return.  I went back the same day, filled it in, and returned it on Monday the 20th.  Amongst the paperwork given to me, it said that first contact would be made within four weeks.  Back in my post on the 8th of August (Am I or am I not?), I mentioned about the anxiety I was feeling about chasing up the referral… even though it was only three weeks into the four since I had returned my referral form.  Finally, after six full weeks (4th Sept) I emailed the NHS email address indicated on my paperwork, asking if I could have an update on my referral, only to be told that it had not been received.  My heart sank.  I tried to keep myself calm when ringing my GP surgery to find out what happened, but my voice cracked and I ended up starting to sob.  The receptionist asked who I contacted and I gave her the details, and she said that she or a colleague would ring me back before the end of the day to let me know what’s happened.  Fair play to her, it was sorted within the hour.  The surgery still had my referral form on record, and it appears that the assessment team never received the fax (because we’re *still* faxing in 2015?!), so they verified the number and sent it through again, and verified also that it was received at the other end and phoned me to inform me of this.  So, talking about “recalibrating” my mind on things like I did in my last post, I’ve now got another minimum four-week wait… of which I’m already two full weeks into.

There has been so much going on, as you can see, and my poor little brain has found it all difficult to cope with and I’m desperately trying to stay on top of everything (I’m not even going to get into all the malarkey going on at work), but when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed, I just shut down and go into “power-saving mode” (I find I use computer analogies a lot to explain how I work).

I just hope that contact is made for my referral soon, because I think the sooner I get this sorted out, the more relief I’ll feel.

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])