Embracing the Weird

Definition of Weird: deviating from the customary:
bizarre, cranky, curious, eccentric, erratic, freakish, idiosyncratic, … (naturally)

Causing puzzlement; perplexing: (my neurotypical husband would testify to this)

Until a few years ago, I fought my weirdness. I hid the weird. I supressed the weird.

Where’s your will to be weird? Jim Morrison

Hidden under the desperate need to be invisible, Jim.

Fighting my weirdness was like trying to keep afloat on a punctured lifeboat where drowning was inevitable – it was just a question of time. This was me for forty plus years – floundering against the unrelenting current of neurotypical bullshit until one day I went under the surface and that, my friends, is an analogy for nervous breakdown.

A year later, a clinical psychologist informed me that my ‘weirdness’ had a name – Autism. This person, in effect, threw me a lifeline, and I’ve been making my way back to shore ever since.

There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough. Alain De Botton

Some autistic people reject the word ‘weird’ and that’s fine. It’s about perception and personal preference, but I prefer to see ‘weird’ as a positive.

Also, where people see weirdness – I see creativity.

“Weirdism is definitely the cornerstone of many an artist’s career.” E A Bucchianeri

Take Andy Warhol. ‘Weird’ was a word that was often used where he was concerned, but the man was creative and made a fortune out of thinking outside of the box. At the time of his death his net worth was equal to $220 million dollars!

Newsflash: He was most likely autistic!

Warhol’s behavioural traits strongly suggest autism. His social and communication issues, obsessions and repetitive style totally do it for me. I mean, it’s possible that some of it was a persona to make him to stand out from the crowd, and maybe he was just really shit at interviews, but given that he thoroughly examined packages of underwear before buying 28 pairs of the same pair – I’m confident in the theory that he probably was autistic.

For fans of Warhol, however, the suggestion that their hero’s view of the world was impaired by a mental disorder is upsetting. It undermines the idea that he knowingly shaped our understanding of pop art. ~ Vanessa Thorpe (The Guardian – Was autism the secret of Warhol’s art)

Mental disorder? I thought we were talking about autism?

Does this mean that Gary Numan fans binned their records when he ‘came out’ as autistic because it, like, totally ruined their enjoyment of “Music For Chameleons” – if Alan Partridge’s air guitar-ing hadn’t already, that is. Because Gazza had already been told he probably had Aspergers when he was 15, and it was fairy obvious that he wasn’t your average 80s pop star!

Coincidentally, “Are Friends Electric?” was the first record I ever bought- which I reckon is apt- and not just because Gary is autistic, but because most of my ‘friends’ live in my computer which makes them ‘electric’ – kind of.

While we’re on the subject of singers..

Susan Boyle was formally diagnosed in 2012. She’s one of us, and she played an absolute blinder in her audition for Britain’s Got Talent, or Britain’s Quick to Judge, as it was known back then..

Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances. … There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example. – The Washington Post

They call it a ‘parable’ of modern times. I call it one in the balls for society because, alongside Susan’s phenomenal voice, was the sound of a few million mouths hitting the floor..

I dreamed a dream in time gone by (THUD THUD THUD THUD times a few million) when hope was high and life worth living…

Susan was the favourite to win but dance troupe Diversity threw a small teenager into the air and that was that, mate. No matter, the show made Susan famous anyway and she’s still keeping in real in her ex-council four-bedroomed house – which makes me love her even more!

People have mistaken Susan’s meltdowns (caused by severe anxiety) for diva behaviour, but this lady likes a toastie before a performance and isn’t arsed about what her dressing room looks like! You want to see diva? Try Mariah Carey!

Miss Boyle also has a really great sense of humour…

“Knowing my luck I’d go out on a date and you’d find my limbs scattered around various Blackburn dustbins!”

That’s my kind of humour – dark, but funny.

Personally, I wish Susan all the very best and I’m proud of her for being her authentic self.

If people ridicule us for being ‘weird’, it’s because they’re uneducated about autism, misinformed or just boring as fuck, and instead of taking offence I suggest we take it as a compliment and reply with: ‘Thank you so much!’ and smile at them because it will freak them out, and after all, being freaky is part of the definition of weird, no?

If you’re autistic that makes you I in 100, and if people can’t deal with that – it’s their problem.

Be weird.

Be you.

Weird people are the best people.

Confessions of an Autistic Human: Communication

NT person: “The washer is broken and I feel exhausted.

Me: Yeah, my washer is on it’s way out too. It’s making a weird noise and there’s a funny smell – like’s something’s burning out? This happened before (different washer) and it turned out to be the brushes. I’ve had this one for 8 years now whereas I had my mum’s old Servis one and that lasted for 30 years! They don’t make them like that anymore do they? And I know what you mean about feeling exhausted because I’ve felt that way for almost 10 years now. I get loads of symptoms like pain, constipation, chills, and feeling dizzy. Lots of trips to see the doctor and hospital tests, including a colonoscopy where they shoved a camera up my bum, and I had to wear a funny gown which exposed my arse. They finally diagnosed it as fibromyalgia. Have you been to the doctors about the exhaustion?

Apparently, the response the average NT is looking for is, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!’.

What they get is me talking about my own experiences in a very un-filtered way which will inevitably always come back to my colon..

Why do you always have to make it about you?

I guess, on the face of it, it does look that way, but what I’m actually doing is trying to connect with people in the only way I know how because I’m useless at small talk. Not only is it a chore trying to think of the words to say, but talking about trivial stuff is like nibbling on a Ryvita when I could be oesophagus deep in a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings – except sprouts which give me shocking flatulence..

See, it’s the colon thing again!

My husband (who suffers from a raging case of neurotypicalism) struggles to understand my need to know ALL there is to know about things that interest me. He watches a film. He listens to a song. It’s a one dimensional thing. For me, it’s a multi-dimensional experience combined with an almost pathological need to know everything there is to know about a particular film or piece of music. He doesn’t understand me, and it’s hard to walk out of a cinema and not be able to geek out with a like-minded soul, you know?

Speaking of my husband..

I think I do his head in. No, I know I do because he’s told me – which is fine because I do my own head in at times. I baffle him. I can do past, current and future in one sentence, and about different subjects. To paraphrase, I throw in more curve balls than Candy Cummings – who you’d imagine is a porn star – but he was actually a 19th century baseball player!

The difference is that most autistics I know are the same as me if you’re asking them a question verbally or on the internet – you get a lot of info for your proverbial money. Generally, when I ask an NT, I get one (or few) liner responses. Now, I’ve tried this method and, bizarrely, it takes me longer to knock out a one-liner than it does to just go with my autistic flow. But I have discovered that one-liners come into their own in certain situations – such as when posting a funny picture. In this situation, it needs to be short and snappy with as few words as possible because it’s the image that needs to do the talking..

I could learn a lot from my eldest son here because he’s perfected this, and it’s hilarious. Interestingly, he’s not autistic, but my middle son (who I suspect is autistic) is more like me for saying in 10000 characters what could be said in 140. As for my diagnosed autistic dude – well he can literally steer any conversation back to Pokemon, and I do mean, any conversation! And he does it in surprisingly few moves. It’s his thing – his constant in this confusing world.

How I communicate used to bother me. It’s like I would put in so much effort to answer a question and the other person would give me a ‘Thanks’ or ignore me altogether and paranoia would kick in, especially when said person would answer everybody else but me. Then I discovered I’m autistic and that discovery led me to a world of other over-sharers, and it’s an absolute joy to have responses that match my own for word count!

The Greek meaning of autism is autos (not a car magazine) which means ‘self’, and in a way is correct, except that it also implies selfishness, and I think that a lot of us talk about ourselves and our experiences in order to connect with others. This involves empathy – you know – that which autistics lack? It’s just that we do it in about 50 paragraphs, whereas your average NT does it in one line – “Totally get this“. It does the job. It says, this has happened to me, or something similar, but the urge to start tapping away on the keyboard like some deranged lunatic overcomes me, and before I know it I’ve hit the post button..

And there it is..

..one MASSIVE paragraph amongst hundreds of one-liners.

I know I over-share, and I talk about subjects that most people won’t touch – like colons – but that’s me. It’s who I am. And if we talked about our colons and bums a bit more, then maybe fewer people would die of bowel cancer, no?

Generally, I have a lot less to say verbally, but give me a keyboard and I have plenty to say because there is a barrier between me and everybody else. I have time to choose my words and I can change them if they don’t work or I’ve used the wrong words. I can’t edit myself verbally – once the words are out there there’s nothing I can do, and it’s often the case that I don’t speak at all because it’s easier.

I don’t stumble over my words on here. If my brain freezes up mid-sentence, who is to know except me? I get to re-read what I’ve written before I put it out there.

Another beauty of blogging is that I hate writing by hand because it hurts and my writing isn’t the neatest. Sometimes it looks like a spider rolled in ink and breakdanced on the paper! My writing slants unpredictably, and when it looked this up it means: An erratic slant: Usually means a lack of flexibility.

Well that’s another autistic mystery cleared up, eh cockers!

“Not everyone is always going to like you. What impresses one person may turn another away. To thine own self be true.”
― Susan C. Young

Negative Thinking

There’s a pattern with me where my ‘mind shit’ builds up to an unmanageable level and I get me some therapy. I go. I vent. I unleash. The shit gets squashed back down again for a while. It’s like Christmas when the bins are full and you have to stamp everything down. In fact, a ‘bin’ makes an good analogy for my mind as they only seems to be crap in there!

Anyhoo, my bin’s almost full and this puts me at risk of ‘falling down the rabbit hole’ – which is a metaphor for something that transports a person into a really wonderful (or really shit state) and in my case it’s a really shit one.

Yesterday I was so overwhelmed by negativity that I had an episode of ‘situational mutism’. I hid myself away upstairs. I comfort ate. I wanted to cry – only the tears wouldn’t come. The negativity ran riot in my mind and I couldn’t do anything but lie there and let the stress hormones run feral around my body..

I remained in this state for a few hours, then the thought popped into my head to put YouTube on, and with no intervention by me, there, tucked between my over-50s exercise videos, was the ‘suggestion’ of an Eckhart Tolle video about negative thinking!

Synchronicity or what, cockers!

Say what?

Synchronicity: describes the simultaneous occurrence of events (or coincidences) which apparently have no clear cause, but are deeply meaningful.

According to Eckhart, the best way to overcome negative thinking is to live in the present moment. It’s a big ask, truth be told, because I can generally be found in the past or in the future, and neither are nice places to be, but Eckhart knows all about negative thinking and what it’s like to be a deeply miserable human being because he was one until he woke up one morning and felt less shit..

“I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marvelling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.”

Beautiful huh? Whereas, I woke up this morning to a shade of grey (and not in a sexual way) and I had to flick a dead fly off the windowsill..

“As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ‘ego’. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.”

And here lies the problem because I grew up being bullied and a whole load of other negative things which wrecked havoc on my confidence and self-esteem. I also grew up being loved by my family, but my brain has this thing going on where it only focuses on the negative memories, and I think it might be the case that I don’t consider myself worthy of happiness?

There are so many thoughts and memories that make me unhappy. They’re like limpets on rocks – an absolute bugger to prise off. But I know that deep down in my psyche is the pre-school me – and that version of me experienced what Eckhart was talking about with his epiphany – every single day.

She’s there, buried underneath all the crap. The poor fucker can’t breathe!! Help her, Autistic Soul, help her!!

My heart wants to be happy. How do I know? Well, our bodies thrive with happiness but wither with sadness. This is scientific stuff! So doesn’t it make sense to try and find my happy? And hopefully before I die?

So what makes me happy?

  • My kids (even if they’re shit at replying to my messages)
  • My husband (when he’s not being an insufferable neurotypical arsehole)
  • My lovable (and psychotic) lurcher
  • Music (the soundtrack of life)
  • Books (bury me under a pile of books!)
  • Gardening (when the pollen is low enough to get out there, like)
  • The sea (the way those waves roll in an out..)
  • My home (sanctuary)
  • Binge watching box-sets (currently on Brassic)

There are things we can do to combat anxiety and depression and bring ourselves a bit of happy. Yes, I know how hard it is to see the light when your mind is full of crap, but the potential is there.

Exercising ~ Even a short walk gets those endorphins flowing. I generally feel better after I’ve been for a walk – especially when there’s nobody else about.

Mindfulness ~ Bringing ourselves into the present by noticing the world around us instead of focusing on how shit we feel. I won’t pretend this is easy, especially with being autistic, because the world can be a scary place. But there is beauty out there too!

Doing Something New ~ Trying out something different, like photography. Anything that takes us out of ourselves – even it’s for five minutes.

Goals ~ Having something to aim for in each day, even if it’s to get that bastard big pile of ironing done!

Therapy ~ Go unleash your shit onto somebody who gets paid to listen. Fill your boots. Use ALL their tissues. Or type/write that shit down – using ALL THE SWEAR WORDS!!

Sense of Purpose ~ We all have a place in this world. We all need a sense of purpose to give our lives meaning. Mine is to be a mother, and the best one I can be. That’s my purpose. It always has been.

Focus on the Good Bits ~ Life can be EPICALLY CRAP, but try and focus on the better bits, no matter how small.

We may not have had any choice in being here. After all, we are the result of our parents swapping bodily fluids *retches* and we happened to be the best swimmers, but seeing as we are here we might as well try and make the best of our time because in the great scheme of things, it’s very brief. Like, blink and you’re dead – brief.

Today I woke up to the same old feeling of not having slept very well. I didn’t have my ‘Eckhart moment’, but I did get a lick from the lurcher in thanks for letting her outside for a piss. Now she’s fast asleep on her doggy-bed chasing imaginary rabbits and I realise that she is something to be thankful for because here is a friend who’s never made me feel bad about myself. I mean, she’d probably prostitute herself to anybody with a box of Bonios, but I like to pretend I have her undying loyalty.

So the antidote to negative thinking is to be in the present?

So for the next minute I will be ‘present‘.
Visual

I noticed that the sun has came out – changing the colour of the conservatory roof from grey to blue.
Auditory

I heard the ticking of the clock, the tinnitus in my left ear, electricity, the whirring of the fridge and freezer, and the dog’s breathing which was back to normal since she was no longer rampaging after rabbits..
Olfactory

Slightly more difficult as it’s hay fever season and my nose gets blocked, but there was no mistaking the odious smell that escaped from the Lurcher’s arse!
Taste

I tasted blood in my mouth – which means that I’m probably low on Vit D again.

That and coffee.
Touch

I noticed that my skin felt dry (probably the new soap, or age) and that my coffee was lukewarm.

Alright then Eckhart. Today I will try to be present as much as I possibly can in the hopes that it will make some room in the ‘bin’ that’s my mind.

It certainly won’t hurt to try, right?

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~ Albus Dumbledore

Confessions of an Autistic Human: Resting Bitch Face

A man came up to me in the street one day and he said, “SMILE! It might never happen!”

What might never happen?

This kind of thing happens to me a lot, and there’s a reason.

Resting Bitch Face

I have a serious resting face, otherwise known as ‘resting bitch face’ because if you’re not grinning like a lunatic 24/7, apparently you’re a bitch, and a miserable one at that.

If a man has a serious resting face, does that mean he’s got ‘resting bastard face’?

*Googles resting bastard face*

Apparently it does!

What I want to know is – where did this expectation for women to smile come from?

When a man tells a woman to smile, is it because, at a conscious or unconscious level he believes that they are subservient and exist to please him? Some might see it as a casual remark that means nothing, but what if it’s really about control? The man wanted me to smile, regardless of how I was feeling. For all he knew I could have been grieving the loss of a loved one. I wasn’t, but the point is that he had no regard for my feelings – only how my face affected him.

We only have to go back six decades to see how this was a way of life because women were generally subservient to men. Their purpose? To look after them. To keep them happy, no matter what.

Here are a few of the tips on how to be a ‘good housewife’ taken from Good Housekeeping 1955.

Be a little gay and more interesting for him. His boring day might need a lift and it is one of your duties to provide it for him.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

Be happy to see him.

*retches violently*

Obviously, ‘gay’ has a different meaning these days, but in those days it meant carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy”.

What I want to know is this: How the hell did these women manage to smile as they waited on their husbands hand and foot? Sure, the men were out earning the ‘filthy lucre’, but the wives weren’t exactly sat on their arses all day were they? They cooked, cleaned, laundried, (not a word according to WP, but it’s staying in) shopped, looked after their children, and elderly parents.  How more men didn’t end up with arsenic poisoning – I’ll never know. Can you imagine spending the morning scrubbing hard floors to have your other half walk all over them in his dirty boots whilst expecting you be a ‘little more gay’?

In contrast, I texted my other-half to inform him that the dog’s vomited all over the kitchen floor. How’s that for gay?

Thankfully, we’re no longer shackled by such chauvinist crappery – which is why I don’t appreciate random blokes walking up to me in the street and saying stuff like “SMILE. It might never happen!”

As for the annoying wedding photographer I encountered at my brother’s wedding in the early 80s..

“Are you going to give me a smile shuggie?”

Fuck off. I’m 12 years old, hormonally imbalanced to the point of murdering somebody (you, if you don’t piss off) and I’m being forced to wear a pink dress when I should be wearing jeans and an AC/DC tee shirt! Take your smile, and your camera, and SHOVE IT UP YOUR ARSE!!

P.S Don’t call me shuggie.

..is what I wanted to say, but I’m autistic, and I have the verbal communication skills of a wheelie bin – especially when stressed, let alone hormonal – so I just stood there looking like an angry blancmange..

Fair dos. The man was a wedding photographer. It was in his job description to encourage people to smile at weddings, but it’s still annoying when you’re a tomboy in the throes of adolescence, and some bloke is trying to make you smile when all you really want to do is listen to some heavy metal and get on with hating the world. You get me? Goes for school photographers too. Annoying gits. I hated school with a PASSION. Why on earth would I want to smile? Do people smile in hell? DO THEY?!!

My high school photograph was an absolute stunner: Greasy hair, angry looking acne, and an expression that one usually sees in mugshots. Needless to say, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I relocated said photo from the ancient Jacob’s biscuit tin to the bin, but not before I manically cut it up into a million pieces. But miserable school photographs isn’t just an autistic thing because I’ve seen my NT husband’s high school photograph and he looks like he’d just been given a months detention!

I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to. If I was to smile all the time, I’d be carted off to the nearest secure-unit or A & E because people might assume I’ve had some kind of seizure. We’re not meant to smile all the time – it makes your face ache.

Ironically, ‘face ache’ is a term for people who don’t smile.

‘Eh up! Here comes face-ache.’

Am I the only one who sees the ridiculousness in this? ISN’T THE WORLD CONFUSING ENOUGH!!!

Of course, we could always flash people our very best Jack Nicholson ‘The Shining’ smile. You’ve got to show them teeth, see. Top and bottom. It’s predatory. Technically, it’s a smile, but it’s a menacing one. Makes people uneasy. They can never quite work out if you’re harmless or a serial killer.

While I have become aware that I have ‘resting bitch face’, it’s not all of the time because my face does what can only be described as ‘aerobics’ when I’m talking or listening – something that I only became aware of when I saw myself on video. As much as I cringe when I see myself on camera, it’s also fascinating to see what happens to my face when it’s not in serious bitch mode. I thought it was just a quirk of mine until I saw Sara Harvey (Agony Autie) pulling off some serious facial gymnastery of her own on a video at an autism event and now I’m wondering if it may be an autistic thing? Can you relate?

When I do smile, it’s because I have reason to – not because some random bloke walks up to me in the street and demands one. I reserve my (non-psycho) smiles for the people I love because they are worth the effort. It might not be the most attractive of smiles, but it’s real – it’s me.

Plot twist: can you guess which song my mother chose for her funeral?

You got it: Smile.

Taking the piss from beyond the grave. Thanks Mum. 😉 

Not smiling makes me smile ~ Kanye West

Now That’s What I Call Autism

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I love a mixtape, don’t you? So here’s one I made just for the autistic humans..

Enjoy!

A Side

1. Don’t Stand So Close to Me ~ The Police (always been social-distancing, cockers)

2. Move Closer ~ Phyllis Nelson (for the space-invaders)

3. Too Much Information ~ Duran Duran (social media overload)

4. Anxiety ~ Good Charlotte “I am anxiety free!” (said no autistic person, ever)

5. Minority ~ Green Day “Stepped out of the line. Like a sheep runs from the herd. Marching out of time. To my own beat now” (so, up yours, haters!)

6. Senses Working Overtime ~ XTC (literally)

7. Creep ~ Radiohead But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here. (Less of the creep, Thom, but I’m with you on all the rest)

8. Are Friends Electric ~ Tubeway Army (how can anybody deny your autistic authenticity, Gary Numan?)

9. Born This Way – Lady Gaga (obvs)

10. You’re in Love With a Psycho ~ Kasabian (one for my husband)

B Side

1. 99 Problems ~ Jay Z (I got 99 problems but the Switch aint one – for the gamers)

2. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now ~ The Smiths “I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but heaven knows I’m miserable now” (‘totes emosh’, Mozzer)

3. 19th Nervous Breakdown ~ The Rolling Stones (most of us have had at least one)

4. Spinning Around ~ Kylie (literally, though not necessarily in size zero hot-pants)

5. Communication Breakdown ~ Led Zeppelin “Communication breakdown. It’s always the same. I’m having a nervous breakdown. Drive me insane! (self-explanatory)

6. Beloved Freak ~ Garbage “People lie and people steal. They misinterpret how you feel. And so we doubt and we conceal” (adoring you from afar, Shirley Manson, but not in a criminal way – I aint trawlin’ ya bins)

7. In My Room ~ The Beach Boys ( have spent the majority of my life in mine)

8. The Slightest Touch ~ Five Starr (and it feels like I’ve been punched)

9. Garden Party ~ Rick Nelson “But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself. (translation: f**k em)

10. Poker Face ~ Lady Gaga (can’t read my p-p-p-poker face)

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Confessions of an Autistic Human: Holidays

Holidays? Not a fan.

Too unpredictable.

Too unfamiliar.

Too stressful.

There are the sensory issues, like sand in sandwiches, which sounds like it belongs there, but I prefer Branston pickle in mine.

And it gets everywhere.. (sand, not Branston)

I struggle with the strange smells of caravans, hotels and cottages and also with the knowledge that thousands have upchucked, flatulated, and fornicated in these places. Not that they haven’t been cleaned in-between, obvs, but this is where my mind takes me..

Other issues include the obligatory flock of seagulls if we’re holidaying at the coast..

Flock of Seagulls. Pop group from the 80s. Questionable hair-dos?

No. I mean the beaky buggers that crap on your head and steal your chips!

Give me your f **king chips!

Is it me, or are seagulls a lot more feisty than they used to be?

I remember my childhood holidays.

That is, I remember a few of them..

I recall being crammed into musty-smelling caravans with daddy-long-legs the size of Brazil, and my parents flicking tea-towels about trying to shoo them out again otherwise there was zero chance of me sleeping..

But before all that was the monumental stress of having to choose which books to pack, as well as a few more books, and, if there was room – some more books!

Dad would see me staggering towards the car (three bags of books on each arm) and he’d say, It’s a car, not the bloody Tardis!’  But, despite the protesting, he always found room for my books, bless him.

Sometimes we stayed in a caravan, sometimes in bed and breakfast places, and It was this type of holiday accommodation that I struggled most of all, because, ya know – people.

One year we stayed at a working farm which stank of cow poo and was home to a vindictive, and exceptionally loud cockerel. It was sensory nightmare, and the only thing that kept me sane was the farm collie, who decided to be my friend, and not because I fed her sausages under the table..

In true autistic fashion my inner turmoil was reflected in the photographs which flopped through our letterbox a few weeks later. Yes cockers, you had to wait WEEKS for your snaps in those days – none of your instant malarkey! The result being that there is a tin of photographs (somewhere) where I look a miserable, sulky, and rarely looking at the camera..

I’ve got better at concealing my feelings because I know it’s not all about me, and we all have our memories to make. Even though I struggled with holidays, I’d rather have those memories than not, because Dad enjoyed them. He’s smiling in almost all the photographs he’s in, and that makes me smile too.

There are also the memories of my children on the beach, having fun, and you’d be fooled into thinking that I was having fun too if you take the photographs at face value, because I’d perfected the art of masking by then. Nowadays, holidays are very much tailored to my autistic son and I. My husband ensures it, and I’m grateful to him for that. That said, he’s not a beach person. He’s an introvert, so I guess it suits him too? He knows I don’t have the capacity to suppress what’s inside anymore, and our autistic son has never been able to, so he works with what we’re able to tolerate.

We go to the beach, but it’s for a walk, or for half an hour with a bucket and spade. It’s like taking a few chocolates out of the box instead of wolfing down the lot and making yourself sick. I get to look at the sea, and it calms me. It recharges the battery a little. Would you agree that it’s a visual stim? Because I find the rolling in and out of waves incredibly calming..

My perfect holiday is somewhere in the Scottish highlands where you can layer up to keep warm and sit by an open fire enjoying a single malt. Seasonally speaking, Autumn is best, especially when the heather paints the landscape purple. It’s like. ‘Stop the bloody car! I must get and photograph this!’ Then I have to add filters to the image because the lens never captures the hues as my autistic eyes see them.

I know the majority of NT’s must be epically frustrated at not being able to go on holiday at the moment, which is probably why they’re breaking social distancing rules and flocking to the seaside, but, at least the environment is generally having a much needed rest from humans, no?

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to think about the millions of seagulls who are presently having to survive by cracking shells on rocks, having become accustomed to cod, chips and mushy peas. This pandemic is hitting them hard too. Let’s hope they’re not too vengeful when things get back to ‘normal’.

“It came to him that he didn’t like holidays. . . . They bore down on you. Each one always ended up feeling like an exam . . .”

― Lily King, The English Teacher

Stars

Have you ever looked up and seen the stars? I mean, really, seen them?

I don’t mean the few that make it through light pollution – the ones that can be counted on one hand..

I mean the kind of stars in the picture..

The sky as it really is.

This has only happened to me twice in my life, that I remember anyway..

One of those occasions was on the coast of Scotland in a beautiful place called Crovie, and I’d had a few pints so I was probably seeing double the amount of stars that there actually were.. even so, it was pretty awesome.

But the time which blew my mind was when I was standing on a car park in Exmoor – a place which boasts the darkest skies in which to see stars..

We were only in Exmoor for four nights, and three of them were overcast, but my luck was in on the fourth day because it was cold and clear skies were forecast. Problem was that husband and son were unwilling participants on account of it being in the minus temperature wise, but I eventually won them round with the promise of a chips and sweet-tea, and who wouldn’t be tempted by a plate of hot chips on a cold winter’s evening!

An hour later, we were driving up a very windy road towards a carpark in deepest darkest Exmoor, and I didn’t know quite what I was expecting when I got out of the car, but what I saw when I looked up literally took my breath away!

I can’t think of the words which would do justice to what I saw, and I tried to take pictures with my camera phone, but every picture came out black with not a star to be seen..

FRUSTRATING!!!

However, the camera which is my brain captured the vision in all it’s ethereal glory.

It wasn’t just about the aesthetics because my experience went much deeper than what I could see because standing on that deserted carpark I felt connected to the universe and understood that everything and everybody is connected. My soul felt like it was plugged into some kind of universal mains which brings me to the final frontier – space.

Last year we celebrated 50 years since man landed on the moon..

I was yet to be born when Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind in 1969, but I was fascinated to watch the original footage. In true autistic style I trawled the television channels to find everything I could on the subject – much to the annoyance of my neurotypical husband who couldn’t understand why one 90 minute programme wasn’t enough..

Of all the footage – one photograph stayed with me.

There were three astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

The most iconic photograph is the one Neil Armstrong took which reflected himself in Buzz Aldrin’s visor, but the one which moves me is the picture that Michael Collins took which shows our planet, the surface of the moon, and the lunar module.

Every time I look at this photograph, it humbles me. This is the bigger picture. Somehow we evolved to think that some humans are better than others and as someone who is different to the ‘norm’, I know what’s it’s like to be treated as if I’m inferior to everyone else, but this picture shows us as we really are – a very small part of something beyond our comprehension.

Staying with astronauts, Dr Edgar Mitchell created IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences) in 1973 after a profound experience heading back to Earth during the Apollo 14 mission.

What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness.

Granted, I was standing on a car park in Exmoor when I had my epiphany, not travelling in space, but I guess the sense of connection was the same and I believe it’s something that we all can tap into.

I never want to forget the moment when I became one with the universe, and, no, I wasn’t on medication, pissed or having a psychotic episode. The problem is that some people believe that there’s nothing more to this world, and that’s fine, but they belittle the experiences of others in order to hold on tight to what they believe in. I’ve seen all the tactics in my time, including questioning the intelligence of those who experience such phenomena and to put this into perspective, Edgar Mitchell was a US Navy Captain and MIT-trained aeronautics engineer and the recipient of numerous honours, so he was hardly a moron, no? And I’m not saying I’m as intelligent as Edgar, because I’m not. (I wish) But this blows away the theory that you must be thick or gullible to believe this stuff, right?

All my life I’ve felt disconnected from those around me, but looking up at those stars reminded me that this is my home, and I am connected to every other human on this planet – even those who reject me. And whenever my world darkens because of illness, mental illness, or the resurgence of bad memories – I take my mind back to Exmoor and remind myself that no matter how shit life gets – the stars are always there.

I love the stars.
Because they can’t say anything.
I love the stars.
Because they do not judge anyone.
-Natsuki Takaya

 

 

Disconnect to Reconnect

The seventies was a decade of relative simplicity. It was the era before computers became affordable. It was my era. Four decades on, we are undoubtedly living in the age of technology, and there’s no question that the devices we’ve become to rely on have made our lives easier, but at what cost to our physical and mental health?

The internet has proved to be invaluable during lockdown, and no doubt many businesses will have been saved by the ability to trade online. It’s also where I found my ‘tribe’ – as in people who ‘get’ me, but there is a very dark side to the internet..

Cyber attacks.

Trolls.

The threat of ‘deletion’.

Addiction.

Fake News

Unwanted news and graphic pictures.

Katie Hopkins.

Trump.

Pervs.

When it comes to social media, the sweet little blue-bird icon on Twitter should give way to a massive vulture with bits of flesh dangling from its beak because DAMN! PEOPLE CAN BE SO NASTY!

Twitterti waiting to rip ya to pieces..

Years ago, if you wanted to piss someone off anonymously, it involved sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper, a pair of scissors and glue..

Today’s equivalent is where people make deliberately offensive or provocative online posts with the aim of upsetting someone or instigating an emotional response..

It’s known as trolling.

Basically, it’s people being vindictive arseholes and such was the level of arseholery on Twitter that I deleted my account – only to reactivate my Facebook one a few months later..

.. and now I recall why I deactivated it in the first place!

It’s not just social media that’s the problem; I’m starting to think that this digital era in general is making me ill. The screens and the amount of information in one hit -not to mention the addiction – it makes my brain hurt. Literally.

Take the mobile phone, for instance..

I’m not against mobile phones per se because I’m a female driver and I feel safer with a phone to hand (not while I’m driving, obvs) but the problem is that it’s no longer just a phone – it’s an addiction as sure as any other!

I don’t need to check my phone a million times a day. I’m not that popular. In fact, I can go weeks without anybody messaging me at all. I don’t think messaging myself counts? That’s how popular I am! So it’s habit. I mean, just how important is it that I have to see somebody’s ingrowing toe-nail or e-mails flogging me worming tablets with 10% off?

*Note to self: The dog’s been licking her arse lately. Better order those worming tabs!*

I also use my phone as a camera (when I can’t be arsed to haul my Canon about) and the photo editing app – Snapseed – is not only convenient, but the filters suit my style of photography.

WhatsApp – I love this too because I can stalk my kids and talk to the other mums at my son’s school, so yes, this is valuable to me.

But..

I want my phone to help me, not control me, and at the moment that slimline b@stard has me right under its thumb ID (not sorry) therefore I am taking steps in order to try and get some semblance of control back – such as removing the Facebook app from my phone, because if it’s not there, I can’t be tempted.

I’m also going to turn the phone off completely for a few hours each day and strive to not having it within reach – like it is now. *stares at phone*

To reconnect, I have to disconnect.

Switch it off. Put it in a drawer. You work for me now, bitch!

So, now I’m verbally abusing my phone, but that’s how I feel.

Thing is: I’m old enough to remember a time before the digital era, so I know how satisfying that feels. I feel sad that today’s generation won’t ever know that unless it’s part of an experiment. What they will know is the anxiety and depression that comes with living their lives online and constantly comparing themselves to photo-manipulated versions of people who appear to live the perfect life.

It’s not real.

I get that it’s a way of life for a generation.

I get that it gives many autistic kids (and adults) a voice that they would otherwise not have. This blog is my voice, not that many people are all that interested, but who cares? It keeps me sane.

I get the convenience.

But there is so much about it that is fake. Fake news. Fake reviews. Fake people. And the really scary thing is how many people, especially kids, believe the fakery.

On a physical level, we’re developing problems with our spine and there is a rise in the number of youngsters with back problems – this is directly due to the amount of time they spend leaning over their phones. Do you want stats?

45 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds suffer from back pain – a 60 per cent rise from last year.

Other harmful effects are as follows:

Blurred vision (I can vouch for this one)

Deafness from playing music loud in earbuds (I’m already deaf)

Sleep disorders (mobile phones, especially when used before bed, buggers up sleep patterns)

Germs (the mobile phone has more germs on it than a loo seat – 25,000 per square inch to be exact)

You’re wiping yours down now, aren’t ya?

Fitness (staring at phones isn’t a cardiovascular workout)

If you make ONE change – let it be that you don’t sleep next to your phone: Mobile phones emit radiation, even when not in use, and you don’t want that shit near your brain, especially when your body needs quality sleep to repair itself. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re having funky dreams (and not in a good way) try moving your phone away from your head and see if that improves things.

Moving on..

Kindles.

Kindles are great. Especially those 99p bargains, and who doesn’t love a bargain! But where is the joy in an electronic purchase? Standing in a book shop, inhaling the paper and ink? It’s magical. It’s like catnip to a cat. Bliss. You don’t get that with a Kindle. What you get is convenience. Part of what made growing up bearable was the fact that I got to buy a book every week and part of that joy was the visit to W H Smith. Now we have the likes of Waterstones and the big ones have cafes where you can read and sup coffee/tea/herbal/whatever at the same time!

DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?!

Ok, the other people spoil it a little, and there’s the occasional whiff of fart, but book shops are exciting places, so it doesn’t surprise me that people feel stirrings within their bowel regions whilst being surrounded by shelf upon shelf of literature! Personally, I’m far too posh to fart in public, but I’m no stranger to having to put a book down mid-browse – in order to sprint to the nearest loo!

I’m part of the digital age whether I like it or not, but I know I’m not the only person on this planet who craves simplicity. I’m sick of absorbing people’s hatred on social media, so regular disconnections are necessary to keep me from hurling myself into the river, therefore, I’m closing down all those ‘open tabs’ that drain me of my energy, creativity and faith in humanity, not to mention, positivity, and you do need a little P to battle mental and physical illness, no?

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. ~ Anne Lamott

Autistic or Neurotypical?

Glinda the Good Witch is standing before you, her magical wand poised and ready to grant you one wish, and one wish only.

Would you choose to swap your autistic brain for a neurotypical one?

The autistic community is divided as some people (like me) wouldn’t want to be neurotypical if they had the choice, whereas others would give their dominant arms not to be autistic.

I’ve just about had it, I hate my autism and I wish I was normal.

This is an actual comment on the internet. The person goes on to say that ‘he would not be bullied if he was neurotypical’ and that his ‘disorder’ is the reason he ‘barely’ has any friends’

Firstly, people are bullied for many reasons: their skin colour, hair, weight, features, sexuality, accent, shyness and a million other reasons because it gives bullies an outlet for their own self-esteem issues, and bearing in mind that we live in a world where seemingly ‘flawless’ looking people with ‘great personalities’ get trolled to death (literally) – I’d argue that being neurotypical isn’t a guarantee of happiness or acceptance.

Secondly, ‘barely’ suggests this person has at least one friend, and that’s not the same as having no friends at all.

Thirdly, what’s ‘normal’ anyway? Is there a clear definition? Does this autistic look at those who bully him and wish he was like them? I was bullied and I can honestly say that I never looked at any of those arseholes and thought to myself, ‘You know what? I wish I was more like them!’ Or does he think he’d be immune from bullying if he was neurotypical, because I’ve already covered that one – bullies will find something because the problem is with them, not us.

I think it’s incredibly sad how parents of autistic children rant and rave about how shit autism is – how they hate ‘their child’s autism’. I find it deeply offensive. I know they love their children, but how is an autistic child to love themselves when their parents come out with stuff like this? They will learn to hate autism and blame it on everything that’s wrong. They won’t understand that what’s wrong is the attitudes of others, especially their parents, who are supposed to lead by example.

Ever heard of the ‘Dark Autistic Web’? It’s a group of autistics who are unhappy with their autistic lot. They believe they would be happy if it weren’t for their autistic brains, and are generally intolerable of autistics who advocate positivity. They will block/delete anybody who points out the flaws in their ‘reasoning’, especially when it comes to self-diagnosis, but not before they’ve questioned their diagnosis and hurled a few expletives in for good measure!

I empathise with how hard life is. My life has been one long struggle and it always will be, but my sympathy only goes so far with autistics who whinge and moan about their lot while putting zero effort in.

I didn’t ask to be born!

Neither did any of us cocker!

Well, maybe we did if you believe in karma, but that’s heavy shit to be getting into..

Maybe we should do a George Bailey and visit the world as if we’d never been born?

In my case, three really great kids wouldn’t exist because I wouldn’t have been here to help create them.

If it hadn’t have been for me, my mother mightn’t have gone to the doctors early enough to find the cancer before it spread from her ovaries.

There’s a good chance that an abandoned (and very troubled) Jack Russell-cross would have been put to sleep, but I was damaged too, and I would never give on her. 17 years later, she died in my arms.

You see? I made a difference.

The bottom line is that we are here, and the imprint we leave on this planet is up to us, regardless of our parents or those who abuse us.

If we deal only in impossibilities then we won’t get very far. It’s ok to have down days. It’s ok to feel pissed off now and again. I certainly do, but it’s never about me being autistic. It’s generally about how people treat me. Ultimately, we get out of life what we put into it – regardless of conditions or disabilities.

If you think that I can’t possibly know what it’s like to struggle if I don’t hate being autistic, I wouldn’t advise it because there’s a very good chance that my life story will make yours look like an episode from In The Night Garden. It’s just that I choose not to blame all the crap that’s happened to me (and still happens to me) on my autistic brain because that’s tantamount to saying the problem is me, and why should I feel responsible for other people treating me like crap?

I wasn’t bullied at school because I’m autistic. I was bullied because kids can be arseholes – especially kids who have troubles at home, older siblings who bully them, or self-esteem issues. I refuse to take responsibility for their weakness. What they fail to understand is that it’s easy to lash out, whereas it takes courage to be on the receiving end and keep getting up.

Being neurotypical doesn’t guarantee you happiness. I know this because I knew a very funny, caring and kind neurotypical man. He had the kind of smile that could literally light up a room. One day he kissed his wife goodbye, drove to a disused petrol station and ended his life. There was no suicide note. His family will never know why he did it, but if having a neurotypical brain is the key to happiness then he would surely be alive today?

I’m autistic and I’m happy being me, and I really don’t care if it pisses other autistics off. I’m also raising my autistic son to embrace his neurological differences and not to allow anybody to make him feel bad about himself, whether it’s a self-loathing autistic or an NT with self-esteem issues. I am able to let him into the secret that eluded me for almost 40 years – that bullies are weak, and the problem is never us.

Life’s hard, no matter what kind of brain we have. It’s one massive lesson until we breathe our last, and then we get some peace in the afterlife or in annihilation – whichever theory floats your boat. But while we are here, we need to understand that, while we can’t control what happens to us, we do get to choose our attitudes.

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus: Mental Health and Me

I won’t be the only autistic who says that isolation/self-distancing isn’t a problem because I’ve been practicing them all my life..

It’s what I do.

It’s what I’ve always done.

I’m not having to work as hard at life, so the pressure is off that way, but in other ways the stress is tenfold – such as me having to #stayathome with my husband – trouble being that he suffers from neurotypicalism and those hours when he’s usually at work are when my brain processes all those minor irritations that can lead to meltdown/shutdown. It’s essential maintenance, if you like.

Thankfully, Boris & Co are letting us out of the house for daily walks and to buy necessities, like baked beans and gin. This provides some respite, but most importantly it prevents people from going temporarily insane with the stress of having to put up with their spouses/partners shit for weeks on end. The government aren’t daft: they know damn well it would be carnage if people couldn’t go out at all. CARNAGE I TELL YOU!

We’re probably in for a baby boom too, though I personally will not be contributing to that particular statistic!

I’ve been open and honest about my struggles with anxiety, and it’s no surprise that my anxiety levels are high at the moment on account of Coronavirus buggering the planet up. I don’t want to go back to mental brokenness so It’s imperative that I put into practice everything that helped me to recover before, only this time as a preventative measure.

A big part of prevention is to stay away from social media, aside my geeky groups. Let’s face it: you can’t move on Facebook/Twitter at the moment for soapboxes – which wouldn’t be so bad if people knew what they’re talking about. But there is a lot of fake news being spread by idiots. I only listen to the daily updates from the BBC, and I refuse to be drawn into the harbingers of doom on social media, and the gatekeepers who think that humour is disrespectful at a time like this’ because it’s exactly times like this when humour helps us to cope!

People lash out when they’re fearful or in pain. I get that. It’s hard not to be affected by what’s happening out there, especially with the death statistics as there are, but there’s enough shit to cope with without scaremongering. I prefer to deal with fact, rather than fiction or downright lies.

I know about fear. I know what it can do to the human body. I also know that people will be dealing with the consequences of mental illness long after this virus has gone to ground. This is why it’s so important to minimise exposure to social media and the news. Once a day is enough to get the necessary information that I need to know.

Is it necessary to trawl through numerous #staythefuckathome posts?

My dears, I am a rule follower and the rules state that I can go out for a daily walk staying local to my home, so leaving abusive messages on rocks saying, ‘If you find this, fuck off home’ makes no sense to me. It’s abusive graffiti – a crime in itself. So maybe people should consider that before attempting to take the moral high ground? The government understand the importance of exercise and fresh air on body and mind: Inactivity kills. Stress kills. Even prisoners are let out for daily exercise! This basic human right will only be taken away as a very last resort, and only because people can’t follow the very simple rules.

It’s not all gloom and doom. There is a lot of positivity out there too. People giving living room performances or free keep-fit sessions. People spending their time making sure vulnerable people in their community are looked after. It’s amazing what we can do when the chips are down. It’s just a shame that it always takes something catastrophic to remind us that ‘love’ is our default setting, not hate.

I clap for the NHS every Thursday because they really are heroes, as are all keyworkers and the milkman who delivers our milk three days a week. Kindness spreads because all the children in our street who had put rainbow pictures in the window were left an Easter egg on the doorstep. Who left them? We don’t know. It was an unexpected act of kindness and this is what the world needs right now!

It also helps to connect me to neurotypical humans in a way that I rarely get to do. When we’re all stood there clapping, cheering or honking our car horns, there is a sense of connection, and it moves me every time. I still feel self-conscious and have to remind myself how to clap every now and then. I don’t like the fact that people are looking at me either, but it’s worth it because I truly am grateful for what these keyworkers are doing. We all like to feel appreciated. It’s a human thing.

What’s happening is heartbreakingly sad, but at the very least, our weary planet is getting a much needed breather from our toxicity. Having said that, the seagulls in Blackpool are wondering where the hell all the chips have gone. They’re having to go old school and crack shells open on rocks, for goodness sake!

The bad news for the seagulls (and us) is that the government is set to extend the restrictions for at least another three weeks, and then it’s not as if things will immediately go back to how they were because we need to make sure that there isn’t a second wave of infections, hence, I think it will take a long time before we will know normality again.

I’m coping (just) by watching Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes on loop. Hubs says I’m ‘mental’, and that I have ‘the hots for Gene Hunt’, but I think it’s because it’s familiar. I know what is going to happen. It’s comforting. I don’t expect neurotypicals to understand it, but I’m guessing some autistics will?

Speaking of Gene Hunt..

Oi. Coronavirus. You’re surrounded by armed bastards!

So this is my plan to get through this most testing of times. Yes, I’m autistic and social isolation is what I excell at, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate being told I have to do it. I like going for walks. I like going to bookshops. I like having a coffee in a quiet café. I miss those things. This is affecting me too, but I know that I can choose how I react to this and I choose positivity because coronavirus cannot take that from me.

Stay safe, people.