Today is the 2nd January and the whole school fiasco is making me feel anxious. I need to plan. I need to be able to sort out my school and the kids school and everything in between. There are so many different things going through my mind that at the moment I dont want to do any of them.
My washing machine has given up the ghost and I havent even finished paying for it. I am starting to wonder what normal even looks like any more.
I read an amazing article the other day about a late diagnosis. Things have not been going to well at work and I am wondering if a diagnosis would be helpful or even give me an insight into what I am doing wrong. What do I need help with?
Take work. At the end of the day I am frazzled. Sensory overload is hitting me big time. I dont react well to the overhead flourescent lights or the other lights that seem to be on all the time. I work with lovely but oh so loud people who just dont stop talking. Its constant noise and constantly having to filter out the noise and concentrate on what people are saying is draining. So when I say frazzled its not the normal run of the mill tired at the end of the day.
I am also conscious of the differences in how people treat me and how they treat other people. I try to mimic other people and believe this is called masking. I am currently reading amongst the many books I am currently reading ” Helping you to identify and understand Autism Masking” by Emma Kendall. I have it on my kindle but have not yet gotten around to reading it so can only guess that this fitting in behaviour and mimicking is part of the masking. See this article Autistic girls going undiagnosed due to ‘camouflaging’ behaviour, study says | Autism | The Guardian for an explanation of what is going on and how it affects girls more than boys.
I decided to go for a diagnosis. At the age of nearly 50 I am surprised that it has taken this long for someone to say “hey you know what …..” but instead it has been more of a guilt trip mental problem character assassination type thing. Reading the article and the associated research https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-020-04615-z has shown how it is easy to miss this. I can completely understand how exhausting it is to try and be something you are not day in day out. I am exhausted. I try so hard to understand, to be pleasant and be sociable. That’s what girls do. Isn’t it? But wow I would just love to be accepted as my authentic self.
In some ways its more defined for boys. I find myself masking all the time trying to fit in. I once described it as getting ready for work. You put your work clothes on which are different to the clothes you wear when you go out to the shops, and in the same way you dig out your work personality, your agreeable person personality. It has taken me a long time to understand that that person is not me. Not my authentic self to the point that i thought that I had a personality disorder. Sometimes I actually am not sure what I actually like or what the influence of those around me makes me think i like.
So I decided to go for my diagnosis at the end of the year. What timing! Just as COVID explodes once again. I phoned the doctors as that is the only way I can get a diagnosis. There must be a better way surely. I am not ill! I dont have a personality issue as such Im just a cat in a world run by dogs! Im different and it feels a bit clinical and well just weird to be having to go to the doctor and justify why I think I should get a diagnosis.
I know its difficult at the moment but it felt at odds. Then again it felt exactly the same as always you dont fit in, you are different, you dont get it … and so on. I have to forward my proof. I did a screening test on the internet (well thats what I called it) and it seems I am an expresso coffee .. not really it was about 200 questions that I tried to answer as honestly as I could. I will email the doctor that and wait…. Im not holding my breath.
The really ironic thing is that I work literally around the corner from the place that would do the diagnosis. I walk past it on the way to work and yet its going to be years before it comes to my turn. I am going to have to save £3000 to get a private diagnosis at the same place. I will have to see what is in Gods plan I think.
Cant seem to rationalise this one out and plan as per my usual strategies.
So cant wait to see what the new year brings. Cognitive psychology and masking research 🙂
Today I went for coffee. It’s Saturday and my husband and I usually try and go for a cup of coffee. We sneak off by ourselves! We haven’t been able to do it recently due to all the Covid restrictions, but it is one of my greatest loves in the world so it was nice to be able to escape the house and work and go somewhere different.
We just drove with nowhere in particular in mind as I wanted somewhere outside and preferably near the river. I find the river very relaxing and it has always been somewhere that I have found to be peaceful. The softness of it all and the way the light hits the flowing water is beautiful.
So we drove to a little place called Teapot Island. It was a bit of a gamble but the sign outside said that it was open. We parked up and the weather was that horrible drizzle that doesn’t really worry you but everything feels wet and damp and cold.
Having wet hair is one of my main triggers. I can cope with feeling cold or damp or wet… just … if it is on my body. A combination of the two leads to rising agitation that becomes difficult to control usually ending in panic and frustration and approaching a meltdown. Get my hair wet and cold and its full scale meltdown all for the want of a hairdryer!!
Today wasn’t a bad day though and the walk to the cafe was short and the rain was holding off. On the way to the cafe we had to cross the river over a little wooden bridge that had obviously been there a while. Trees and odd looking plants were overgrowing the banks of the river, a patchwork of greens and yellows. Emerald trailing weeds in the river rippled in time with the current of the river and then there was a flash of movement.
This is the beautiful stretch of river that we had to cross. It was a shame the weather was not better as it is stunning to walk along the banks and just take in the beauty of nature.
It was so rewarding to see the little fish darting in and out of the weeds. I wasn’t able to see them at first they were so perfectly camouflaged. Then they revealed themselves and swam up the river back to their hiding place under the bridge. I could have stayed there longer but it was time to move on and get coffee!
The cafe had outside seating under a giant canopy. It reminded me of a fancy wedding. Small groups of people all sat around tables spaced apart and talking. There were dogs there who were amazingly well behaved. They wore little bandanas around their necks with interesting patterns on them. I was so impressed with them. My dog would have eaten everything in sight and then guilt tripped everyone around into feeding him with his big eyes and his longing stare.
Underneath the canopy there was just enough shelter to keep me from getting damp and wet but still leave you feeling that you were in the open air. The fresh air was most welcome after the blistering heat of the last week. My husband knows me pretty well know and we chose a table with space around it. I have loved lockdown and covid in some ways as I am no longer forced to endure close contact with strangers in cafes and coffee shops. I actually quite like social distancing.
This is clearly pre Covid but the tables are placed under a large canopy so you can eat out or have coffee by the river
I am always aware of people around me. I always end up getting sucked into their conversations regardless of how loud they talk or what they are talking about. Its like my own special radar. Once I’ve locked onto a conversation my brain automatically searches it out and tries to follow it.
It becomes too much though. Five conversations were going on. I was trying to talk to my husband, be in the moment with him and yet I couldn’t help listening to the conversation about the melting cheese on the cheese on toast or the conversation about how the woman calling the order numbers sounded like she had said 51 instead of 31. And so on.
If I am by myself I live for listening to the conversations of other peoples lives. I find it fascinating. When you are with others though it appears rude and the whole effort of trying to tune them out is wearing. I could feel myself starting to get that irritable feeling that says you are hitting sensory overload.
I started to feel cold and the talking was starting to get to me. I know I am sensitive to noise and there are times when I just want to scream at people to shut up because they are just constant noise. And thats unfair to them because in reality they aren’t being loud or obnoxious. The daylight had changed to the overcast blue light that makes me squint and guarantees a headache if Im lucky and a migraine if its bad.
We left and went back over the bridge. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be able to not worry about the information bombarding my senses. What would the coffee experience be like then? Would I find it as satisfying though. I think the hissing of the coffee machine and the general ambience of the place, the murmuring of the people and the comfy seats all adds up to the experience that I find enjoyable. Maybe I would lose that. I wonder sometimes though…
When we get back to the car my head is hurting and I feel tired, fresh air exhausted but ok. Im not driving. That would have been too much concentration and my headache would have been impossible.
I have had a good day. Not only did I go for coffee but I also managed to obtain an introduction to psychology book. A wonderful woman on Facebook responded to my request for anyone clearing out old text books. I figured that this would be a good time of year for people after exam results were published. She had the exact thing I was looking for. I am always impressed and astounded at the synchronicities in life.
Last but not least…..
After my first post yesterday I was surprised to see that some people had liked my post. One of these emails was from “Actually Autistic Blogs List” and I thought I would look at some of the blogs that were listed there. Well… The list was substantial and it made me realise that there are many people out there that have written about their experiences and ideas. In a strange way I feel reassured and empowered knowing that there are lots of people just like me. So I have been improving my blogging skills and trying to add the link in here. I have not had a chance to look through the many many blogs listed but am looking forward to the chance to explore the site and the blogs in more detail. I might even get to add this one.
I found that I was “procrastinating” and not actually managing to get anything started. It wasnt that I didnt want to, it just seemed all a bit too much… In fact it seemed that the more I tried to sort things out and make a plan to get things done, the harder it seemed for me to actually start.
It seemed to me, that I was wallowing in anxiety and yet this didn’t quite fit. I wasn’t so much worrying about what I had to do, it was more overthinking to the point of paralysis.
I spoke to Helen and told her that my “start” button was broken and that I was ok once I started a task but actually getting started was the sticking point. We then went on to talk about the executive function ?
So my plan for tomorrow is to do more research on the executive function but my executive function is what controls starting tasks.
I was feeling a bit down as I had been feeling that being Neuro divergent was not a positive thing to be and that it was just making my life damn hard. I was so overwhelmed with all the things that were sneaking up on me such as buying school uniform, going back to school myself and all the other little things that seemed to be yelling at me for attention. Which one do I start with first? Which one was most important?
I decided that Bills school uniform was always a difficult one for me with the notoriously bad time keeping and estimation that I possess. While I thought that it was just me and that it was a fatal character flaw that I really should have grown out of by now, I believe it is part of the ASD.
So we discussed funneling and chunking and how this simple method can break the tasks down.
I started with writing the task – Buy Bill’s uniform – at the top of the page and the date by which I wanted to achieve my goal. I then thought of the first thing that I needed to do. This turned out to be finding the letter that told me what the school uniform consisted of. I had a fairly good idea that it was in my folder but …. then again it could be in any of my “safe” places.
I then proceeded to carry on and break down the task or “chunk” the task into manageable steps and stages. This took the huge mess of thoughts out of my head and organised them into a coherent framework.
The one big thing that I forgot to do???? I forgot to congratulate/praise myself after each stage. ‘We get so carried away sorting it out that we dont realise the struggle and the effort that goes into organisation of thoughts that avoid the dreaded overwhelm.
Disaster averted but important and life changing lesson learnt. I may have to work a little bit harder at certain things but i wouldnt change myself now I know that who I am is so linked with what I am.
I still find it hard to label myself as Aspie or Aspergers or autistic but for the first time ever I feel that this makes sense of who I am.
I was listening to the life story of Oliver Sacks a great neuroscientist who carried out research into migraines and then wrote up some of the case studies into a book. What an interesting person he was. I completely identified with him and found his life fascinating. I was in awe of the work he did and I have decided that I am going to read “the man who thought his wife was a hat” ( I will check the proper title in the morning)
So my current reading list is getting longer and longer and the holidays are running out!! But Im loving all of it. The whole psychology and sociology and everything is so very very fascinating. I have now signed up for 3 Open University courses. One is a basic introduction to psychology, one is criminal psychology and one is using a time line app that allows you to investigate the history of psychology and see all the different links to discoveries.
I aim to complete at least one of them before i go back to school. But I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself and am upset that I have to go to sleep. I have not felt this excitement about finding out about something new for a long time.
I am waiting for my bracelets to arrive from Amazon tomorrow as I ordered two to help with the stimming in meetings rather than twirling my hair like a five year old or twisting my rings.
So pictures of my bracelets tomorrow and progress report on how my chunking and funnelling is working out and if my bracelets arrive in one piece!