Who Am I now?

Who Am I Now?

Insomniac is possibly the most obvious answer to that question, it is currently 3am and I am unable to sleep owing to the words that are trying to escape my head. After 2 unsuccessful hours of trying to ignore the words I really do wish I could own a pensieve Like Dumbledore. Then at least I could store the movie in my brain for a slightly less anti-social moment in order to share it. But never mind, I don’t like to sleep anyway – Yawn

So who am I now? Well in 2014 I joined a group of Women on a fabulous blog called ‘Aspie Women Speak’, our aim was to reach out and help other women who might suspect they have or been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, which is now more commonly known as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

‘But isn’t everyone somewhere on the spectrum?’ I hear you ask. Well technically the answer to that is yes since after all the clue is in the name and since Autism is considered a spectrum that goes from ‘Not at all Autistic’ to ‘Severely Autistic’ then yes technically everyone is somewhere on the spectrum. However, the occasions on which I have had this question posed to me or indeed phrased like a statement, what it illuminates to me is the complete lack of understanding that the world at large (even the ‘experts’) have around what it is like to deal with Autism on a daily basis, how it actually feels to not want to talk to anyone, yet at the same time feel terribly alone. To want to go shopping and look at beautiful things but to instantly regret that decision because you forgot it was market day and much busier than normal, or indeed maybe you wish you could cope with market day because with the high street becoming more and more full of big brand chains, the only place nowadays to blow an hour looking at independent sellers and artists work is the market or at specialised craft event which again are very busy. Christmas is coming, I would love to take the children to see one of the light switch on events that will be taking place everywhere soon, but for our combined difficulties we simply won’t cope. We recently managed a theatre visit for the first time so maybe we’ll make the pantomime this year, or maybe not we’ll have to see.

So who am I now? Well my name is FairyClare but it is also more recently BellaRose. As FairyClare I wrote a piece on Identity for Aspie Women Speak which can be found here and also here on my own page Over The Ultraviolet Rainbow. It details the personal metamorphosis that I have been through during my life up until 2014. The last 2 years have been somewhat of a rollercoaster for me and I have discovered things about myself that I wasn’t expecting, I found my diagnoses and dealt with that. I found support for my children who as a result have been able to return to mainstream education after a 2 ½ year sojourn, which is great. I found the momentum to make decisions and act upon them for the good of my family, which saw us moving 300 miles. But most importantly I think, from a personal point of view, I have gained a deeper understanding and respect for my own needs. My name is Clare Anstead, I go by FairyClare and BellaRose and I am an Autistic Adult, diagnosed with High Functioning Aspergers Syndrome.

And what does that mean? Absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Because Autism and Aspergers are so widely mis-understood there is truly no knowing how someone will react to this statement. Sometimes you get sympathy and an attempt to make you feel better about who you are. Sometimes you get spoken to like a toddler which hearing issues and a penchant for peeing in flower pots. Sometimes you get barely concealed scorn like the time I visited a new GP and she looked at my diagnoses as grounds enough to refer us to social services. Clearly I am a terrible mother because I put my children’s mental health and well-being ahead of fitting in and ticking boxes. But really none of this matters because I am still the slightly awkward woman, who loves her children and husband and puts them ahead of herself at all times. So how does that make me so different to who I was before my diagnoses? Or indeed 90% of mothers in the world for that matter.

I still play with my children and try to help them grow into strong resilient individuals, but sometimes the noise of their happiness is too much for me and I need to retreat for a while.

I still make jewellery and love sparkly things almost obsessively but I now understand why I need the colours separated and it hurts my head when the boxes are put away wrong.

I still go shopping both alone and accompanied, even with my Autistic children. Sometimes we cope marvellously and sometimes I have had to phone my husband to rescue me because I’m close to meltdown in the store.

We still attend social events but sometimes we can’t and we ask no forgiveness for that. It might be that I am having a bad day, or maybe one of the children is having a meltdown. As a family we make choices that often do not make sense to those outside and what I know today that I perhaps didn’t know in 2014 is that it’s okay to be different. I, We do not need the worlds approval to be who we are. We are who we are and we will always see the world differently to the majority of the population, and that is a cause for celebration not camouflage. I am no longer hiding who I am.

A good friend recently informed me that if you write for pleasure, not just talk about writing in attention seeking status’s, but are actively working on a project or piece, either for submission/publication or not. Then you’re a writer and to get used to it so here goes.

My name is Clare Anstead and I have Aspergers Syndrome. I choose to be FairyClare, who loves glitter and crafts and spending time with my family and I am also BellaRose, who loves books and learning and has decided to follow her words and write. I don’t yet know where this will take me but I’ll follow my path as long as it feels like the right one.

 

FairyClare / BellaRose xxx

Bleeding words: I write about why it’s hard to write

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There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”―Ernest Hemingway

I may possibly not have the same relationship with bleeding as Ernest Hemingway. While I think he’s probably intending razor blades or knives, I’m getting tides, the moon and the leg-collapsing sensation of drawing down, an organic cycle that transcends choice, desire or need and isn’t very dramatic. But it’s true there’s nothing to this kind of bleeding.

And I really wish I could write that way. I really wish there were a running tap or a tide, because nothing to me is more perplexed, trammelled, stilted and stuttering than making the little ants march across the big white spaces. For me, writing is more like wading through waist-high sludge than opening a vein.

In that case, you might reasonably be wondering why I keep on trying. Byron (I love Byron – I don’t really like Hemingway) explained, ‘If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.’ I feel that. I often empty my mind by moving these days, but it’s a different kind of emptying. Byron is right: there’s something cathartic in tipping out the trash can. At least then you can see what’s mouldering and mulching; it’s no longer silently doing its inexorable organic thing inside your head. There’s a satisfying sense of compensatory aesthetic control when the inchoate is mustered and corralled, penned into neat black lines and grammatical structures – even if all they really do is frame its essential wildness.

But for me it’s not enough just to quietly lasso a few horses. I have this desperate need to be heard, seen and truly apprehended, to know that I am not sifting away like sand through an egg-timer. It’s as if some maniacal little Führer in my head is constantly yelling, ‘Listen, all of you! Listen! Just listen! LISTEN!’ Because otherwise I don’t exist. I’m whirling and whirling away, down the plughole, over the event horizon.

So, start where you are and all that, I thought I’d excavate it a bit, this feeling: the wool in my mouth, the thick tongue, gagging, choking. Just why is it so fucking difficult? Just why?

The thing is, when I write, I do feel as if my life depends upon it, and it depends upon it being good – so I have very high standards. It has to sing for me; it can’t clunk or collapse with an exhausted sigh. Writing is something I do well or I don’t do at all – which you can see is a crippling position to begin from. Who the hell can write like that? Like it has to be perfectly finished before it’s even started?

In some ways, this urgency, this sense of life-depends-upon, begins in a response to my neurology. I think in images. I see my thoughts, all of them, and then translate them into words. A writer friend – neurotypical – once told me she was envious of what she saw as my ability to generate images in poetry. I wanted to explain to her that I don’t have to generate anything. The inside of my head is an overwhelming prolixity of multi-layered and inter-penetrating images. Images are for me the ground of consciousness. The difficulty is in sifting and sorting. It requires a huge amount of executive function, and if you’re autistic, you don’t have a lot of executive function.

The first time I heard an autistic person describe the way they think as a movie, I was puzzled. Why was this something that needed explaining? How else was there to think? I still find it difficult to imagine what it’s like to think in words or how it’s even possible. Words seem such a sophisticated product of consciousness, like an aeroplane or the iPhone, so removed from the primal mud of the source. How can they arise pristine and fully formed?

I love films (actual ones), especially when they create their own landscape and communicate mostly through it. They are for me a form of direct apprehension: visual to visual. It’s a jaw-unhingeing relaxation to inhabit this kind of instantaneous world in which meaning presses through the surface like colours in a dirty sponge and soaks unmediated into my consciousness. Sponge to sponge.

When I write, there has to be the interpolation of another surface, one that must be negotiated and surmounted, and with it comes a sense of impotence. The thing is, when you think in images, so much of everything that matters – detail, colouration, mood, tone, and a kind of slidingness between one thing and another that allows for multiplicity, for more than one thing to be true at the same time and for everything to be connected to everything else – so much of this slips though the spaces between the words, leaving you with something at best diminished, at worst tangential to its actual meaning or signifying absolutely bloody nothing.

I also feel in images. My emotional experience happens in intense, rich, brightly coloured moving pictures, saturated with metaphorical meaning. I am one of those autistic people who experiences an overwhelming amount of emotion (whereas others report feeling almost no emotion at all). There’s so much going on in here that I often feel in danger of drowning in myself, and I struggle to experience a sense of containment. Like many autistic people, I find it difficult to name and categorise emotion. Partly, this seems to be due to the sheer volume of it happening all the time. Partly, it seems to devolve from the fact that no words have been coined for many of the emotions I see-feel. They exist like outlaws beyond what is languaged, defined and accepted as a known emotional experience. I need fifty words for snow. These days, given time (I’ve practised a lot), I can usually match what I see roughly to a fully accredited word for a feeling, but it’s a very broad category that loses much of the particularity, aesthetic wonder and intensity of the actual emotion. It communicates a lot less than it leaves out, and this is mightily frustrating.

There’s something else too. It’s biographical. I came to dance, but in my family writing was considered a bit like masturbating – embarrassing and better done behind closed doors. So while I was always a secret dancer, writing became my first public practice and discipline, the first expressive form where I was witnessed. It also became the dungeon where my dancer was tied up and hidden. While I have set her fully at liberty in the world (another story), writing continues to be freighted for me with the frustration, limitation, dislocation / relocation of something that is not my first means but which had to be reached for, manipulated into. Maybe that’s why dancing is indeed for me like Hemingway bleeding: an open vein, a running tap.

Just lately I allowed myself to notice something else: writing and reading are erotic experiences. It’s the name I didn’t name of that intensity of being intimately read – by school English teachers and onwards to mentors and lovers I’ve written to. While I was fiddling around, turning the compost for this article ­–writer’s fore-play, essential to the writing act – I typed some words I like by Matthew Remski:

Language is continually overflowing its consensus meanings … When we use it playfully, it co-creates with us. But when we domesticate it to a conceptual purpose, our most serious grammar and richest vocabularies become very fragile nets through which most of the world escapes.

And as I typed, I was overtaken by this swoony, vertiginous feeling, of one thing collapsing into another – time, space and personhood. And for a moment I could not quite recollect … Who do these words belong to? To me? To you? Where did they come from? And I wondered, do you press through into another person’s consciousness when you re-write their words? Do you? Is it like lying naked, mind to mind, but still essentially unknowable? Are words really sex? Did my family get it all wrong?

And somehow I waded through the mud to the end – and the bit of writing I really love: polishing, refining. I’m autistic; I’m a details person. I have no eye for the big picture, and the process of emerging a structure is laden with anxiety for me. I can’t always bear to stay present for it. It’s got better since I embraced the associative nature of my thinking. I no longer look for lines, but drop in a pebble and follow the rippling out. And the rippling out and the rippling out … until the ripples dissolve into a sort of stillness.

threads of yogaMatthew Remski, 2012.

This post also appears on Jess’s Practice Blog.

Eccentric!

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I go through swings, huge swings, about whether or not I am Aspie, as I mentioned in my previous exploratory post.

I was in a very “Yes, I am” mode when I visited my GP a couple of weeks ago. I went armed with the screening checklist suggested by Tania Marshall, that I reblogged here. I had highlighted every trait or characteristic that I felt related to me, in yellow, plus some that I wasn’t sure about, in pink. The document is about fourteen pages long and was very colourful by the time I’d finished with my highlighter pens.

I also took my results from the RDOS and RAADS-R tests that I did online. Both showed that to varying degrees I definitely have some Aspie characteristics, plus some neurotypical ones.

My GP is lovely and open and despite a nervousness before I went, once I was in her room, it felt very easy to speak to her about it. I didn’t even have to pull out my prepared reams of papers.

However, as I live in Nottinghamshire County, she explained that getting a referral might be quite difficult. She would initially have to refer me to a psychiatrist, who if they considered I needed an assessment, would then refer me on. The psychiatrist though can refuse a referral, especially if the ‘problem’ is not hugely impacting on the patient’s life. They could deem that it is not the best use of limited funding.

The situation is very different in the City, so if I do decide I really want to be assessed, I would need to be a city resident registered with a city GP. But it is a lot more straightforward – a direct referral to the assessment team.

What I really appreciated about the experience though, was how my GP responded to me, how willing she was to accept my thinking that I might have Aspergers. The best bit of the consultation was when she said, “I don’t know if you have Aspergers, but I think you’re quite eccentric… The world needs more eccentric people.” This was said with a big beaming smile that made me feel very special and was almost as good as a diagnosis.

The Love of Dogs

Time and time again I read about how much of a positive influence dogs have on those on the Autistic spectrum. There are charities who train service dogs to help make life easier for autistics and their families. A quick google search will lead you to glowing reports of how these dogs can dramatically change the behaviour by reducing bolting and repetitive behaviour and having a  therapeutic calming effect. Service dogs can also make unfamiliar surrounds easier to cope with. However even a typical family dog can have a wonderful effect on the lives of an aspie like me.

Earlier this year I had to make the heartbreaking decision to have my 13.5 year old dog put to sleep. Her poor heart and lungs were failing and surgery could not improve (and in fact risked) her life. She was in a lot of pain and clearly very scared. The days leading up to and after her death I felt grief so intense I feared I would never be happy again. Beatie had come into my life when I was 14 years old. I had no friends in school and spent my lunch breaks hiding in the library. I was desperately lonely and needed a friend. She became my best friend. I remember times when I would walk into the kitchen sit on the floor and sob and she would just climb into my lap and sit with me. She never asked for anything more than love and gave it back unconditionally. She was there through a bad relationship and break up. When I moved out at 21 she came with me. She was the only one there with me when I paced the floor in labour with my first child, she was there through the sleepless nights that followed and the long nights alone while my husband was at work. She was a constant in a world that was always changing and letting me down. To lose that and her did and always will leave a hole.

Beatie

The timing for losing Beatie could not have been much worse as I was just beginning my assessments for aspergers and I felt that she had understood me without having to use words, something humans just cannot do. I realised I needed dogs in my life but I couldn’t bring myself to replace her and timing was not right to get a puppy. My solution was to look into volunteering at a local animal rescue and specifically work with the dogs. I went to visit the centre and decided to work one day a week. The following week I started my first day and cannot believe how quickly the day passed. I came home caked in mud, stinking of dogs with a huge grin plastered on my face. Being around those dogs and doing my bit for them while they waited to find someone who would love them forever is just what I needed. One dog though stood out and I spent the next 5 weeks desperate to see him again and couldn’t resist saying hello and stroking his ear every time I passed him.

Amos

When I first lay eyes on Amos something connected. I couldn’t resist his puppy dog eyes and how he leaned against the bars when I stroked him. Each week I headed to him first to say hello and hated saying goodbye. Now people often say to me ‘Don’t you want to take them all home?’ I can say with certainty that I don’t I think they are all great but I don’t become attached because I feel each dog will find a family right for them. As the weeks went by I became more and more attached to him I kept saying ‘If I could take him home I would, but not sure how he would be with the kids.’ After 5 weeks my husband decided to speak  to the rescue owner about meeting Amos himself and then him meeting the girls. I went into research mode and realised lurchers made great family pets due to their laid back nature and not needing huge long walks. Amos was still young so he would also enjoy playing with the girls. Turns out I was right his meeting with the girls went better than expected and he soon moved in.

11 weeks on and he has become a wonderful companion. I have found his calm, or perhaps lazy nature very settling and enjoy him lying with me in the evening and stroking his soft fur or floppy ears. I have had some really sad days recently and he still hasn’t failed to make me smile with a goofy sleepy face, trying to navigate his lanky legs at high-speed around the garden or just by knowing I found him when we needed each other. He has brought the family together and there is far more laughter in the house. We also go out every day because we have to, before I struggled to get up at weekends and was happy to not battle my daughter (who also has ASD) to get dressed. Being out in the fresh air is great for me and I enjoy walks with just the two of us and actually enjoy talking to other dog walkers, because they just want to talk about dogs and that I can handle. The thing I most enjoy about Amos being in my life is how he shows just how much he loves me without ever having to say so. He jumps up at the window to watch me leave he even cries a little. When I come home his tail is always wagging and he jumps up to greet me. Such simple easy signs that tell me ‘I love you, I am grateful to have you in my life, please don’t leave.’ Many times in my life I have felt so unwanted and rejected and I constantly fear that other people will desert me. Dogs don’t make me feel that way at all they give a companionship that is unconditional and selfless. 10386970_614632215299524_1697944607689440306_o  10298313_623208937775185_2096340640871620590_o963956_596781167084629_7250722920316789748_o 10336739_621440387952040_7545368479214423092_n 10339724_601777806584965_7434333288995101884_n 10344876_606619182767494_3994948099965369734_n 10372531_607612236001522_3707040937508802450_n

Who are you?

I look in the mirror
Who is this I see?
Is it you?
Or is it me?
I don’t recognise myself
Sometimes.
The shell shows a face
Put on for the world.
This person who works,
And talks and contributes,
Sometimes.
The reality is still there
Inside of me
The scared little girl
Staring in wonder at the world,
Unsure of everything
Retreating to a safe place
A quiet place.
The park and the fields
Listening to the bird song,
Marvelling at the trees
For sanity and peace of mind.
Not sure what to do
Who she is
Or where she belongs.
Goes out, what is this?
Small talk, a mystery
Noise, a tragedy
Interaction, scary
Does not last long ~
Have to get home.
Peace, quiet
My lovely, cuddly dog
Home
Wonderful.
There I am ~
Found me.

Aspienwomen: Adult Women with Asperger Syndrome. Moving towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome

I am sure that most if not all women who seek out blogs about being a woman with Asperger’s will have come across Tania Marshall, her books and her blog.

But just in case you haven’t seen this screening list of characteristics for female Aspies, I am reblogging it here.

Tania A. Marshall, M.Sc.

shutterstock_94805260book series2

Aspienwomen : Adult Women with Asperger Syndrome. Moving towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome (Updated May 10, 2014)

The following list is an official detailed working screener document consisting of the unique characteristics and traits of adult women with Asperger Syndrome, or Aspienwomen. It is not a research-based formal assessment tool. This list comes from the many female women I have worked with over the years. I have assessed, observed, diagnosed and worked with hundreds of girls and women of all ages. This document is based on my clinical anecdotal evidence and research by other well-known professionals. I will be modifying and/or updating this list from time to time. This list was written from my reflections, observations and experience, and is written in no particular order. No-one person needs to have every trait, and it is rare that a person would identify with every trait. ***Please be mindful that…

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Aspie Women traits – an unofficial checklist from Samantha Craft

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ASPERGERS

Females with Aspergers Non-Official Checklist
By Samantha Craft of Everyday Asperger’s, March 2012

This is a non-official checklist created by an adult female with Asperger’s Syndrome who has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. Samantha Craft holds a Masters Degree in Education. Samantha Craft does not hold a doctorate in Psychiatry or Psychology. She has a life-credential as a result of being a female with Asperger’s Syndrome and being a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has created this list in an effort to assist mental health professionals in recognising Asperger’s Syndrome in females.

This list was compiled after nine years of readings, research, and experience associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. More information can be found at http://aspergersgirls.wordpress.com © Everyday Aspergers, 2012. For more detailed information about female Asperger’s traits, visit this blog post.

Suggested Use: Check off all areas that strongly apply to the person. If each area has 75%-80% of the statements checked, or more, then you may want to consider that the female may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

thinking statueSection A: Deep Thinkers

1. A deep thinker
2. A prolific writer drawn to poetry
3. Highly intelligent
4. Sees things at multiple levels including thinking processes
5. Analyses existence, the meaning of life, and everything continually
6. Serious and matter-of-fact in nature
7. Doesn’t take things for granted
8. Doesn’t simplify
9. Everything is complex
10. Often gets lost in own thoughts and “checks out” (blank stare)

Section B: Innocent

1. Naïve
2. Honest
3. Experiences trouble with lying
4. Finds it difficult to understand manipulation and disloyalty
5. Finds it difficult to understand vindictive behaviour and retaliation
6. Easily fooled and conned
7. Feelings of confusion and being overwhelmed
8. Feelings of being misplaced and/or from another planet
9. Feelings of isolation
10. Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone

Section C: Escape and Friendship

1. Survives overwhelming emotions and senses by escaping in thought or action
2. Escapes regularly through fixations, obsessions, and over-interest in subjects
3. Escapes routinely through imagination, fantasy, and daydreaming
4. Escapes through mental processing
5. Escapes through the rhythm of words
6. Philosophises continually
7. Had imaginary friends in youth
8. Imitates people on television or in movies
9. Treated friends as “pawns” in youth, e.g., friends were “students,” “consumers,” “soldiers”
10. Makes friends with older or younger females
11. Imitates friends or peers in style, dress, and manner
12. Obsessively collects and organises objects
13. Mastered imitation
14. Escapes by playing the same music over and over
15. Escapes through a relationship (imagined or real)
16. Numbers bring ease
17. Escapes through counting, categorising, organising, rearranging
18. Escapes into other rooms at parties
19. Cannot relax or rest without many thoughts
20. Everything has a purpose

Section D: Comorbid Attributes

1. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
2. Sensory Issues (sight, sound, texture, smells, taste)
3. Generalised Anxiety
4. Sense of pending danger or doom
5. Feelings of polar extremes (depressed/over-joyed; inconsiderate/over-sensitive)
6. Poor muscle tone, double-jointed, and/or lack in coordination
7. Eating disorders, food obsessions, and/or worry about what is eaten.
8. Irritable bowel and/or intestinal issues
9. Chronic fatigue and/or immune challenges
10. Misdiagnosed or diagnosed with other mental illness and/or labeled hypochondriac
11. Questions place in the world
12. Often drops small objects
13. Wonders who she is and what is expected of her
14. Searches for right and wrong
15. Since puberty, has had bouts of depression
16. Flicks/rubs fingernails, flaps hands, rubs hands together, tucks hands under or between legs, keeps closed fists, and/or clears throat often.

hyperboleSection E: Social Interaction

1. Friends have ended friendship suddenly and without person understanding why
2. Tendency to over-share
3. Spills intimate details to strangers
4. Raised hand too much in class or didn’t participate in class
5. Little impulse control with speaking when younger
6. Monopolises conversation at times
7. Bring subject back to self
8. Comes across at times as narcissistic and controlling. (Is not narcissistic)
9. Shares in order to reach out
10. Sounds eager and over-zealous at times
11. Holds a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings inside
12. Feels as if she is attempting to communicate “correctly”
13. Obsesses about the potentiality of a relationship with someone, particularly a love interest
14. Confused by the rules of accurate eye contact, tone of voice, proximity of body, stance, and posture in conversation
15. Conversation can be exhausting
16. Questions the actions and behaviours of self and others, continually
17. Feels as if missing a conversation “gene” or thought-“filter”
18. Trained self in social interactions through readings and studying of other people
19. Visualises and practices how she will act around others
20. Practices in mind what she will say to another before entering the room
21. Difficulty filtering out background noise when talking to others
22. Has a continuous dialogue in mind that tells her what to say and how to act when in a social situations
23. Sense of humour sometimes seems quirky, odd, or different from others
24. As a child, it was hard to know when it was her turn to talk
25. She finds norms of conversation confusing.

Section F: Finds Refuge when Alone

1. Feels extreme relief when she doesn’t have to go anywhere, talk to anyone, answer calls, or leave the house
2. One visitor at the home may be perceived as a threat
3. Knowing logically a house visitor is not a threat, doesn’t relieve the anxiety
4. Feelings of dread about upcoming events and appointments on the calendar
5. Knowing she has to leave the house causes anxiety from the moment she wakes up
6. All the steps involved in leaving the house are overwhelming and exhausting to think about
7. She prepares herself mentally for outings, excursions, meetings, and appointments
8. Question next steps and movements continually
9. Telling self the “right” words and/or positive self-talk doesn’t often alleviate anxiety
10. Knowing she is staying home all day brings great peace of mind
11. Requires a large amount of down time or alone time
12. Feels guilty after spending a lot of time on a special interest
13. Uncomfortable in public locker rooms, bathrooms, and/or dressing rooms
14. Dislikes being in a crowded mall, crowded gym, or crowded theatre.

princess and peaSection G: Sensitive

1. Sensitive to sounds, textures, temperature, and/or smells when trying to sleep
2. Adjusts bedclothes, bedding, and/or environment in an attempt to find comfort
3. Dreams are anxiety-ridden, vivid, complex, and/or precognitive in nature
4. Highly intuitive to others’ feelings
5. Takes criticism to heart
6. Longs to be seen, heard, and understood
7. Questions if she is a “normal” person
8. Highly susceptible to outsiders’ viewpoints and opinions
9. At times adapts her view of life or actions based on others’ opinions or words
10. Recognises own limitations in many areas daily
11. Becomes hurt when others question or doubt her work
12. Views many things as an extension of self
13. Fears others opinions, criticism, and judgment
14. Dislikes words and events that hurt animals and people
15. Collects or rescues animals (often in childhood)
16. Huge compassion for suffering
17. Sensitive to substances. (environmental toxins, foods, alcohol, etc.)
18. Tries to help, offers unsolicited advice, or formalises plans of action
19. Questions life purpose and how to be a “better” person
20. Seeks to understand abilities, skills, and/or gifts

Section H: Sense of Self

1. Feels trapped between wanting to be herself and wanting to fit in
2. Imitates others without realising
3. Suppresses true wishes
4. Exhibits codependent behaviours
5. Adapts self in order to avoid ridicule
6. Rejects social norms and/or questions social norms
7. Feelings of extreme isolation
8. Feeling good about self takes a lot of effort and work
9. Switches preferences based on environment and other people
10. Switches behaviour based on environment and other people
11. Didn’t care about her hygiene, clothes, and appearance before teenage years and/or before someone else pointed these out to her
12. “Freaks out” but doesn’t know why until later
13. Young sounding voice
14. Trouble recognising what she looks like and/or has occurrences of slight prosopagnosia (difficulty recognising or remembering faces)

?????Section I: Confusion

1. Had a hard time learning others are not always honest
2. Feelings seem confusing, illogical, and unpredictable (self’s and others’)
3. Confuses appointment times, numbers, or dates
4. Expects that by acting a certain way certain results can be achieved, but realises in dealing with emotions, those results don’t always manifest
5. Spoke frankly and literally in youth
6. Jokes go over the head
7. Confused when others ostracise, shun, belittle, trick, and betray
8. Trouble identifying feelings unless they are extreme
9. Trouble with emotions of hate and dislike
10. Feels sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt her
11. Personal feelings of anger, outrage, deep love, fear, giddiness, and anticipation seem to be easier to identify than emotions of joy, satisfaction, calmness, and serenity
12. Situations and conversations sometimes perceived as black or white
13. The middle spectrum of outcomes, events, and emotions is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. (All or nothing mentality)
14. A small fight might signal the end of a relationship or collapse of world
15. A small compliment might boost her into a state of bliss.

Section J: Words and Patterns

1. Likes to know word origins
2. Confused when there is more than one meaning to a word
3. High interest in songs and song lyrics
4. Notices patterns frequently
5. Remembers things in visual pictures
6. Remembers exact details about someone’s life
7. Has a remarkable memory for certain details
8. Writes or creates to relieve anxiety
9. Has certain “feelings” or emotions towards words
10. Words bring a sense of comfort and peace, akin to a friendship

Executive Functioning – This area isn’t always as evident as other areas (Optional)

1. Simple tasks can cause extreme hardship
2. Learning to drive a car or rounding the corner in a hallway can be troublesome
3. New places offer their own set of challenges
4. Anything that requires a reasonable amount of steps, dexterity, or know-how can rouse a sense of panic
5. The thought of repairing, fixing, or locating something can cause anxiety
6. Mundane tasks are avoided
7. Cleaning may seem insurmountable at times
8. Many questions come to mind when setting about to do a task
9. Might leave the house with mismatched socks, shirt buttoned incorrectly, and/or have dyslexia
10. A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming
11. Trouble copying dance steps, aerobic moves, or direction in a sports gym class
12. Has a hard time finding certain objects in the house, but remembers with exact clarity where other objects are.

This non-official checklist can be printed for therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, professors, teachers, and relatives, if Samantha Craft’s name and contact information remain on the print out.

 

Conflict within myself

Over the past few months of personal exploration since my Aspergers diagnosis, I have been slowly coming to understand myself and even more slowly trying to make peace with myself! I have increasingly noticed how I seem to be in conflict with myself in so many ways. 

I have serious difficulty in being organised, but I aspire to be organised! Well actually, I not only aspire to be organised, I need to be organised in order to function! I crave organisation! I need my space to be tidy, and I need to be on top of the housework, and also on top of paying the bills etc. If my space is not tidy, the inertia takes over and I can’t do anything. I become distracted by just about anything. The more I have to do, the less I can do. So rather than being able to relax and not bother, I spend the majority of my life feeling stressed and unhappy. (In comparison my partner is very happily disorganised and very relaxed living in mess!)

Another conflict is my inability to study and learn in a ‘normal’ fashion. Again, whilst some people are quite happy and content with their lot, I am striving desperately to achieve what I believe I should be capable of. Having previously come to the conclusion that I was just stupid, I now know that isn’t the case, but it feels like I am striving for something that is not within my capabilities, due to my ADD type distractibility, communication issues, lack of assertiveness and low self-esteem. Part of me knows I should be grateful for what I have achieved and everything I have in life, but another part feels that I have been completely overtaken by people of equal and lesser ability. Whilst having Aspergers could be used as an explanation / excuse, it still does stop my drive and ambition and the constant feeling of, despite my achievements, having failed somehow.

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Adult Diagnosis

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A week ago I sat in a room with my Psychiatrist and listened to her tell me that she agrees that I fit the criteria for Aspergers Syndrome. I can’t remember much of what was said after that because all I wanted to hear were those words. I had spent months leading up to that day. From the moment I told my husband I was going to seek a diagnosis to the day I visited my GP to the day I had an assessment. I still thought I was wrong and I was somehow broken by a life of disappointment and rejection from others. Leading up to my feedback appointment my nights were filled with panic attacks and little sleep.

I was so full of panic thinking that I may be told that I am not an Aspie that I hadn’t prepared myself for being told that I am.  I thought I would feel a total wash of relief and vindication and that I would stop hating myself for all my flaws. Instead panic set in. I could only see all the mistakes I had made, all the misjudgements and all the time I had felt so totally alien to the rest of the world. I dreaded the rest of my life being just the same. I felt total despair at the sheer misery I feared lay ahead of me now that I realised I couldn’t be ‘fixed’.

One of the misconceptions of autistics is that they do not want friends and are happy alone, don’t get me wrong a lot of Aspies enjoy their own company and I do too, however that is not the same as the loneliness imposed on so many of us. The loneliness I feel when I sit in a busy room and I do not now how to join in or start a conversation, when I see others going to events I am not invited to, when others laugh and joke and I never seem to be in on the joke but worst of all the loneliness I have imposed on myself because years of rejection makes me back out of chances to make friends.  That loneliness is the thing I fear most for my future.

It is so hard to look ahead and not be afraid, yet to deal with fear I try to plan ahead. For now I have to try to live in the now and not allow my thoughts drift while I try to find where aspergers fits into my life.

 

A personal exploration

I want a record of my exploration of wether or not I have Aspergers.

I am still very much questioning and like our header photo, I swing to and fro – one day believing and convinced that I am Aspie, the next feeling like a total fraud, a wannabe, or heaven-forbid, an NT with a few Aspie traits. I don’t know why that seems so bad, but somehow it does. I guess it’s neither fish nor fowl. I would not belong to either group and therefore feel even more ‘different’ and like I don’t fit in than I always have.

My initial steps of exploration came as a result of hearing of the diagnosis of two fairly significant people in my life. An old friend from many years ago in London, who now lives in Australia, was visiting me two years ago and “came out” as being Aspie. She had only recently been diagnosed as a 50+ year old adult. It helped her make sense of a lot of issues she had faced in her life. Not long after that, my brother’s three year old son, my nephew, was diagnosed as having Sensory Processing Disorder, or as I prefer to call it, Sensory Processing Difference, which is on the autism spectrum.

As my friend explained what it meant for her, I noticed a lot of things she said rang true for me. So I began to explore further. I took some online tests, which were difficult to complete as I couldn’t be sure that my responses were from my genuine self or my learnt self – learnt behaviour to allow me to fit in better. And for some I really didn’t know what my answer was, such as this: “If there is an interruption, can you quickly return to what you were doing before?“, or “Are you good at interpreting facial expressions?. Can I, can’t I? Am I, aren’t I? When I get to questions like these I end up questioning everything and get caught in a swirl of indecision, confusion and self-doubt.

So whatever the results, I was bound to be slightly sceptical. The results seemed to show me as being mildly Aspie – just over the borderline, which is kind of confusing to be honest. I’ve done a few other tests since, which all seem to show that I am over the threshold for having Aspergers, but I also have a lot of NT traits, abilities. If this doesn’t make me feel like even more of a chameleon…!

Fortunately, I have found a group of other Aspie women, with whom I can share my thoughts and feelings and gain support, especially around the self-doubt and confusion. And I’m learning to accept that this swing of certainty to uncertainty is part of the exploration process.

I shall write more about my journey, but for now, this is just an introduction.