I Am Lucky To Be Autistic. You Shouldn’t Have To Be.

So much this.

I got my autism diagnosis this year, aged 31, after struggling for years with so many things. I was a high flier at school and university, struggled through a PhD with very limited support, and no-one noticed or suggested it as a reason for my struggles. I went to primary school in the 90s and Asperger’s was not a diagnosis they considered for girls who were spectacular at learning (Gifted! Woo!) but sucked at making and _keeping_ friends.

Aut of Spoons

Three years ago I knew almost nothing about autism. I didn’t know what sensory sensitivities were, what a meltdown was, or why a weighted blanket might be someone’s lifeline. I had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, anorexia, and subclinical borderline personality disorder. I had been in therapy for almost seven years, including two intensive programs, multiple groups, individual therapy, and family therapy.

Three years ago I would have laughed if you told me I was autistic. No therapist had ever suggested the diagnosis to me. I’m highly emotional, not analytical. I’m overly sensitive, not someone with flat affect. I’m highly successful in school, I don’t struggle at all.

Here I am three years later with an autism diagnosis that makes sense of my life in a way that no prior diagnosis ever has. And I have to be honest; it was luck and privilege that got me this diagnosis. Not…

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Happy BiVisibility Day!

I’m here and I’m queer! Get used to it!

I’m bisexual, not invisible.

Just because I’m in a long-term (6 years and counting) relationship with a cishet man, doesn’t mean I’m any less bisexual.

I still regularly get crushes on women and that’s ok too.

I’m happy with who I am these days, which as a nearly 30 yo cis woman, is actually a pretty great achievement. I came out to myself age 21, and out to most of my friends not much later. Coming out to most of my family took another 3-4 years. It took a lot of searching to figure it out initially, and a lot of self-forgiveness and gentleness as I emerged from a Chruch of England and Evangelical religious upbringing.

Point is, it’s do-able. It’s possible to be bi, and an adult, and have it not be a phase. It’s possible to be happy and comfortable with that too. I don’t always manage it but it’s not doom and gloom, it’s a thing to be proud of and to celebrate.

Here’s to BiVisibility Day 2018!

2017 Was a Year of Mourning

We Got So Far To Go

It’s the new year! Hey 2017. Good to see you.

I have a lot of friends who are not fans of 2016. I agree with them on many fronts about the dumpster fire of the last year. 2016 was objectively one of the hardest years I have ever had on a personal level. There was simply too much happening. Some of it was amazing, but some of it was truly horrible, and I cannot really process it all. For some people, 2016 was awful because of the election and celebrity deaths and large, communal events, things that didn’t appear to affect them personally but which they’ve reacted to anyway. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about what it’s like to have group experience that affect your perception of the world and the people around you.

I have seen some people shitting all over the idea that someone should be sad…

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Birthday Presents!

I turned 27 yesterday! That means I’m properly in my late twenties now! Hurrah! Also, I have a shiny new toy and am typing this on it! Got a Galaxy tab S2 – go me! So shiny! Much pretty! This is the first top of the range piece of gadgetry that i’ve ever owned. The laptop I bought for undergraduate uni is still clinging on for dear life but good lord, is it sloooooowww. And also large and heavy. And not very portable. It was never top-of-the-range, although it has served me faithfully for 8 years so far.

This on the otherhand is shiny and new! Playing app games on it is actually fun. Tumblr, WordPress and FB work prroperly on it, as opposed to on my old Windows Phone, Lumia 520. I have MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote on it so I can do proper work things on it too if I need to (I hope I won’t). I got a nice faux-leather and microfibre cover in turquoise blue with a dinky little bluetooth keyboard for actual typing, and that’s partly why this post – to see how well it works. It’s good so far. Wouldn’t want to type a thesis on it but it works for blogging, which is what I really wanted.

Expect to see me posting more things on tumblr too, now that gifs and pictures load properly (so fast!). I’d forgotten what I was missing!

In more serious news, I’m about a week into my course of zoloft, which I expect I’ll be on until the Spring at least. Turns out my brain wasn’t quite as recovered as I’d hoped. My mood had been going downhill for a number of weeks to the point that people at work had noticed and I was being terribly short-tempered with Squishy at home, feeling sad and worried for no concrete reason (I mean, there is a concrete reason – my brain doesn’t make as much serotonin as it perhaps should) but I had a list of worries a mile long with nothing specific to point to.

In thinking about it with a long view, realistically I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety to varying degrees since I was a teenager. My first depressive episode lasted about 6 months, and started when I was 15. I was ok from then until about 2nd yr Uni when my beloved Pompa (Grandad) died, which triggered an episode that lasted about 6 months, maybe longer. Starting on the pill made me depressed again – for about 3 months, until I stopped taking it. I started to recover – finished 3rd Yr, moved to Scouseland for the PhD. Cue going rapidly downhill as I was stranded without any real support network close by, close on the heels of my parents’ separation, with PhD supervisors who were utter bollocks, and all of the general PhD stress, which is well documented here. So, a relatively brief period of depression as a teen, followed by roughly 2 years depression/anxiety through undergrad, followed by 4.5 years of depression/anxiety as a PhD student.

Looking back over my university years, depression and anxiety have dogged my steps the whole way. Six and a half years of up and down mental health, severely aggravated by the very nature of higher academic study. Is it any surprise then that maybe I’m not as recovered as I hoped?

People say there’s no shame in taking medication for badbrain issues. And not just people in general, but my specific people, my friends, my family. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a little disheartening to be on meds again. Doesn’t mean my jerkbrain doesn’t try to skew it as failure, as weakness.

My history of depression and anxiety as a young adault (and I am no longer a Young Adult according to demographics questions!) makes it likely that I’ll have to manage it for many years, if not all the rest of my adult life. Which means maybe I could or should switch to thinking about myself as a person with a mental health disability. And that is something to consider and not take lightly.

I mean, I am quite matter-of-fact about my mental health troubles with friends and acquaintances. I am now out about it to my line manager at work, as well as half the team. I don’t want to use it to make excuses anymore. I just have to live with it, manage it, take care of myself, and be aware that it’s a thing that I struggle with occassionally. Which is an okay place to be.

Anyway, I hope you and yours are okay, especially in light of recent events.

Reflections on this Year of Upheaval

I’ve been itching to get back to this blog so here we are! Hope life’s been treating you passably well in my absence?

I’ve been in my new job in Medical Communications for two and a half months and it’s going well so far. I passed my six-week review with flying colours and a short-ish list of things to work on. My colleagues are lovely people and the team is working really well together. After a slow start, my primary project has kicked off and I have plenty to keep me busy. I’m learning loads on the job as I go, and while it’s been difficult at points, it’s great to develop a whole flotilla of non-science skills. My job is a combination of events planner, project manager and client handler, so it’s very, very different to the PhD.

The commuting is taxing but I’m handling it much better than I thought I would. What annoys me most is the truly awful mobile internet coverage. It’s sooooo patchy and intermittent, it’s impossible to browse the internet properly and means I can’t use the considerable time spent on the train to either work, play or blog in any meaningful way. Not having a Tablet or iPad etc also doesn’t help matters so it’s on my birthday wish list!

What I am finding difficult at work is the occasional anxiety. I know the two key situations where it flares up. First, checking emails when I, for whatever reason, fear I might be in trouble and that the email will be the bearer of bad news. It doesn’t stop me getting work done but I am aware when I’m averse to checking my email because of fear, and it’s more often than I like. The thing I’m afraid of – being in trouble – has yet to happen and I hope that the more I put myself through the momentary fear and anxiety, the easier it will become. I know why it frightens me too – stupid PhD hangover from dealing with awful, bullying supervisors, but that doesn’t make it any easier to make the dread go away! *Sigh*.

The second situation is in asking for help/doing something new with too little instruction – I don’t like interrupting people and ugh, what if I get/do the thing wrong? Being aware that that’s what the anxiety is about does help a bit, and again, it’s not crippling, it’s just unpleasant. I figure as long as I try to be aware of the low level anxiety and keep an eye out for if it gets worse, I’ll be okay.

Because that’s the other thing – I’ve been off citalopram since the middle of August. I’d weaned down to 10 mg/daily and had been there for over a month and then I, after a conversation with my GP, stopped taking it all together. I have a back up prescription of  Sertraline/Zoloft just in case but I’m seeing how long I can go without to see if the depression that’s been dragging at my heels for the last 5 years is in remittance for the time being. And actually right now, I’m pretty much fine. Mainly what I’m waiting for is the last of the citalopram side effects to disappear.

The weight I gained hasn’t gone anywhere but I’m not taking active steps to see if I can shift it because body-positivity and laziness. (Frankly, I just love cake! And sweets, and chocolate, and popcorn, and alcohol… You know, all the tasty things). The boobs leaking tiny quantities of milk (galactorrhea) stopped within a few weeks of ceasing citalopram and my sex drive has slowly been returning, which is a huge relief. Nothing like feeling guilty because you don’t want sex as often as your partner after previously having a vigorous and highly regular sex life with them! My periods still haven’t returned but that may partly be because of the Mirena coil rather than the citalopram alone.

The downside is that my Reynaud’s Syndrome has returned with a vengeance. I am feeling the autumnal cold in the mornings like nobody’s business and washing my hands under too cold water is guaranteed to turn my fingers white. SSRIs have been noted as relieving Reynaud’s and part of me is considering taking the sertraline just so I don’t have to be cold all the time throughout winter. Which, may not be the best reason for taking it, especially as I don’t know how else it will affect me, but not having to deal with the Reynaud’s would be nice!

I figure once I’m back to “normal” and have settled there for a while I’ll start taking sertaline for a trial period and see how it goes. Because whilst the anxiety isn’t stopping me from living my life, I have been feeling more emotional and prone to tears than I would like, and I don’t know if that’s just me, having feelings and being better at being aware of them, or whether it’s an *Issue*.  My Beck Depression Inventory-II score is 7 (“not depressed”) if I’m really fishing to answer any of the questions with anything other than 0, whereas back in January 2015 it was around 25-30 – which scores as moderate-to-severe depression. So that’s not actually a problem to be worried about right now, which is bloomin’ marvelous! Seriously, if you’d asked me back in January, or hell, even in June, before my graduation and landing this job in Med Comms, whether I’d be feeling this well by now, I think I’d have strangled you just for asking, and then burst into tears about how awful my life was.

Let’s just take a look at a post from February, after I’d handed in my PhD Thesis for comparison.

“The only downside to all of this was that emotionally I was still a wreck. I cried/had hysterics once a day for over a fortnight. I.e. things were not that great. I was massively anxious and panicking about my future and all the things I have to do over the next several months. The list is as follows:

  1. Prepare for my Viva Voce exam
  2. Start claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  3. Job hunt for temp work while I prep for my viva
  4. Job hunt for permanent work, probably in the Med Comms industry
  5. Move in with Squishy in deepest darkest Kent, i.e. a long way away from where most of the Med Comms companies are, likely necessitating communting into London for work, the thing I said I’d never do.

So, no biggie, right? All small, minor obstacles that can easily be overcome, right?


Try major, stress-inducing issues, each with their own set of sub-tasks and problems. All at once, when I’m still physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted from finishing my thesis.”

Soooo, I wasn’t in the best place in the world but it’s inspiring to look at that list and see that I’ve handled all of those things.

I had my viva, and passed it well. I went on JSA and found a part-time job to keep body and soul together and get some relevant work experience (organising travel and booking hotel rooms was one of the reasons my company gave me the job!). I landed a job in Med Comms which suits me, that I’m enjoying and want to stay in for the foreseeable future and which pays reasonably well. And finally, I’ve moved in with Squishy and have been living with him for over 7 months and it’s good! It’s not 100% to my liking but that’s because housework sucks and we both work long hours and spend upwards of 20 hours a week each commuting to London, on top of the hours we actually spend at work. So when we do see each other in the  evenings, we’re usually both tired and hungry and have to be up again for work in not enough hours.

Three months ago, I literally couldn’t see myself where I am now and for that I am deeply grateful.