I did warn you… The After-effects of Pushing too Hard

Hello everyone, it has been almost a month since my last post, which I’m sorry about since I was getting on a bit of a role in terms of writing them and keeping uploading regularly. The reason it’s been a while is exactly as I said in the last post, or rather tried to warn you about in my last post.

This time of year, dealing with the pressure of exams, is never easy. I often feel that the reason this exam period is much worse than the one we experience in December time is because of the snowball effect. The more coping you do, the more you keep going the more you pick up snow and are carrying more and more on your back. Therefore by the time we finally get to summer exams and the end of the academic year, we are struggling to even get out of bed in the morning. The snow that we have picked up over the past nine months or so will need time to melt.

This is the way I try and look at myself at the moment. My exams finished a week ago but I still feel like I am viciously guarding my personal time, like I am clinging on to every second, struggling to remember that I actually have over three months of time left to relax and remember how to be myself. I was delighted a few days ago to pick up a pencil and draw for the first time in ages, and have kept drawing – working on a project I have wanted to do for ages which will incorporate six or seven drawings. I’m also trying to get back into the habit of having days off – totally off.

For me, that means not being annoyed if I am not up and dressed by nine am; it means that if I want to spend the entire day knitting or drawing, listening to podcasts or binge watching tv shows, then I can do that; it means that I don’t have to weigh myself down with responsibilities which feel like anchors tied to my soul and every movement means expelling huge amounts of energy. You see, this is something which I am bad at (I’ll admit that, but my whole family is bad at it which probably doesn’t help) I am bad at taking a break, I am bad at letting things be in order to let my brain and body relax.

Before I sat my exams, five days before, I came down with a horrible virus, which made me feel as though I had an extreme headache all the time. I also felt very weak, tired and was having dizzy spells. I kept going through it, I sat my exam on the day I was supposed to while still not feeling 100%. I suppose this acts a little bit of a metaphor for the whole term. I spent a lot of the term trying to prepare for my trip to Germany, then I experienced stress while there (just because it was new and I was having to deal with different people and situations as well as masking the whole time) and after returning I had pneumonia and then injured my intercostal muscles. During this, I’ve also had my normal, daily tasks as well as having to stay at home alone for a week, and had class work to complete. I’ve had a lot to do, but because the world we live in is shaped for neurotypical people I don’t think what we have to deal with above and beyond as Aspies, is accounted for.

So I suppose this post is about that, it is about being kind to ourselves and trying to allow ourselves to take a break when we need it, whether it is convenient or not to do so. We are more likely to suffer mental illness as a result of being autistic, I believe there are very few of us that haven’t experienced this in their lives but I often feel that a lot of the reasons that we develop mental ill health is as a result of expectations, of being told we have to do things one way or another, that we have to cope with all these different things and still maintain an image of coping. Coping in the neurotypical sense is not coping for the neurodiverse.

So do something for yourself this week, and if possible, do something that you might otherwise not do because you feel it isn’t ‘normal’ behaviour. Do something that makes you feel good, feel proud and feel like you are valued and valid.

I’ve added a picture here of a rabbit. I walked around a shop in Munich airport three times, debating whether or not to buy him.  See, I knew I wanted him, I knew I was very proud of my achievements that week and that I wanted to reward myself but I also wanted to take something home to remind me of the challenges I had overcome in getting to where I was. He was expensive, around £50, but I expected that for a Steiff toy and he was so incredibly soft. I knew others might find it a weird thing for me to have bought myself a toy – especially such an expensive one but in the end he came home with me and I am so glad that I took the decision to do what was right for me rather than what was the most socially acceptable.

Image result for steiff hoppi rabbit

I hope you can allow yourself to do something nice, something good, something which is right for you.

Hope you all have a good week, I am currently finding myself much in need of suggestions for posts (I am hoping to write some in advance of me going on holiday in the summer so that I can schedule them to post when I am not around – might give me a boost as I head into the new Uni term too) so if you have any suggestions for topics I would love to hear them and hear your take on them. Thank you all sooooooo much for continuing to read my posts and I hope you still enjoy them, have a good week 🙂

p.s. his name is Klaus

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Stress is Here! : Autism Burnout and Exam Pressure

I have had one of those terms. And by this, I mean a Uni term where there has always been something happening, something to prepare for, something to worry about. This is never a good thing for me as it most definitely results in a burnout. For many years I had never heard of such a thing as burnout, but then, I equate this to the classic thing that many of us have experienced in being given information about autism in children but none about how it evolves as an adult.

In many ways, having experienced a little bit of both now, I would not say that being an autistic child or being an autistic adult is easier, what I would say is that some things (at least in my experience, of course, I’m not everyone lol) get easier and other things get harder.  As a child I feel I had less anxiety or at least the anxiety I had would usually hit a peak in the form of a meltdown and then all would be well in the world. As a child communication was harder in some ways, but in adulthood, communication is still an issue because we have to communicate different things. I would also say that in adulthood stress is longer lasting and often bigger with bigger consequences. I think this is why burnout is something which we only really begin to experience as we get into our teens and early adulthood.

For me specifically, this term has been harder than others. This term I spent a week in a foreign country, keeping on top of my money, my conversations with people, trying not to worry about medical or food issues. I wouldn’t go back and change that. I wouldn’t want to do something different instead, I learned a lot on that trip and it was a very good thing for me in terms of seeing what I can do. The only issue is that I was not prepared to come home and have very little in terms of a break. I was back at Uni for two weeks and then on holiday. The first week of this holiday I did almost nothing at all, the second week happened to be very busy (also this was the week my parents were away which didn’t help as I had extra things to do such as housework, making my food and caring for the dog and cat)

I feel that since I came back from Germany nearly seven weeks ago I have not had a proper opportunity to relax. This is not a good thing. It is even less of a good thing when I have three weeks to go until I finish Uni. In those three weeks, I have three written pieces to hand in and an exam.

I am tired. I am tired in a way that I often think NT (neurotypical) people don’t get tired. I am able to function, though I am so exhausted that even the Aspie safeguard  – the special interest – isn’t doing it for me. It is just beginning to dawn on me that a massive special interest related film is out next week and I am not that excited nor have I started to think about it much. This is tiredness.

The hardest thing sometimes about being an Aspie adult is this, that no one understands we often need days or weeks to recover from a few small events. That we often need weeks when we think we are bored but in reality, we are only just beginning to recover from the tiredness and after another chunk of time our brains will kick back into action and we will remember what we want and need to do for our selves, for our sanity and to become human again.

There is not really much point to this post, in that I don’t have a solution – I haven’t yet found out how to help myself through these days and weeks other than looking forward to the fact I have a long summer off Uni (four months – usually after about six weeks I am bored and ready to go back but this year I have more things on my plate than I did the last two summers which should help) I know that this stress, this build up at least, is something I may find easier once I have finished University. I know that University is grueling for a lot of people and that my autism and ADD don’t help me when it comes to some things (counter to that they can help enormously when I am really interested in a topic but we seem to study all the wrong topics… )

I hope that in a work environment, a world where there is less work to be doing at home, a world where hopefully I will help to teach and inspire others rather than being taught myself. I hope that an adult life (at least some of it, before I make the horrifying decision on when to have children  – and the other very important decision of when can I handle my own puppy) will be a bit different again. I don’t necessarily think it will be any easier, I – like my comparison before – feel it will be a similar experience, the same level of hard things but a different grouping of hard things involving doing all the housework myself, of budgeting money for specific things (gas, electricity, food) but also remembering that in my spending money/saving money, I can’t just enjoy buying baby clothes, cosplay items, and wool but that I need to remember people have birthdays, clothes do not last forever and that vet bills are not all covered by insurance (vaccines and such still need to be paid! – although I am pretty savvy when it comes to vet bills, I know what I need to pay and what I am being overcharged… thank you HNC Animal Care!)

Overall I suppose this post has gone a little off the rails, I am aware that I started out talking about overload and burnout. I am one of those writers though – I used to find the fact that I could go miles off topic very difficult, I used to think that it was a bad thing, but I have learned over the years to embrace my writing style, to deal with the fact I can go from structured with big words and profound sentences to blithering idiot in a few paragraphs. I guess in that I can draw out a semi-profound sentence, our lives as Aspies are often like this – they warp and change and zigzag violently, but they also have times of the good and bad being in balance and smaller, relaxing waves take the place of the zigzags. We are always changing, we are always having different experiences and our age, interests and coping mechanisms are evolving as we do, things never necessarily get better, but would we really want them to?

Thanks, everyone for reading, this post is getting scheduled to come out on Tuesday 23rd, I am writing it on the 18th. My mindset by the 23rd may be a bit off for a while as from that point forward I have a deadline every few days, so I apologize if after you see this post you don’t see me for a little while. I am hoping to write another post next week as I am doing something I haven’t done since I was eight years old (nope, its a surprise, you’ll have to wait and see!) I just want to thank you all again for being here, for reading, for following, for liking my blog posts. I am still in total disbelief that 40 people follow this blog (I’m also a little bit in disbelief that I come back and forward on this blog a lot and that I have been writing it for three years – not sure if that date has passed yet or not… will need to check) I have so many thanks to you all for being awesome people, for being you even if you have never commented or liked a post – your awesome, because you are here and you listen. Thank you

🙂

The System: Missed being an Aspie by ‘just one point’

So, before I start this post properly I wanted to mention to everyone that the ‘just one point’ is a quote from a book I love (Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl) I have a feeling it might be a thing that a lot of sporty people have heard – someone losing a match by just one point – but given I don’t have a sporty bone in my body and my joints go out more than I do, I haven’t a clue how many people know this phrase.

Anyway, to get on with the post (I keep saying I want to have a few written as back up and then organize them to post semi-frequently but I never seem to get to that, so this is being written on the day it goes out despite me talking about writing it a good week or two ago), this post is about my Partner, the amazing person who has been in my life for about seven years and been my romantic partner for four and a half years.

I’m going to put things straight into perspective by talking about how we came across each other. We were in the same third year ( Scottish High School so approximately 14/15 years old) Drama, our first day of the new term and new classes, and the class had gone well, I had been surprised by my ability to be confident and be myself in the class, something I had hoped to get better at and slowly was – even if it was a mask, to begin with. At the end of the class, which was all drama games and getting to know people we were told to sit down and just chat for a bit. Something, I don’t know what pulled me to sit next to a girl I had never seen before. I can now recognize that it was her appearance that drew me to her – and no, not in an attractive way – she was quiet, her body language very closed off and nervous.

It wasn’t until I had known her for about a year and a half, got to know her very, very well that I broached to her what I had always seen in her. She already knew I had autism (although I referred to myself as having Asperger’s syndrome back then) and I decided it needed to be said – that I was 98% sure she also had a form of autism.

I wasn’t sure how she would react to this, it was a bold move for me, but she embraced this. Over the last few years she has become more confident, more accepting of herself and part of that we both agree was down to her beginning to understand why she found certain things difficult and why she had always felt different from the others. She had struggled socially for years, having only a few sort-of friends in late primary school and early high school but she soon began to find friends in people that she had never really felt able to talk to before. By the time both of us left high school we were far more rounded and more confident people and were even beginning to come to terms with our sexuality and new relationship.

After high school, for her, two things stand out in her four years of University. The first was in her decision to move into a flat in the second year – in order to do less traveling from home every day. This quickly became obvious as a bad idea. She has always had issues with executive functioning and living alone, having long days at Uni and then having to come home and either do more work or housework, was not a good mix. She turned to eating mostly pot noodles and takeaways, she began missing a lot of her classes due to being so drained of energy that she couldn’t force herself to get up. After the end of that year, with some events of crying to me on the phone and really struggling for the whole time, she decided to move back home. Then this year, at Christmas time, she missed an exam – thinking it was a day later than it really was. That, the fact that a student on track for a brilliant honours degree was now not able to get the level of qualification she deserved simply because of an executive functioning mistake, that was what made her decide it was time to pursue a diagnosis.

After visiting the GP she was given an appointment to see a psychiatrist about obtaining a diagnosis. She was also given three questionnaire type forms, one for someone who knew her well, one for herself and one for her Mum. I tried my hardest to be brutally honest with my form, I tried to make sure that everything was noted because I am well aware that the mental health system is not what it should be at times.

When she went for her appointment after the questionnaires had been scrutinized by professionals, she was told that she had 31 of the necessary 32 points for diagnosis. They had no reason to diagnose her with ASD.

When I heard this I was furious, I know that she is very like me, that she is clearly autistic but because of a piece of paper – for all intents and purposes, a marking scheme – she was told that was it. No further questions were asked of her, nothing about her experiences, no option for her to give further evidence. To me, it felt as though she was giving evidence against a crime. She was a victim who was being brushed under the carpet.

The thing that I think made me the most irritated was the fact that it was all based on a written test, not on observation of behavior the way that it is done in children. Almost all ASD people will admit that we are bad at forms, we often put the wrong thing or downplay things based on our emotions that particular day or time. This, to me, is not an accurate test and I believe that if she had been treated under a different set of rules  – I believe that most NHS areas have different criteria for testing – she would have been told that she was autistic.

Currently, I don’t know how this will affect her going forward, I have tried to remind her that her non-diagnosis does not necessarily mean anything. I hope and pray that this will not confuse her sense of self, that it won’t cause her to lose hope. She is struggling in the last term of her degree, having been a fantastic student most of the time and I know this is because she is not getting any support and does not feel entitled to ask for any. She has given up because the mental health treatment in this country has given up on her. For just one point.

Thanks, everyone for reading, if anyone else has stories about their diagnosis, or any have been told they don’t fit the criteria, I would love to hear them. Hope this was interesting for you all and see you again soon 🙂

Updates, coming up and FREEDOM!!

Hi everyone, this might be a relatively short post (or maybe not given I might ramble, and I am using the mobile app so don’t have my work count displayed) but I wanted to update you all a little on the comings and goings in life at the moment and give you some little hints for other posts to expect soon. I have a few things I am feeling the need/desire to write about and, due to my upload schedule not being consistent, I always feel if I have ideas I should get them written down and then I can have them timed to upload at a later stage, Given we probably all know how this website works I suppose I better move on and write what I am here to write. I did warn you there would be rambling.

It would make sense to start at the beginning of my short updates collection and go chronologically. I have learned in my two years of studying history that most things don’t fit neatly into a chronological timeline so I do apologise if this post ends up not making the most sense.

The beginning of my weekend was very much the best part, although saying that it didn’t really feel as I thought it would. On Thursday I had my last class of semester two before the Easter holiday. I have two further weeks of classes after Easter but mentally I feel I have been very, very drained up until now. I think because I was in Germany in week five and that meant week six – the week in every semester dubbed as a reading week- was filled with illness. I ended up with what we suspect was viral pneumonia, and I am still recovering from the after effects three weeks later. I’ve strained the muscles and tissues surrounding my ribs as a result of coughing so much. You will learn over my years of blogging that when I do injury/illness it is never half-hearted.

I think, thanks to being ill, that my week off for reading week was not the break I really needed to have after the social stimulation and anxiety from being in Germany. As a result I was back at Uni maybe a week and started to feel tired. This was the type of drained where I could barely force myself to do the work I had to do for classes. I got through it and finally on Friday I was looking forward to a very relaxed day.

Long story short, and to not go into confusing/complicated details, Friday was a long day.

Saturday, also a long day but a good one at a local comic con that I’ve not been to before. It was great, very friendly and inviting unlike some others I’ve encountered. It was fantastic. By the time I got home on Saturday night I was well and truly looking forward to lying down, trying to relax my sore ribs, and to sleep…

You know what those little ellipses mean (think that’s the word for the dots, now I’m doubting myself)

Sunday morning, ten to eight, I get woken up by my niece coming in to my room. She was not at our house when I’d gone to sleep but there was only one reason for her to be there and I must have been so tired I had fallen asleep and heard nothing through the night. We had only been home an hour or so when my Mum got the call. My sister thought/hoped/prayed that she was finally in labour. My mum went to collect my niece – miss M – and brought her, still asleep to our house.

By the time both me and miss M were awake we had a new family member! A new baby girl was welcomed into our lives and M is delighted, although still a little confused, about being a big sister. (I am going to have an issue though as baby girl’s name also starts with M… Not quite sure how I will distinguish them in blog posts yet but I’ll find a way)

Naturally after all the thrill and happiness and changes of plans, it is now late at night and I am wide awake. Grr. So I thought I would come and share the news as well as tell you more about what is coming up in posts. Autistic brains are the best, aren’t they! *sarcasm*

So what is coming up? (She says, feeling like a tv presenter) Now that I’m on holiday (NO Promises!) I am hoping to do a bit more posting of posts, hoping to share some thoughts and insights and all that as usual but the more posting bit is sort of essential. I do try not to be too hard on myself though as sometimes, like on this post, I’m not talking much about a specific thing and also I am still doing Uni work and, living a life outside of blog land.

So, up and coming posts (please, please always feel welcome to give me suggestions for posts! I might set up an answergarden to get ideas of what people want to read) I have planned to have a chat about my partner and her journey towards autism diagnosis and, another one which has come to mind, I want to do something on thread crafts like sewing, knitting and crocheting and how these can and do help people with ASD and other comorbidities. It’s something I do a lot of myself and I’d like to dig a little into research on that one.

So that has been my busy few days, fun, exhausting and resulting in my beautiful new niece. I hope to speak to you all again relatively soon, I hope you might help me with suggestions for future topics (I will look at setting up an answergarden word cloud) Thank you all as usual for reading and enjoying my blog, I will see you all again. 😊

Dyscalculia: The Reality

Hi everyone, this is a post which has been  – as is the case with most of my posts – been briefly mapped out. I have been planning to write it for a while and I have actually started writing it, I think, three times but each of those times something has felt… off. Now, I think I know why it felt off. I was trying to write a post which explained the topic in a wider sense, explains how it manifests and all that but I think what I want to write, and possibly need to write is about how it feels.

Today I want to talk a little bit about Dyscalculia. This is a condition I am more than 99% sure I have, and I believe my version of it is on the more severe end. Most people have heard of dyslexia, a few people have heard of dyspraxia but very few have heard of dyscalculia unless they have been exposed to it (hate the word exposed – it’s not a disease! but its the best description I’ve got). Dyscalculia – there are no prizes for guessing this! – is similar to dyslexia but it applies to all things related to maths. It is also similar to dyslexia in that it isn’t only about maths on paper. It can apply to sense of direction, knowing right from left, measuring, reading clocks and many other things which are so much a part of our lives that we don’t even realize it.

For me, I first heard of dyscalculia when googling if it was such a thing. I was in my standard grade maths years at high school and struggling. I often got things wrong, couldn’t for the life of me remember formulas and, a big one for me, I had often worked out what to do, done it all right, but managed to get the completely wrong answer because I had read the number and in the process of copying it into my notes I had switched it in my head. For example, 34+82 is very different from 43+28. Also, to be able to write those numbers down properly I had to pause and focus on the keys I am pressing, something I very rarely have to do when typing words. Due to this most days, I would be sent home with practice questions to finish since I hadn’t finished them in class. Some forty or so practice questions would be do-able by most students in a fifty minute class, but I could go home and take a further hour or so to finish them, mostly because I had only managed about ten or twelve in class but also because, if it was a new formula, by the time I had got home from school I no longer had a clue what I was supposed to do.

Thankfully for me, I was aware of my horrible maths skills as much as I was aware of the embarrassment and hatred I had of PE classes (as a result of weak muscle tone and dyspraxia) As a result, I was removed from PE (a double fifty minute period) and was allowed to use the time in the learning support base practicing maths. I believe it was due to this and the amazing maths teacher who worked in learning support, that I passed my standard grade at a good level. (Also probably a little because of the fact that you can be given 3/4 marks for the working out, so if I got the wrong answer, in the end, it wasn’t too much of a loss)

However, now, seven years after I stopped doing maths at school, I feel I am more aware of being dyscalculaic than I ever have. I think that the daily practice I had at school meant that I was able to memorize a lot of things, a lot of formulae and some basic answers – probably a result of my aspie brain being pretty good at memorizing. Now though, now I reckon that my level of maths and understanding of maths is on par with the average seven-year-old. I can do chimney style addition and subtraction. I can do the same style of multiplying but only with the number on the bottom being under ten. I can do some basic fractions and percentages but most of these are because I am still in practice with them due to my diabetes. I can do some adding and subtracting in my head but struggle to do this if it is more than two digits. I can’t add or subtract money in my head very well at all. I often get the wrong change or charged the wrong amount in shops because I don’t actually know that I have been given the wrong thing. I can’t work out VAT, or percentages or fractions. I can’t do times tables other than two, five and ten without counting. The counting that I can do in my head I am only able to do because I memorize the numbers as a dice face and mentally count the dots one at a time.

Furthering from this, I struggle to read clocks. 24hr time totally confuses me, I will see 18:30 and think it means 8:30, only realizing when it is too late that I was miles off. I can’t judge the passing of time. I am usually early for every bus because I am aware that doing something for two minutes could make me half an hour late. My ‘two minutes’ are not accurate. I can’t read an analog clock without numbers on it, I often get confused between twenty-five past and twenty-five to the hour, or don’t realize that 8:55 and five to nine are the same things. I can only tell my left and right apart because I know I wear my rings on my left hand, so I often have to look at my hands or feel for my rings before I know which is which.

But I’m going to back this up a bit, this is not a post with me looking for sympathy. This is not about poor me that can’t do these things. I am listing my issues for one reason, I want to raise awareness of the extent of this learning disability. I want people to realize that ‘dyslexia with maths’ is not just a matter of switching around the numbers in a long list, but more about the many ways in which numbers, as much as letters, affect many parts of the modern world. Yes, I often get embarassed that I am so bad with numbers, I often feel ashamed of my disability but I think this is partly due to the fact it has never been acknowledged. Dyscalculia is not diagnosed in a standard test like dyslexia, some people are diagnosed by their schools but many schools, mine was included in this, do not do dyscalculia testing. I feel like my lack of ‘label’ is a bad thing in this case as it has meant that I am less confident in myself. I haven’t had someone saying to me that it’s ok, it’s not my fault I suck at maths. We need more people to know about this condition, more people to understand and more people doing these things, would help people like me, to feel like we aren’t stupid.

Thanks everyone for reading this, hope it was interesting and maybe you got something out of it. Thank you all so much for reading and for your continued support of my blog even though my posting has been notoriously sporadic. As always feel free to let me know your thoughts 🙂

The Aspie Whisperer: Can We Understand Animals better than our own species?

I’m not sure I can remember the first time it happened, that a lost animal came to me for help, but I can at least six or seven times where a dog or cat has found me. In fact, the other day this happened when walking my dog in a local forest, a sandy coloured labradoodle-type dog came up to me. I could see in his eyes he was worried, his body was tense and hackles raised, showing he was scared. He lowered his head and came to me, licking his lips and remaining in a lower position but wagging his tail softly. To any animal behaviorist what he was trying to say would be obvious. He was approaching with caution, head low to show submission. He was approaching me because something told him that I could help. This has happened with many dogs and even one or two cats in my time, they always seem to know that I will help them and I have a theory for why that is.

You see that body language, the things I said a behaviorist would see straight away? Well, I was never taught these things, all I was taught – similarly to the emotions of the average person – was the words for these feelings. I have always understood how to comfort an animal, I understood when to back off and when to approach, even when to approach if an animal doesn’t want you to but still needs you to.

Today I was watching a documentary I have watched a few times and still enjoy but also one which I get a lot of emotional back and forth from. This is The Nim Project, the story of a scientific experiment in the 1970s where an infant Chimpanzee (Nim) was taken from his mother and raised in a human family as though he were a human child. The aim was to see how this affected the development of the young chimp as well as to see if he could acquire language in the form of signing.

As a person who has dreamed since a young age of working with apes or monkeys of any form, I see this documentary in several lights. Firstly it saddens me, of course, because it is very unethical and the poor mother chimp had already experienced six of her babies being removed. Also, other records of slightly older infant apes (namely Orangutans, which stay with their mother for an average of eight years) shows that those who develop the ability to sign often remember and are traumatized by their removal from their mothers. We know that a Human child can’t usually remember much if anything under the age of three years old, but we can forget that Chimpanzees and other great apes are far more developed at birth so there is very little reason to believe they would forget this experience.

Besides this trauma, besides the ethical issues of the study – something which would never be repeated in the current day – there is something else I see when watching young Nim tearing about the garden on all fours, naked. I see a little boy like us. I see, in that young chimp growing up in a world that isn’t quite like his own and I see someone very similar to a person diagnosed autistic. Now, I hope that no one would take offense to being compared to a chimp anyway, but I want to make it clear that I am making a comparison, not saying that all autistic people are closer to chimpanzees than they are to people. What I am saying is in looking at the video’s of Nim, in watching other people see a toothy smile as happy when in reality a ‘smiling’ chimp is one who is scared and wants to run and hide, I am seeing Nim’s world as a comparison to the social world as an autistic person.

I feel if I was to walk up to that young chimp back in those days, I would get a similar reaction to the ones I get from lost dogs and cats. There would be an element of trust which is not seen to the same level between a Chimp and a neurotypical person.

Because us autistics are out of the normal circle because we don’t always understand people and find a lot of their non-verbal (and verbal!) communication impossible to understand it puts us in a sort of Venn diagram. We are in between. We communicate in a way between typical people and many social animals. And, if you ask me, this is one of the definite autistic superpowers.

I wasn’t (or haven’t yet) been destined to go down the road of working with great apes, if it wasn’t for my medical issues and the fact I am highly likely to be allergic to venom, I would have finished high school and headed straight for the Orangutan nurseries in Borneo, or Thailand or Kenya to work with young elephants. I’ve even considered looking into working in animal ethics, ensuring the proper treatment of any monkeys entered into research. I have animal care qualifications and I often feel saddened that I was never able to pursue that field further (it is still very difficult trying to decide whether I want to do another two years to finish my history degree and then go on to do two/three years in a strange place to get a mediocre diploma in veterinary nursing) However, I still have the passion I will always have, and I believe I will always have a deep understanding of some animals which others do not have.

To give you all some context (and some cute stories – please feel free to comment your own I LOVE to hear them) I have had various pets since I was a very young child. I was granted my first pets of my own when I was nine years old, they were a pair of rescued guinea pigs – sisters, who had been found in a box with their Mum on the side of a motorway. They were wary, but they became very confident in their old age and eventually when only little old lady Pepper was left, I would shout on her in the garden and she would squeak back at me. She was going blind and enjoyed going out in our secured garden but often got lost. She trusted me to find her and bring her inside.

I went on to rescue another pair of guinea pigs, the boys. These two had been living in appalling conditions, being given the wrong diet and were underweight as well as having overgrown nails and one, we did not discover was actually long haired until we had him for six months on the proper diet. They were terrified of people, I was bitten a few times but I spent several evenings sitting on the kitchen floor, spreading out tasty food and just letting them get used to my presence, get used to the fact I was not there to hurt them.

Yet another example of this came in a rescue cat my grandparents got. I was seven when he came home and I was the first person he trusted and the only child he ever trusted. I’ve rescued wild animals on numerous occasions, including a grass snake in a Florida theme park (which scared most of the other people away, he was only trying to cross the path without getting stepped on, or going into the direct 38-degree heat)

Just to make sure this comes across, I am not trying to brag or anything, just trying to reminess and prove my point. We may not be the best people for people, but we are almost always the best people for animals.

I hope this was interesting, and hope it made sense to you all to read this. It was a bit spur of the moment in terms of a post but I thought I would write it regardless. Please give me your comments, thoughts, feedback (pictures of cute pets…) and hope you have a good day.

ps. Just for fun here are some photos of my current pets for you to enjoy 🙂

Solo Flight: Success

Hi everyone, pretty sure this post will go up after I return home from Munich (maybe not, I might finish it and put it up before I get home but we’ll see) but I wanted to update everyone on my journey so far.

On the way through to the airport this morning we had a bit of a nightmare. We left at 6:30 am and planned to arrive at about 7:30. We actually arrived at 8:45. There was a massive amount of traffic, not helped by the usual people traveling down the bus lane to try and sneak into their lane further down and skip most of the queue in the process.

When we finally arrived at the airport my dad dropped me off and me and my little suitcase were alone for the first time. Gulp.

Next stop (due to the joys of being able to check-in on my phone days in advance) was security. This actually went pretty smoothly. There were some new things that I hadn’t encountered before and this was my first time flying with an invisible disability lanyard.

When I stepped up to the trays where you put your baggage through I was grumbled at by a man at first for not placing my case in one of the trays. His demeanor changed instantly when he spotted my lanyard. But then I was met with something interesting, and something which might be an issue. I was asked to remove the lanyard and put it in the tray, which I did. It was afterward, as I walked through the beeper that I thought about how this made the lanyard system a bit void. The people manning the beeper, who would then go on to do all the other things that come with this section of security, had not seen the lanyard.

Anyway, as expected I walked through the beepers my pump set them off. Top tip btw, for any other type ones, carry your pump in your hand when walking through- it makes it obvious to security that the pump is the issue and it also makes things faster as they will likely want to swab the pump. So I did all this, pump got swabbed then I had to get my shoes scanned on their own, go through the body scanner and have a pat down before they let me through.

I breathed and went on to get my stuff. Got the case. Waited for the liquids and electronics. They didn’t come through. They had been put aside for another security person to get further info from me. Joys.

So I had to go over and, something I haven’t had before, the woman asked me for my passport. She needed to prove that my prescription medications belonged to me. This is something, like I say, that I haven’t seen before but it made sense to me.

Anyway, after this bit, I found my way to the rest of the group with just enough time to buy myself a drink and snack for the plane before we were called to the gate.


 

Hi, everyone, at this point, present me will take over (the bit before the line was all written on the plane on the way to Germany) I didn’t write any more than this on the plane because I wanted to relax and I was very tired although I didn’t sleep at all during the flight  – that was fine given it was only two and a half hours (I’ve had longer bus journeys).

Anyway, I also wanted to chip in at this stage – a week after returning home – so  I didn’t bore you all with the details of the trip in terms of every single event but more to break down the bits of interest to all of you in subsections and how those things worked for an aspie in a foreign country. Hope you will enjoy reading these little bits and bobs about the trip and please, if anyone has any other questions which I don’t bring up, feel free to ask me these things. Thanks, everyone 🙂

Food 

As most of you have probably read at some stage in my blog musings, I have Coeliac disease and so my diet is limited by the lack of gluten. I will say what I would say about anyone traveling to Germany, coeliac or not – if you like sausage, you are fine.

For us breakfast was included in the fee we had paid to the university so every day we started off with a typical continental style breakfast. I probably could have eaten some of the cereal on offer but given there were no labels on any of them I thought it better not to risk it and so each day my breakfast consisted of Yoghurt and fresh fruit, sometimes some slices of meat and cheese, and coffee. It was not the best breakfast but given that most days we were leaving the hotel before nine am, and once before eight, I was happy to have anything just so I could take my tablets and not suffer feeling ill with taking them on an empty stomach.

Otherwise, food was not too difficult, every evening when we went for a meal we managed to find somewhere to get a meal that did not consist of gluten, and I was glad to find that some of it was not as expensive as others. I think, unfortunately, there was not a single day when I did not have chips, but I think I could easily have found other options if it wasn’t for having to find food on the move most days of the trip and again, there was a lot of sausages.

Sleep 

A lot of us Aspies find sleep is one of the many demons that we learn to live with. I am not good at sleeping in a strange bed. I am picky about the feeling of my bed and it has to be ‘right.’ I was very surprised however that the hotel beds – given this was a hotel/hostel – were ridiculously comfy. Many of us would have taken our bed home with us! The rooms were clean and tidy, the beds very comfy and had nice white duvet covers which were warm without making you feel like you were sleeping in the bed of a stranger. I also found that most days were long and so I was tired and able to fall asleep listening to a podcast (which is what I do at home) within half an hour. Bonus.

People

People is perhaps the thing I was most worried about dealing with through the trip but I was very happy and almost impressed by the group of girls I shared a room with. We all remained friends for the most part with no one falling out at any point. People were also really nice to me and very understanding of my disabilities. I can’t remember who exactly but I remember once someone taking my arm when my blood sugar was very low and I was struggling with depth perception as a result. They were also really understanding of low blood sugars, of struggling to calculate money due to my dyscalculia and helped me feel at ease most of the time. I left the trip feeling closer to them than I ever had before and can genuinely see long-term friendships forming with some of the group, something I did not imagine would happen to me at university, not because of the people, but because I can be very pessimistic at times…

 

There was, of course, a lot more to the trip, it was full of amazing history, the cities we visited were incredibly beautiful and after visiting the Dachau concentration camp memorial all of us left Germany with a new sense of how lucky we are to be here and now, and how precious life is. I would definitely return to Munich in an instant, and I am more than looking forward to the next trip.

For me this was an example of something I wanted to do, I was terrified of doing but that I did and I thrived while doing it. This was an example of the thing I preach to every person with Autism, if you put your mind to something, even if it is scary, you can do it. You are stronger and braver and more capable than you think.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope this was interesting and perhaps helpful to you. Hope to hear from you all again soon 🙂