Autism, ADHD and Mental Health – Mental Health Awareness Week 2015

(TW Mental Illness, Trauma, Eating Disorders)

I was diagnosed with autism when I was four years old, and with ADHD when I was twenty. In between this, bouts of depression would send me through counselling, and then antidepressants.

Growing up, I’d have bouts of depression, especially in the summer holidays when my routine of school/college wasn’t there to keep me on track. I’d feel unmotivated, frustrated, hopeless and very alone. My foster mum would call this my ‘Summer Blues’, and would find me very difficult to be around, as I’d be irritable and snappy, in general, a nasty person. I do feel bad about those times when I’d get into a screaming match with her over the slightest thing that during term time wouldn’t have even fazed me.

I never had the best relationship with food either. When I first went into care, I’ve been told that I was a very fussy eater, only liking a couple of meals, and living mostly off of sweets. As my placement with the carers that would later see me at my very lowest ebb continued, I started to use food as the main thing that they couldn’t control in my life, something that I could have all to myself. When the opportunity would seize itself, I’d binge eat until I was physically sick. Then I’d carry on. I’d even shoplift in order to satisfy the monster within, as I never had money due to constant ‘docking’ of my pocket money when I did the slightest thing wrong.

As I got older, and left foster care, things didn’t get very much better on that front. As my relationship with my ex got worse, so did my mood at home. It didn’t help that I resented the carer because of the disapproval of me living an adult life, imposing curfews, prohibiting my use of internet past a certain hour. My coursework at college slipped, I stopped attempting to socialise with people outside my ex and his family, bar at my voluntary job at the museum (that turned out to be my saviour during that time).

It was only when I started at university, away from my hometown, meeting new people, establishing myself as my own person, leaving my ex, when things took another turn. My food control took another turn entirely. I stopped eating more than a few snacks a day. I just didn’t want to try to eat proper meals. I was tired, all the time. I barely slept properly (not that I’ve slept like a normal person). It was around this time that I was diagnosed with ADHD, and the waiting list to be seen for medication made me feel really hopeless, as now I knew why I struggled at university, but had to wait for the help I needed. It was out of my control. Though my diet was…

I dropped a lot of weight, quickly. My Mentor raised the alarm with Student Support, who booked me into the GP right away. I was tested for depression, and was put onto antidepressants for the first time in my life.  I’ve been on them ever since.

Things looked up for a while after that. I met Matt, finished all the back-dated coursework for the year, thus passing my first year, just. I got a job, I’d been accepted into the modules I’d wanted, I’d successfully gotten my paternal family back into my life.

Then I had my accident.

A new monster reared its head.

Everyone feels a small level of anxiety in their life time, be it exams, wedding day jitters, first day nerves. That’s part of being a human being.

But freezing by a road and being unable to cross for a good five minutes, that’s not normal.

In the months after my accident, I didn’t dare to cross any very busy road alone, even if there was a crossing. It started out being because on crutches I was too slow to get across without support. As the walking aids left, I still struggled. Breeze from cars driving past as I walk still freak me out, as does seeing other people amble across busy roads. On bad days I have to ask my best friend B to meet me and cross me over the road.

You know you have a problem with post-traumatic stress when the ADHD clinic insist you go off for counselling…

Of course, I’ve dealt with anxiety a lot, it just didn’t have a name. Being afraid that no one would ever want to be around me. That Matt will turn around and walk away. A change of routine at the last minute, travelling to a brand new location alone. That I’ll be a failure. That I haven’t done enough to make a positive change in the world.

So, what does this all have to do with autism and ADHD?

The National Autistic Society say:

‘Roughly 40% of people on the autism spectrum have anxiety problems compared with 15% of the general population’

‘Depression is common in individuals with Asperger syndrome with about 1 in 15 people with Asperger syndrome experiencing such symptoms (Tantam 1991)’

That’s a lot of people going through the motions in darkness.

A person with ADD/ADHD is six times more likely to have another mental health disorder than any other person. Six times more likely. The reason for this is debated, whether it’s due to the symptoms of ADHD causing frustration, hence depression, or if depression is a symptom of ADHD itself. I’m not sure myself, it could be both, for all I know.

The point is this, mental health is something that we should all think about keeping healthy. And with this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d share this.

It isn’t just neurotypical people who need help and support with this. No one should feel the darkness, no matter who they are. If you know an autistic person, or someone with ADHD, take the time to ask them how they are this week. If anything, they may feel relieved that they can talk to someone about how they are feeling!

Autism and ADHD can feel isolating, especially if the person is the only one in the peer group to be going through it. Reach out, and let them know you’re there to talk. You’re aware. You’ll never truly understand what their world is like, but you’re ready to try.

You never truly know what the person next to you is experiencing.

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Heidi Plays…

I’ve decided to delve into the world of gaming blogging, as I seem to game a lot, and not use this to my writing portfolio advantage!

And this blog is called ‘Geeky Scribbles’, and gaming blog posts are pretty geeky, right?

I’m going to call the series ‘Heidi Plays…’ and blog about me playing different games, be it on the PC, consoles past and present, and talk about future gaming conventions that I attend (as I do attend a few now, with Matt).

And of course, I’m going to start the series with…

The Sims 4!

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Of course I am! I know I play this game quite a lot, so I’m going to create a new Sim, just for the blog! The initial Sims 4 Play blog series will cover the life of this Sim, as I can’t afford to buy capture software to Youtube my play.

One day…

So, stay tuned for the first post later on today!

That’s after this little competion I’m setting up!

Yes, you can Name A Sim!

All I’m going to say is that I’m going to create a female Sim.

What I’d love for you to do is to Suggest a Name, both first and last name. Either comment below, or go on my Twitter and Facebook, both Geeky Scribbles, and I’ll pick a winner!

The prize is a packet of sweets of your choice, and a shout-out here on the blog, as well as the Sim being named the winning name of choice!

Closing today at 4pm!

Get Cracking!

Routine Whilst Writing – Why It is So Damned Important!

So, as you are all aware, I’m supposed to be writing a novel consisting of 60,000 words in the month of April. With my current word count far more behind than it ought to be (2921 words), I’ve been thinking about why I’m finding this challenge far more difficult than I ought to be.

I guess it is because of the fact that I’ve not been very strict about my writing routine. This is a fundemental part of the writing process. When I was in my initial meeting with my IP tutor prior to the challenge, he said that setting aside a couple of hours a day, daily, at the same time each day would be a sure-fire way of succeeding with the challenge. He suggested in the morning, before carrying on the rest of the day.

And, on Day #1, this idea worked out pretty well. I guess it was a mix of excitement to get started, the idea being very fresh in my mind, and not booking any activities until later on in the day.

However, as time rolled on, I was ending up doing activities in the morning, like seeing relatives and friends, and getting distracted with shopping, television and Sims 4. I’d get told off by my aunt, then be asked if I wanted to go out the next morning. The whole routine was thrown out of whack and completely de-motivated me, I lost my train of thought within the story I was trying to tell, and am feeling completely and utterly lost. Add an extra week away that I wasn’t planning, and days merging together, and you get a novel that just isn’t being written.

But I’m back home now, and in complete control of my routine once again.

And I’ve realised that I’ve not been working to my advantage, as I don’t work very well in the morning. My creative and energetic peak tends to be mid-afternoon to early evening. And that is when I ought to be planning my writing time, not in the morning when I am lethargic and tired. I’m one of those oddballs that gets more awake as the day goes on, rather than more tired. And that is something I should actually be working with rather than against.

Sure, writing in the morning works well for a lot of writers, but it isn’t a one-time-suits-all kind of life. One time might work for my IP tutor, but not so well with me. No one writer is the same as another when it comes to their writing routine, and this is something that I have come to realise whilst working on this project.

So, having a routine makes life a lot easier when writing, as well as in general life. As someone on the autistic spectrum, as well as dealing with ADD, I find once I get a very good, settled routine, I am able to be very productive and motivated. I just need to learn how to figure out a routine for myself without someone else having to support me in the process.

So, how does one set up a writing routine?

Think about these points:

1) When do you find yourself at your peak in productivity? Morning, Afternoon, Evening or Night?

2) Also, what other commitments do you already have? Work? Education? Housework? Social?

3) When do you find yourself feeling lethargic and tired, and more likely to procrastinate?

4) What do you intend to achieve in the time you set in your writing time?

5) How long can you focus on a creative task comfortably?

Once you’ve thought about these things, plot them onto a piece of paper in a way that is appropriate to you (I draw out my routine based on an academic timetable so I can fit in my lectures and seminars, study sessions and support sessions), just make sure everything is clear. Then pop it onto somewhere you’ll see it every day (I pin mine on the fridge), and make sure you stick to it. That last part is up to you disciplining yourself to keep on track with the routine.

If, like me, you find it really difficult to stick to something like this, don’t fret or panic. You are not a terrible writer/housekeeper/student/employee/partner/parent/human, promise! Just make sure you timetable time for slip-ups, and don’t beat yourself up about it!

So, in all, routine = more writing!

Nailed it.

How To Write a Novel in 30 Days…. #3 – #12

Let’s just say I’ve not really had the best of times over the past several days when it has come to this project.

Lots of factors come into this, including being away from university longer than I was initially planning on (I’ve literally only just gotten back to Bath this afternoon), getting distracted with family activities and Sims 4. Add in an excellent dose of Writer’s Block and forgetting to take my medication, and you have the recipe of novel-writing disaster!

I spent a lot of the first week away spending time with my foster mum and the kids, who are all very happy and boisterous as normal. I also hung out a bit with my cousin’s friends in a brilliant Cards Against Humanity session and a few jager-bombs thrown in. I also went out with my grandparents for an afternoon, to the pub for lunch and a drive to the seafront for a quick ice cream cone. When we got back, I helped Nan sort out her iPad (she’ll be a silver surfer yet!) and petted their cat.

This week was more chilled, with me spending a lot of time milling around the house and napping, as well as playing on Sims 4. There were plenty of opportunities to write, but as I felt so behind, I barely had the motivation to write very much, so only added about 600 odd words to the last word count total. It’s not good enough, and there is two weeks to go before the end of the project, so I need to get a wiggle on!

But now I’m back in Bath, the distractions should be minimal, as most people are still away, making campus nice and quiet, so I can slip off to Commons or the library for a change of scene so I can sit and write as much as I can. I’m not sure that I’ll hit my target final word count, but I can sure as heck try to write as many words as humanly possible. I’ll probably get started tonight after my shower…

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days #2

Day #2…

Not at all as successful as yesterday. It’s mostly my fault, so I shall hang my head in shame, knowing that I have to write double what I need to do tomorrow in order to get myself back on track.

Last night was the night the brand new Sims 4 expansion came out on midnight release. I’d preordered the game, and was sat staring at my laptop in anticipation, ready to spend the night gaming in the virtual world where I am the creator of the universe.

However…

I played until nearly 4am.

It’s a very addictive thing, Sims 4. Especially when you can now go with them to their workplace and wreck havoc on their working lives as well as their social and personal lives…

After noticing that I’d spent all night waiting and gaming, I reluctantly shut everything down, and trotted up to bed. Four hours later, my aunt was giving me the wakeup call that I’ve asked her to give me each day I’m in Portsmouth to ensure I get some writing done, I could barely open my eyes, or grunt much of a response. She popped my cup of tea on the side, and went off to her driving test (she passed, by the way, so congratulations to you Auntie!) and then work.

And I didn’t actually get out of bed until 1pm. The time I’d agreed to pop over to my grandparent’s house for an afternoon trip to their favourite local pub…

It was safe to say that I was occupied all afternoon with catching up, eating icecream and teaching Nan how to download things onto her iPad, and how to use Facetime (she’ll be a silver surfer yet!).

After getting home and having some dinner, me and my aunt and uncle watched the Leader’s Debate on ITV, and ended up debating heavily on what we thought of the issues (mixed results about immigration, the NHS and young people in education, work and training). We ate cake, did a bit of Ancestry.com, then everyone went to bed.

Well, nearly everyone…

And that was when I realised, at 1am, that I haven’t written a single word. Not one. Great work Heidi, great work! I’m going to have to write an extra 1917 words on top of the usual 2000 target tomorrow, and I have only myself and my gaming/terrible sleeping habits to blame. Ah well, there is always the morning…

And the evening.

Auntie wants to go out for the day tomorrow, to watch a film and go for lunch. So it’s going to be a frantic day to juggle everything, but I’m sure I’ll manage!

I think…

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Starting Word-Count = 2083

Target Word-Count of the Day = 2000

Word-Count Total = 2083

Total Words Written Today = 0

Minimum Word-Count Target for Tomorrow = 3917

How To Write a Novel in 30 Days #1

Day #1 is here!

I’m in Portsmouth staying with my aunt and uncle for a week or so, so I’m using the change of scenery to help me focus in the initial stages of the project.

So, my aunt woke me up at half seven, and I rolled out of bed at eight, and started writing at nine. I had a mug of very sweet coffee, a couple of biscuits, some notes and my laptop, and got down to business.

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By ten, I had about half and a bit of the day’s target total, 1035.

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My initial aim was to have it all down by eleven, but it was about half past eleven when I hit gold…

With 83 extra words to the chapter! Huzzah!

I feel really good at this point. I’ve noticed how much easier it has been today after taking my ADHD medication first thing before sitting down to write. Starting a routine of writing a chapter a day will also probably help, as will writing a summery of each chapter down in my notes to remind me of where I’m at in the story so I don’t get side tracked. I can also write a quick line of how I want to work the next chapter, so I have an idea of where I’d like the story to go, but allowing the opportunity for my imagination to run wild and add other parts. It’s nice to be focused, and do things in manageable chunks. Says me on Day #1. By the end of the week I may feel differently, but who knows? At the moment I’m feeling pretty darn good about everything.

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I’m looking happy at the moment, though how long that’ll last, I haven’t a clue. Milly had better behave herself in the next few weeks, otherwise we might just fall out. Writing an ADHD character as someone with ADHD is proving to be an interesting experience. As I’m handing parts of the book in for university work, I won’t be sharing excerpts until I’ve had my marks back, just to be on the safe side of not self plagerising, yay?

The story was initially going to be a chic lit style novel, although already in the first chapter I feel the genre is going in a whole new direction, probably just a comedy, to be honest. Even though ADHD isn’t always fun to live with, you can get an awful lot of material from personal experience for both stand up and general comedic writing. I really need to hone my comedy writing skills, so I’m hoping this novel will be very good practice!

So, Day #1 is done, bring on Day #2!

Stats

Starting Word-Count = 0

Target Word-Count of the Day = 2000

Word-Count Total = 2083

Total Words Written Today = 2083

Minimum Word-Count Target for Tomorrow = 1917

How To Write a Novel in 30 Days – UPDATE!

So, just came out of my meeting with my IP tutor…

I’VE BEEN GREENLIGHTED!

YEEEAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Though, on one condition…

He’s asked me to up the wordcount to 60,000 words…

Yes, you read that right, 60,000 words.

That’s 2000 words EVERY SINGLE DAY.

And that’s on top of the Journal, blogging and general life. No pressure then!

I’ve never upped my word-count before, considering that when I usually take on NaNoWriMo, or the Camp equivalent, I get to about the 15/20k mark before I end up throwing the towel in, and hiding in my room for the rest of the month, so that no one can spot me and ask how the novel is getting on.

But, this time, there is more at stake than just the half-written manuscript. My grade, my reputation at university is also on the line if I don’t succeed in this challenge.

My IP tutor said one main thing to me:

‘Just get those 2000 words a day written!’

And, you know what? I may be terrified, nervous, wanting to throw it all out and run in the opposite direction, but by Gods I won’t! I am more determined to prove that you can indeed write a novel in 30 days. Even if you have ADHD, a messy flat, piles of paperwork and a weird life in general.

I am a writer, and it’s about time I started actually being one.