So…

I finally had my ADHD assessment yesterday. It was after social services finally sent the information to my psychologist, who then sat me down and did the assessment interview. It took place in a tiny poky office with bright, white walls. It felt very surreal, and didn’t help that it was first thing in the morning when the event took place. I finished my bottle of water very early on, and needed the toilet for a while.

Three hours, and an awful lot of questions later, my life changed forever. ‘Yes, that’s a positive diagnosis for ADHD, more on the attention deficit part than the hyperactive, but you definitely have ADHD.”

It was a strange moment in my life, when my questions about my life were answered, when I realised why I wasn’t a typical autistic woman, why I struggled so much as I got older, why I couldn’t cope at college or when I started university. It was a mix of relief, as well as dread, as it means that the way I live my life will be completely different. I’ll have to create new strategies, potentially change my diet/go on medication to manage my condition.

But now I know why I find lectures and seminars difficult, and why I can’t seem to follow routines, as well as explaining the anger that I feel sometimes, and the feelings that I have that swing from one to the other at the drop of a hat. I know now why I struggle to sleep properly at night, and why I spend every day exhausted by life.

I’ll hopefully be seen by someone in Bristol soon, to discuss options for potential treatment of the condition. But for now, I guess I have to get some actual work done…

Advertisement

Popping the Clubbing Cherry

I went clubbing last Friday night. I know, weird, huh? 

I went, because of the fact that I know that I need to try new things before I decide whether I dislike it or not, like trying new foods or listening to new music before I come to a judgement. This is how I know that I don’t like marrow, and dislike rap and RnB music. I now know also that I actually am mad about tuna mayo on a jacket potato, and actually like a bit of ska and mod (I blame my father in law for that one). So, I knew that people said good things, and because one of the girls in the halls I’m in is a promoter of a club, I knew I would get on the guest list, and should be perfectly safe…

It was fine at first, as I went earlier, whilst it was dead, to get a feel of the place. Then people started filling the place. I’m not claustrophobic of agoraphobic, but I could feel a sense of dread as I sipped my fake Malibu and lemonade (which was gross, by the way). I disliked the fact that people would just barge through without saying ‘excuse me’, men would be more than happy to have a feel of my bottom, and when a fight broke out, a bouncer tore past me, smacked me in the face and sent me flying into a group of girls who looked less than impressed to have a panicked autistic girl practically thrown into their laps.

Therefore, I have decided that clubbing is not for me, especially as I had two big panic attacks, which I haven’t had since I was at secondary school. I won’t get that night back, which sucks, but at least I know now that clubbing isn’t nice. Which begs the question, so many people with AS I know want to be able to go clubbing, but are unable to because of the loud music, bright lights, crowdedness, smoke, physical contact and unpredictability, and nowhere to go if they are feeling stressed.

So, I recon clubs should be able to do at least one AS friendly event a month, with a suitable environment for people to enjoy, with a reduced volume of music, rooms for people to ‘time out’ in, carers go free, dimmer lights, no smoke machines and a system where someone wears a wristband to state if they are happy to be approached by strangers or not, like a green one if they are cool with it, and red if not. Bouncers and staff in the club would also be trained in AS and how to cope with panic attacks and sensory overload in a sensitive manner.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  You can see the money in it, come on! Cinemas already have AS friendly screenings, and sometimes West End shows will put on AS friendly versions of productions. So why not in bars and clubs?

Party Survival Tips for AS Folk!

So, I’ve been really busy the past week, with so much going on. But last night was crazy, because of the annual Snow Ball (see what they did there, to keep things nice and secular). We all dressed up and even went into town to get our makeup done by the lovely ladies in Boots on the makeup stands. Then after some sort of pre-drinks party thingy, we all set off.

So, don’t get me wrong, I do love having a great time with my close friends. But parties are just a big struggle for me. This is when I really suffer with sensory overload, and also struggle with social etiquette. I know lots of people with AS struggle with this too, so I thought I would spend a bit of time quickly writing a post about party survival this festive season (and the rest of the year).

1) Pack your bag properly.

I have the usual things in the handbag I take to a social event, like my wallet, lipstick, mirror, phone, ID, keys to my room. But I also pack according to what kind of party I’m going to. So, for example, if I’m going to the Student Union where I know it’s going to be very loud, I pack my earplugs to help muffle the sound levels slightly. If lights are an issue (being too bright) I’ll pack some sunglasses.

2) Have signals/code words

I tend to feel awkward the most when someone I hardly know comes up to me, and starts getting all in my space and touchy feely. I also feel uncomfortable if I’ve had a bit much to drink, or if the music is too loud even with earplugs in, or I’m just feeling overwhelmed. So me and my two best friends have come up with clear hand gestures and phrases that I can say to them in a party situation to let them know I need a time out. They use them too with everyone now in our circle of friends, so it’s really useful, as I can just tap my elbow and have them come up with a socially acceptable excuse to usher me out into the fresh air.

3) Try to keep towards the edges

It’s best to stay out of the crowd, especially if you dislike being in one (that’s common sense, really). But being at the edges helps if you do need to make a quick getaway, as I’ve tried to escape from a big crowd before, and it isn’t pleasant.

4) Stand Up for Yourself!

Don’t let someone persuade you into doing something that isn’t comfortable. For example, I had a friend who dragged me into the crowds, and onto the stage which was full of loud drunk people, and made me dance whilst a guy grabbed my hands and kept spinning me. I didn’t want to say ‘no’ because I didn’t want to look like a party pooper, even though I was cowering in pain next to the speakers, but I do regret standing up for myself. It’s not fun having to say ‘no, I’m sorry, but that makes me feel uncomfortable’, but it is better than being in agony. Or, if they properly grab you, try and lose them in the crowd, and slink back to friends who will look out for you.

5) Don’t Push yourself

If you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough. Just make sure you have a friend to walk with you, it’s never fun trying to get home whilst overloaded on your own.

I hope that helps a little bit. I know it might not always be the best advice, but these are just a few things I’ve learned on the way.

Women Have Aspergers Too!

So, I follow @EverydayAbleism on Twitter, which is very similar to @EverydaySexism, except from the fact that it covers people in the UK who suffer from an ableist society. Ableism is basically the discrimination of someone because of a disability that they might just have to live with day in day out.

I have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) which I was diagnosed with at the tender age of three. As I grew up, I was made very aware of my ‘disability’ by ableist foster carers, who looked after me solely for my DLA and the higher rate paid to them by social services. I was bullied at Brownies and Guides because I ‘suffered’ from a condition, and was often reminded by teachers that I would never go to university, because ‘kids like you simply don’t do things like university, if you aim that high you are only setting yourself up for failure.’ That would be before they would shoo me away and tell me to get on with that wordsearch that would be the only bit of schooling I would be given for the day.

It wasn’t until I got to mainstream school when sexism came into the picture for me and ASD.

‘You can’t be autistic, you don’t seem it.’

‘Girls don’t get Aspergers, that’s a guy thing’

‘I didn’t think you had Autism, unless you were born male’

‘You look rather boyish, so that kinda makes sense’

I never thought that being female, and being autistic was such a crime! I never really thought that it was a problem. Autism doesn’t affect as many female s as it does males, and doctors and scientists are still trying to figure it all out. I have often been the only girl in a class of twenty students when I was at special school. I didn’t care a jot, naturally. I thought that was normal, as I played Yu Gi Oh and read manga with my best friend. I was seen as one of the guys. And I didn’t think that was wrong!

I was on Twitter yesterday, when a discussion on ableism in education was spoken about. I brought up the special school teacher incident, and a few girls with ASD and Aspergers replied to me. They told me that lots of Aspie folk attend university, and it is seen as normal. Yes, it can be tricky for us as we don’t have the same skills as everyone else when it comes to studying, but there is support available.

The conversation then turned to being aspergers and female. That opened up a whole can of worms for us. Yes, we are women, yes we have autism and/or aspergers. Why does that matter?

What we need is to be seen and heard just as much as male ASD folk. Notice that I never mentioned ‘sufferers’. When doctors and specialists write about Autism, they must’nt focus on some people just because a penis rather than breasts and vaginas are involved. I’m sorry, but that’s the bottom line. When teachers have a girl with ASD, they need to make sure that she is just as valued as her male counterparts. Girls and women with Aspergers and Autism need feminism just as much as any other women. Perhaps we can be more oppressed than some other women, simply because of the fact that we ASD girls are not taught about feminism, teachers just don’t think it applies to us. If anything, we might need it more than anyone else. I’m not saying that we are the most important, lots of women need feminism, from the trans (yes, feminism is VERY IMPORTANT for them!!!) To the WoC (women of colour). But sometimes the disabled women are forgotten. Especially those with what is known as an invisible condition.

So, next time you meet a woman with Aspergers or ASD. Don’t question her and her ‘eligibility’ to live (not suffer) with it. Just support her, and love her like you would love any of your other friends.

Because Women have Aspergers Too.