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.

It’s Been a While…

It’s been ages since I wrote a post for this blog.

I’ve been terrible at keeping you all updated in everything I’ve been up to. Catching up with a load of backlogged coursework, running Pagan Society, writing a novel and general living. But I thought I’d give you a run-down on how it’s been.

I did get one book for Christmas, from M, an anthology of love poetry, which was cute! Other than that, I got some nice presents from my aunt and paternal family. It was amazing to spend Christmas with my own biological family, which I hadn’t really done since before I was put into care. But the past is in the past, and we move on.

So, things are progressing with my ADHD life. I’m now on maximum dose of my medication, and it is actually making the world of difference. I can now, once it has properly kicked in, sit down and blitz a load of words down. I’ve even been able to start a novel!

Tonight I’m off to help out to prepare with stuff for tomorrow, as I’m taking part in my first ever Reclaim the Night! Can’t wait! I’ll write more about it tomorrow, as it’s going to be amazing! I’ll write it from a neurodiverse point of view, so it should be informative!

I should be posting a lot more often than I have been, I’ve missed you all!

Save Clare Dyer – What the Hell?

A month or so ago, Kevin Healey, a campaigner on autism issues who is very active on Twitter, mentioned that a young 20 year old woman with severe autism and challenging behaviour has ended up being separated from her family in Swansea, Wales, and placed in a mental institution in Brighton. Yes, you read that right, in Brighton. Why?

Because the professionals decided that was the best course of action.

Clare Dyer was detained under Section 3 of The Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 2007), on 9th September of last year. Since then, she’d been able to carry on taking part in community and family life in Swansea, her home, and where she felt comfortable and safe, all whilst receiving the care that she needed for her severe autism, which would sometimes cause outbursts when sensory overload took place. The troubles started when her hospital was changed to Northampton, she struggled to cope with the huge change to her routine. Add an incident when she managed to escape from her safety harness on a bus, this caused the professionals to detain her, and not let her out. She hasn’t been out on proper walks since October 2013.

Section 3’s grounds for detaining a patient is on the basis of the severity of the patient’s mental disorder. However, one of the exemptions to the act involves learning difficulties, someone with a learning disability can only be detained under the act if the disability causes ‘abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct, including mental health disorder compulsions alongside the learning disability’. Clare was probably detained under the act on these grounds, due to her challenging behaviour caused by her struggle to survive in the outside world, with a debilitating disability.

To try and combat the professional’s decision to send Clare away, her family took the case to high court. On August 1st of this year, however, the judge overruled their concerns, and Clare was whisked away to Brighton Mental Health Hospital that same day, without giving her family the opportunity to say goodbye. This action was against both Clare and her family, although Clare is severely autistic, she could still use her voice to say ‘no, I want to stay home’.

In Brighton (a five hour drive away from Swansea), Clare is only permitted two hours a week of outsider contact. This is a nightmare for her family, who have to make the drive down just to see their daughter and sister. Forbidden from using her iPad to facetime her deaf sister, as she is only allowed to make phone calls, she cannot communicate with members of her family in a way that is suitable for all parties. Skype is meant to be set up, but as far as the family and campaigners are aware, this hasn’t happened as of yet. She is bored and lonely, in a place that she never wanted to be in, after being promised in February 2013 that she’d be placed in a care home close to home, so she can have regular access with her family.

This is unacceptable. There are notes from the Clare Dyer website, set up by Kevin, that talk about the fact that she was getting better with her family at home, all this move has done is made everything go backwards. More harm than good. Her family even asked for her to be removed from the act, but the professionals refused. Yes, it’s tricky to live with severe autism, and the challenges it brings. But shouldn’t someone be with their family, no matter the circumstances? People made that mistake with me, and I’m not going to sit by and allow this to happen to someone else.

 https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/abertawe-bro-morgannwg-health-board-keep-claire-who-has-autism-and-challenging-behaviour-in-wales-where-she-wants-to-be-close-to-us-her-family

Please sign the petition, and get the professionals to finally listen to Clare and her family and bring her home!

http://www.saveclairedyer.net/#!Our-Story-so-far/c218b/4A466E40-112A-44CC-93AB-80E70A7C26D2

Here’s a link to the website that Kevin has set up. Hoping that things go better from here on in.

Grey Hearts and Dancing Minds

(Although this is actually a performance poem, it is set out as prose poetry, experimental, just like the inspiration of the piece, Allen Ginsburg’s Howl. This poem does have a bit of bad language, and has trigger warnings of talking about mental health and disability, as well as ableism.)

I saw the best minds of my generation, beaten down and abused by their own minds, they would cry and cry as they held their heads, reaching out, questioning why their own bodies could treat them in such a way that they fell into despair.

I saw them crippled, suffering by the boundaries that they were given, drowning in a sea of cider and pills, cider and pills, pills.

A rainbow of emotions would smother them, choking their passion and destroying their dreams. They wondered why they ought to get out of bed to attend a lecture, or a seminar.

They would look in the mirror and see nothing but ugly hags staring back; fat, terrifying creatures that would seek to destroy their self-esteem.

I watched helplessly as they fell, deeper and deeper into their own thoughts, thoughts of self-destruction, loathing and fear.

They were too busy falling, with me attempting to catch them, for them to notice that I too was falling, into the depths of my soul, a soul that didn’t want to be discovered, or questioned, let alone fallen into.

Sometimes I would lie in bed, my inner demons arguing in my head, battling with the thoughts of other things, getting louder and louder, shouting, screaming, never relenting, never stopping.

I walked from A to B, my mind would be running a marathon, exhausting me by the time I sat down to attempt to study.

Everything and anything would distract me, anything from the rare bit of sun coming through the clouds out of the window, or the rustling of an illicit sweet wrapper.

My mind just would dance through the lecture, picking out words and tossing them far, far away. Words stopped being words and became nasal sounds, quietly knocking at me, at the soul that didn’t want to be knocked.

I saw the best minds of my generation flail, and struggle to survive. I watched helplessly on, without realising that I was barely living.

I ended up sitting in a room, a small box office, crammed with a psychologist, asking me probing questions about whether I climbed trees when I was a child and whether my mind was dancing, which even then it was, everlasting, never relenting.

I was soon diagnosed, and put on a list for medication.

Pills, that would stop my mind from dancing, just like Marilyn Monroe.

For the meantime, I would have to carry on surviving, and attempt to pin down my mind, my soul, and stop them in their tango of self-destruction, prescribed special glasses to stop me from falling over my own feet, stop me falling into my own despair.

I would sit with the angelheaded hipsters in my seminars: feeling like I was drawn in with multi-coloured ink, with a grey heart beating, whilst they stayed black and white, wondering what it would be like to just be that guy in the corner, able to sit and read from a white piece of paper without any bother, and churn out essay after essay, pulling all-nighters at the flick of the wrist, his mind letting him have control of his own thoughts.

We passed through the university semester, just about submitting reasonably written academia, fuelled with drugs, alcohol and literature, We were a movement of minds, all dancing whilst the other minds carried on walking by, oblivious to the creation that we so longed to reveal to them, whilst they ignored us, and carried on walking.

We dreamed fire in small study bedrooms cluttered with laundry and lost ideas, as we planned our futures, our revolutionary poetry, challenging and defying the status quo, to remember that we were OK, because we were already writing.

We would cower at our desks as we fought with our passions and ideals all whilst attempting to lead deceptively ordinary lives, lives blighted by the grey in our souls, souls that didn’t want to be discovered, questioned or fallen into, but ended up accidently showing themselves in our writing, writing that we would be expected to have read out loud and criticised.

So, with a blood-curdling howl of indignation, I started rebelling, writing obscene rhymes in order to attempt to change the world, to throw a spanner in the works, demanding change, demanding that one day, we should be able to rebel in the hope of changing the view on the rainbow minds that would never stop dancing, the grey souls that didn’t want to be hurt by the souls that were always on show, a shimmering gold as the sun shining out of their hearts.

I longed, hungry and lonesome for something to inspire me, to perhaps change the colour of my soul, as I wandered aimlessly through the streets where Austen walked, as doors to writing dens closed one by one, sending me on my way, as I attempted to scribble on the back of receipts in the charity shop where, on lazy Sunday afternoons I’d sit and hope that customers would arrive, and purchase some books searching for their forever-shelf in the homes of middle class elderly women or under the beds of students, collecting dust, among the memories, too bright post-it notes and stale bottles of beer.

Yet I listened, as I was told that I wasn’t allowed to let my mind do all the dancing, that it wasn’t OK to reach out, gasping, flailing, screaming, begging for the help that I needed from those that I thought were my friends, one by one they showed their true darkness, abandoning me, gossiping about how they didn’t like the person that I had become, I’d been suddenly gripped by an illness that I was becoming, suddenly I wasn’t someone worth respecting anymore, hypocritical fly-by-night motherfuckers, who were not even worth the ink on the page, the letters in the words that I write.

As the words flow through my fingers and onto the screen, with the cursor flashing mockingly at me as I wonder whether it’s really alright to tell all those people with false sympathy to fuck right off, that it’s not cool to be one thing in front of me, and then be something else, telling me that I’m being two-faced because I have to be two different people in order for them to accept me as a human being, that is something that I have to accept, is it?

Is that something that I should endure, just like all the other bullshit that I go through, with my mind ever tapping its feet and thoughts ever screaming at me to the point where I’ve run out of energy to scream right back?

Is that really acceptable?

Is that really OK?

Guess what, it’s not, and will never be.

So as I’m reaching out to catch those minds, that are plummeting to the ground, howling at the loss of their dreams to the minds that are eating their souls alive, I stop.

Think.

Maybe I should let someone catch me, just for a change.

 

 

 

I Work All Night, I Work All Day…

*hums ‘Money, Money, Money’ under breath*

Oh, didn’t see you there!

Sorry I haven’t posted anything long and decent for a while. I’ve just properly settled back into university life, getting into the swing of things. And I still have SO MUCH to catch up on before I can properly relax…

But I thought, for the moment, that I would live dangerously, and blog for a bit, catch up with my lovely readers, and remind everyone that I am alive and well (just…)

So, this past week…

Last Monday I had my second stand-up gig ever, with the Idle Playthings endorsed event Proving Grounds, so that was very exciting. I really felt a lot more confident this time around, having confidence in my material, the time slot and with talking to an audience. Some shameless ADHD/pansexual gags later, it became a pretty smooth night. I’m really pleased that I kind of swallowed my nerves to get that stuff done, especially as I’d had a serious hay-fever attack that day, causing me to look and feel disgusting, but it was so worth battling through it to get it done.

We also had a May the Forth Be With You party, involving Cards Against Humanity, alcohol and lightsaber fights in the university grounds in pitch black at 1am. I fell over during a weird rap-battle-esque duel with my friends, and really did in my toe, with gore all over the place (I’m being over dramatic, there was blood, but only destroying my socks), so had to limp back and get seen to. I guess it just reminded me of all the amazing friends that I’ve made since coming to university, as well as the fact that even that night I made a couple more friends, which is always brilliant!

The new academic building opened last week for student’s use. I had a seminar in their for the first time, and it did feel rather odd at first. But then I found the Starbucks (we have a freaking STARBUCKS!!!!!), learned that I like Caramel Macchiato (1 shot of espresso please, not two, that would be ghastly), and that I could spend all day working/procrastinating at tables with BUILT IN PLUG SOCKETS!!!! Welcome home, H, welcome home….

I’m gradually handing work in at the moment, at least one piece a week I’m aiming for at the moment. I’ve had extra study sessions booked in with the study tutor, and my mentor, they are happy with my progress, although I’m being nagged to work more outside of the sessions, so I am attempting to, but life always seems to get in the way…

So, I went to the Sleep Clinic in Bristol for my consultation a couple of weeks ago, and they’ve basically rooted the problem down to Sleep Pattern Delay Insomnia. Which, they explained, is probably either caused by my ADHD, or the ADHD is making it considerably worse. The only downside is that they don’t know how to treat me for the sleep issues until I’m finally being treated for the ADHD, which sucks. A lot. So I had to ring the ADHD clinic on Friday, and they said that even though my paperwork was faxed to them a month ago, that they’d only received it that day, and would meet on Monday to discuss whether I’ll be put on the waiting list for treatment…

So, looks like I’ll have to carry on muddling through then…

But on Wednesday I’m reading some poetry. I think I’ll read my edited version of Grey Hearts and Dancing Minds, a poem originally written as a prose piece, but seems to work better as a long performance poem. I’ll share it on the blog today, as I think I should start sharing more of my creative work on here, as not many people like to read on dA very much. So if you get spammed with lots of poetry in the next few days, that’s why. I’m nervous, as it’s a poem that’s angry, sad, passionate, everything that I’ve never allowed myself to be as a writer. But angry writing suits me, so I’m going to stick at it… 

I’ve also finally gotten my Irlen Syndrome glasses. I’m wearing them right now, and the world looks different… nowhere near as bright as I’m used to, it feels like someone has finally turned down the brightness levels of the world, so I can function without feeling blinded by everything. I can sit and write longer blog posts, stay outside longer, and generally enjoy myself without walking into things, or injuring myself…

Life is looking up, although it doesn’t feel like it right now. Damn studying…

The Rosie Project – Review

Image

It was the day of travel, when I had to go back to Blighty (more on that tomorrow). I’d gotten my last €40 out of the travel car account, and I decided to buy something to read. I dragged Josh into the airport bookshop, which was a weird, international mishmash version of WHSmiths, and had a look at the English section, unfortunately the smallest section in the whole thing. It meant that I had to do a serious dig, amongst all the chic lit and terrible erotic novellas, and came up with a couple of alright-looking ones (to be fair, I went back twice, as I wasn’t sure the first time whether I’d have enough for two books after feeding Josh and I from a really expensive airport café). The first one I bought I am yet to properly read, but the second book, The Rosie Project, which I’d seen in the bookshops back at home in the UK, was something I had to read first. After the magazines I picked up, obviously.

The story is of a genetics professor, and professional cocktail maker in Australia, called Don Tillman, who is undiagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, although a couple of the characters attempt to hint to him that he may have the disability. He is precocious, has a rigid routine, and is eccentric both emotionally and socially. He decides he wants to get married, but hasn’t got a woman to marry. So he creates ‘The Wife Project’, with a full on questionnaire to make sure he finds the most suitable candidate. It’s a perfect idea to find the perfect wife… Until he meets Rosie. Whilst helping her to find her biological father, he starts to feel an emotion that he hasn’t felt before, even though she is completely incompatible with him according to his requirements. The novel looks at the growing relationship, and his struggle to understand and learn that sometimes, love comes to you rather than the other way round.

This was a book that was believable, funny, sweet and charming. Don is a character that, although you can so see that he is on the autistic spectrum, it’s not the main focus of the novel. It’s about him, and his growth as a person, rather than about his issues. Although, that said, it’s handled sensitively and realistically. The writer says in his interview, that he based Don and his characteristics on people he worked with as an IT specialist, rather than researching the condition in the traditional way. In this case, it worked. You can tell when a writer has had to research a condition, without any personal knowledge of it. This helped to portray Don in a positive light, despite his flaws.

And I liked the additions of  Don’s questionnaire, cocktail recipes and interviews in the edition that I picked up. It gave the book a touch that made you feel more included, not just a reader, but actually someone in Don’s world.

This is the first book ever, with an Asperger’s protagonist, that I actually haven’t had any issues with. I remember reading Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I feel is one of the most stereotypical and terrible characterisations of an autistic person that I have ever read, as it really focused on the condition, and not the character himself, which is the biggest problem when writing autistic characters. I enjoyed this book, simply because it’s a book about a guy who wants a girl, rather than an autistic guy who can’t get a date.

My rating: *****

For a rom-com, brilliant!