Autism: Fantasy Versus Reality

For the majority of my 9 year old autistic son’s life, he’s lived in a fantasy world made up of fictional characters. He becomes those characters. He believes in them. To him, they’re real.

It’s escapism. A way of coping with a confusing world and I understand it because I’ve lived in a fantasy world of my own, particularly as a child. One thing my mother picked up on was how I was never ‘here’. The reason for that was that ‘here’ was (and still is) overwhelming and causes me a great deal of anxiety.

As I grew older, I escaped into music and books. Music conjures up vivid imagery to me and my mood changes with tempo. It would seem that I am wired to physically and emotionally react to music.

Music provides me with the protection that my imaginary world once did with fictional characters. With music, I’m physically here, but mentally (spiritually) I’m elsewhere. Walking down the street becomes a tolerable experience with my ear buds in. I know that people can see me, but I am anesthetized to them and the environmental noises that make me anxious.

I need escapism. While it’s not the same world I inhabited as a child – my need for an alternate universe remains the same. The difference is that I understand what is acceptable (and what is not) of me as an adult. But make no mistake – when I listen to music or lose myself in a book, I am as far away as I ever was.

Being autistic, I don’t have interests, I have obsessions and one of mine is death and true to my autistic self, if I can find a way to weave my obsession with mortality into a conversation, I will, but don’t worry, I haven’t gone off on a tangent. It’s relative, so bear with me.

I don’t see my interest in death as being morbid. It’s something that is going to happen to me, so I need to familiarse myself with it because – the fear of the unknown, right? I’ve already planned my funeral and one of the songs I have chosen is David Bowie’s Life on Mars.

You see, Bowie knew a thing or two about misfits. He knew that they would identify with his style – visually and musically – thus making him a very rich man. Arguably, one of his best tracks is Life on Mars – a song which Bowie labelled, “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media” and added, “I think she finds herself disappointed with reality… that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.” For me, it’s reminiscent of own crushing disappointment with reality. I was the ‘girl with the mousey hair’ watching movies over and over (and over) again – wondering why reality could never live up to them. I know that my family will struggle to understand the song’s meaning, but if ever a song existed that was my song – it’s this one.

In fact, in my fantasy world – Bowie wrote it for me, innit?

A lot of autistics live (or have lived) in a fantasy world and if you understood how hard it is to live on a planet that’s not compatible with your needs, you would understand why this happens. The bottom line is this: Our imaginary worlds are where we have complete control over ever single thing that happens.

Control is something that we have little of in the ‘real’ world. It’s the reason we flounder through life – succumbing to mental illness. Some of us will take our own lives. Many of us will die prematurely from stress related conditions and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The rest of us will struggle with chronic health conditions that won’t kill us, but which will impact our already limited lives. But inside our mind is a place where we can be ourselves. A place where we don’t have to fight to be heard or accepted. A place where we can be ourselves, without fear.

How sad that this is the stuff of fantasy, instead of reality?

This is our reality.

I know how crap this world can be. I know how unkind human beings can be, so I indulge my son’s need for fantasy because I understand his need for escapism. The real world disappoints. It hurts. It makes us anxious. I wish that I could spare him all of this, but I know that one day his imaginary world will no longer protect him. I dread that day, but I know that it will because this isn’t our world. It isn’t autism friendly. Not yet. Not by a long way. This is why so many of us describe feeling as if we are from a different planet. We’re aliens having to work exceptionally hard to try and fit in here.

In our fantasy worlds, we live, rather than exist.

In reality, we exist, rather than live.

Whether escapism is being a fictional character, or losing ourselves in the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book – it’s important that we do it and it’s important that people, especially parents, understand why.

“For a child with Asperger’s, especially a fantasy subtype, fantasy can become an obsession. If fantasy becomes an obsession, it may take therapy or perhaps medication to correct the situation. Do not hesitate to contact a psychologist for help if your efforts are unsuccessful. A child locked in fantasy is a child lost to reality.”

I came across this on a website specifically for parents of children who have Aspergers.  The last sentence in particular suggests ignorance of the importance of escapism and it’s function. Is intervention really in the child’s best interests? Or is it another example of autistic children being forced to adapt so that non-autistic people can feel more comfortable in their presence?

Our autistic lives revolve around escapism and obsessions. If a child’s obsession involves wearing a Jason mask AND nicking your kitchen knives, it’s probably best that professional help is sought – pronto. Otherwise, leave them be. Escapism is serving a purpose. It’s keeping them sane. The important stuff is going in. Nobody was more ‘locked in a fantasy world’ than I was as a child, but I do understand the difference between fantasy and reality. It’s just that reality overwhelms me, so I need to intersperse it with frequent visits to my fantasy world – medication not needed.

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” ~ J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

Supermarket Weep

I went shopping the other day – nothing unusual with that.

It’s half-term, so I took my son with me – nothing unusual with that either.

However, something happened at the supermarket check-out that ROCKED MY WORLD!

But first, some history..

The first time I realised I could be ‘getting on a bit’ was during my third pregnancy when I stole a look at my hospital maternity notes and saw the term “elderly primigravida”.

Elderly? I was only thirty-eight! Then again, the average age of mothers where we lived at the time was about 16 and I defy any thirty-something mother-to-be to sit in a waiting room full of girls fresh out of their school uniforms and not feel ancient.

Having The Boy took it’s toll on my health, so much so that my brain communicated the message to my ovaries that my breeding days were over and I entered, was catapulted into the menopause at 39 years of age.  Bummer, huh?

The problem is that my mind still thinks it’s 17 (the age I was when I had my first son) which would explain my HORROR when the young (male) cashier at the local supermarket rocked my world with this question.

‘Is your grandson helping you to pack?’

Grandson?

It would have been more tolerable if my son was a baby or a toddler, but he’s almost as tall as me with size 4 feet, not that the operator could see his feet from where he was sitting. But you get my drift?

I stared at the young man.

Stared? Are you sure you’re autistic?

Look, my eye-contact is questionable at best, but when sufficiently antagonised, I can out-stare a statue, mate.

After what seemed like hours, I blurted out: ‘HE’S MY SON!

‘Oh my God. Sorry! Er, anyways, you don’t look old old enough to be a grandma etc.’

Put the shovel down, mate. Stop digging. The damage is done. You mistook my 9 (looks more like 11) year old son for my GRANDSON! You PRESUMED it must be the case. Do not address me again. Scan my goods. Take my payment and allow me to exit the supermarket with what remains of my self-esteem.

He never uttered another word.

There was this awkward atmosphere with me aggressively shoving my fruit and veg into bags for life and him fast-tracking my goods through the scanner as fast as was humanely possible. That done, I practically chucked my clubcard at him. I may have been in a hurry to get the hell out of there, but I still wanted my points!

Five minutes later, I was sat in the car – sulking.

“Are you OK Mum?” The Boy asked me.

I don’t know what gave it away that I wasn’t OK. Maybe it was the way my knuckles gripped the steering wheel despite the fact we were stationary?

I said I was fine.

I wasn’t fine.

I really wasn’t.

I (who usually can see the funny side in most things) wasn’t fucking fine.

What I couldn’t work out was WHY it was bothering me so much? I didn’t even have the ‘time of the month’ as an excuse because I’ve not had a period since 2011!

This was the sort of thing my mother would have reacted badly to. She’d have given the young man (see, even that makes me sound like an old codger!) an earful then flounced home to slam some doors. Then again, this was the woman who in her late 60s decided to drop the ‘nan’ bit and sign her grandchildren’s cards with her name. A few years earlier, short-arse rock God, Prince, had ditched the ‘Prince’ bit for a squiggle and became ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’. So, this was how my mother came to be known as ‘the artist formerly known as Nan’.

Was I becoming Gerascophobic like my mother? *

After a day of sulking, I concluded that, yes, the comment had touched a nerve because I physically feel much older than my years due to illness and early menopause. It’s yet another reminder that my youthfulness has fucked off (taking my oestrogen and collagen with it) and will NEVER return.

I guess the problem is that I’ve been used to being the youngest in everything: The youngest child. The baby sister. The youngest in the class. The youngest wife. The youngest mum.

I wonder if it’s any coincidence that this ‘incident’ happened during my silver-hair transition? I have about six inches of silver hair now, but ffs, was it really the artificially coloured hair which made the difference? Not that I am going to slap the dye back on anytime soon  as the lure of cheaper hair-dos takes priority over being mistaken for my son’s grandmother.

Even so. *twitch*

At the end of the day, it’s not a big deal at all. Or it shouldn’t be. There are certainly bigger things in the world to worry about, right? I also understand how lucky I am to have a child full stop etc etc so no need to go there.

Bottom line? The first time somebody mistakes you for your child’s grandparent instead of mother? That’s a psychological kick in the flaps, whether you admit to it or not.

So, my flaps having been metaphorically and psychologically kicked, I uphold my right to sulk profusely.

I may be some time.

*(Gerascophobia is an abnormal or incessant fear of growing older or ageing)

 

 

Smile! It Might Never Happen!

A man came up to me in the street one day and said, ‘SMILE! It might never happen!’

What might never happen?

How did he know that ‘it’ hadn’t already happened?

Did he walk up to men and say the same thing to them?

This kind of thing happens a lot to me and there is a reason.

Resting Bitch Face

Yes, I have a serious resting face, otherwise known as ‘resting bitch face’ because if you’re not grinning like a lunatic 24/7, apparently you’re a bitch and a miserable one at that. If a man has a serious resting face, does that make him a ‘resting bastard face’?

*Googles resting bastard face*

Apparently it does!

What I want to know, is where did this expectation for women to smile come from?

When a man tells a woman to smile, is it because, at a conscious or unconscious level he believes that they are subservient and exist to please him? Some might see it as a casual remark that means nothing, but what if it’s really about control? The man wanted me to smile, regardless of how I was feeling. For all he knew, I could have been grieving the loss of a loved one. I wasn’t, but the point is that he seemingly had no regard for my feelings, only how my face affected him.

We only have to go back a mere 63 years to see how this was a way of life because women were seen to be subservient to men. Their purpose? To look after them. To keep them happy, no matter what.

Here are a few of the tips on how to be a good housewife taken from Good Housekeeping 1955.

Be a little gay and more interesting for him. His boring day might need a lift and it is one of your duties to provide it for him.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

Be happy to see him.

*pauses to violently retch*

Obviously, ‘gay’ has a different meaning these days. In those days, however, it meant carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy”.

What I want to know is this: How the hell did these women (whose days consisted of hard graft) manage to smile as they waited on their husbands hand and foot? How more men didn’t end up with arsenic in their tea, I’ll never know. Can you imagine spending the morning on your hands and knees scrubbing hard floors only to have hubs walk all over them in his dirty shoes whilst expecting you be a ‘little more gay for him’?

Can you imagine this happening whilst going through the menopause?

In contrast, I just texted my other-half to inform him that the dog’s vomited all over the kitchen floor. How’s that for gay?

1950s wife was probably knackered by tea-time. The poor cow most likely wanted to drink gin and fall into a coma, but instead she was expected to put her lippy on, smile and be entertaining. She probably had five kids to see to as well. Not to mention, ailing parents and grandparents.

Thankfully, we are no longer shackled by such chauvinist bilge – which is why I don’t appreciate random blokes walking up to me in the street and saying stuff like SMILE. It might never happen!

This also goes for the annoying wedding photographer I encountered in the 80s.

‘Are you going to give me a smile ‘shuggie’?’

Fuck off. I’m 12 years old, hormonally imbalanced to the point of murdering somebody (you, if you don’t piss off) and I’m being forced to wear a pink dress when I should be wearing my jeans and AC/DC tee shirt. Kindly take your smile and shove it in your camera-bag.

P.S Don’t call me shuggie.

Fair dos. He was a photographer. It was in his job description to make people smile, but it’s still annoying when you are a raging tomboy in the throes of adolescence and some bloke is trying to make you smile when all you really want to do is listen to heavy metal and get on with hating the world.

Goes for school photographers too. Annoying gits. I hated school with a PASSION. Why on earth would I want to smile? Do people smile in hell? DO THEY?!!

Incidentally, I didn’t say ‘cheese’ in my school photographs. I silently screamed ‘HELP!’

My high school photograph was a stunner: Greasy hair, angry looking acne and an expression that would curdle milk. Needless to say, I set fire to it at the earliest opportunity!

I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to. If I was to smile 24/7, I would expect to be carted off to the nearest secure-unit or A & E because people might assume I’ve had some kind of seizure. We are not meant to bloody well smile all the time. Smiling makes your face ache, so they have to be worth it, right?

Ironically, ‘face ache’ is a term for people who don’t smile.

Eh up! Here comes face-ache.’

Am I the only one who sees the ridiculousness in this? Isn’t the world confusing enough?!

Of course, we could always flash people our very best Jack Nicholson (The Shining) smile..

You’ve got to show em teeth, see. Top AND bottom. It’s a predatory thing. Technically, it’s a smile, but it’s a menacing one. Makes people uneasy. They can never quite work out if you’re harmless or a serial killer. Do try it the next time some arsepuffin tells you to ‘Smile. It might never happen’ and watch how fast they leave the scene.

*manic laughter*

I wish people wouldn’t assume that just because I’m not smiling, I’m not happy, because very often, I am. I’m comfortable with my serious resting face. It’s my face. When I smile, it’s because I have reason to, not because some random walks up to me in the street and demands one. I reserve my (non-psycho) smiles for the people I love because they are worth the effort. Whether it’s a happy smile or sad. It’s real. It’s me.

Not smiling makes me smile ~ Kanye West

Autistic and Crap at Maths?

 

‘You can’t POSSIBLY be autistic unless you’re a maths genius!’

Another autism myth is that autistic people are mindbogglingly good at maths.

PLOT TWIST. I am autistic and I am mindbogglingly BAD at maths!

My dislike of maths started in September 1975. From the word go, it confused the hell out of me. Later on, the teachers started talking long division and fractions and my brain would go walkabout and fixate on shiny stuff stuck to the classroom windows. Or shoes.

Algebra. Sounds like a fungal infection doesn’t it? Or the green slime that furs up fish tanks.

I went to college in my twenties and scored high in English, but my maths score was THAT shit, they advised me to enrol in a maths workshop. I declined because the course I was taking was for working with pre-school children, so I had maths covered with my fingers and toes, but it got me thinking (and not for the first time) that maybe I was number dyslexic?

Dyscalculia

The condition is thought to be related to dyspraxia and dyslexia and occurs in people across the IQ range.

Typically, the signs of Dyscalulia are as follows.

• Confusing the signs: +, -, ÷ and x
• Inability to say which of two numbers is the larger
• Unusual reliance on counting fingers
• Difficulty with everyday tasks ie. checking change and reading clocks
• Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting
• Difficulty with times-tables
• Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time
• Problems differentiating between left and right
• Having a poor sense of direction
• Having difficulty estimating the distance of an object
• Inability to grasp mathematical concepts and rules
• Difficulty keeping score during games.

This pretty much describes me. I’d go so far to say that, in absence of a calculator (once I run out of fingers and toes) I’m pretty much fucked. Oh, and I do NOT know (and never have known) my times table.

Teachers have tried (and failed) to make me understand maths. My homework book had so much red ink in it, it looked like something from a crime scene.

notebook-2478554_640

I lived in fear of maths in general (double maths started my palpitations off) but especially maths homework. So much so, that I copied my friend’s once. Problem was, ‘Sir’ was so used to me handing in a pile of unintelligible crap that he instantly smelled Rattus norvegicus and instead of ‘See Me’, he wrote: Please bring your book to me in the next lesson to show me how you worked out the answers.

B.U.S.T.E.D.

Most maths teachers gave up on me. My ‘inability’ to learn combined with refusal to speak pissed them off – so they invariably left me to it.

One teacher tried more than most. I liked him because he was kind. He tried several ways to try and help me to understand mathematics, but each time I would stare at my paper or manically chew my pen-top. I can see his face now, turning around from the blackboard with a beaming smile, absolutely certain he’d nailed it this time..

Now, do you understand?

*vacant face*

He offered to give me lessons after school. As if THAT was going to happen? I think not!

So, he eventually gave up on me too.

This condition affects me in many ways, like driving. I can’t judge distance very well so I end up taking wrong turns. My Sat-Navs most commonly used commands are, ‘When possible do a u-turn‘ and ‘Route recalculation’. I also feel as I am going faster than I actually am. Or slower. Elsewhere, I have poor coordination – which explains why that step-class I took back in the 90s was a monumental embarrassment fest. Oh. The. Shame. *wafts hot cheeks*

Since my autism diagnosis, it’s become clear that I have many co-morbid conditions and I believe Dyscalculia is one of them, but at 48 (almost) is it too late to do anything about it?

I get by. Just. I use a calculator for the basics and for the bigger things, I ask someone else to do it. I’m not stupid, though I have been made to feel as if I am over the years. Someone told me I wasn’t very bright because I left school with no qualifications. That spurred me to go to college as a mature student and I passed my course (Child Care and Education) with merit, but I am undoubtedly impaired when it comes to maths.

Research shows that I am not alone. It is a difficulty that many autistic people have. It’s less common for dyscalculics NOT to have problems with reading and writing, but then I’m special innit?

I scored 86% in an online test, so it’s highly likely that I would get a diagnosis. I was offered support for this when I was diagnosed, so maybe I will take them up on it? I really don’t mind labels if there is some benefit to be had and in this case it would seem there is. If not for learning maths – the explanation for why I can’t do certain things. The latest being my son’s maths homework because it might as well be written in hieroglyphics for all I understand it, but I don’t feel quite so useless now I know there is a reason behind my struggles. It’s called dyscalculia.*

Hopefully this post has put paid to the myth that autism = maths genuis?

Dear maths, I am sick and tired of finding your “X”.

Just accept the fact she’s gone.

Move on, Dude.

* Dyscalculia on WordPress has red squiggly lines underneath it because it thinks it’s a spelling mistake and when you right click on it for options, you get ‘miscalculate’ which is pretty apt, no?

Fade To Grey..

Our hair turns grey as part of the ageing process, though I prefer silver or ‘salt and pepper’ as grey is one of those depressing words, like beige.

When Do We Go Grey?

Most women will start to see the odd grey hair from around their thirties. I was in my twenties, but then I don’t like to be average. By the time most women hit their fifties, around 50% of their hair will be grey.

Getting that first grey hair is bad enough..

First grey pube? Horrifying!

Why Do We Go Grey?

Hair color is the pigmentation of hair follicles due to two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Generally, if more eumelanin is present, the color of the hair is darker; if less eumelanin is present, the hair is lighter. – Wikipedia

So, we ‘devenir gris’..

‘Eh?’

The Visage song, innit.

“Aaah, we fade to grey (fade to grey)”

Yeah? So, ‘devenir gris’ means ‘go grey’ in French. You can’t say that I don’t educate you in this blog!

*whispers* I used to think it was ‘Div in your Gary’, but lets get back to the hair.

So, some of us go to great lengths (intentional hair pun) to try and hold back time, but unless we understand the affect hair colour has on our ageing skin, we can end up making ourselves look older than we actually are, which, quite frankly, sucks.

For starters – dark shades can be ageing. Worse still is the band of white roots. There is about a three week period before roots start to show, then it’s another three weeks of zig-zagging the parting to break up those telltale lines of grey. Six weeks later, it’s back to the hairdressers for a touch up and it’s not cheap having your hair professionally coloured, but it’s a case of cough up or buy a dye-it-yourself kit and the result can look epically crap depending on how competent one is at application. PLUS, let’s not forget the state of our bathrooms when we’ve finished slapping the stuff on our scalps. Put it this way. My last application of ‘Cherry Red’ made my bathroom look like a crime scene. I didn’t know whether to clean the bath or dust it for finger-prints!

We naturally fade as we age. Our skin gets paler. We lose that flush of youth. Granted, we are menopausal, therefore no stranger to flushes, but they are more Beetroot Red than Rosy Pink, wouldn’t you say?

To carry off dark hair, we need to know what we are doing make-up wise. Take Joan Collins for instance. Dark hair, but shit loads of make-up and a make-up artist who knows their stuff. We can get away with a lot when we are young, but when we are older we need to make adjustments or risk frightening small kids.

Or looking like we’re stuck in a time warp..

Doctor, take me back to 1981. The decade of Duran Duran, Jackie magazine and collagen.

Speaking of time-warps, I remember a rather ‘eccentric’ lady who wore mini-skirts, stilettos and garish make-up in the 80s. She was fifty if she was a day, but she was definitely stuck in the 60s – which was probably when reached her prime? Later, in the 90s, there was another lady in her fifties who dyed her hair white blonde, and wore blue- glitter eye-shadow, flares and platform shoes that high, she must have required a step-ladder to climb into them..

The first time I saw her lurching up the street was a Life on Mars moment where I thought I’d somehow fallen into a coma and woken up in 1973. The giveaway were two lads, (complete with classic 90s ‘curtain’ hairdos), who were taking the piss behind her back. That is, until she turned around and threatened to give them a thrashing with her platforms.

If dressing like that made her happy, then fair enough because I know ALL about being different. That said, I’m a big fan of the 80s, but if I was to strut down the shops wearing a ra-ra skirt, legwarmers and slingbacks, I’m fairly certain my family would put me in a home.

The point is that we can’t reclaim our ‘glory years’, no matter how much we might want to, because the menopause affects EVERY aspect of our being. We are not that person anymore.

So, hair.

I’ve had my share of hairdos. Good, bad and downright criminal.

Mullet? I had one.

One of those daft pigtails on short hair? Had one of those too and boy did I look a tit!

Highlights. Lowlights. Perms. Straight. Backcombed. Bobbed. Shaved up the back ‘n’ sides. Long. Short. Mid-length. Blonde. Brunette. Red. Mahogany. Oh, and black.

Black was a BIG mistake.

I’m done now. I want to embrace my natural hair which has been greying since I was in my twenties. I’m about four months into growing my hair dye out. It’s doing my head in, but I’ll persevere.

So, I am probably getting my hair cut short this week, unless my hairdresser advises me otherwise, in which case, I’ll be wearing a hat.

Or a wig.

Viva La Menopause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing My Autistic Child For Life Without Me

 

I lie awake at nights worrying about many things. Things such as money. Have I put the bins out? Some cow who wronged me in 1985. You know? Life. Plus, a few thoughts that I’m not willing to publicize. *coughs*.

One of my fears is a really BIG one.

It’s the fear that one day I will have to leave my autistic son.

Leave, as in die.

I worry about being dead because I know that I will no longer be able to look out for my son and that puts the shits up me worse than anything in this entire world!

The thing is: I’m middle-aged (*weeps*) and my body is starting to let me down, so, naturally I’m becoming aware of my own mortality. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I didn’t have a young son who is dependent on me.

Well, it’s your fault for having him late then!

WHOA THERE! I was 38 when I had my son and lots of women give birth well into their 40s nowadays. Plus, I was relatively fit and healthy. Quite simply. I gave birth and my ovaries threw in the towel and it’s pretty much been downhill ever since..

I have two other wonderful sons, but they are grown up and living their lives. I worry about them, of course I do. Most mothers never stop worrying about their children, right? However, they are independent and stopped needing me a long time ago. My job is done. They can change my big girl nappies when I start soiling myself, right boys?

The Boy is different because he’s autistic and here’s where the problem lies – not because he is autistic – but because I am also autistic and I know how hard it is to live in a world that doesn’t understand you.. While I am alive (and compos mentos mentis) I’m here to fight his corner and I have already had a one person cautioned by the police for intimidating my son.

“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”~ Stephen King

If that makes me a bitch? Fine.

I am preparing The Boy for independence. Just how independent his life will be is unclear as he’s still only eight years old, but I know I must push him and put him into situations that will push his boundaries. If I don’t, his world will be very small. The difference is that, being autistic, I know when to push and when to ‘ease off the gas’, as it were.

I also know when to change things that are no longer working..

One such thing is mainstream education. This last year, it’s become a struggle for The Boy, despite full one to one support and the best efforts of all involved. The problem is with the mainstream system, not the school itself. So he is being transferred from mainstream to a specialist school where he will be with other autistic children. Alongside the usual curriculum, he will be taught essential life skills in a controlled and safe environment. In mainstream this wouldn’t happen as the emphasis is on education, not life skills.

The school has 70 pupils ranging from 8 to 18 with class sizes no bigger than 6. In comparison to his mainstream class of over 30 children! So, this should help to lower his anxiety. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him and one which, thankfully, we didn’t have to fight for as it was the only viable option for him. If he was to remain in mainstream, he would have most certainly failed like I did and I can’t allow that to happen. What kind of parent would I be if I did? Nor could I rule out mainstream from the onset. My experience in mainstream was mega shit, but I didn’t want it to cloud my judgment regarding him. The difference is that The Boy has been happy whereas I wasn’t happy. Ever.

As positive as this is, it’s going to be a big change for all of us.

I will no longer walk him to school. He will use the transport provided by the school. Independence wise, It’s a massive step. If he were to remain in mainstream, there’s no way I could allow him to walk to school alone as some of the older children do because he’s too lost in his inner world to be aware of the dangers around him. He’d also copy the knobends who walk across school crossings when the red man is showing. What kind of example to kids is that?!

I want my son to live a full and happy life. I love him, so I have to start letting him go because the job of a loving mother is to let her children go. Even children with severe learning difficulties need a level of independence from their parents – even if it’s just for a few hours a day.

It would be easy to protect The Boy from the world and wrap him in cotton wool, but I would be failing him as his mother. Being too afraid to leave his own four walls because he’s stricken with anxiety or depression is no life at all and I speak from experience here. I grew up undiagnosed with no support and I’ve struggled EVERY step of the way.

I know I won’t be around for ever, so I must prepare him for that eventuality.

The Boy is limited by his diagnosis, but it was vital in order for him to access the support he needs. However, as things stand today he would be refused jobs simply because he’s autistic. Hopefully attitudes will have changed and companies will understand the value of autistic employees in the workplace by the time he is ready to enter the world of employment.

So, in a few weeks The Boy will start a new chapter in his life. I will stand outside our house as he gets onto the school bus and I will wave him off with faked enthusiasm – not because I don’t care, but because I care too much. I will have to call on ALL my acting skills to suppress my overwhelming emotions. As soon as the bus is out of sight I will probably go inside and drop-kick a cushion to the floor. Then I will collapse on it in a flood of tears..

My boy won’t be five minutes around the corner anymore. I won’t be able to walk past the school and wonder what he’s doing. It freaks me out just writing about it. I know I will struggle in those first few months. I will worry how he’s doing? If he’s happy? If I’ve done the right thing? Then I will remind myself that I am a mother. This is my job. His brothers are living their lives and I owe it to The Boy to give him the tools to be as independent and happy as they are.

The Boy is more than my son. He is a human being in his own right and a beautiful one at that. He shines as special children do. I want him to understand the positives of living inside the rainbow, because autism isn’t the tragedy that people imagine it to be. The tragedy is in the ignorance of people who don’t understand autism.

So, on with the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autism: The Pretender

I’ve always known I am different, but for most of my life I haven’t known why.

I’ve had to suppress the real me and try to be like everyone else in order to try and fit in.

Masking. Mimicking. Copying. Pretending. Camouflaging. Whatever you call it – it all amounts to the same thing: Survival.

The cost of trying to fit in is high as many autistic people succumb to physical and mental exhaustion at some point in their lives. Like me. I burned out at 46 years of age.

The moment we leave the security of our homes we become somebody else in order to survive.

We are performers.

So much for autistic people not being able to act, eh?

As well as mimicking my peers, I took inspiration from characters in books and TV. Sometimes it was hard to know where the characters ended and I began. I remember asking my mirror reflection, ‘Who are you?’

Forty years later, I was diagnosed autistic.

Finally. I knew who I was.

Make-up has always been a tool in my ‘how to survive life’ box. Like clowns who hide their true identity behind over-sized clothes and painted on smiles, I tried to hide my ‘weirdness’ behind eye-liner and a layer of foundation thick enough to plaster walls. I’d seen how make-up changed my mother’s face so I experimented on my own and suddenly I didn’t look like me anymore, and if I didn’t look like me, then surely it would be easier to pass off being like all the other girls and, just maybe, they’d like me?

Er, no.

I wore eye-liner at first, but Dad went paternal on me and made me sponge it off. He didn’t understand my reasons for wearing it. How could he? He was a ‘man’s man’ and he just wanted me to stay a little girl as long as possible. It’s understandable, I guess.

Girls my age were wearing make-up – the difference with me was that make-up put a barrier between me and them – at the same time allowing me to blend in a little better. It was psychological because in reality I was still different. I just looked more feminine..

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.”~ Courtney Summers – All The Rage

For me, make-up wasn’t about beauty or fashion. It was about protection. Just as a riot cop would never go into an affray without their helmet on, I would never go out without my ‘mask’ on because I would feel vulnerable and exposed.

It was about pretence.

“Costumes and makeup play an important role in the drama, character creation.”

I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna, only with less success. And money.

Is it any wonder I burned out?

Since my diagnosis there have been changes. I feel different. Lighter. Less tolerant of people’s crap. I’ve found that the word, ‘no’ comes a lot easier these days.

I’m a long way from being make-up free as some habits are hard to break. Plus, I look bloody horrifying without it, but the mask is slowly falling and hopefully one day I will wear make-up simply because I want to – not because I need to.

So, what’s changed?

I accept myself for who I am. Also, I’m knackered from decades of trying to hide who I am in order to fit in and for what?

I GOT BULLIED ANYWAY.

Bullied. Ostracized . Whatever. It’s basically human beings exploiting vulnerability instead of offering protection and support.

I’d hazard a guess that most autistic people have encountered bullies at some point in their lives?

Bullies are cowards. Bullies are not stupid enough to abuse people bigger or stronger than themselves. They dominate those who are different in order to boost their own self-esteem and there lies the problem: Bullies actually have low self-esteem.

While I am new to knowing I’m autistic – I have always been autistic and I’ve been feeling resentful towards the people who have let me down over my life. However, resentment will only harm me, not them. That said, I feel more in control of my life than I have ever been. This is why the mask is starting to fall because I no longer need to hide. For what’s left of my life, I will embrace being autistic because it’s who I am. Some people say their autism will never define them but I don’t feel that way. If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be me.

Being autistic explains everything. Every moment of my life. People think I struggle because I’m autistic, but that’s not true. I struggle with an overwhelming (and confusing) world and I struggle with people.

People are a major problem.

I’ve floundered about from one self-help book to another trying to ‘find’ myself and only when I had my third child did I finally get my answer because he was diagnosed autistic. I have so much to thank him for because without him I would still be struggling with my identity. I’m not sorry that I’ve passed my autistic genes onto him because he’s the happiest little boy I know. He does NOT suffer. He’s NOT a burden. He requires NO CURE. However, I’m am sorry that the world still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding him.

Not so long ago, the school asked him to name things he liked about himself and do you know what my beautiful autistic son said?

“I LIKE BEING ME.”

Will I ever be able to say that about myself?

Lets just say that I’m working on it. Yesterday, I left off the eye-liner AND eye-shadow and I went out into the world. Maybe to most women, that isn’t a big deal, but to me it’s HUMONGOUS because it means that the mask is slowly coming off.

I’m also growing my hair-dye out. This is a challenging process as I need things to be visually ‘right’ and the mad badger look isn’t exactly flattering. However, I choose to think of it as a transformation from my old (and confused self) to who I am now and with each inch of silver hair, I can see the real me emerging. Like a butterfly, no?

Sounds wanky, but it stops me from reaching for the box of hair dye that’s in the cupboard..

For most of my life, I have been a pretender – always trying to be someone else because I thought that I wasn’t good enough.

I AM good enough.

I always have been.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are ~ Kurt Cobain

Image Via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Hypochondriac

Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Florence Nightingale all have something in common..

Ooh. What’s that? Intelligence? Creativity? Empathy? Fabulousness?

Well, all of those, but what I’m talking about is hypochondria.

A hypochondriac is someone who lives in fear of having a serious illness. This could even be despite medical tests never finding anything wrong. They may also have somatic symptom disorder known as illness anxiety disorder, health anxiety, or hypochondriasis.

I’ve written about my struggle with health anxiety before and I’m not ashamed to do so. The way I see it is this: The more we get mental illness out in the open, the more people can be helped, yes?

So if you’ve ever listed your aches and pains down in a diary or journal – you could be a hypochondriac.

Darwin, for instance, kept records of his own flatulence.

I like to think it read something like this..

Monday: Long. Rasping. Smells like something crawled into my colon and died.

Wednesday: Guffed. Put myself into a coma.

Saturday:  Woke up from coma & farted a 9.8 on the rectum scale.

Sunday: Attempted ‘danger fart’. Followed through. Mrs Darwin – NOT happy!

Darwin’s fart diary? That’s nowt. I kept records of my bowel movements. Yup, I lined the toilet with bog roll in order to inspect the contents of my own poo!

Then I wrote about my findings in my journal. *blush*

Note: A courtesy glance into the pan as you wipe your botty is NOT hypochondria. It’s normal. Advisable even. If there’s blood in your poo it could be an early sign of bowel cancer and early detection could save your life. We’ve all seen the Be Clear On Cancer ads, right?

Avoidance is probably worse than obsession because people ignore symptoms altogether, which was Andy Warhol’s story..

Warhol was a genius in his field, but he pathologically feared growing old and getting ill. He refused to go anywhere near hospitals and so he ignored a recurring gallbladder problem until the pain was bad enough to hospitalise him. Problem was, he’d left it too late.

Avoidance is a killer.

There is a midway between avoidance and obsession.

AWARENESS.

It’s normal to be aware of new symptoms and to seek help if problems persist, but I was doing went waaaaay beyond the realms of normality.

I compared my poo to the Bristol Shit Scale and one thing I learned from playing Miss Marple with my own crap is that EVERYTHING you ingest affects what comes out of your bottom. Even supplements!

P.S Calcium supplements can make your poo pale.

P.P.S They can also constipate you.

Pale bowel movements and hypochondria? What could possibly go wrong?!

DID YOU KNOW? Sweetcorn comes out appearing to have been undigested. Apparently it’s something to do with humans not being able to break down the cellulose husk? However, it is a good way of finding out how long the journey takes from food going in your mouth to it coming out the other end. In my case, sometimes the sweetcorn was outta there in a matter of hours. Sometimes it was festering for days..

Stress affects your digestion system. Fact. I varied from feeling nauseous and not being able to manage anything more than a dry cracker – to feeling ravenously hungry, even after a full meal.

When it comes to your bowels, stress can play havoc with them. Believe me! Some days I was crapping it up for Britain at 3am, whereas other days my poo got stuck in transit and I was stranded on the loo for what seemed like decades. One such day being when I, er, strained a bit and convinced myself I’d prolapsed my bowel.

I was on my own in the house – stranded in the bathroom with what felt like a grapefruit hanging out of my orifice.

I tentatively prodded the ‘mass’ with my finger.

As you do..

The only plausible explanation was that I’d forced my bowels out, right?

I texted OH: MY FUCKING BOWELS HAVE FALLEN OUT!

I rang the doctors and demanded to speak to my GP. Now, normally I avoid phone calls like Justin Bieber songs, but my fear of dying with my innards hanging out of my arse-hole overrode my phone phobia.

The jobsworth receptionist gave me the ‘You’ll have to make an appointment madam’ spiel, so I screamed at her that my bowels were hanging out of my bottom.

‘Ooh! Right. In that case, the doctor will phone you back as soon as possible.’

So my GP phoned back and listened as I hyperventilated in-between the words. My. Bowels. Have. Fallen. Out. Of. My. Bottom. He asked a few questions then said, ‘You’re constipated. I’m writing out a prescription for some Lactulose. Pick up in an hour’.

Lactulose? Why the fuck wasn’t I being taken to hospital to get my bowels shoved back up into their rightful place?

‘Wait, don’t you want to have a look up my bum?’

‘Well I can if you want me too, but from what you’ve described I’m 100% certain it’s constipation. You just need some stool softener.’

My GP obviously didn’t have a clue.

So I consulted another one.

Dr Google.

I can hear the sound of palms being slapped on faeces faces from here.

IDIOT! You type in constipation and two clicks later, you’re dead!!

Yes, I know, but fear overrides common sense. Also, you don’t need to make an appointment cos Doc Google is available 24/7.

Aside the usual cancer scaremongering, I was treated to some wonderful anecdotes of bowel prolapse. Not to mention graphic photographs of something resembling afterbirth protruding from people’s bottoms. Apparently prolapsed bowels are not uncommon with weight lifters? ‘Bob from Barnsley’ volunteered the info that the last time it happened to him (after an intense barbell lifting session) he simply poked his innards back up with his finger. ‘No fuckin problem’.

Quite.

Turns out my ‘prolapse’ was hard poo.

I’ll spare you the details of how I found that out.

Er, why are you talking about shit, you manky bastard?

Because IBS affects a lot of anxious people and until they know it’s IBS, they think it’s something terminal.

I thought it was bowel cancer.

It’s easy to understand how IBS can scare the living daylights out of people and a how health anxiety can develop, but if you ever find yourself poking around in your poo – it’s probably time to get some therapy!

There’s NO shame in being a hypochondriac.

Some of the world’s best have been hypochondriacs!

It’s hard to imagine Florence Nightingale (the most famous nurse in the universe) was in fact a hypochondriac, but she spent the last 57 years of her life bedridden convinced she was dying. Flo eventually flitted off her mortal coil at the grand old age of 90. Who says that doing sod all is no good for you?!

My health anxiety co-exists with a panic disorder, as it often does. The thing with panic disorder is that you get panic attacks, which are terrifying enough when they happen in the daytime, but the majority of mine happen at night. These are known as Nocturnal Panic Attacks and leading up to my crisis point I was having at least one attack every night, cue Insomnia! A tired mind is an irrational mind and all those normal symptoms of stress became life threatening to me.

There was a period where I was either pestering my doctors, the out of hours doctors or A & E. My health was my existence – my obsession.

I was having a mental breakdown.

Writing this post (specifically the literally shit bits) I can see the funny side, but at the time it was anything but funny.

IT WAS TERRIFYING.

I guess I was destined to breakdown at some point in my life because I am one of the many autistic people who’ve had to stumble through life undiagnosed. Once diagnosed we are labelled as ‘highly functioning’ though I can assure you that it’s a misleading term as most of us struggle to exist, let alone live.

I am also hyper-aware of changes in my body. Most people are unaware of such changes, but I’m special, innit?

Being naturally anxious (and obsessive) this makes me a prime candidate for health anxiety. Also, I’ve been exposed to death earlier than most as my family started dying off before I could say “Mummy, I’m going to be sick”. By the time I was 26 I’d lost all my grandparents, a school friend, my father-in-law, an aunt, an uncle and my father – The Reaper was on overtime with my lot!

When it’s written in black and white, it’s easy to see how I came to lose the plot. However, I knew I needed help, so I got some therapy. Got cured (ish) and I no longer stare at my poo longer than is necessary, or healthy.

Will I ever be free of health anxiety? Probably not, because worrying is stamped into my DNA. If they ever autopsy my body, they will find WORRIER written through me like a stick of Blackpool Rock!

There is a massive difference between controlling health anxiety and and it controlling you..

In between Andy Warhol and shit-prodders like me is awareness. It’s acting on persistent or unusual symptoms instead of ignoring them.

My advice is to learn about the effects of stress on the body. Start with this blog if you want. I’ve written about it enough times. Just search for health anxiety. Or read some books. Whatever. Just educate yourself because knowledge will help to remove the fear.

I write about my experiences to help people. No filters. I share my crap (literally in this post) so that people will see that there is no shame, whatsoever, in being mentally ill.

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

Autism: When Awards Can Be A Negative Thing…

There was recently a thread on Twitter started by Claire Ryan who tweeted:

“When is giving a child an award at school, not an award at all?” – along with this excerpt about an autistic boy called Jack.

Jack reported being anxious recently in assembly as school were giving out awards. He would sit thinking ‘don’t pick me’. When he was picked he was very anxious and worried about which way to walk to the front of the hall with all people watching him. Jack was able to describe how this made him feel saying “my bones were dust..my brain was mush..if I could curl up into a ball and fall into a hole 50 feet deep”

A thought provoking tweet which stirred up memories of sitting in the school hall DREADING being given an award because of having to walk up to the front to receive it. You could bet your dinner money that somebody would stick their foot out on route to ramp up the humiliation factor and when you crave invisibility this is the LAST thing that you want.

My infants school had a ‘star’ system where children were awarded gold and silver stars for good work/behaviour. We also had black stars, which are sort of self-explanatory. Nobody wanted one of those. I liked the gold and silver stars because they were aesthetically pleasing. I like shiny stuff. What can I say? Maybe I was a cat in a past life. However, I did NOT like going up to the front of the class to receive one because it meant that everybody would look at me so I deliberately underachieved in my favourite subjects in order to avoid it..

For example, I purposely made myself read slower in order to avoid going to the teacher to get a new book. It seemed like I was below average but in actual fact I was an early self-taught reader who could easily read an entire book in a couple of hours at home. I was also reading books way beyond my age group but as far as the school was concerned, I was slow.

Despite my avoidance strategies, I would sometimes forget myself like when I ran a 100 meter sprint in the school sports. I didn’t realise how fast I could run and to everybody’s surprise, including my own, I won the race.

So, there I was, face down on the grass (dying) when I got an overpowering whiff of Paco Rabanne. This could only mean that my class teacher (and head of sports) was close by and sure enough he was standing over me with his mirrored sunglasses on looking like something out of Top Gun.

Actually, this anecdote story predates Top Gun but you get my drift?

He grinned at me.

Temporarily blinded by the glare off his whitened teeth, I gasped ‘Alright Sir?’

‘Well done young lady!’ *pats me on the back but I’m highly-sensitive so it feels more like a thump*

Then came the kick in the metaphorical flaps.

You’re in the athletics team and practice starts Thursday after school.

Shit. Shit. SHIT!!

Didn’t say shit, obvs.

Instead of feeling euphoric as I imagine most other children would – I felt sick to my stomach.

I didn’t want to be in the school team.

I didn’t even like sports except for watching football and Wimbledon. Plus, I did enough nervous sweating at school without having to work one up in my own time. The problem was that I couldn’t verbalise my feelings. I didn’t understand that I could have said no so I found myself turning up for athletics practice and the next thing I knew I was on a noisy coach bound for the local athletics stadium. Can you imagine how sensory that was? I was that anxious, I forgot how to hand the baton over for the relay race. That occasion was for town. Next came running for my county – by which time I was totally stressed out and visibly so. My mum asked me why I was doing it if it made me so unhappy? So I simply stopped turning up. Needless to say, Sir wasn’t pleased.

I don’t hold a grudge. How can I? He had no idea what was going on inside my body and mind as I wasn’t able to verbalise any of it. I suppose from his point of view it just looked like I was messing him about? He misunderstood me but then being misunderstood has been the story of my life.

Then there was the time when I got 98% in my history mock exam..

Teacher read out our scores. She read everyone’s name out except mine. That’s when I started to feel sick because I figured that I had either done exceptionally shit or exceptionally well.

Either way, it wasn’t good.

She read my name (and score) out and looked pleased for me. What she didn’t understand was that it reminded the class dickheads that I was there and that it had been a few minutes since they’d thrown something at my head. Needless to say, any sense of pride was obliterated by the feeling of wanting to die.

That 50ft hole that Jack described? I know it well.

I underachieved on purpose and the main reason was that achievement equaled anxiety.

The majority of replies that came from #ActuallyAutistic people (including myself) were that receiving awards causes distress and anxiety.

This isn’t to say that autistic people don’t want awards. Most people appreciate recognition when they have worked hard on something. It’s the social aspect of it that is the problem. For me, opening my book and seeing a gold star would have made me happy. It would have been enough. Having to face the entire class took the pleasure away and turned it into something very unpleasant. Just as being picked for the athletics team took away my pleasure of winning. For a child to purposely underachieve has a detrimental effect on their present and their future. No doubt Jack’s teacher meant well but despite their good intentions, the child was distressed.

It’s impossible to get things right every time but when teachers get it wrong they really need to learn from it.

The Boy likes to get rewards at school but he doesn’t like going into assembly to receive them. On a VERY good day he will go and get his award but will have to leave immediately. It’s all about gauging how anxious he is and if he is up for it or not on that particular day.

    • The thing with autism is that normal rules don’t apply.
    • Each child is different with individual needs.
    • Some autistic children are unable to verbalise their feelings.
    • An autistic child might be able do something one day but will struggle with same task the next.

To clarify. Autistic children like to feel a sense of achievement but how the recognition of that achievement is undertaken must be carefully thought out or irreparable damage could be done.

Teachers, take note.

Anxiety: All Aboard The Crazy Train

 

It’s normal to have aches and pains in middle-age. The problem with minor aches and pains when you have a fearful and sleep deprived mind is that you start to overthink them until they turn into something terminal, like cancer.

This is health anxiety.

Since my late 30s there has always been a part of my body playing me up. This week it’s neck pain and I’m having another IBS flare up. I’m constipated and there is a niggling pain in my lower bowel region. A few months back I would have Googled my symptoms, come up with bowel cancer and scared the metaphorical crap out of myself.

This is what I now call ‘climbing aboard the crazy train’.

The crazy train is the runaway thoughts train. It’s a scary ride. Scarier than ANYTHING you have ever ridden on in any theme park.

Or ever will.

It’s fulled by your catastrophic thoughts. There is no driver. There are no passengers. There is only YOU.

These are just some of my anxiety symptoms over the past six years.

  • Allergies
  • Back pain, stiffness
  • Breathing problems
  • Blanching (pale face)
  • Body Aches
  • Body Jolts
  • Body Zaps
  • Body shakes
  • Body Tremors
  • Blurred vision/sensitivity to light
  • Body Temperature (going from very hot to very cold)
  • Bloating
  • Brain zaps
  • Brain fog
  • Burning sensation on skin
  • Buzzing in hands, arms and feet.
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Craving sugar
  • Crazy thoughts
  • Difficulty speaking (slow speech)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depersonalisation
  • Difficulty thinking/concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fear of dying, of losing control and going crazy
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Feeling that the tongue is swollen
  • Frequent urination
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches/migraine
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hot flashes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth (burning tongue and clicking jaw)
  • Memory loss
  • Muscles (vibrating, tremors, weakness and wastage)
  • Nausea (retching and vomiting)
  • Neck (shoulder and neck tension and stiffness)
  • Nervous stomach
  • Night sweats
  • Numbness in fingers, feet and arms
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Pulsing sensation
  • Sensitivity to foods and medication
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Shooting and stabbing pains
  • Skipped heart beats
  • Soreness on scalp (like bruising)
  • Twitching
  • Tinny taste in mouth
  • Tinnitus
  • Lightheaded
  • Weak limbs
  • Weight loss

To list ALL my symptoms would obliterate my word count but you will see that my anxiety symptoms have affected me literally from my head to my feet and I have multiple symptoms at any one time. In my case, being menopausal and autistic means that there are overlaps but the anxiety makes things profoundly worse. For instance, my Tinnitus isn’t an anxiety symptom per se but it is worsened by the anxiety.

The most comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms I know of is here.

The next time you say, ‘THERE’S ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THIS SYMPTOM CAN BE DUE TO ANXIETY!’

Have another read through the list!

All these symptoms and the ones listed in the above link are symptoms of stress.

Heart symptoms are classic anxiety symptoms but you should ALWAYS get them checked out if they are new for you. I underwent tests on my heart and the doctors concluded that my ticker was doing everything that it should, it was just beating faster than it should because my body constantly thinks it’s in danger.

I have generalized anxiety with health anxiety that is now in ‘remission’ cos I got myself some therapy, innit? I’m also autistic which is where the roots of my life-long anxiety problems lie. A lot of autistic people have mental health issues. Most, I’d say. This is because it’s stressful living in a world that you don’t understand and which doesn’t understand you. I also have OCD with sporadic bouts of depression. Not forgetting the good old menopause which means I am lacking in the hormones which kept me sane (ish) for 30 years – discounting one week out of every month where I went psycho and would have willingly stabbed somebody for their Mars Bar..

Over these past six years, I have been UTTERLY convinced that I have having a heart attack or that one is imminent. Or that I am riddled with cancer or some other insidious disease. Yet, ALL the tests keep coming back clear. The horrors that I have tortured myself exist only in my imagination. Whoever said that autistic people don’t have imagination? I have a fabulous imagination. Ask my GP!

Everybody is different when it comes to anxiety. My symptoms may not be your symptoms but the one thing I have learned about anxiety is that it affects your WHOLE body. Symptoms are transient. They stick around for a few days or a few months but then they go to be replaced by something else. To the exhausted mind – new symptoms equals fear.

‘THIS time, I’m really ill.’

Yes you are, but the illness is mental not physical. Dear.

A few months ago I would have been hyperventilating in my GP’s surgery at the onset of a new symptom but I have been there, done that and the t shirt is a mangled mess. Now, I calmly remind myself to acknowledge the symptom but not to Google it. If it lasts longer than two weeks, I see my GP.

It is important that I don’t CATASTROPHISE.

Yesterday it was neck-pain to the point where I needed painkillers but instead of allowing my mind to start shitting me. CANCER? OMG AM GONNA DIE kind of thing, I thought it through logically..

Last week, I’d been decorating, as in, climbing up ladders and looking up. I was working muscles that I hadn’t used in a while. Plus, I have arthritis. When you look at it rationally it’s easy to see why my neck would be giving me gyp. Simple isn’t it? IBS symptoms? I’ve been back on the beans and onions. To the exhausted mind – ANY pain – fires up the stress response. It has to be an illness, right?

Nope.

Don’t believe everything you think.

I didn’t allow my thoughts to run away with me. I took painkillers and each time the ‘what if?’ Gremlin wandered into my mind, I acknowledged it for what it was – A THOUGHT – and carried on binge watching Benidorm. Today, there is no pain and I had a decent night’s sleep because I didn’t climb aboard the crazy train.

Way to go, me.

The point of this post is to help you to understand that anxiety affects the entire body. Often there will be no explanation other than stress hormones affecting your body. I wouldn’t have thought that my scalp feeling bruised was an anxiety symptom but it is. Or a clicking jaw. The good news is that your symptoms will start to fade away as your stress levels recede. If you need the reassurance of your GP, by all means go and get your ten minutes worth.

Then ACCEPT it when they tell you it’s anxiety, especially when tests come back clear.

The crazy train will come for you.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLIMB ABOARD.