My 2012

Dec. 31st, 2012 01:23 pm
quarridors: Sporting a giant Tangle (not a chrome snake) (September 2012)
[personal profile] quarridors
Looking back at my 2012, I went through some pretty major life changes and made some significant achievements, despite the year mainly feeling like putting my life on hold.

January, February and March: Activism, Fandom, Surgery and Stress

The year started with me launching Nonbinary.org wiki on New Years day. By the end of 2011, I'd realised that I didn't have the energy, time or organisation skills to make a nonbinary resources site on my own while also having a full time job and helping to run an in person trans* group, so I made a wiki to allow anyone who was motivated to get involved and add to the knowledge base. The wiki's not really reached a critical mass of content or contributors yet (mainly because I haven't promoted it or kept up the momentum) but there's a small group of regular editors who've been doing valuable work and I'm keen to do more in 2013.

At the start of February I performed at the UK Filk Con including an updated version of my song The Changes (NB, that link's the old version, haven't re-recorded or updated the lyrics, sorry), about growing up different and classic kids science fiction television. Otherwise I pretty much failed to do anything creative in 2012, the full extent of my digital art work barely extended beyond hundreds of games of Draw Something.

A recurrence of severe digestive problems after the filk convention caused me to spend much of 2012 on a pretty extreme IBS diet and battling to get definitive answers to my digestive woes. The diet has helped, but I'm not much closer to working out if a specific food intolerance or allergy is the cause of my difficulties.

I spent the end of February celebrating Doctor Who in a hotel basement near Los Angeles airport. I haven't been very involved in fandom this year, but Gally is always a wonderful experience and I plan to go back for my third in 2014.

In March, while my involvement in the local trans* group had pulled me into an extremely stressful situation involving a journalist, I had major trans-related surgery that I had been denied ten years before. The combination of those two events and how badly I handled being stuck in bed, in pain and nursed by my mother, made me realise quite how badly I handle stress and made a number of my traits undeniable.

Meanwhile the venue of the trans* group I vice chaired had become an overly loud disco, and it became clear that there would be no improvement on this for several months more. I faced being forced to run meetings in a space where I could barely think, and so my sensory issues also became both unavoidable and undeniable.

April, May and June: Autism Acceptance and Putting My Life On Hiatus

So in April, after much introspection, discussion, reading and research, I determined that dyspraxia or NVLD really couldn't cover all of my traits, and so I took Autism Acceptance Month impressively literally and went to my GP for a referral for assessment.

In May I resigned from the trans* group committee and put all my activism and anything other than my job and my self care on hold. I tried not to take on any new commitments and only work through those I was already committed to (which turned out to be quite a few things).

In June I was screened at my local Asperger Service (NB, that link should read '1 in 100 adults'), told that I very definitely had autistic traits and given an appointment for a diagnostic assessment in September. And so the waiting began...

July, August and September: Conferences, Gender Clinic Graduation and Diagnosis

In early July I was a headline guest at the first Asexual Conference, ten years since I'd written the asexual FAQ and been involved in setting up the online beginnings of the modern asexual movement. I opened the conference with a talk about the work we'd done ten years previously and touched on intersectional identities and the importance of a diversity of voices speaking for the community.

Later that month I attended Autscape; part conference, part retreat, all Autistic space. Attending felt like coming home, and strikingly similar to many of my favourite geek and fandom conventions in many ways. I learned a lot about the diversity of personality types that fall under the umbrella of the autistic spectrum, and just how comfortable I am in Autistic space.

I also attended Nottinghamshire Pride where the trans* group I'd been involved with ran a dedicated trans* stage with acts all through the Saturday. This was a really inspiring space. I really hope the group manages to find a more suitable venue so I can be involved again.

I ended July by being discharged from the gender clinic, who were happy that with my surgery I'd 'ended my journey' and no longer needed specialist transgender care. This felt like a significant milestone in my life and very liberating, although my GP surgery managed to take the shine off it in August by insisting on blood tests and additional letters from the clinic.

In August I was focusing on trying to get my home life in order and learning to communicate better and build more meaningful relationships with local friends. Despite not yet being formally diagnosed, learning about the autistic spectrum helped me to improve strategies around executive function and social communication. I put less effort into 'passing' as socially typical and more into being authentic and explaining how I understood the world and the people I interacted with more clearly. I started attending regular a board game group with local friends that helped me to feel more connected to people and, it turned out, much happier.

I also attended BiCon 2012, which was my 11th BiCon, and ran successful discussions on nonbinary gender, the asexual spectrum and neurodiversity.

In September I was finally assessed by two experts and diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome (an Autistic Spectrum Condition), this explained a lot. The relief of having a definite answer was huge, but I almost immediately went back into waiting mode as my assessment report took 6 more weeks and my first post-diagnostic appointment wasn't until December. However I had something of a 'friendship amnesty' with many of my local friends, and explained how hard I'd been trying with friendships that had still drifted apart because I needed everything to be more explicitly defined and structured. As a result of these conversations and the changes that resulted, I'm far more happy and comfortable with my social situation ending the year than I was when beginning it.

October, November and December: Introspection, Intersections and Reformatting

October and November were hugely busy at work, meanwhile I repeatedly reassessed my life choices knowing that I'd been unaware I was on the autistic spectrum while making so many important decisions. I tried but failed to write coherently about asexuality for an anthology but couldn't unpick my asexual experience from my autistic experience. I thought a lot about intersectionality and the nature of identities. I finally received my assessment report but had weeks more to wait to discuss it with a professional. My life continued to feel like it was on hold as I processed the news I'd waited months to hear.

I also tried to introduce more structure and routine in order to get my home life in order and successfully did the washing up daily for the whole of autumn, continuing to the present day. This is a major and unprecedented achievement!

December was an even busier period at work, while at home I obsessed about queer/trans* intersectional autism but never committed any of it to screen or paper. Finally I finished work for the year and spent time with family and away from computers. After almost two weeks off work and now three days home alone, I've felt the energy and motivation to actually write about my perspective on identity, but instead I've been planning a way to do so sustainably throughout 2013 and also set my home in order (spending 9 hours filing papers away yesterday).

Having written and proofread the above, 2012 feels like a year where I purposely put everything on hold, 'reinstalled' my identity and hopefully set myself up with a freshly formatted stable home and social life on which to build sustainable new routines, projects and relationships from a position of greater self-knowledge.

The changes I've already made seem to have helped with problems like low level chronic fatigue, which I take as an extremely positive sign that I'm doing the right sorts of things. Next year I'm hoping to work productively with the specialists at Nottingham City Asperger Service on helping me to understand myself and develop better strategies for maximising my strengths and working around my difficulties. I'm also planning to take some of my existing projects out of hiatus and take them in a new, more authentic intersectional direction. I'm feeling optimistic.

Hopefully 2013 will be the year I take my life out of hiatus.
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