quarridors: Sporting a giant Tangle (not a chrome snake) (September 2012)

It's been a year since I was first referred for assessment, and seven months since I was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition. This September I gained the knowledge of exactly why I was different, 20 years after becoming painfully and hopelessly aware at age 12 that I wasn't and couldn't be like other kids, no matter how hard I tried. After years of searching, I finally knew for certain that the word that described me was 'autistic'.

I have many challenges. I don't deal with stress well, I'm not very aware of my body or my emotions, I find it difficult to organise myself without making a lot of conscious effort, I have sensory sensitivities that can easily overwhelm me, I tend to hyperfocus on 'irrelevant' details, I struggle to maintain friendships, I'm difficult to live with, the things I love doing are considered odd by most others, and I can be too rigid or literal when I communicate.

A year ago I was having a very difficult time of things, which is why I sought help from my GP, to finally know for sure why I struggled with so many 'simple' things. Getting a diagnosis was a huge relief but also triggered some painful reflection on friendships I'd lost, opportunities I missed, decisions I'd made then discounted based on how that change hadn't solved my personal problems.

But six months on from that difficult first month, I'm able to look back on the positive results of the initially difficult conversations with friends and family, I can see the improvements from disclosing to my employers. I can reflect on the help I've been given to identify and act on my emotions. I can look at my home life, my social life and my work life and see just how much happier and more effective I am when I'm able to focus on getting things done and being a good person without worrying about doing things in a way that looks 'normal'.

Continue reading... )

This post is part of the Autism Positivity Day 2013 Flashblog, finishing off Autism Acceptance Month 2013.

To learn more about the autistic spectrum, read the Storify I created for World Autism Awareness Day 2013.

My 2012

Dec. 31st, 2012 01:23 pm
quarridors: Sporting a giant Tangle (not a chrome snake) (September 2012)
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... )

April, May and June: Autism Acceptance and putting my life on hiatus... )

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

October, November and December: Introspection, Intersections and Reformatting... )

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.
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
When I looked at my 'Neurodiversity' folder in my RSS reader yesterday I was greeted with two articles. The first seemed incredibly apt and well-timed because it perfectly summed up a lot of my recent thoughts and feelings:

catastraspie: My own neurodiversity fills me with wonder and excitement – does yours?

The second talked about being queer in both senses of the word and touched on the intersection and correlation of LGBT people on the spectrum:

Wrong Planet: A Rather Queer Year

This got me thinking about which are my favourite articles about the Autistic Spectrum and Asperger's Syndrome that best explain my experiences.

First of all Tony Attwood's Complete Guide To Asperger's Syndrome book was extremely helpful to me in brushing aside the stereotypes and talking about the wide diversity of ways that the traits can manifest depending on someone's personality, life experiences and coping strategies. However that's a bit long, so here's Tony talking about a number of different subjects from the book in a radio interview:

ABC Conversations: Tony Attwood February 2012

Next I remembered an article on the BBC News website I read a few years ago that helped me to see the difference between being on the Autistic Spectrum and having dyspraxia or NVLD. It essentially says that people on the spectrum use the same part of the brain to explain their own feelings as neurotypical people use only for others:

People with autism 'have problem with self-awareness'

I understand myself through intense observation rather than inherently knowing things so this rang very true to me. I also realised through reading other people's experiences that I couldn't explain how many emotions felt without explaining how they affect my body. Here's a personal experience post about that:

Post Cards From the Edge of the Spectrum: Asperger's and Emotions

In fact thinking of myself in terms of being on the spectrum immediately gave me access to things that explained some of the more chaotic aspects of my daily life and what I have to do to compensate for that. For example here's catastaspie again explaining the concept of prospective memory:

catastraspie: Context and the Non-transference of Behavioural Routines

As well as catastraspie's brilliant blog (all the articles are good!) my other favourite is The Third Glance which is written by a PhD student and talks a lot about the sensory aspects of being on the spectrum. This article was useful in helping me to realise how my reaction to senses is often quite mixed up, like I'll want to wrap myself in a duvet and block my eyes when I'm too hot:

The Third Glance: Processing a Sensory Overload

There are lots of other brilliant blogs and lots of other things I'd like to explain that I can't find the perfect article for (maybe I'll have to write my own!) but I think I'll finish with a good overview article intended to be a primer to people asking the obvious question:

Aspienaut: What is Asperger's? A Long Answer To A Short Question

Update: Oh and as someone who was obsessed with Doctor Who as a kid (although mainly the books), I found this article particularly awesome:

Pea Pilly Bean: The Lessons Doctor Who Is Teaching My ASD Kid
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I spent this morning at Highbury Hospital where two specialists spent four and a half hours giving me intensive diagnostic assessments. This was following a detailed screening interview with a different specialist in June.

I was worried that the results would be ambiguous and there'd be weeks more to wait before I got an answer (as this delay is apparently quite common), but thankfully both the specialists thought my traits were clear enough that they could happily give me a definitive, conclusive and unambiguous diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (a type of 'high functioning' autism).

Why, how and what's next... )

I already announced this news on Twitter and got some positive reactions from other people on the autistic spectrum and some very tentative reactions from others, so I just want to be clear that this is a hugely positive thing for me. I've been obsessed with understanding what was different about me for twenty years, since my first year of secondary school, so it's wonderful to finally know for certain that this is the answer!

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