Treading water

I’ve always felt different. I can’t really explain how. I have always struggled to some extent to connect with people my age, especially other girls (and now women).

When I was very depressed and essentially not functioning I began researching how to be a functioning depressive. That is when I came across articles about girls and women on the autism spectrum. I felt as if I had been hit by a ton of bricks. It is not hyperbole when I say life has not been the same since.

I was reading these articles about so-called “high functioning” women on the autistic spectrum. It was like reading a description of myself. I was stunned. So, I read the NICE Guidelines on adult autistic spectrum disorders, found the screening tests and did them.

Every single one suggested the possibility that I might be on the autism spectrum. Suddenly the depression, anxiety, sensitivity to bright lights, sounds and crowds, my intense interests, my general weirdness all made sense. So I printed off the tests, gathered my school reports and presented my suspicions to my GP.

My GP listened and agreed that I am probably on the autistic spectrum, and agreed to refer me for a formal diagnosis. That was last August. It is now March of the following year, and I still haven’t even been able to get on a waiting list as the service is so over subscribed and under-funded in my area.

So now I’m in limbo, with a semi-diagnosis, a number of problems that affect my everyday life and well being, but with no certainty of even getting on the waiting list, let alone seeing an expert. I don’t have the resources to get a private diagnosis, so I will have to go via the NHS. Now I feel like I’m perpetually treading water – I’m keeping my head out of the water, so I’m not drowning, but I’m so tired.

Autistic Confessions – Am I REALLY Autistic?

This is what I’m going through now as I seek a formal diagnosis. I needed to read this today, thank you so much.

Anonymously Autistic

A conversation among my readers brings up an interesting common feeling among Aspies. Many of us remember reading the definition of Autism or Asperger’s before we were diagnosed. A lot of us read those words and thought – “Oh, no this is definitely not me!”

Still something doesn’t let the thoughts settle so we do a bit more digging. For me it was finding other Autistic writers in books and online. Before hearing their voices I had always felt like some creature other than human. I assumed I was a broken human, defective, odd, strange.

It started with YouTube videos, then I found blogs, and invisible disability websites. Finally after a lifetime in the dark I found my tribe. Hearing and reading voices that echoed my own gave me confidence. Before I felt broken but with the Aspies I was just another one of the group – a real life…

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On the importance of self care

These last few months have been tumultuous and probably the hardest of my life. I have tried to look at events differently (a legacy of CBT a decade ago). The thing I have come to conclude is this: we don’t give enough attention to self-care.

Loud noises, too many people and bright lights overwhelm me and make me very anxious, yet most of the social activities people my age are supposed to enjoy involve all three: clubbing, pubs, music festivals, even shopping malls stress me out. Before I got very ill I was a people pleaser to an extent, and would go out to try and fit in and maintain friendships with people my age despite not enjoying it. These kind of social situations would leave me exhausted and anxious. I’m much better at saying no now, and I’m very grateful my friends seem to understand this. I know not everyone has the same experience. I was talking to my sister today. She has many of the same anxiety/depression problems I do, but her friends really don’t understand when she needs to bow out.

I guess a related problem is this: I can either go to work all day, then come home and rest., or socialise. Not both. I. Just. Can’t. I know this now, so I can choose when to give my apologies.

I’ve been very open about my struggles with Mental Health problems to friends. I posted on Facebook about my problems and was amazed and saddened by the amount of my friends who said they understood, and more amazed by the amount of people who messaged me privately and told me they were struggling too. Depression and anxiety is so common, yet there is such a stigma around mental health problems to the point people won’t talk about it, and are reluctant to get help.

My mental breakdown came six weeks into a new job, and was public and messy. But I owned it and I’m not going to be apologetic or ashamed. One in four people at any given time is suffering from a mental health problem, yet some people treat MH problems as a moral failing rather than an organ that has a chemical imbalance. It seems you get sympathy for a broken leg, or diabetes or any other physical problem. The stigma is so damaging.

So back to self care: I’ve found not putting myself in situations that make me stressed to be helpful. I have found I have to say no to certain things people want or expect from me because I know it will be too much (it taken me a very long time to get to this point). I now recognise when I need to go to bed and close the curtains; I know when I need to book annual leave from work just so I can stay inside and not see anyone or anything. I know what activities I can do to displace my anxiety and depression – my saving grace has been my Japanese class – the teacher and other people in my class have no idea how much they’ve helped me.

I’m grateful  to the NHS services in the UK, even though Mental Health care in my area is woeful. I will do a longer post about MH and the NHS at a later date. My experience has not been wholly positive.

What’s in a name?

I’ve started this blog to chart my own journey to understanding myself after a nervous breakdown in August 2016.

I’ve always had anxiety and depression, as long as I can remember, but was formally diagnosed when I was 21, 11 years ago. So, I’ve been a Functioning Depressive for years, managing to complete two postgraduate degrees and live independently during this time.

I’ve had periods of being ok, but due to too many life events converging at once I went to The Bad Place, in which I was left with severe anxiety and depression to the point of being suicidal.

A lot of my anxiety comes from feeling like an alien species, particularly when it comes to relating to other women, but more about that later. Ever since I was a child I’ve felt weird and struggled to fit in, hence the name of this blog: Life on the Wrong Planet.