Through an Autistic Lens

through an autism lens

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

A weird thing happens when you receive a late diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. You replay your whole life, viewing everything that ever happened through an autistic lens. This isn’t unique to me – I’m pretty sure it happens to everyone diagnosed as an adult.  You start to think “Oh! So that’s why I was…” and “Ah, that makes sense now…!” and “Wow, how did nobody realise?”
 
Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t a diagnosable condition in the UK when I was little, so I understand why I wasn’t diagnosed then. But still…there was always something about me. I always knew I was different, and felt that I didn’t fit in. I discussed this with my mother a few years ago. She said yes, we were different – because when I was a child we were hippies and vegetarian and nobody else was, where we lived. So we stood out. I tried telling her it was more than that, but she didn’t get it and I couldn’t explain.
 

When you view my childhood through an autistic lens, you start to pick out the signs:

  • Separation anxiety – not wanting my mother to leave me at playgroup; always hiding behind my mother’s long skirt when other adults spoke to me.
  • Never initiating role-playing games with other children; always assigned a ‘supporting role’.
  • I was an abnormally early reader; reading like a 12 year old when I was 4.
  • Delayed eruption of teeth (39 years old and I still have a baby tooth! Some of the others wouldn’t come out on their own so they got removed. Dental problems have plagued me all my life and continue to do so.
  • Not really knowing how to act socially. I’d pay attention to what my peers were doing and copy them (and get it not-quite-right, a lot of the time).
  • Having issues with drinks. I would only drink out of one special cup. Until “it got lost” (taken away from me). I never drank that type of drink again to this day. After the cup removal, I’d only drink pineapple juice. Until the acidity made me ill. Then I would only drink orange juice. Until it also made me ill. Then orange squash (and only one brand). In my teens I discovered Coke and that’s still all I drink. Rarely, I’ll drink water. There was a period of some years when I’d drink alcohol, but we’ll get to that in another post some time.
  • Certain food textures made me gag. I used to throw my packed lunches away on the way to school because I couldn’t eat what was inside. I earned the label of ‘fussy eater’.
  • Repetitive behaviours. I’d watch certain films over and over again with my next-door neighbour until I knew the scripts.
  • Narrow interests – from the age of about 12 I would only read books by two authors: Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
  • I don’t remember if I had a problem with the classic symptom of struggling to maintain eye contact as a child. As a teen and an adult I do have a problem with suddenly realising I’ve been looking someone in the eye for way too long. I’ll also realise my face is making the wrong expression. For example, someone’s telling me something that causes me to smile. The conversation moves on to something else, and I’ll notice I’m still smiling and it’s inappropriate. I then lose track of the conversation a bit while I try to make the right expression.

This isn’t a complete list. There are lots more examples, and I’m sure I’ll post about this again at some point, but the signs were there as a child.

If you’re a late-diagnosed ASD woman reading this, I’m interested to hear what early signs you notice when you look back on your own childhood. Let me know in the comments.

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How Best To Move Forward?

It’s March 9th and this is the first post on my blog this year. What happened to stop me blogging?

My official Autism Spectrum Condition diagnosis happened and I received the written report about it.

I’ve known for over 3 years that I was on the spectrum, but it took that long to get The Official Word from a specialist. And now, almost daily, I get hit by revelation after revelation that actually my ‘condition’ has been pretty obvious all my life, if only there had been people around me who knew the signs and could spot them. Honestly, it’s astonishing, the things I’m discovering about myself-now and my past-self. It’s simultaneously enlightening and devastating.

This was supposed to be a blog about my little art business, but lately all I want to talk about here is this diagnosis. I have 3 unpublished draft posts about it. And I haven’t been doing a great deal of art lately because I’ve had other problems that have prevented me from getting on with things. (Namely, The Great Insomnia War of 2016-2017, which I won, and The Battle of Depression, which is ongoing). So how to move forward?

The renewal of my web hosting is coming up in May and I’m unsure whether or not to renew as it doesn’t come cheap. I feel like I’m entering a new chapter in life and I don’t know whether to

  • renew this website and continue hardly ever posting about art
  • renew this website and bore my artsy readers to death posting about autism/aspergers
  • close this website and start a new one focused on autism/aspergers, with occasional art, or
  • run two sites side by side (I’d probably use a free blog platform for the second blog).

I would be sad to see this website go, in a way. But in other ways it could be a relief. I’m not even sure people are still reading anyway. Maybe I’m just whispering into the void.

But if I close it, there’s the problem of this web address being Out There. There are links back to here all over the place and on products I’ve sold and then how will people find me? Do I even want people to find me?

I feel an urge for a reinvention, but I have no idea if it’s the right thing to do or a step in completely the wrong direction.

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Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2017

Things I'm Looking forward to in 2017

Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2017

(in no particular order):

  • Getting the written report from my Clinical Psychologist telling me the full details of my recent Autism Spectrum Condition diagnosis
  • Getting better healthcare for my thyroid disease
  • Actioning some new ideas for my business
  • Watching my daughter go from strength to strength
  • Getting enough money together to move house
  • Improving my painting
  • Learning how to do new things
  • Losing more weight (I lost 28 pounds [or 2 stone if you like that better] in 2016)
  • Going to watch Green Day perform at BST Hyde Park
  • Going to watch comedian Greg Davies perform his stand-up set
  • My 40th birthday in the summer (I’m simultaneously looking forward to this and not!)
  • Decluttering my home
  • Christmas!

Happy New Year, wishing you all the best wishes!

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Who Am I?

Recently my daughter tagged me in a ‘Who Am I?’ post.

“You have to do this, it’ll be fun!” she said. I don’t always do what she tells me, because I’M the parent!  😎 but you know, 2016 has been a craptacular year for most of us and I thought “well, it might be fun, let’s give it a try”. And here we are.

Who Am I

That’s my daughter hiding behind me on a trip to the beach when it was warm-but-not-that-warm, recently.

Here’s a picture of Amber, who has just turned 18, because I feel like: if she’s going to dictate to me what to put on my blog then I’m allowed to show my readers what she looks like (she’s lovely, yes?)

13691120_10207672982595785_6824304409966778979_o

She says I have to do these quizzes and post the answers here. The first one simply asks:

What is the meaning of your name?

Zoe is of Greek origin and means life. Urban Dictionary also says that in Japanese it means uniquely different and I don’t know if that’s actually true, but there’s a ring of truth to it. I have always felt, all my life, that I’m different from everyone else, and not always necessarily in a good way.

What is your Myers Briggs personality type? {Take the test}

The test says I am an INTP-T type personality, a logician. The analysis goes on for 8 very long pages full of text but here’s a brief summary:

  • INTPs are great analysts, open-minded, enthusiastic, independent, honest and straightforward.
  • INTPs don’t often go around intentionally hurting feelings, but they believe that the truth is the most important factor, and they expect that to be appreciated and reciprocated.
  • Very private and absent-minded.
    When INTPs’ interest is captured, their absence goes beyond social matters to include the rest of the physical world. INTPs become forgetful, missing even the obvious if it’s unrelated to their current infatuation, and they can even forget their own health, skipping meals and sleep as they muse.
  • INTPs, when parents, are committed to encouraging their children to think and act independently, seek out new knowledge, and voice and defend their own opinions.
  • All INTPs really want is to immerse themselves in an interesting project, and anything that interrupts that is simply an unwelcome burden.

Apparently, the INTP personality type is quite rare, making up only 3% of the population. Famous INTPs include Albert Einstein, Edward Snowden and… um… Yoda  😯

What is your Zodiac sign?
*Disclaimer: I don’t really believe in star signs

virgo

I say I’m a Virgo, but a quick Google search says that according to the date of my birth I was born on the Cusp of Exposure, making me a Leo-Virgo.

What Hogwarts house would you be in? {Take the quiz}

I read all the Harry Potter books and I’ve been to the studio in Leavesden, but I can’t quite bring myself to be bothered about what Hogwarts house I’m in. It’s totally meaningless to me (sorry Amber, but I love you, look I did it anyway!)

I took the quiz and it says I’m in Gryffindor – brave, chivalrous and courageous. My daughter says she identifies as a Ravenclaw. I identify as a person who didn’t used to mind taking the occasional quiz, but now I’m starting to lose the will to live.

What are your learning styles? {The quiz}

Seriously, have you seen the amount of questions in some of these quizzes? Its late and I could be art journaling / looking at Twitter.

OK, it says I have a multimodal learning preference. My scores were as follows:

  • Read / Write 10
  • Visual 9
  • Kinesthetic 8
  • Aural 1

I definitely learn best by myself. I find it very hard to take in and process all of the information if someone is just telling me things and I can’t write it down. By the time they get to the 2nd part of the instructions I’m still trying to commit the first part to memory and if they’re still talking then I can’t do that. I find I learn best by reading, or by watching an instructional video, because I can go over it more than once and take notes if I need to.

Are you more of a left-brain or a right-brain person?  {The quiz}

OK I did this one and it gave me a boring answer so I doodled this far more accurate interpretation of my brain instead:

who am I

What is your blood type?

O Positive. I didn’t know that until I went into hospital to give birth to the quiz-master.

What career are you meant to be in? {The quiz}

The quiz tells me I am supposed to be a writer. It says”You have a skill for language, your imagination is vast and you are artistic and creative. Your brain is just overflowing with ideas, and all you have to do is get a piece of paper and share it with the world. You were born to turn words into magical stories.

Some of that is true.

Which Divergent faction do you belong in? {The quiz}

Have you read Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy? I highly recommend them. Don’t bother with the films though, only the first one was good (quiz-master Amber was invited to the London premiere back in 2014 and she was allowed to bring me and Mr F so I blogged about it here.)Unless you’re familiar with the books or films, this question won’t make sense.The quiz results say I belong in Candor because I’m honest, blunt and truthful which is correct. It also says I probably have a hit blog and I almost split my sides laughing.

What does your birth order say about you? {The quiz}

I’m the youngest and everything this article says about that is incorrect for me. Apart from the fact that there is a 6 year age gap and on that it says “Many experts agree that five or more years between kids acts as a reset button, kicking off a ‘new family’ with a fresh firstborn.

…and that’s the end of this completely off-topic post!

Hope you enjoyed getting to know me a bit more. Let me know if you try any of these quizzes, I’d love to read your answers.

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It’s Not The End of the World

It’s not the end of the world… but sometimes it feels like the world is going backwards.

it's not the end of the world art journal page

A large majority of my readers and followers are American so I apologise if my words on the above art journal page offend any of you.

But if you’re offended then maybe you voted for Trump (or if British then maybe you voted for Brexit) and therefore I’m offended that you did that so I guess that makes us even.

– EDITED November 10th when I felt a bit better about things, to add the following explanatory paragraph:

Actually I’m no longer offended. Those who voted Trump must have had their reasons. They had a right to vote whoever they felt was best and I respect that. I’m having a hard time lately dealing with all the woman-hating that seems to be becoming more and more common-place, especially so since the European Union Referendum here in the UK and even more so since Trump began running for President of the US.
If you are a man then I don’t know if you can ever truly understand how it feels to see such blatant misogyny almost everywhere you look. I feel like the good men in my life might say something like “don’t take it personally, it’s not about you.” But it’s about women. I am a woman. It’s about all of us. It might not be directed at me, but I feel it anyway because I am a woman. So all of Trump’s disgusting nastiness towards women as a group is personal and that’s why I felt offended if any of my female readers/followers voted for him to be President. Yes, lots of women voted for him, and I don’t know how they feel about his misogyny but I can only assume there was something else he was saying that overrode it for them. What that was is none of my business and I want to make it very clear that I completely respect their right to choose who they vote for.

– END OF EDIT – 

I’m not opening comments on this post because the above page shows how I feel and I’m allowed to feel that way. I don’t need to get into a debate about how I feel.

It’s not the end of the world, I just hope that in 4 years time he’s out and someone with a much better understanding of how to treat human beings gets in. For those of us who have to live with Brexit however, that mess will affect generation after generation.

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