My Aspergers

Today I wanted to write more about what its like to live with aspergers. For myself, I kind of class myself as ‘not so aspergers’, but only because those I know who are, or traits that are commonly known, don’t stand out with me; things like avoiding eye contact, not understanding how to converse, lack of empathy, or obsessions (although, ask me about games or my birds, and you may have trouble getting me to shut up).

I’ve recently been expressing to my mum that empathy is something that I’ve never really had trouble with. Even if it took me until I was 16 to understand why people cry at weddings, I definitely felt guilt. Probably without even understanding it. When I talk out loud about things that I felt or did when I was younger, it usually brings me to some kind of conclusion, regarding it, and in this case, I discovered that feeling guilt, makes me aware of what to say to people. And without sounding like I’m kissing my own butt here, I think that it makes me a kind person. I’d feel awful having made someone feel upset, so I try to be as kind as I can.

Even though I’ve mentioned that my aspergers traits aren’t very consuming, the reason behind my thinking and way of behaving, still revert back to it. My particular way of doing things is usually something I notice quite often. My morning routine when I am going to work (the rescue) is always the same and there are things I always have to do in a certain order. I’ve also picked up on the fact that I have a psychological germ radar. Sounds hilarious, right? I am constantly on the lookout for where people place their hands after they’ve touched something unhygienic or licked their fingers. I am particularly paranoid about raw chicken. I usually have to leave the room when my mum is preparing it because I overload myself with thoughts of the bacteria going everywhere, without thinking that my mum will clean up afterwards. Although these things make me feel uncomfortable at the time, I don’t necessarily see it as a problem. I’ll just live without chicken when I am no longer living at home.

Irritability is also something I know I struggle with. Particularly because I struggled with Red Mist Syndrome. I’ve been told I often have short fuse moments, with which everyone mostly just backs away from. This is something that I wasn’t actually aware of until recently. I found my rage burning the other day when I caught my sister wearing my top. Usually everyone knows who has what type of clothes in my family as we all have our own style, but in this case, it was a top from a selection of clothes that my older sister had given to myself and my younger sister. Even after months of owning the top, my mum still managed to give it to my sister by mistake, and with my younger sister not remembering that I had chosen this particular item for myself, she decided to wear it. I was NOT impressed. I immediately jumped at her, saying it was my top. She just replied, saying it was one that our older sister had given her, to which I snapped back, stating that I had chosen that one. During the third time of trying to tell her that it was mine, my voice was raised and I was trying very hard not to lash out. I haven’t felt the need to lash out in a very long time which is what made me notice my anger. And as childish as it was, I used her towel that day, to get back at her. Fortunately, we we’re able to laugh about it later.

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No

No is a strong word. We mainly use it when we don’t want something or when a pet decides to do its own thing and we disagree with it. But as many of us know, the word ‘no’ can sometimes mean so much more, with something as simple as how we say it.

As a female, I know that many of us can interpret words into other things. The classic being ‘I’m fine’ when it really isn’t. Or people having to clarify what ‘nice’ means because we can easily think that it’s just a word to settle for. And with someone who also has aspergers, phrases like this, baffle me.

Or so they used to.

When I was younger, I was lucky enough to have help in understanding social communication. Knowing when it’s safe to enter a conversation, learning how to keep a conversation going and remembering to think before I speak.

Learning to think before I spoke was something that my family taught me, the same way they taught my sisters. It just required more time and patience for me to understand why I needed to do it. And when I understood, I became aware of how my actions made others feel. I became self-conscious and almost forced myself into being a perfect person that no one could say anything bad about. It worked in two ways. I was afraid to be rude and I was afraid to be rude to. And this is where saying ‘no’ became one of my biggest hurdles.

I felt like I had subconsciously told myself that saying ‘no’ was mean, rude and not acceptable. This left me feeling like I couldn’t say it. Not even to my family. I felt like I would offend them or make them upset and with my past having already made it hard for my family, I didn’t feel like it would be okay to do it again. And it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to realise that saying ‘no’, isn’t as bad as I had made myself believe. In fact, it was worse to put myself through something that I didn’t want to do, than to actually say ‘no’ to doing it.

The first thing that made me realise was, people say ‘no’ all the time and though it sometimes hit me when people said it to me, I had to remind myself that it is completely normal. I remember learning different ways of saying ‘no’ that would sound as kind as possible, and even almost avoid saying the word ‘no’ whilst meaning it. Things like “I’m alright thanks. I’m going to stay here” if someone asked me if I wanted to go out. Or just simply saying “No, thank you”. I still have trouble saying ‘no’ if someone asks me if they can borrow something of mine, but I am learning, and I am also learning to have less of an obsessive grip on my belongings.

Saying ‘no’ has always been one of my biggest challenges and will probably continue to be for some time. I know some people who also have trouble with saying ‘no’ but I have reminded them that it’s okay to say it. And someone told me, that even if you offend someone without meaning to, you cannot blame yourself. Your intentions were good and if they take offence to it, it can only be their problem to deal with.

Things Aren’t Always What You Expect Them To Be

Today I faced two situations, in which my ability to cope, was put to the test.

Back in February, I was given a cheque from my nan for my birthday, and being an adult, I knew I’d have to deal with it myself, as in the past, my mum would do it for me.

Over the next several months, since I got the cheque, I kept going to the bank to try and deposit it through the new machines they installed, mainly to avoid having to talk to someone about it. Every time I tried, it never worked, and I just left it for another day, hoping the machines would eventually work. However, the other day, I tried one last time and again, it didn’t work. So I made myself (and my boyfriend encouraged me to) go to the desk. Though I was terrified, I somehow knew that I would be overwhelmed with happiness after being able to achieve it, as recently, I’ve picked up on how I behave after doing something that wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. With this in mind, I pushed myself to do it. So I went to the desk and mentioned that the machine didn’t work with taking my cheque, and the lady took my check and asked for my card, swiped it and it was done. As quick as that. And obviously, I was thrilled I did it. Particularly because it really wasn’t as scary as I had imagined, even though I had already told myself beforehand.

After feeling super excited that I did it, I remembered I had to pick up my prescriptioned anti-anxiety meds from the pharmacy in Asdas. This I knew I definitely couldn’t back out of because I had completely run out to the point where I had to take a lower dosage the night before. I’ve only started to collect them myself recently (actually only one time) because I was always too scared to face the people at the desk. But as the first time went well, I was confident enough to do it. So I went to the desk and asked for my meds and the lady went to check the back. She came back and said there was nothing there for me.

This, I wasn’t prepared for.

I took a deep breath and asked if I could at least have an emergency batch until my mum sorts out the prescription properly as my doctor had recently increased my dose. The woman said she’d have to speak to the pharmacist to see if that was okay, and told me that he would be five minutes. So as I walked away from the desk, my first instinct was to call my mum. I panicked, explaining to her what had happened, and it didn’t matter what my mum said to me, I just couldn’t take it in. I asked her multiple times what to say if the situation changed and asked what possible ways it could go. I wanted to be precise in what I said so I didn’t say anything confusing, but every time my mum told me what to say in each situation, I couldn’t remember what it was. Eventually, she asked to speak to my boyfriend so she could explain to him, so he could explain to me (he is also aspergers and in times like these, I need his straightforward explanations). I still asked her if she could text me what to say so I was completely sure of what to do.

Soon after I got off the phone, I went back to the desk and the pharmacist came to see me. Unfortunately, from this point onwards, I can’t say I remember much. I only remember having to explain that my doctor increased my dose and I should definitely have some to pick up, even if I hadn’t increased it. He was just as confused as myself so he resulted in calling my doctor’s surgery.

By this point, I had gone into sensory overload. Something I never actually remember suffering with. I know I found it challenging when I was much younger, but from about the age of eight onwards, it was never a huge issue. All the noises that happened were so loud, as if there was a microphone on whatever it was that made a noise and the speaker was on full blast, in my ear.

Sounds of people talking, walking, dropping things, the music being played in the background, random announcements, the pharmacist on the phone, other people picking up prescriptions and my boyfriend talking to his dad on the phone. I felt trapped in a box with all these noises being played on full blast. It was the most unsettling thing I have experienced, besides my anxiety. It was like everything happened all at once.

As I said, I can’t remember much of what happened, but eventually, I got my emergency batch and was able to leave.

I was very stressed out after it had happened and I just cried. It felt like too much to cope with and I wanted to go home. I was thankful that even though my boyfriend was saying how proud he was of me for managing it, I was in no frame of mind to feel pleased with myself. I only felt distressed and quite probably more scared about going back there. Except I know that I will have to deal with it. It didn’t encourage me either that my mum was blunt and said that it’s life. Of course it’s life, but when you’re stressing out, you want someone to just say that you did it and that you lived. Which is exactly what my boyfriend said. And to be honest, it was different of him to encourage me like that and make me feel a bit better despite how stressed I was feeling.

I’m not sure how next time at the pharmacy is going to be, but I hope it wouldn’t be as bad as that.

I Feel a Change in my Life

Having it been a whole month since my last post, I figured that I should probably get back into writing again, as I do enjoy talking about pretty much anything.

I can definitely say though, that I have actually done quite a bit. In terms of facing my anxiety. Since my relapse which I last talked about, I feel that maybe it pushed me to achieve more, and to avoid being sucked into the void of depression. Having my mum also tell me that being busy was always better for me and sitting around, worrying about being worried, would always make things worse. Of course I’ve continued to go to the rescue as I promised myself that I would, no matter how hard things got for me and it definitely keeps me going and thinking positive. So actually despite having that relapse, I feel I’ve come out the other end much stronger.

One thing I have definitely noticed about myself, is my confidence. I feel much more relaxed around people in public, like I am less bothered about what others are thinking of me. I feel more free when I am out and even though I can’t quite make it out alone, I feel comfortable enough to wander around to where I want to, knowing I’ve got someone nearby. Mainly my boyfriend who is probably wandering around just as lemon-like, trying to find me.

Being comfortable enough to do this, and being aware of the fact that I can do it, has made me more open to doing things that I wouldn’t usually do. For example, last week, my boyfriend needed to go to the hospital and he asked if I could go with him, just to make him feel a bit more at ease, and even though I was really scared, I wanted to go for him and to prove to myself that I could do it. And it really wasn’t that scary at all. I felt really proud of myself for doing it and it opened up my eyes about doing things that would involve being in public or in busy places.

In the past, I never looked at a scary situation as a beneficial one. I only ever saw the difficulty in it and how it would mess with my head. The intimidating thoughts, being scared of getting anxious, fearful of the exhaustion that I would face at the end of the tunnel and knowing that my anxiety might possibly make me behave in weird ways (though I’ve been told I don’t act differently at all). But now, I feel that experiencing a scary situation, gives me confidence at the end. During the time of the situation, I’m obviously feeling quite vulnerable, but afterwards, I now feel a sense of achievement. I have taught myself to understand that I actually did it, and having found praising myself an extremely difficult thing to do in the past, this was a big deal for me when I began to notice that I was feeling confident after doing something scary.

Over the last four weeks, I have found myself feeling more and more proud of the way I take control of situations. I now feel more relaxed doing little things that I would avoid doing before. Noticing these changes has made me feel happier about making progress and I no longer feel like a sitting duck.

My Recent Relapse

Recently, I feel I may have suffered from a panic attack. I’m not even sure if I have properly experienced one. I do get spurts of anxiety at random times or obviously when I’m going to do something that I’m not used to or not prepared for. However, on Sunday, at a completely random time during the afternoon, I noticed my heart began to race. I tried to breathe through it, thinking I may have probably just thought of something that unsettled me, but the more I tried to calm myself with the techniques I had been taught over the years, it never settled. I was feeding a woodpecker at the rescue at the time, so there was nothing that would have triggered it, because I am in love with the rescue and nothing there makes me uncomfortable like that. I continued with feeding the birds, but noticed I was shaking so much from the adrenaline, I was dropping things, I felt sick and I couldn’t concentrate. I was with another volunteer who has actually suffered from panic attacks in the past, so it was nice that she was understanding. Except I wasn’t even sure if it was a panic attack. In fact, it wasn’t the first things I thought of when I noticed my heart racing. At first I thought it was probably because I hadn’t eaten enough and I was maybe a little low on sugar. But after talking with my mum about it, she suggested that maybe it was some sort of anxiety/ panic attack.

This has unsettled me quite a bit because I have never recalled having one before, despite the amount of anxiety I suffer with anyway. I am still confused about why it happened. As I said, I was in a safe environment where I have never had any problems.

Since this happened, I have honestly been having a harder time than I have had in a long time. Though I know my coping levels rise and fall overtime; having months of coping really well and feeling quite happy with life, but after so long, I have a meltdown, causing me to fall backwards. In the most recent years, my setbacks haven’t had a huge impact on my life. I maybe have a short while of feeling more anxious than normal and finding things a bit more challenging. Yet this time, I have fallen back far more than I am used to. To put it in simple words, I have become a shell of myself. I have found myself wandering aimlessly around the house, not sure of where to go or what to do. I have lost the ability to track time again, meaning hours pass and all I’ve done, is sit on my phone, browsing through Facebook or Instagram without even paying attention to what I’m looking at. I have lost interest in playing games and only feel I am playing them to kill time and I have become more cuddly towards my dogs, probably seeking something soft and safe. With work, I have also become slow and forgetful, and I still get moments of anxiety that catch me off guard, leaving me feeling lost and disorientated.

This big change that has happened to me has made me constantly exhausted, yet I do not want to give in to it. Though I have a really hard time managing things when I am like this, I know that within time, I will eventually find things easier. I know that during this time, I will find pushing myself to make progress, very difficult but as I am keen to get and accept help, I feel that within time, things will improve.

I Want To Achieve 

Coming from a family of busy people; those who work hard physically and those who work hard mentally, I have been constantly comparing myself to my sisters. For a long time, I felt they were better than me. They could make friends, go to social events, work, drive and most importantly, go out alone.

I’ve always been a jealous person, and having 3 sisters that can step outside alone, honestly makes me quite envious of their independence. For many years it has made me feel extremely small. I felt like I was silently compared to them all the time. When it came to my parents telling people how we’re all doing, it would be a case of 3 lovely stories, expressing how proud they are about 3 of their daughters, and then there would be me. “Oh she’s doing okay. She’s not up to much these days though.”

Of course, all this talk is probably in my head. Again, my jealousy taking over.

Up until recently actually, I realised that it isn’t such a huge deal that I’m not at college or university, or doing things that everyone considers an achievement, because what I’m doing may just be voluntary and may seem to some that I am a sitting duck, but where my efforts and responsibility lies, isn’t nowhere. It has an impact on animals that are helpless and deserve a second chance in life.

Telling myself that I am doing great things, and believing it, was a huge step in gaining self confidence. However, it hasn’t left me thinking that I’ve reached my progress limit. Though, I may currently feel like I am doing everything I am capable of, I still have the need to take on more challenges.

After remembering the feeling of boredom and the thirst for an achievement that drove me to start volunteering at the rescue, I knew this was the type of feeling that would almost eliminate my fears. However, on one occasion, I misread my confidence as this feeling and jumped straight into something, thinking I was ready, and then discovered later on, after having a setback, that I was actually just getting too cocky. Learning from this mistake has admittedly made me more anxious about taking further steps into the world of independence but because of this mistake, I have also been made aware that time is needed to make sure a step forward, is the right choice.

With the constant need to achieve on my mind, I am never without ideals of what my life could be one day, and I hope that it will eventually come true. I like to think I am a hard worker, even with the battles I face. Possibly making me stronger everyday. But for now, maybe even succeeding in small things at work or maybe just going to a shop counter on my own, I know that one day, I’ll be ready to go one step further and continue my journey from there.

Going On Holiday

Due to not being independent like my sisters, my only chance of getting away is going with my family. Since we celebrated my dad’s birthday last year with a huge family holiday, including all the boyfriends, we’ve decided to make it an annual thing, but other than that, I don’t get away. With this in mind, I decided to go with my parents and younger sister again like I did before I met my boyfriend (I felt almost homesick when I went shortly after we got together). 

So, with my stupid amount of anxiety, it’s easy to wonder, do I get nervous?
Yes. Though I love going away to explore and do new things, I panic about the things I take with me. Being 2 hours away from home, I can’t exactly go back to get whatever I’ve forgotten. And this time, I feel I may have taken my love for lists, a little too far. I calculated the amount of days I would be gone, so I could work out how many jeans and t-shirts I would need. I also, took the various types of weather we Brits get, into account, leaving me with multiple types of cardigans so I wouldn’t get too hot or cold.
And then there’s things I use on a daily basis. I went through my everyday routine in my head and wrote down all the things I use, and items I used on the morning I left, I wrote on a piece of paper and stuck on my mirror so I remembered to pack them.
When I was younger, I used to go overboard with luxury items. I would bring my Nintendo, gameboy, drawing book, all my stuffed animals (there was easily over 20) and anything I thought I would use but never did. Now that I am older, it’s just essential that I bring my phone and iPod. That is all. I did however bring a few Zelda comic books to read, but knowing my obsessive nature, I would fantasize about the games and then develop and urge to play.
I am a very picky person about the things that I need to take with me. In the sense that, even if someone else has it, I prefer to bring my own. Like my sister said she’d take her straighteners so I wouldn’t have to bring mine, but I couldn’t bare the thought of not using mine. Before though, I wouldn’t let anyone use my stuff. I was protective of everything that was mine (I still am to a certain degree), so if we were going away a few years ago, under no circumstances would I allow anyone to use my straighteners, yet this time, I couldn’t really care less. So we decided to take mine instead.
Another thing that makes me nervous is leaving my birds behind. I now own six which is more than I’ve had before so there’s more to do when looking after them. My boyfriend has said he’ll keep an eye on the house and the animals whilst we are gone, and even though I trust him, I’m always thinking of the worst case scenario. He knows how everything goes when it comes to feeding them and giving them fresh water, but I couldn’t help but explain to him anyway. And my key phrase was “count six before going in.” Just so he knows where they all are so they don’t get out.

On a more positive note, I was in great need of a break and getting away has been extremely relaxing.

Working At The Local Wildlife Rescue

With not much going on in my life at the moment, besides spending the majority of my time at the rescue, I thought I would just express my love for birds and what I do at the rescue.

Really, it doesn’t touch on at all what my blog is mainly about, but I feel that it’s important to show other sides of me besides my aspie side. It’s inevitable that I will find difficulty in most things, and other aspies would agree with me on that, but I definitely do not find difficulty in expressing my love for birds.

Before I started at the rescue, I was actually bored of the idea of birds. I’d go walking with my family and when they caught sight of something flying that wasn’t a pigeon or a crow, they would start watching, in hope to get a good look at it, and then try guessing what it could be. I would then complain about standing around trying to find something that wouldn’t necessarily stay still long enough to get a clear view of. But after my first day at the rescue, my opinions changed massively.

My first day was mainly dealing with collard doves and hedgehogs. All we really do is clean them out. But what shocked me the most was, we have to handle the animals when moving them around. I was asked if I knew how to handle a bird and as we had chickens at the time, I knew. I also somehow felt like it was just obvious to me how they need to be held, which helped. So once I said I knew how to hold them and I was informed where everything was, I was good to go.

I learnt, the more I attended, that with all the pigeons on site, they all have their own personalities. Hughie is one of my favourite residents (we call those who stay with us due to being a bit ‘special’, residents). She has a personality that I would never have expected a bird to have. The longer I’ve been there, the more she has learnt that I feed her with a tube which is her favourite. So the other day when I was cleaning the aviaries, she was following me around. She can’t fly but she somehow managed to climb the mesh on the outside of the aviary, whilst I was inside. She was that desperate to get to me. Then when I was sat on the floor, drying up some bowls, she just happily sat on my knee.

And it’s not just pigeons that have crazy personalities (though our residents always make me laugh with what they do).

As it’s currently baby bird season, we are swarming with all sorts of baby birds, and the numbers are increasing. We have 3 crows, 1 rook, 1 gosling, 2 starlings, 2 blackbirds, 6 robins, 5 sparrows, 13 ducklings, 9 blue tits and that is all I can remember right now, but as you have probably guessed, it’s a lot. These babies require feeding every half an hour which makes the day longer as we all feed them, as well as clean all the cages. This amazed me quite a bit when I had encountered my first baby bird season. I remember walking in one day with my boss feeding a baby blackbird. She suddenly just showed me how to do it, then left me to it. And since then, I have been able to feed some of the most troublesome birds, leaving my boss to trust me the most (without sounding too big headed about it). I have also been given the privilege of feeding hoglets and baby squirrels which I never imagined doing.

I have been there two years now and I never imagined learning as much as I have. I only started with the intention of cleaning cages. But now, I make up medicines, feed baby birds, help with bandaging and putting on splints, tube feed the baby pigeons (which requires putting a tube into the crop so it’s not exactly that easy), I help with new people (something I honestly never thought I’d do, baring in mind my fear for people was ridiculous) and I also take home towels to wash. Along with all that, I am there 3 days a week, so I have dedicated my time and effort to the rescue.

I am more than grateful to have started there as my first introduction to a working environment. I have had some ups and downs but I have continued to stick with it because I know that I would honestly rather be there, than anywhere else.

 

Social Anxiety – Why I Can’t Go Out Alone

For a long time, I never really thought about why going outside alone, was such a big deal. I always thought it would just be lonely and pointless. But in my adulthood, I have realised it’s essential. Being able to go to the shops for needed items, seems to be a key thing for everyone. But for myself, it’s one of my biggest challenges. If I need something, I have to rely on online shopping or someone to come with me. I also struggle to walk to destinations to meet my friends or my boyfriend, leaving me totally reliant on friends or family to be with me wherever I go.

Except work.

Starting at the rescue has been the only thing I have been able to do independently. I had my mentor at the time take me and help me with filling in the application, but besides that, I have been all on my own. I’ve made friends and I now feel extremely comfortable there. I am in control and I know there is somewhere I can go if I need space and I know there is someone I can talk to, if need be.

Upon noticing these benefits with my work environment, I have been able to understand why I find it so scary going out alone. It’s mainly because the world is unpredictable. Like my friend who suffers with OCD, I think of the worst case scenario all the time. Many bad things happen to people out there and that’s what scares me about being alone. If I am with someone, I feel I am less targeted, less vulnerable, less noticeable. I have encountered situations where I can verify that this is actually the case. Because on a number of occasions, where I have been out on my own to push myself, unsettling things have happened to me. I’ve mainly had drunk men approach me and on one occasion, a young girl decided to ask me for a fight. After experiencing these scary situations, I have become more frightened of going out alone, as it seems people target me. I somehow stand out, as if everyone knows I am different.

I would like to think that one day I would overcome it and step outside on my own with no problems, but as I said before, the world is unpredictable and I am in constant fear of the unknown. I like to be prepared and aware of what is going to happen. But I can’t give everyone a script of how the outside is going to play out for that day, just so I can go to the shops to get some breakfast bars. Unfortunately, the world isn’t like that. I am currently trying methods of dealing with this fear and having a friend who struggles in a very similar way, definitely makes me feel less alone with my anxieties.

So maybe in the future, I’ll be just like everyone else who can go out to do those silly, mundane things.

Logging My Anxiety

Unfortunately, one of my budgies died yesterday, resulting in one left. So my poor little Quigley is all on his own in the aviary. He’s still happily singing away but as these are social birds, he won’t be enjoying it for long.

Right after I was told by my mum that the fireworks that night had most likely scared Isaac to death, I was of course devastated, but I knew I needed to get more for Quigley’s sake.

With this being the case, I began looking online for some budgie breeders local to my area. And within an hour, I found someone and sent them an email.

Now I am minutes away from leaving my house with my mum, to go and get these new additions to my budgie Kingdom.

Except, I’m terrified.

So I decided to log my anxiety in this current moment.

My feet are freezing. This is a symptom that is sticking out the most right now. My feet are just frozen. It almost feels like they’re going to get frozen solid, leaving me unable to move my toes or even walk.

I have this sickening feeling in my stomach. I kind of feel full. But full with anxiety. It’s just making me feel really sick.

My heart is beating hard and fast. As one of my common symptoms of anxiety, it still isn’t any easier to deal with. It links in with the sickening feeling in my stomach and the adrenalin. It’s all just bundling together to make me feel like I’m going to die.

My hands are shaking. And no doubt my knees will be too when I get there. I really hate it when they shake because it’s obvious I’m nervous. I don’t like people to think I’m scared. It’s embarrassing.

I’m chewing the inside of my mouth. I guess this is a nervous habit I have. I just pay the price later when my mouth is sore and bleeding.

I am now cold all over.

I am beginning to snap at my mum because I feel agitated.

But I have left now. And I haven’t run away. I am facing it.