Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism

I watched BBC One’s Richard and Jaco: Life With Autism last night.

As a parent, I am able to identify with Welsh actor Richard Mylan’s fears for his son’s future.

As an autistic person, I understand Jaco’s world.

My son will be eight this year but does not have the ability to mask his autism as I have been able to do. Like Jaco, his autism is obvious. He wandered in while I was watching it and saw Jaco wearing his headphones. He said “Look mummy, that little boy looks like me!”

Richard impressed me with his desire to understand his son’s world even though it’s impossible for people to truly understand what they don’t experience themselves. However, Jaco is a lucky little boy to have Richard as a dad and the love he has for his son is a beautiful thing to see.

You get a view of what life can be like with an autistic child like Jaco. He reminds me so much of my own little boy, as in,visibly uncomfortable with environmental stimuli but happy in his world.

In order for him to learn more about Jaco’s future, Richard went to meet various people on the spectrum. First he met Alex Lowry who is a motivational speaker and trainer on autism. An animated man, he is obviously passionate about what he does.

Although Jaco started secondary school and was happy, Richard was interested in finding out about special schools. In one such school he met two teenagers who had been tasked with the job of showing him around. One boy told of the bullying he’d endured in mainstream school culminating in a broken arm and the other told of being ‘kicked out’ of school for being ‘naughty’. Both struggled in mainstream but both spoke highly of the special place where they are understood and most importantly, happy.

Then there was Edward who is severely autistic and in residential care. He is a young man who is happy in his own world and who has a great support network. He, like every other autistic person, does not know what ‘normal’ feels like. All we know is our normal. Ed has an amazing memory and can tell you what day your birthday was on when you were born in a matter of seconds. He is a fascinating person.

Ed’s mother by her own admission has taken a leap of faith in allowing him to live independently but said, “You have to let your kids go don’t you? You have to let them grow up and be independent”.

Bottom line is yes, we do.

The person who struck me the most was the young man who Richard visited in his workplace. This man was literally living his dream of doing admin. Yes, admin! The job that so many people loathe. Yet, he was happier than a pig in muck sorting through all the letters and stuff. What’s more, he is a valued member of the team and according to his boss, contributes to the happy and relaxed atmosphere of the office. What choked me up was when he said to Richard, “If I didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t be as special.”

Richard said “So you see it as a positive thing?”

With eyes that twinkled (and bloody good eye contact thank you very much) the young man replied, “Yes. autism is a very special thing and whoever has it should be proud of it”.

I am proud of who I am and I want my son to be proud of who he is too.

The Boy and I have the same problems but we react very differently. I am an autistic person raising an autistic child and I know how important these next few years will be for him. I can’t sit back and do nothing because he will be a teenager before I know it. I have to prepare my son for a life without me and I have to do it now. I can’t guarantee that his secondary school experience will be as positive as his primary one but I will be watching closely and if he’s unhappy, I will have NO problem in placing him in a special school, especially after seeing how happy those lads were.

My passion comes not only from being his mum but also my years of suffering in mainstream. I know, without a doubt, that I would have been happy in a special school tailored to my needs. With the confusion and crowds removed, I would have thrived instead of having just about survived. However, my time has long since gone. It’s my son’s time now..

I want him to have a relationship. To be able, not only to work, but to be appreciated for his contribution to society. Ultimately, I want him to be able to live independently of us. Don’t get me wrong, I dread the day coming when he no longer needs me but that’s also the day I’m aiming for. It’s what every parent aims for. Sadly, some people are too severely affected for total independence to be an option.

More than anything else in this world, I want him to be happy and to embrace his differences, not hide them as I have done.

We, as parents, do the best we can for our children. We give them the tools they need to survive and they take what they’ve learned out into the world. With autism, the work starts earlier. It has to. Richard Mylan knows that. I know that. Most autism parents will understand that. Another thing that unites us all is the fear of not being here for our special children so we do the very best we can while we are still around.

Thanks to Richard and Jaco for a glimpse into your lives and for helping to spread awareness.

Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism is on BBC iplayer for one more week. Well worth a watch, folks.

Spectrum Sunday

Good Wife meets Shit Wife

 

I came across this article while I was sat on a cafe bog in rural Cumbria.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my vintage nostalgia but women as second class doormats is best left where it is in my opinion..

It occurred to me just how much times have changed so I thought I would compare housewives sixty two years apart. For this purpose I have created Shit Wife..

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return.

Shit Wife is impressed with Mary Berry’s baking skills but hasn’t yet managed to create the perfect bake. Or even a mediocre bake. In fact, she’s crap at baking. However, Bezzer’s books look fablus on her bookshelf.

Prepare yourself. Touch up your make up.

Shit Wife looks like Alice Cooper by tea-time and is about as fresh looking as week old roadkill. Depending on the season (and availability of leggings) she may also have cactus legs.

Put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking.

The last time Shit Wife wore ribbons, David Beckham was a sperm.

He has just been with a lot of work-weary people!

Shit Wife has had the day from HELL. She’s been e-mailing the council about the bins AGAIN, the lurcher’s dinner has done an encore all over the kitchen floor and one of the other Mums has been giving her the evils on the school yard.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house before your husband arrives.

Shit Wife gets busy with the hoover about 30 minutes before Hubs gets in. She has perfected the art of looking knackered when it fact she’s been binge watching Desperate Housewives all afternoon.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small) comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Shit Wife hasn’t the time (or inclination) for such shit.

Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

Shit Wife has no problem getting them to be quiet as they’ve lost the ability to speak thanks to modern technology. They now communicate via text.

Can u giv meeee sum £ pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?

Or

Wot?

Be happy to see him

Shit Wife imagines Hubs is Sean Bean

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

Shit Wife imagine Hubs is Sean Bean, NAKED.

Don’t greet him with complaints and problems

Shit Wife unloads her crap unto Hubs’ before his coat’s off.

Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he may have gone through that day.

*Author of blog starts to choke*

Shit Wife flings Hubs’ tea in the bin when he staggers in late and pissed. If she’s on her period (or menopausal) she’ll launch the plate at him as well. Lucky for him her aim is always off. So far, she’s trashed three dinner sets and half a dozen mugs. However, Hubs’ is now highly competent at plastering. If he stays out all night he will come home to find she’s changed the locks, his clothes are in bin-bags on the pavement and ‘DIE BASTARD’ has been weed-killer-ed into the front lawn. He should count this as minor compared to what she’ll do when she gets her hands on him.

Arrange his pillow

Shit Wife regularly ponders the consequences of smothering Hubs to death with his ESPECIALLY when he’s snorting like a pig and drooling all over her new Argos duvet set. She bides her time for when the menopause finally robs her of her sanity and she can get away with manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Offer to take off his shoes.

Shit Wife knows Hubs’ feet smell like cheesy cat vomit and under NO circumstances (including life threatening) would she EVER touch them.

Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

Shit Wife’s voice can reach well over 90 decibels when sufficiently riled, like when Hubs turns Emmerdale off to watch some crap about building sheds on Channel Bore.

Remember, he is master of the house.

Only in his dreams..

You have no right to question him.

Shit Wife will give him an interrogation Roz Huntley would be proud of. He WILL be questioned, at length, until he breaks.

A good wife always knows her place.

A good husband knows when to back away slowly.

Disclaimer. Note, Shit Wife is based loosely on me (not telling you which bits) and a few women I know with some creative license thrown in.

P.S all wives are not shit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Yours! (My Colonoscopy)

Shopping List

  • 24 pack of EXTRA SOFT bog roll
  • LARGE tub of Sudocrem
  • Five packs of soothing bum wipes
  • Lemonade (to disguise taste of laxative)
  • Aromatherapy candle (to disguise smell of poo)
  • Plastic bed sheet (just in case)
  • Extra undies (just in case)

48 hours Before Colonoscopy

Ate like a pig.

24 hours Before Colonoscopy

7am. Woke up.

7.02 am – 9am. Had 19 cups of tea and an egg on toast.

9 am onwards. No milk in drinks. No food. Can only eat clear jellies, Bovril, clear soups and boiled sweets. *weeps*

12.30pm. FOOKING STARVING!!!

12.35 pm. Lemon jelly for dinner (which didn’t touch the sides)

12.45. Heard OH opening a packet of crisps and wanted to end his life.

12.55. Saw picture of somebody’s chips on Instagram and started to cry.

1pm. Banned myself from Instagram.

1.30. Had a Bovril.

3.30. Felt faint with hunger.

4.30. Had bowl of clear soup and another Bovril.

5pm LAXATIVE OF DOOM TIME!!

Smells like cleaning fluid but doesn’t actually taste that bad..

5.22. One glass down, seven to go..

5.55. Two glasses down, six to go..

6.14. Three glasses down, five to go..

6.45 Four glasses down, four to go,

6.46 Had some stirrings in the bowel region..

6.50 THE WORLD FELL OUT OF MY ARSE!!!

7pm – 8pm FIFTEEN trips to the loo.

ROUND TWO OF LAXATIVE OF DOOM

8.23 Five glasses down, three to go..

8.55  Six glasses down, two to go..

9.23 Seven glasses down, one to go

9.53 Done

29 trips to the loo in total!

My bum hole after 29 trips to the loo

The Colonoscopy

I made myself a promise that I would write an honest, but humourous, account of my colonoscopy so here goes..

I arrived at the hospital at 8.45 am armed with my Kindle ready for a long wait but it didn’t happen because I was called in fairly quickly, so I was winning already.

First job was to put one of THOSE flattering gowns..

I’m used to the flasher gowns having had enough Gynae procedures done in my time. This time, though, I also got a pair of ‘dignity pants’ which have a kinky slit at the back. Now I always struggle with this part so I had the nurse repeat the instructions THREE times so I didn’t make an arse of myself, literally..

Next was the ‘to sedate or not to sedate’ question due to my recent adverse reactions to local anesthesia. A cannula was put in anyway so I could change my mind if needs be, though the consultant did do his best to reassure me that there is no connection between sedative and anesthetic and he’d rarely seen a reaction to one.

As it was my anxiety kicked in BIG TIME, so they took one look at my shaking lunatic self and persuaded me that sedation was the way to go.

So away with the fairies I went.

I’d already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to watch my own insides on the screen, so while the consultant was up to his tricks with his rubber glove I shut my eyes and slurred away to anybody who was listening.

I felt some discomfort when the camera was going round the bends of my colon, but they just whacked more sedative in me and ten minutes later the consultant peered over at me and said, ‘That’s it,  we’re all finished and you’re fine!’.

YAY!

I spent 45 minutes in recovery farting myself DELIRIOUS, while I had some tea and toast, which I was so grateful of as my mouth felt dry as a camels arse after not being able to drink for almost 12 hours..

Then it was back on with the clothes and I was on my way home.

I’ve dreaded this thing for months and had stupidly terrified myself by reading horror stories on the internet, but the thing is that thousands of Colonoscopies are performed every year without a problem,  it’s just that people don’t tend to write about positive experiences.

The prep wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I downed the lot no problem. The sprinting back and forth to the bog was more inconvenient than anything else and the procedure itself was uncomfortable for a few seconds, but that was it. I’ve had trickier shits that have hurt me more than the colonoscopy did and I’m not scared to have another one done that’s for sure.

The best thing is that I got the ALL CLEAR and that’s a HUGE weight off my mind. There are no nasties lurking in my bowels, aside my Farmer Giles and they are more annoying than nasty.

I urge you NOT to be embarrassed to go to your GP if you have bum problems. If anything is out of the ordinary, just go. Bowel changes, blood, weight loss etc. go tell your GP, because people are literally dying of embarrassment.

Me? Over the past few months I have had more fingers up my bum, (including my own), than Sooty and I’ve even strolled into my GP’s carrying a tube of MY OWN POO! While I was waiting for the sedative to wear off in the recovery room, I let rip some of my best farts EVER and I’m just gutted OH wasn’t there to hear them, he’d have been SO proud!

Go get seen.

Bottoms up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shutting Down

Sometimes I need to shutdown.

I just stop functioning.

Even if I want to speak, the words won’t come.

Not even yes or no.

I am aware of you talking but I can’t answer.

Like a form of paralysis

I have no words to reassure you.

A storm is raging within me

My inner fight.

I’ll get through it.

As all storms pass

There may have been a trigger

A memory, thought or word.

Stuff builds up.

Things you’d never imagine would matter.

Trivial to you.

Astronomic to me.

Leave me to unravel my thoughts and I’ll come back

But for now I have to withdraw.

Like a computer that’s frozen

I need to shut down and restart.

I can’t process these thoughts..

They whirl inside my head.

Building momentum.

Overthinking.

Catastrophizing.

Big fuck off mountains out of molehills.

Thoughts you wouldn’t want..

So when I leave without explanation, let me go.

To sleep.

To escape.

In order for my mind to unravel itself.

I’m not doing it to hurt you.

Nor am I being intentionally rude.

It’s just that it’s necessary.

Survival mode.

My brain is wired differently..

Incompatible with this world.

Too much information

Sensory overload.

So I’m asking you to understand as best you can..

The reason why this happens

That it’s not you.

It’s me.

Spectrum Sunday

 

Ageing With Autism

Did you know that over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic and most of them are adults? Much has been written about children and autism but there is very little information about ageing..

Most autistic people have additional problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep issues or learning difficulties and on top of all this comes the ageing process – which can be shit at the best of times.

Being diagnosed at 46, I understand myself as the child that I was and the adult that I am now but what next?

What will happen to me when I’m old?

A positive thing about diagnosis is that it’s given me permission to be myself. Pretending to fit in is exhausting but I have confidence to be me so I no longer have to work quite so hard at existing.

*does air-punch*

However, the way my mind works is that I dwell on the past and overthink the future. The future causes me concern because I fear being put in an old peoples home where I would be forced to be social. I’m not saying that every autistic person will feel like I do as we’re all different but as far as I’m concerned, it would be hell.

I’m not completely averse to being social but it has to be on my terms and I reckon I’d die pretty flipping quickly if my need for solitude was not respected or understood.

Also..

I don’t want to sit on a plastic chair and watch shit TV programmes.

I don’t want to play bingo.

I don’t want to eat my food with everybody else.

I don’t want to go on day trips to the fucking seaside where I’ll be asked if I need a piss every five minutes.

No ta.

I’m sort of hoping I’ll vacate this planet via my own home but you don’t always get what you want do you?

I get that oldie homes work for many people. The social thing probably keeps them alive longer but not me. I’d be bagged, tagged and laid out on the mortuary slab within a week!

As I age, I will most likely need more medical intervention. I mean, I’m creaking like an old barn door now so it’s a given. One problem with this is I struggle with verbal instruction, not because I’m slow, but because my brain can’t process more than one verbal instruction at a time so when medical professionals start reeling off instructions at one million miles an hour because they are SUPER busy, my brain goes screen saver and I just remember the first part or nothing at all. I need them to understand this about me and either slow up or write it down and when I request this of them I don’t want to be considered an awkward git.

One example of this is when I recently went for a Dexa scan. The radiographer fired out about four verbal instructions in one go. My brain went blank and I froze so he got up from his chair and physically moved my legs into position. He didn’t ask if he could move my legs for me and I resent that. I felt stupid. In the past I have been called stupid when I haven’t responded to verbal instruction. Now I understand why I struggle. I’m NOT stupid but people ARE ignorant.

I want healthcare professionals to understand that unfamiliarity makes me incredibly anxious which exacerbates my sensory issues, like pain threshold. I’m not being pathetic or difficult. I’d like them to treat me as they would a member of their family. That applies to everybody, regardless of autism, because we ALL matter. Would that radiographer have been as abrupt with his own mother? I don’t think so!

Although I’ve known I’m autistic for the past four years, I wasn’t able to say it. Had I have had the diagnosis it when I had that scan, I would have been able to explain about the verbal instruction (or OH would) and I wouldn’t have been made to feel like a tit.

The first children diagnosed as autistic are now middle-aged and I think it’s very important that we research how the autistic person changes physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially as they age. Most people need help in old age so it stands to reason that autistic people will require more support and understanding of their individual needs. I still fear old age but not quite as badly as before I was diagnosed..

The fear I have about not being here for The Boy is one I have the most trouble with. How will he cope without me? That thought physically hurts me but my job is to make sure that he can survive on his own. We’re on a path, him and I. He’s growing up and I’m growing old. I may still be 16 in my head but my body is convinced it’s 109. However, while I still have breath in my rapidly ageing body, I will do ALL I can to support my son. The day he no longer needs me will be a heart stopper but that’s what I’m aiming for. Not for my heart to actually stop cus I’d be dead like, but for him to be independent.

That’s what any parent aims for.

Some autistic people never achieve independence and that must be so hard for parents to deal with but I can only tell our story and independence is a possibility given the right support.

I’ve managed to survive for almost 47 years without support. However, it’s been hard and I don’t want him to struggle as I have. Once he’s living his life independently, I’ll embrace codgerdom in all it’s glory until Death points his bony finger my way and says in his best Sean Bean accent “Come on lass, let’s go ‘ome”.

And off I’ll go.

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit

Spectrum Sunday

 

Autism, Empathy and Me

 It’s a myth that autistic people don’t feel empathy.

Some autistic people may appear to lack empathy but it’s generally the case that they feel it but don’t know how to respond appropriately.

Some autistic people, like myself, have too much empathy..

I am hypersensitive to everything in life. Just as my senses work overtime so does my empathy.

My first recollection of being this way starts at school where children (including me) were singled out because they were different..

In primary school there was this boy..

I vividly remember the smell of him and the threadbare clothes he wore for days at a time. Having sensory issues I was acutely aware of the unwashed odour but never moved myself away from as other children did. They made a game of pushing each other into him and running off shouting that they’d got some disease because they’d touched his clothes.

Gets you right here doesn’t it? *taps heart*

I hated the other kids for that.

I hated myself for not making them stop.

More than anything I felt compassion and that overrode the sensory stuff.

It’s a different kind of sadness now. Back then I was a child who didn’t understand poverty. We were by no means well off but we had everything we needed and our basic needs were met. I’m a mother now who understands that, for whatever reason, his needs weren’t met. I never knew his story or how he came to be neglected like that. Maybe his mother was struggling to cope? Or ill? Maybe he didn’t have a mum? Whatever the reason it wasn’t his fault because he was just a boy.

I still think of him and always will and even though he’s grown up like me, he will always be that little boy.

A couple of years later we moved and I started my new school in the last year of juniors. The bullying, which had been sporadic until then, stepped up a few gears and would remain the case until I left school five years later.

So there was this girl..

The first day I saw her she was sitting alone in the hall eating her dinner. I didn’t give any thought as to why she was sitting on her own while everybody else was in groups. I just remember the stomach churning stench of cabbage and the sight of her with her bright red hair sat alone on a big table..

She saw me standing there, tray in hand, not knowing where to put myself and motioned for me to sit beside her. So I did and was grateful to her for being the ONE person in the room to welcome me.

The other kids made fun of her hair, among other things. I’ve never understood this about red hair because I think it’s beautiful. Jane Asher? Gorgeous!

This girl came from a big family and her clothes were nearly always too large for her. They were obviously hand-me-downs. She got picked on for that too. Where I’d come from it was the norm to wear your siblings cast-offs. I’d certainly never witnessed such snobbery before but it was clear that what was written on a pair of trainers mattered a great deal to some of my class ‘mates’.

The children dehumanised her. The abuse was constant and her defence was to cry or laugh back as if it was all some big joke. Some joke! They were arseholes to her and I wanted to make them to stop but didn’t know how. On the outside I was expressionless and motionless but inside I was imploding. This would stay with me all day affecting my mood. At home I would be difficult without understanding why. I know now that things stay with me long after the event.

There was almost a sense of relief when they turned their attention from her to me because it was easier to bear my own pain than hers. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have rearranged it all in my head and stood up for her.

In my head, I stood up for myself EVERY time.

So when I hear about teenage kids ‘snapping’ and going a bit psychobilly at school, I have sympathy for them because they have nearly always had to endure years of bullying which is abuse. It doesn’t excuse it but explains it. I snapped and punched a girl who’d been bullying me but that was after enduring four years of daily abuse. I’m not a violent person but we’re ALL capable of violence when the right buttons have been pushed and that applies to EVERY human being on this planet. Piss the Dalai Lama off enough and he’d probably right hook you too!

The problem with my autism is that I feel too much and that’s both good and bad. Good because I can experience things and feel euphorically happy. Bad because I soak up negative energies and pain. I have so many memories and thoughts that I wish I didn’t have..

I am still haunted by the Jamie Bulger story and often lie awake thinking of the 15 year old boy who went to the 1989 semi cup final football match in Hillsborough and died in the arms of a policewoman, his last word being “Mum”.

I can’t watch horror films and struggle to watch scenes of violence. When my anxiety is at its worst such scenes will trigger panic attacks. I can cope with scenes of bullying if there is an element of humour to them, as in, the bullies are made to look foolish. However, bullies are made, not born. To understand a bully you have to know their life and more often than not there will be something (or someone) that changed them. Painful memories may cloud my empathy towards certain people but it’s still there at default level. Yeah, they were bastards who hit me but who hit them?

The Boy is also highly empathetic. He couldn’t watch the BBC 2 Venus flytrap indent that was running last year. He covered his ears and looked away EVERY time.

The Boy has empathy by the bucket load and is autistic. Like everything else in his world, it’s amplified. Colours are BRIGHTER. Sounds are LOUDER and he feels emotions with such INTENSITY that it physically HURTS him. However, he struggles to react appropriately and so people misjudge him..

So many things about autism are misunderstood and empathy is one of the big ones.

I’m here to help my sensitive child understand the world which is a hard task seeing as I struggle myself but I can teach him what he needs to survive and hopefully thrive. Maternal instinct makes you do things you wouldn’t normally dream of. I just wish I could have done something to lessen the pain of those two children at school. Their pain, hopefully long gone, will always be mine.

The problem with empathy is not being able to let go of something, even when it’s a memory.

“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”

Milan Kundera ~ The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Spectrum Sunday

Late Autistic Diagnosis.

A lot of people suspect they are autistic but don’t know whether to go for the formal diagnosis or not. Many are happy to remain undiagnosed whereas others, like me, need validation.

Am I Really Autistic?

Chances are you know you’re autistic.

I knew as soon as my son was assessed four years ago..

I went home and read as many female Asperger books as I could and then did the full tears/snot thing because within those pages were women JUST LIKE ME!

My oddities take up four pieces of A4 paper but the bottom line for me was the feeling that has plagued me ALL my life and that’s the feeling of not belonging to this planet. We’re not on the same wavelength, the planet and me. More so, I don’t understand most of it’s human inhabitants..

The Benefits of Diagnosis

  • It can help you and your family understand why you’re a weird sod.
  • You may get access to benefits and support services.
  • Your employer, should you choose to disclose, has to make reasonable adjustments.
  • You can grow old and not worry about being forced to play bingo in Shady Pines oldies home.
  • You can be part of a community that understands YOU.

How To Go About Getting A Diagnosis

The first step is to speak to your GP.

This didn’t happen with me because, well, I’m awkward.

I’d already made up my mind to go and see my GP to ask for a referral when my anxiety worsened considerably and getting myself better took priority over everything else. However, in July I ended up at A&E with a panic attack. The doctor (an angel in human form) suggested I saw the hospital psychiatrist who spoke to me for about an hour and the result was that she referred me for an autism assessment. It wasn’t the usual route to assessment but for me it was a case of right place, right time.

So, go see your GP.

  • Only talk about the autism, not the boil on your bum.
  • Take in some notes if it helps you.
  • Tell them why you think you are autistic.
  • Explain why a diagnosis would benefit you.
  • Give brief examples of your struggles.
  • Allow the mask to fall because this is one occasion where it’s beneficial to be yourself.

Do your homework before you go in and find out about your local services. Maybe phone up the National Autistic Society helpline and speak to an advisor or if, like me, you are a phone-phobe, you can ask somebody to do it on your behalf?

Some GPs don’t know autism from their armpit but don’t let that put you off. Go in there armed with your info and Guidance For GPs  and bamboozle them with your knowledge. Don’t be fobbed off and if necessary see another GP.

When I had my assessment my anxiety was MASSIVE which was explained to the psychologist. Anxiety amplifies the communication and sensory issues and when I went back for the diagnosis I could barely speak and my eye contact was abysmal. I had to remind myself to look in the psychologist’s direction every now and then. Hopefully when I go back for my follow up appointment the anxiety will have subsided enough for me to engage and get something out of the session other than staring at the carpet..

You have to decide what benefits there are to being diagnosed and if that’s really what you want because once you have been officially diagnosed there’s no going back.

Since being diagnosed I feel as if a weight has been lifted off me. All those years of trying to find an explanation for my issues is at an end. For however long I have left I can be me knowing that I’m not as alone as I thought I was..

I am relieved to understand why I’m the way I am. I struggle and always will do but there are positive aspects to my autism, like how I experience the arts. I don’t just hear music, I feel it. I don’t just read a book, I become the character and those feelings stay with me long after the music has ended or I’ve turned/swiped the last page. There are two extremes to me with no in-between but then if there was an in-between, I probably wouldn’t be autistic.

I’m not fussed about terminology. I refer to myself as ‘autistic’ rather than having autism but it doesn’t really matter as either is a massive improvement on ‘weird fucker’ or other such things I’ve been called in my time. The important thing for me is that people understand autism itself.

It’s a human thing to want to belong and be accepted. In a perfect world all differences would not only be accepted but embraced. We’re a long way from that but with awareness things are getting better. Diagnosis isn’t right for everyone and it’s something that requires a LOT of thought so don’t rush into it.

Take as much time as you need.

I took four years.

Finally..

Don’t let age stop you from going for a diagnosis. If a codger like me can get diagnosed at 46, anyone can. In fact, people in their 60s and 70s are being diagnosed.

It’s NEVER too late.

Thank you for reading.

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Shit Gifts NOT To Buy Your Middle-Aged Mum This Mother’s Day

“My Mum is about five foot with her hair done. Without it she’s four foot 10”

Children can get away with literally ANYTHING on Mother’s Day because they’re small and cute. If a mother fails to be moved by the sight of a wobbly written card and daffodils filched from the next doors garden then she has a swinging brick where her heart should be, yes?

However, once we reach mid-teens and adulthood, the Mother’s Day game changes. A well thought out gift is like putting a pound in the slot machine and getting thirty back. The wrong gift, or worse, NOTHING and your mother will systematically break you down over the next twelve months AND FOREVER MORE!

I’m middle-aged and menopausal. My own mother went full psycho during her menopause so I know my shit and I’m willing to impart my knowledge on you readers. So here are my tips on what NOT to buy your middle-aged mother this Mother’s Day.

Cleaning Products/Household Shizz

This is the one of two days a year (the other being her birthday) where she endeavors to do sod all in the way of cooking or cleaning so if you stroll in with a new set of saucepans asking if she fancies ‘christening’ them, you may just end up in A&E with a head injury.

Gift Vouchers

Nothing says ‘I can’t be arsed’ quite like a gift voucher.

Alcohol

Alcohol and hormone imbalance can quickly turn an amicable afternoon into plate hurling carnage. AVOID. AVOID. AVOID.

Perfume

A woman’s body chemistry changes during the menopause so it’s best to stick with what you know works for her now. Also, don’t buy cheap version from the local market. You know, those that cost £2.99 and claim to smell like Chanel but actually smell like fox piss? You gets what you pays for and you’ll be paying for it for the forseeable in mental anguish.

Keep Fit DVDs

You’re telling her she’s fat.

Bathroom Scales

You’re telling her she’s fat.

Chocolates

You’re making her fat.

Anti-Ageing Products

You’re telling her she has the complexion of a prune. Yes, she uses this stuff by the pallet load but nobody is supposed to know!

The Shits

By all means cook her a nice meal for Mother’s Day, just make sure it’s not Coq au Salmonella.

Candles

Candles intended to mask cat pee, fag smoke or last night’s haddock do not say ‘I love you, Mum’.

Slippers

Unless she’s slap-bang in the throes of a particularly nasty mid-life crisis.. tiger print slipper boots (with pom-poms) are a NO. The other end of the scale are those royal blue/burgundy floral slippers favoured by the elderly and you may find yourself being assaulted with a size 4 slip-on if you’re not careful.

Might one suggest a nice pair of velour mules?

Mother’s Day Compilation CDs

Complied by morons, these CDs usually end up being flogged for 50p in charity shops.

They usually come with the obligatory Gary Barlow song and the rest are obviously chosen at random, possibly under the influence of alcohol.

For research purposes, I looked at the track listings for one such CD and aside Keating et al was Freda Payne’s Band of Gold (a song about being dumped) and Bridge Over Troubled Water which is enough to have your poor old dear reaching for the gin..

Or a noose.

When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.

Then again, ANY mother who has spent the last eight hours fumigating her teenage son’s pit of a bedroom will probably be able to identify with these lyrics, so maybe there’s method in the madness?

Don’t buy it JUST because it says MUM on it. You’re not cute enough to get away with it anymore. Plus, you’re dealing with hormonal disturbance of MAJOR proportions, you know?

You HAVE been warned!

Of course, if your mother actually requests any of the above (aside salmonella) then yer off the ‘ook, as it were.

I’d still steer clear of alcohol though..

Even Lambrini.

A Word of Caution About Cards

Mother’s Day cards are on the shelves from February. There is NO excuse for not getting her a card. Even if you plead poverty for a gift, everybody can afford a card, even if it’s a Tesco Value one..

I will tell you the story of a teenage boy who came back from staying at his mates house one Sunday to see a beautiful Mother’s Day card displayed on the mantel piece and his younger brother mouthing “You’re dead, Bruv” to him.

“SHIT!” he exclaimed. Then shot out of the house and round to the local Co-op where to his surprise, ALL the Mother’s Day cards had sold out..

So he improvised.

I birthed this child!

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It’s Your Party And I’ll Die If I Want To

It was 1981.

It was the year of MTV music channel, Charles and Diana and Bucks Fizz.

It was also the year that we moved house. So for me, it was shit.

I was struggling before we moved and being in a strange house and having to start a new school where I knew NOBODY made matters one hundred times worse. One of the memories that stands out is having to stand in the middle of the classroom while the entire class were forced to introduce themselves to me one by one. This was the idea of my new class teacher, a frizzy haired man beast who quite frankly was a sadist. I stared at my trainers and turned a non-flattering shade of crimson..

I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

Or for the fire bell to go off.

Neither happened because God apparently hates me.

Now, at school when it came to girls, there were Weirdos, Normals and Bitches. Weirdo’s sometimes mixed with Normals but NEVER with Bitches. Bitches would mix with Normals if there was anything in it for them, like copying homework.

One of the Normals invited me to her party. She lived just across from us. I didn’t want to go but Mum felt that I needed to make some friends so she practically frogmarched me across to the girl’s house.

The party was in the garage. Yep, I wondered about that too but in hindsight when faced with a load of pre-teen girls cart-wheeling perilously close to your Wedgwood collection you kind of see the brains behind the plan.

My heart sank when I saw some Bitches had also been invited. They were all wearing satin trousers because that was the fashion of the year. The girl who’s party it was, was also wearing satin trousers. In contrast Mum had picked out for me (her TOMBOY daughter) a hideous skirt teamed with yellow top and cardi combo. I felt about as comfortable as fly in it’s final death throes after being Nippon’d!

ALL the girls had long hair. There was a sameness about them. Like sheep. No originality, you know? I envied their hair though because Mum had yet to allow me to grow mine. My hair was short (ish) with one side that permanently stuck out.

It’s not that I wanted to look like they did because I don’t do fashion. I just wanted to wear what I felt comfortable in which were my brother’s tops and a pair of old jeans but Gestapo trained Mum was having none of my ‘crap’.

So skirt and cardigan it was.

The girl’s mum tried to get me to join in with dancing and stuff but I just stared at her vacantly while my brain short-circuited so she gave up sodded off back inside, no doubt to wonder what her daughter was doing inviting such a misfit to her party.

I was the life and soul that day. Not.

I couldn’t dance (not that I can anyway)

I couldn’t eat.

I don’t think I actually moved the entire time I was there.

I didn’t drink in order to avoid having to ask where the loo was.

I couldn’t even enjoy the music.. mainly because it was naff party type music, therefore shite.

So it wasn’t the best experience of my life..

Needless to say the Bitches threw some hostile looks my way whilst having a giggle over my clothes.

I secretly hoped one (or all) would choke to death on a sausage roll.

The thought that’s haunted me all these years is why I didn’t just go home? I could see my house. It was literally yards away from where I was standing. I could see my mum having a fag in the back garden. She was enjoying the sunshine oblivious to the fact that her daughter was in some kind of satin infused HELL.

All I had to do was propel myself forwards but I couldn’t move..

Thing is, I was brought up to be polite and by the age of 11 my manners were instilled and I think that’s why I couldn’t just walk off. Excusing myself would involve having to speak and I was struggling to breathe, let alone speak, so I just stood there like an idiot. When the first parent turned up, the girl’s mum took pity on me and told me I could go if I liked..

If I liked?

I was through that garage door quicker than a greyhound out of a trap!

Back to my home.

Back to my sanctuary.

To most little girls a party is the thing of dreams. A chance to dress up and be pretty. To me, it was something to endure. AN ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE!

Mum never knew the real me. Sadly, she died not knowing. She saw extreme shyness, a loner and a girl who was never fully present but had no idea of what was really happening because I struggled to verbalise it. I was one of MANY girls from my generation who were misunderstood and suffered as a consequence. Maybe that’s you too?

46 years later, I know who I am and I’m proud of little me for hanging in there that day and not puking all over the garage floor. GO ME!

As for the Bitches..

“SEE YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE, GALS!”

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Do It Yourself Eyebrows On The Cheap

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If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son
I got ninety nine problems but my brows aint one.

There is an epidemic going around which involves spending liberal amounts of money ‘perfecting’ those hairy tufts above the eyes more commonly known as eyebrows.

The Scientific Gubbins

The main function of the eyebrow is to stop sweat and debris falling into your eye socket but they are also key to facial expression. Your eyebrows tell people when you are surprised or angry, for instance and without them we look strange.

I hold my hands up here and hang my head in shame because I’ve plucked mine into submission. I’m an over-plucker, mother pluckers! In fact, part of my left eyebrow is missing due to a frenzied culling session in the late 90s while sozzled on home brew. Alas, I now have to fill in the gap with some eye shadow or pencil.

Years ago the only option was to pencil some in or to whack a bit of shadow in the sparse bits but nowadays you can have an eyebrow TATTOOED onto your skin. It’s not cheap and sometimes things go wrong so instead of looking like Kim Kardashian, you end up looking like a three year old has been let loose on your face with a crayon.

I’ll be honest. I’m an old fart who still remembers a time when it was fashionable to be hairy. The 70s were a full on fur-fest and I was there for the majority of it.. give or take a few months..

There was hair EVERYWHERE.

They even made a musical called HAIR!!

My dad’s mucky magazines (yep, I found em) were full of women with more bush than Kew Gardens but, hey, that was the norm back then. Nowadays, the hairy laydeh has become a niche market though some of us are doing our best to revive it, albeit unintentionally.

The 80s had it’s hairy moments as well. Remember Nena and her 99 Luftballons? The German lovely certainly wasn’t afraid to show off her furry pits and Madonna has been known to be a stranger to Ladyshave in her time as well..

Today’s woman is encouraged to shave (or wax) anything that resembles a hair or pube aside what’s on her head. I’ve seen mannequins with more hair on them than most young women these days!

One of the things about ageing is the speed which hair grows, especially places you don’t want it to, LIKE ON YOUR FACE!

I remember the day I discovered that my mum had a *whispers* moustache and vowed that it would NEVER happen to me!

EVER.

However…

IT HAPPENED.

So once a month I pluck them out with some tweezers because my hair seems to be immune to creams. I once spent six hours Veeting myself to no avail. I am, it seems, resistant to depilatory creams.

When it comes to eyebrows it’s no longer fashionable to have run-of-the-mill eyebrows. Now they have to be sculptured into sperm-like shapes in order to give that permanently ‘How bloody much?’ look.

Why would ANYBODY want to have sperms on their face?

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Moving swiftly on…

Why pay all that money to look like that when you can do it yourself for about 50p?

In the spirit of goodwill and all that, I am willing to share my secret with you.

All you need is a sheet of felt and some sticky thingies you can pick up from any craft shop.

Firstly, pick yourself some felt to match your hair colour, or as close to it as you can. I dye my hair red (ish) but I’d look a bit of a chop with red eyebrows so I opted for brown, as is my au naturel shade.

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Get a biro (or borrow your little un’s chalks) and draw a set of eyebrows in the shape you desire.

Go wild or just stick to sperms.

BROWse the internet for inspiration.

See what I did there?

Now you are ready to cut those bad boys out.

*WARNING* Take care when using sharp scissors, especially if you’ve been at the Gin.

Actually, it might be a good idea to ask somebody (who isn’t pissed) to help you with this part?

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Next, you will need to fix some sticky thingies on. Or you can use velcro if you like pain. Wouldn’t advise Superglue..

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VOILA!

Here’s me rocking my new brows!

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Dead. Sexy.

The beauty of this is that you can get about 10 pairs out of one sheet of felt so if one gets lost on a night out, it’s no biggy. Keep some spares in your holdall of a handbag and when your mate leans over and says, ‘Oi, tit, your eyebrow has slipped into your Jalfrezi!’ All you have to do is whip out a spare, slap it on your face and you’re back in action!

Could it be any easier?

Play about with this. Create your own style and have fun with it. Maybe get a few mates round and have a brow-making session? Like a Tupperware party only not as shit!

Plus, it’s got to be better than blowing the housekeeping on a permanent pair which could make you look like a right berk, eh?

I (being socially challenged) prefer to make my brows on my own whilst listening to old 1970s records for inspiration.

That’s just how I roll.

Next time I will show you how to create some sexy stockings using Bovril and a Sharpie.

The old ways are still the best, eh?

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Public Domain Image

All other images, though crap, are mine.