Following my recent smugness, today I am celebrating a new achievement. Or rather, a series of small achievements.

I wonder if any of my fellow Aspies have been watching the new detective drama, Strike? I’ve really enjoyed it, but in the last episode, Strike and Robin went to a very formal party, and Strike used two words that send fear into the heart of anyone like me, “Let’s mingle”.

If someone took me to a party and said that, I’d head straight for the bar or the toilet to hide. Because Robin is nothing like me (glamorous, confidant, socially secure), she was fine. She subtly managed to attract the one man in the room they most wanted to talk to, and easily, casually, led him back to Strike.

I know this will never be me, but there are thousands like me and probably not so many as self-assured as Robin. So no, I haven’t been going down a storm at any parties, but I have been making small talk and getting to know new people.

At yoga class, I have for the last few weeks been gradually talking more and more to the woman next to me. And today, I spoke to a woman I’d never met while dropping my daughter off at school. Perhaps the baby bump makes me appear more accessible? It certainly provides an obvious topic of conversation.

It’s a strange feeling to leave the house for something almost every day of the week, and know that there will be an expectation for you to talk to someone, even if it’s only for five minutes while collecting my daughter. I feel more competent, and more like a ‘real mum’, whatever that means.

Even writing this down feels weird. I suppose most people do expect to have conversations with other adults every day. Acquaintances, colleagues, friends, etc. But I’m an Aspie and I work from home. I don’t even need to use the phone for my job, normally. I communicate with most people online, and nowhere else.

So you see, these fragments of humanity are a big deal.

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After the other week’s anxious exchange, and even more anxious rushing to meet some deadlines, I am in the happy position of being able to say “I did it!”.

I did not offend my client. She is still in touch and keen to keep working with me. The cherry on the top is that, so far, she is also pleased with my work. Naturally, I am still a bit anxious, after all, the project isn’t entirely over yet! My next hurdle will be to negotiate phase 2 of the work.

But, I am happy to have had some success, and I am happy not to be in such a rush at the moment. It’s very easy for people like me to skip between worries without stopping to appreciate, or celebrate, when something comes to fruition or goes well. For example, I am currently worrying about three separate issues, but I’m trying not to.

Last Thursday I met two big work deadlines and on Friday I celebrated with my daughter, sister, and nephew, and lots of cupcakes and gingerbread men. I can tell you, after some long, stressful weeks, salted caramel never tasted so good!

So, what’s next? I still have plenty to do but I don’t want to keep worrying about it all. I want to move forwards with confidence, because actually, I do sometimes know what I’m doing.

Let me remember the salted caramel a little longer.

Today, I come cap in hand looking for reassurance and guidance. I’m not too proud to admit, I’m a bit stumped today. Let me explain…

I recently acquired a new client and I have been working very hard to complete their project. It’s a copywriting project – my first non-editing role in over a year! I quoted, all was agreed, the deposit paid, and the working relationship seemed to be developing nicely. But…

Today I found out that my client thinks my quote is effectively a cumulative piece rate. She has divided my charge by the number of resultant pages and thinks this is the way forward for future work. This is not it at all – and I now have to explicitly, yet diplomatically, sort the misunderstanding out before I’m doomed to an untenable working relationship.

This happens so often with copywriting – and probably other services too. Clients don’t understand that it doesn’t come down to the number of words or pages. It’s about getting the right message across in the right way for the right people. It’s about the tone of voice and choice of words. It’s about the research involved, and the level of your copywriter’s experience and expertise. There are many contributing factors, it’s not like you’ve put a monkey in front of a typewriter and promised it one banana per page.

But that’s enough of the copywriter’s rant. My real issue here is the communication with my client. I am really hoping that my email is suitably diplomatic. I was aiming to be assertive, but not an a**hole. Speaking as someone with Asperger’s, I have no way of knowing if I’ve achieved that. Even if the client writes back and says that’s fine, I don’t know if she’s secretly fuming, or confused, or fed up.

So tell me – where’s the line between assertiveness, and that other a-word? Can an Aspie really learn to spot the difference?

PS. If you’d like to have a rant about how your professional services are misunderstood or under-appreciated, go ahead in the comments! I love a good rant.

Here’s a question for you: Is losing sleep always a bad thing, or can it be a good thing?

Normally, having missed many hours throughout my life thanks to anxiety-related insomnia and then having a child, I wouldn’t even think about it. There was no doubt in my mind that losing sleep was one of the worst things that could happen to me. Yes, I know, I could be horribly injured under a bus or my country might declare war and there are countless other things that really are worse…

But to me, because my sleep is so often disrupted, I felt that losing sleep was the absolute nadir of my existence. I go to bed early every night in a desperate attempt to get enough hours. Yet I often wake up feeling sluggish and slow, wondering why my daughter got me up three times or why my husband chose that night to snore so loud. Last night I lay awake for three hours worrying about a possible new client project.

And yet…

Today, well, I still felt a bit slow in the morning. And I did accidentally pour gone off milk into my husband’s tea before I realised. But I’ve also got a lot done and I feel happier and more competent than I have for ages. I’ve been to medical appointments (don’t worry – just routine), I’ve got work done, I’ve emailed that possible new client who I’m still a bit scared of, and I’ve even mowed the lawn. (This may not seem a big deal to you but it was my first time – I was too scared to try).

Consequently, I am starting to wonder, is it really worth going to bed so early? If my body has the energy to keep awake for three hours between 2 and 5am and I still manage to perform better than average, maybe I didn’t actually need those hours at all? Maybe my body wakes more because it knows it can and should be doing more in the day and it’s just getting annoyed with my brain for making it shut down early? Maybe, sleep is not the answer I am looking for?

How do you feel when you lose sleep?

After last week’s sorrow, I am relieved to say I’m feeling better. The problem I wrote about hasn’t gone away, and I know it never will, but I’m feeling stronger anyway.

If I’d had a wobble like that 15 years ago, I would still be in the grip of it now. Time does not cure Asperger’s, but it does give us the opportunity to get better at living with it!

Something that helped me come out of that fog, was the simple act of hitting ‘publish’ on that blog post. The likes I got after were much appreciated. So, my recovery was initiated entirely by people taking the time to press a few buttons. I took the time, and so did you. With the internet between us, these tiny movements are enough to make a big difference.

We hear a lot about people causing trouble for others online, but not so much about all the good things that get done. Simple things that take seconds, like adding your name to a petition, making a charitable donation, or showing someone you took the time to read what they wrote. And for people with Asperger’s, or other conditions that put limitations on communicating, the internet is really a lifeline.

Thank you.

Yesterday I was forced to open up to a stranger, in a way that I found painful and embarrassing. I went to my local hospital to take a look at their birthing unit, and as I sat in one of their birthing rooms, listening to the joyful stories of people who’d given birth there, I started to cry. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. I was reliving the birth of my daughter, and the trauma, and feeling of having let her down came washing over me.

Consequently, the nice midwife who was showing everyone around, took me aside for a private chat. It reminded me of my counselling sessions when I was a teenager. The midwife was so lovely and helpful, but I just felt weak and awful. I didn’t want to talk about my pain. I didn’t want to dwell on those memories. She offered to give me some numbers of people to call and talk to, but I didn’t want those either.

Today, the sadness is still fresh, and I find myself deliberating about who I could talk to. How do you reach out to people when you hate reaching out?

My husband is busy at work. My best friend has her own problems to deal with now. My other friend wouldn’t understand. My mother, father and sister… just no. I never could open up to them. Every option I have feels wrong and alien. And yet the thought of calling a stranger at a charity is even worse.

And so, I’m sending this into the ether. A letter to anyone and no-one, with apologies because this is meant to be an upbeat blog.

After last week’s optimism, this week has thrown me a curve ball. My diary is pulling me in different directions and that’s a lot for my brain to handle. On Monday I had two appointments, two more today, a playdate tomorrow, and I don’t yet know if I’m needed for volunteering on Thursday.

I realise my schedule still makes for light reading, especially compared with many others. I know my husband’s days are often filled with meetings, phone calls and other distractions that get in the way of ‘actual work’. But for me, even my relatively easy schedule is hampering my thought process and productivity. My question is this:

How am I supposed to get stuff done when I have all this stuff to do?

People on the autism spectrum are generally known for preferring a steady routine. Chopping and changing, making ‘casual’ ad-hoc arrangements, and attending unusual or awkwardly timed appointments do not put us in our happy place. Each little alteration to the schedule creates worry and stress. It’s like putting a brick wall in the way, while we were enjoying our walk, thank you very much!

So – for the foreseeable future – my stress levels are continuing. My brain is doing its best to keep up with all the important stuff I have to do, as well as the distractions, but I know I’m not functioning at my best and that is so frustrating.

It’s times like these that I envy my husband. He has a career, and while his job may be annoying at times, at least he is working in an office with a single overarching focus. My own time has been split into what feels like hundreds of strands of focus, ever since I first quit full time employment to become a mother.

But I can’t blame motherhood for all the fragmentation. It was my choice to study accountancy. It was my choice to take two voluntary positions. It was my choice to take on work as a freelance editor, and it was also my choice to write a blog and enter short story competitions. As for the cooking, shopping, housework, and child-care arrangements, well I’m just kind of stuck with those. It didn’t make sense for my husband to be the stay-at-home parent.

So, as you can see, there’s no real cure for this fragmentation. It is merely a busy period that I have to get through, before the next one hits. If I weren’t pregnant, I would certainly treat myself to a glass of wine to help my brain switch off. But I am, so… any tips?