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Aspergers

It was about 5.50am when I realised I had forgotten to tell someone at work something extremely important the day before. Luckily, because this is 2019 and I am never more than about a foot from my mobile phone, I was able to send a quick email with an even quicker apology. Hopefully this reached her in time and mitigated what would be (in my view) disaster. I’m actually talking about a typo in a marketing email.

So, how did this happen?

I gave my feedback to her verbally.

How, after so many years practicing talking to people, do I still suck so much at this? I talked her through a few other things that needed to change, was happy that I’d finished, and walked quickly back to my desk.

Ordinarily for proofreading tasks, I’d mark up a Word or Google doc, secure in the knowledge that my typed communications are so much better than when my brain tries to come out through my mouth.

It occurred to me that having Asperger’s means I use more mental faculties to communicate verbally and face-to-face, which effectively sucks up valuable resource from the rest of my brain. I may have planned a conversation before I start it, but when it actually happens my brain is effectively put on a rollercoaster with no seatbelts and asked to hold on. I could also liken it to having static interrupting your radio station – making you miss valuable bits of information, or making you forget which questions you needed to ask.

I’ve had several work conversations where I’ve needed to go back later for more information. Sometimes as soon as I walked away I’d realise I meant to ask something else. So, another day, another face palm. And it doesn’t even help to know this – because how do I know what I’m going to miss next? I won’t know until I realise I’ve missed it.

I feel a strange urge to bang my head on the desk, but perhaps a decaff coffee would be kinder.

I hope you’re all having better days.

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If you read my last post, you’ll have some idea of why I’ve been quiet lately. My feelings may have fluctuated, but the busy-ness has been constant!

Today, I’ve been inspired to take time out to talk about regrets, and holding onto negativity, which is something that affects everybody in some way, even if you’re (lucky to be?) neurotypical.

The festive period was certainly joyful in our house, but I found the sheer quantity of guests, engagements, and ‘things I needed to do’ really overwhelming. By the time I got back to work I was frazzled and stressed, wondering where my holiday went.

Luckily my emotions have evened out a bit since then, but I realised I’d been holding onto negativity when I really didn’t need to. Just a couple of days ago, I realised I’d been going to bed feeling stressed, almost every night. From 8pm, I start looking at my watch, wondering when is early enough to get to bed just in case one of the children gives me a bad night.

I’ve been a mother for almost 6 years. Almost 7 if you count ‘brewing’ time. Those years have taught me to cling desperately to my sleep, because children can go through so many phases, and so many bugs. But my two are relatively good sleepers. Sure, there have been plenty of nights where I just wanted to be unconscious so badly… but there have also been many more nights that were good. Yet for more than half a decade, I’ve been holding onto this idea that if I’m not in bed between half eight and nine, I might be an emotional wreck by morning.

When you contextualise the worry like that, it seems ridiculous. And maybe it is!?

So – what does this have to do with whales? I hear you ask. Well, I thought if I started to practise mindfulness that would help, and a friend of mine recommended becoming a whale. The idea is, you have to imagine all the negativity being blown out of the top of your head – like water from a whale’s blowhole.

When she told me this, my first instinct was to laugh, and maybe that’s the point. It’s hard to be negative and stressed out when you’re really laughing at something.

I actually haven’t tried it yet (because I’ve been so busy) – but just knowing that I’ve been holding onto stress has made me a bit less worried. I think dealing with stress will always be a work in progress. Knowing that it’s there is the first step to fighting it.

Do you have a good mindfulness tip to share?

After last week’s misery (which I still feel guilty about, because a mother isn’t supposed to find her baby quite so irksome, maybe) things are looking up. The baby is back at nursery and tomorrow I’ll be back at the office.

And although it’s only half ten here in the UK, I’ve already put my freedom to very good use by going for a run and enjoying some coffee with a cinnamon pastry – uninterrupted!

I don’t know if people without children will quite understand this bliss. Then again, I’ve had some pretty hectic jobs in the past and that also made me appreciate my quiet time. When I worked in a bank, we’d have long days absolutely filled with customers. On busy days, it would literally be a constant stream of people from opening to closing. Can you imagine how much fun that was with Asperger’s?

I think it must be the same for a lot of shop workers, and of course, anyone in the police or NHS. When do you get to take a breather? When do you get to enjoy your freedom?

These moments are so precious – I hope everybody gets to enjoy them sometimes.

And if you’re a mother who’s desperate for a break from your children – throw off the guilt and do it if you can. Or if you can’t throw off the guilt, do it anyway! Ask those friends or relatives, or spend a bit of money if you can spare it. Your mental health will thank you.

As usual, comments, including rants and whinges (you know I don’t mind you venting) are welcome.

One of my worst nightmares has happened. I am stuck looking after the baby for a week because she’s too infectious to be at nursery and all the grandparents are away!

This means fitting all of those 8 million jobs I have into nap times, but even worse, it means I have to spend hours every day keeping a very mobile and slightly cranky 9 month old happy and out of trouble. I realise as I’m writing this that many mothers adore spending time with their babies. I’m also aware many mothers who lost their babies would pay almost any price to have their babies back with them, just so they could hold them again and be mothers again. I’m tearing up thinking about that.

But the fact remains, I find babies annoying, even my own. I don’t like being constantly interrupted. I don’t like being unable to arrange my day without consideration of nap times, snack times, medication times, nappy times…. That’s not why I had children. I had children so that they could grow into lovely little people – people I can talk to and they understand – people I can reason with and explain things to. I never wanted the little shouty things that are either asleep or needy. I only wanted the nice little girls (about 3+ is when they seem to get more fun and less needy), that can develop into even less needy and more wonderful people, and eventually wonderful grown ups that leave home and make you the needy one.

This week is going to drag, but I know I’m still lucky to have her. And one day she will be less annoying.

OK, it’s been a long time since I posted and I feel a little guilty for that. I don’t imagine there are people out there relying on my updates, but when I started this blog it was with the intention of being a friendly voice for other autists. I wanted to be a positive influence and offer encouragement, not just to fellow Aspies, but to anyone suffering from social anxiety, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, etc. And how can I be that encouraging friend when I don’t even bother to put a post up for over a month?

The truth is I have been struggling. I have been wondering what to do with my life and trying to decide between going back to college or job hunting. I have been trying to keep up with life’s demands with my eldest girl on summer holidays and my youngest getting up in the night with teething pains. The intense heat has stopped me exercising as much, and I have felt a general malaise. A tiredness.

But, life never stops just because we’d rather bury our heads in the sand for a few weeks. I have been forced by the sheer will of the world to keep going, worries and all. And life has been improving.

Last week I had a job interview, which I’m still feeling very positive about. Getting through it was very stressful – to the point where I wondered if some of my insides might fall out during the interview! But it’s done now, and even if I don’t get it, I now know that I am still attractive to some employers and I can present myself well in person as well as on paper. It is nearly always worth pushing yourself to do something scary like that!

And if you fall and fail? Dust yourself off, and carry on regardless. You are worth taking a risk.

It’s nearly time for my second little bundle of joy to start nursery, which means life is soon to get a lot more expensive. It also means I will have more time on my hands, which I was hoping to fill with more work. Maybe a real job, like I used to have when I was trying to fit in with all the ‘neurotypicals’. But it’s been a few years since I worked in an office, and I keenly remember how hard it was to fit in, and how I never really managed it.

Over the last few days I’ve been searching for a job that meets my available hours, skills, experience, and level of bravery. It turns out this is quite similar to squashing a sofa into an envelope. One job matches my skills but they want somebody full time. Another has the perfect hours but they want me to have a specific qualification, or experience with a specific piece of software that I’ve never used. Ooh – here’s a good one! No wait, it’s so far away I’d never make the school run. And so on…

I also found a website for freelancers… but I’m not very good at being a freelancer. I have one client and my relationship with him is brilliant. He loves what I do, and I don’t have to talk to him on the phone or video chat. The freelancer site talks about web chat and video-link interviews. I suck at interviews and I suck on the phone. My confidence is close to zero and the thought of my income relying on this is literally making me feel nauseated.

When I spoke with my husband about these options he suggested I go back to my finance studies and wait for his side project to kick off. Then there will be lots to keep me busy. This certainly solves a problem but it feels a bit lame. I have worked, on and off, with my husband and his companies for years now and it can be very enjoyable. But at the same time I feel that it’s a cop out. I can’t get a job with another employer, so I end up working with my husband.

The joblessness is not merely a result of lack of opportunity (although that certainly doesn’t help). Before I got pregnant I had a few interviews and everyone said the same thing. They were happy with my skills and attitude but they didn’t think I’d fit the environment, either because it was too busy or too changeable. One interviewer also commented that I didn’t speak enough. This is the most frustrating part of Asperger’s for me now. (Apart from being unable to make playground conversation). I know I can do the work, but I can’t get past the interview. Even when they understand that I have Asperger’s, I don’t fit the team.

One company was going to hire me, but then things changed and the job never became available.

And of course, with each passing month and year, my confidence wains. It feels like a very long time since I was in a busy office. It’s a very long time since I had colleagues that I could see 5 days a week. A lot of mums will know this feeling, because it’s nearly always the mums who put their career on holdĀ  to have a family. So now I feel doubly cursed. Once because of my children, and again because of the Asperger’s.

I will probably go ahead with my husband’s plan. Perhaps completing my studies will give me more confidence?

If any readers would like to share a story about your employment woes or successes, please post a comment!

I used my last post to ask for some advice and, I must admit, I was a little disappointed. I got a few likes, but not the answers I was hoping for. However, it was a timely reminder that I shouldn’t let the internet influence my major life decisions. Whatever I end up doing, it’s all me. My choice. My actions. Or lack of.

As it happens, soon after I posted that, I did tell my mum-friend about my Asperger’s. (Obviously, this happened via text, I wouldn’t do something that momentous face-to-face, or worse, on the phone!) Her response was quite positive and since it happened we are still friends, we have spoken in real life, and we have made more play dates.

I was so excited by the freedom I felt that I decided to tell someone else when we went out for drinks! She took it quite well too. It did not end the conversation. Neither did it dominate the evening.

Since then I’ve felt happier about being me again, which ironically has made it slightly easier to socialise in other situations.

I’m not planning to tell everyone, but I’m happy now that I know I can tell someone (other than my wonderful husband) without it spoiling the relationship.

If anyone does have a coming out story to share, either from an Aspie, NT, or other perspective, please leave a comment!