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mental-health

I’ve been really enjoying my new job – in a way I didn’t know was possible! The team is good, but the best bit is the work itself. I never thought I’d find a job that really fitted my intellect. As an Aspie, with chronic social-skill failure and lack of confidence, I got stuck in a loop of taking crappy low-paid customer service roles that made my brain feel like it might as well go on permanent vacation. And the stress levels were horrendous! Now that I have FINALLY found an interesting role in finance, I am starting to get excited about the future again.

Of course, my career choices weren’t just based on the Asperger’s. As many women will know first hand, I also felt it sensible to put my husband’s career first (as he was the higher earner), and focus my efforts on child raising, housework, and all that other valuable yet often underappreciated and mind numbing stuff.

Now, part-timer and relative newbie though I am (at the grand old age of 36) I am starting to get ideas. Ideas like “hey, I could actually finish that CIMA course!” and “maybe I could bring in a decent wage” and my personal favourite, “I’m actually good at something despite having Asperger’s!”.

So, how does this relate to the title of my post today?

The truth is I’d almost given up on having a career. I took time out for child rearing, and when I was ready to get back into an office I struggled so much. It was hard to find something that matched my hours. It was hard to find something that matched my skills and experience. But I kept looking because it was important to me to try. The interviews were as painful as you’d expect for someone like me, and the failures were demotivating. And all along, I wasn’t even sure if it would work out well for me, even if I could get a job.

So, in summary, if you’ve written something off that you were hoping to achieve, maybe it’s time to revisit that, and give yourself another chance. We only get one life.

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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.

Another long gap between posts – and I already used the last one to apologise!

The truth is, I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling totally overwhelmed. I suspect this is a common Aspie feeling, after all we are prone to stress, at least partly because (I think) we’re also prone to over-thinking everything. But first, (well, second now) the good news.

I got a job!

It seemed to come together very easily, and if any of you have read some of my previous work-related posts, like this one, you’ll know how astonishing that is to me.

So, now I have an office job 2 days a week, plus I still do some freelance work from home, plus the kids, plus the housework, plus plus plus…

So you can see why I might be a bit overwhelmed. I am very pleased to have my new job – I really enjoy being there! But at the same time it cuts into what was already a busy week for me. I am at least 70% staying on top of everything, but it always feels like a stretch and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get really good at spinning all these plates.

Fellow plate spinners – how do you manage? Does it get better with time?

 

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.

I realised as I published my last post that I’ve been quite negative lately. This is not what I wanted when I started writing Acceptable Face*, but with my post-labour hormones all over the place and my continuing failure to just wake up one morning and find everything super-easy, I was feeling low.

Depression, and the low moods you get before life gets that bad, are part of many people’s lives and not limited to those with Asperger’s. This means I can’t blame it on the Asperger’s – which is actually a good thing! I do get fed up of it always being the limiting factor, the differentiator. “I’d be like a normal person if it weren’t for the Asperger’s…”, “I’m mostly able, except for the Asperger’s…”, “I’d love to do that! But I have Asperger’s so I can’t…”, etc.

Today, the weather is sunny and my baby is mercifully with my parents, so I’m able to get some work done and even treat myself to a new blog post! Other things have improved my mood more significantly.

For example, I recently read The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. Not only is it an extremely good book, it also reminded me of the best bits of being a teenager. It’s so easy for me to look back and remember the depression and anxiety, but I hardly ever think about the good bits. The truth is that alongside my crushing anxiety, I also had close friendships, parents who would give me enough money for trips to the cinema, and an appreciation of beautiful summer days, which is exactly what today feels like.

This morning, while I was eating an early lunch, I watched a couple of YouTube videos from people with Asperger’s, and the first one in particular made me laugh. I used to watch this guy’s videos all the time before I had children. Linus’s comment near the end, about NTs caring about social rules more than they should, made me laugh – maybe it’s just the way he says it. But that video reminded me that it’s easy to worry too much. Yes, it’s nice to fit in and other people do appreciate it, but how much does it really matter? We will always be ourselves, no matter how much we pretend. Does it really have to be the end of the world if we can’t pretend all the time?

*While adding the link here I noticed I’ve been writing this blog since 2011. Wow I feel old! Also, where’s my book deal?

At the weekend, we had another children’s party to go to. My eldest claimed she had a good time, and I hope she enjoyed every single minute. I was ready to cry before we’d got half way.

A children’s party is one of those occasions where it’s really obvious that my child and I take a different approach to socialising than, ooh, say…EVERYBODY ELSE. All the parents were mingling, standing around in pairs or threes or fours. All the children were running around in similar groups. All except for me, my husband, and our daughter. Our baby slept, I wasn’t worried about her, but watching our 5-year-old sitting by herself colouring made me wonder…when will she perceive the gap, and how will she feel about it when she notices?

This gap is one problem I cannot fix. I cannot make her fit in with the other children. I can only do my best to bolster her confidence and support the friendships she has made. Now I feel what my own mother must have felt. A kind of hopeless sorrow, driving me to encourage all sorts of pursuits for my daughter in the hope that her life will be easier than mine was.

I still believe my daughter is not as afflicted as I am when it comes to self-confidence and social skills, but I can see the echoes of my own behaviour in her now. The tendency to be quiet and shy is still with her, and I know I make a sucky example of how to make friends and interact with the world.

Maybe the lack of sleep is making me feel worse about my Asperger’s. Maybe it’s a touch of PND. This week I am stuck with the fact that there is no escape, for me or my family.

I knew it had been a while since I posted but – crumbs – over a month!? I think life is like that for everyone, regardless of where you fall on or off the autism spectrum, but what’s been going on?

Well, I’m still adjusting to life with my daughter at school. The schedule changes; the frequent demands for cake sale or fair contributions; the need to prepare for and attend children’s birthday parties; organising playdates… it’s enough to make me miss wine, and beer, and cocktails.

Also, I’ve been on an antenatal refresher course, which was great, but now I have another group of people to get to know with even more social demands.

And let’s not forget the friends I had before, who I’m also mindful of neglecting.

O, and trying to get work done, and attend all my medical appointments, and the volunteering, and housework, and trying to decorate my daughter’s new room, and think about what we need to prepare before the baby comes…

OK, you get it. I’m stressed. My ebb and flow has ebbed off and there is no sign of a return. I’m writing this with one eye on the clock because it’s nearly school pick up time.

With no access to alcohol for at least another couple of months, and thereafter very restricted access due to (hopefully) breastfeeding, it’s time to turn to healthier ways to unwind.

Step one will be to actually listen to the hypnobirthing audio tracks I’ve downloaded. Step two will be to get a massage (booked for next Monday – hooray!). Step three, which should probably be called Step 0.5 because it’s actually going to happen before Step 1, will be to chat with my husband and enjoy my yoga class this evening.

And breathe…

Feel free to post your own relaxation tips in the comments, or just vent if you’re stressed too!