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Following on from my last post’s sluggish determination, I write to you now from the other side. My energy levels are better. I can eat normal food again. My mood is better. But when I look back I can see how annoyed I was with my body – I felt it had let me down.

At yoga, we have been focusing on “ahimsa” these last few weeks. The principle of doing no harm – not only to others, but also to ourselves. It got me thinking about a trait which I believe is common to those with Asperger’s, and many others as well. We get cross with our limitations. We are saddened by our own selves. If we’re not careful, we can learn to hate ourselves.

I went to a wedding last weekend, and met lots of people I knew as well as a few new faces. For an Aspie, this is hard work. For a pregnant Aspie who has to stay sober, it proved to be rather painful. For about 12 hours I was trying to enjoy myself, make small talk, follow conversations, dance, and generally look like someone who fitted in at the party. All the while, a little nagging voice was making me doubt my every move and word. I wasn’t happy with my hair, my dress, or my shoes. I felt dowdy and frumpy with my bump and low heels, next to countless glamorous and willowy, confident women. I got stuck when I tried to talk to people. I had to take a few breaks, where I sat alone in the bar hoping no one would notice me and think “what’s that weirdo doing?”.

What an utter waste of a party.

My other half had good fun but I think he was a bit worried about me too.

So, I have not been very kind to myself these last few weeks. I have been sad because of my changing shape, and yes, I know carrying a baby is a wondrous and miraculous thing but I really do miss my waist.

Even so, I don’t want to turn into the person I used to be. The one who was too scared to talk to anyone. The one who cried herself to sleep most nights wondering why she was such a failure as a human being.

I must refocus on ahimsa. Happiness does not exclusively come from being a size 8 party animal, despite what popular culture tells us.

Do you fall into the negativity trap?

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I can only apologise. I have been hiding from life, and that means hiding from my readers and the blog too. This week, I am trying to crawl back out from under the rock. And what is the rock? Well, in my case, it is the first trimester of pregnancy.

Yes, I have been exhausted, sick, overwhelmed, emotional and my brain has been a lot mushier of late. I am happy to be having another baby, but quite frankly, the first three months can fuck off. I have been forgetting my work. I have been too tired even to send emails. I have taken the wrong turning three times now on journeys I know well.

Enough.

Eight days ago I turned the page on my calendar and saw Bird on the Wire by Jack Vettriano. This image struck a cord – a strong looking woman standing alone. “Yes!” I thought, “I need to be strong again!”.

One day ago, I read a blog post by Chris Nicholas, and that also inspired me, so thank you. You are right, we do need to be grateful and we do find strength in the people around us.

Today, in the UK, we held our general election. I have spent the last eight weeks reading manifestos, complaining about all the flyers, and wavering. Today I was forced to choose – no more hiding behind my mushy brain – time to decide once and for all.

And so, I am starting to crawl out. I am starting to re-join the real world.

You may have heard my title phrase before. It’s a way of describing how the human brain is capable of adapting to learn new information, and even to build new cells and create new synapses. As I continue (and add to) my studies, it’s a phrase I’ve been repeating to myself as I endeavour to make sense of economic principles and C# syntax.

I know my brain can do it, I just need to keep trying. But reminding myself of the brain’s plasticity doesn’t make it an easy journey. My plastic brain seems to want to resist. The new synapses I wanted have to wait for roadblocks to clear. I’m getting frustrated with my slow progress. Today I almost cried watching a training video.

The truth is, I’m not used to struggling. My brain has been on vacation for years, because I never saw the need to challenge it. At school, and even at University, I chose options which I knew I’d find easy. Back then I didn’t care if I had a plastic brain or not, I just didn’t want to devote the time and energy required for anything remotely tricky. Maybe because I didn’t have a life plan I thought I may as well take an easier path. Maybe it was the weight of expectation – or lack of it – making me think all I had to prepare for was a life as a housewife, or a low earner, whose cerebral limits would not be called upon. Whatever it was, I am now feeling the annoyance of having to really try.

So here I am, telling myself the same thing I tell my four-year-old when she says she can’t do something. “You have to practice. The more you practice the better you’ll get!”

Have you ever struggled to learn something? Got any tips on fighting negativity and beating your brain into submission? I know, I’m looking for a silver bullet again. An easy answer. But seriously, any tips….?

When I contemplate drastic change, I tend to consider it briefly, I don’t want to linger. I sweep my thoughts out of sight and try to think of something in the present. But that is only because I imagine bad changes. I’m scared of all the terrible things that could happen to me and those I love. What I hardly ever stop to contemplate, is a good change. And yet, why not? I call myself an optimist. I began this blog purely to show the upside of life with Asperger’s – surely, the actions of an optimist? I do not allow a gloomy outlook.

But it is hard to remain an optimist this year. Events here and abroad – I know I don’t need to name specifics – have given me real cause for fear. I have no doubt, millions of others are also doing their best, not to be weighed down by a sense of defeat or hopelessness.

But when we look away from our newsfeed, and remember our personal sphere, isn’t there a lot of good remaining?

Today I heard some surprising news. It could change my whole life. It could change many things I took for granted. But I am not afraid, only excited and hopeful. This news will make my future path more uncertain. It will cause me to worry. I am going to be challenged. I do not mind.

I am ready.

I can’t remember what made me think of it, but something reminded me yesterday of my university experience. Technically, I should say “experiences” because there were two; two universities and two very different experiences. My best analogy for that part of my life is that uni no.1 was like being in a chrysalis and uni no. 2 was the fun part where I got to be a sort of butterfly.

Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple.

My three years as an undergraduate had taught me that I needed to change. I couldn’t spend every day of my life hiding from the world. I felt the need to do something drastic, to force a change in me. So, I went abroad to teach for a few weeks. When I returned, I knew I could do better than I had as an undergraduate. Buoyed up, I went to uni no. 2.

I didn’t really have a strategy. I just knew I’d have to do some very uncomfortable things to make my life better. At uni no. 1 I’d avoided the communal kitchen. I ate cold food in my room most days. I bought any dairy goods I wanted fresh each day so that I wouldn’t bump into anybody by going to the fridge. I feared the kitchen because anyone could come in and then I’d have to try and talk to them, or, more likely, ignore them and wish the earth would swallow me whole. When I got to uni no. 2, with the advantage of a smaller shared flat, I decided I’d have to stake out the kitchen.

Staying in the kitchen that day was one of the most painful and difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I was there for most of the afternoon, and many hours in the evening, attempting to get to know my new flatmates. I was at civil war with my brain, wanting to leave, forcing myself to stay. If I had not stayed that first day, I would have lost my nerve. I would have made a bad first impression, and that would have made every other day so much harder. Sometimes you really do have to force a change.

Thanks to that risk I made friends that year, found love, and laid the foundations for a life that was so much better than I’d ever imagined possible. It did not make my life perfect, or easy, but it was the best thing I could have done for myself.

Since that time I’ve taken many social risks. I’ve done internet dating, ran a social media café (way too much socialising and stress!), been to house parties and work events, arranged dinner parties, attended job interviews, stayed with my husband’s uni friends and their children (millions of people in one house – aagh!), made all sorts of phone calls that I was scared about, attended and hosted playdates and children’s birthday parties (double aagh!)…

Have you ever needed to force a change? How did you get on?

It’s been a long time since my last post. So long that, when I wrote it, I had no idea I would soon be living in a country that was torn almost exactly in two. I am talking about the EU referendum, which seems to have split the country not only in votes, but in emotions.

It has caused discord even among families and friends. Racists who were previously unknown have decided that a vote “out” somehow legitimises their feelings and have started pouring out more abuse. Others now think that anyone who voted out MUST be a racist. Young adults are angry with older generations, feeling that they have been personally attacked and that their bright futures have been torn away.

All this shows a worrying lack of consideration, and imagination. Can we not conceive a way forward that is different? Can we not deal with adversity? This country has, in the last hundred years alone, got through two world wars, not unscathed of course, but with much to be proud of.

And before that? Plenty of turmoil, wars and invasions, even civil war, which is what the current situation reminds me of. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a strong leader? Maybe another Churchill? Someone with a steady manner and broad shoulders to take on our troubles?

But we shouldn’t wait for someone else to be the hero. We can all do our bit! “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (JF Kennedy)

I know that likening the current situation to a world war is not quite right. I confess there are many differences, and I don’t wish to be offensive. Even WWII, which is now famous for how it brought British people together, caused its own divisions; not everyone wanted to fight and be responsible for taking lives. But, I do believe that the overriding spirit of the time, the idea that we would face the enemy together, was what kept men, women and children getting out of bed each morning. There is so much strength in unity.

Everyone should be doing their bit, to shape a positive, supportive society. What is the use of name-calling? What is the point of moaning and blaming other people? We are here, we live by the same rules, we put our faith in democracy because it is better than dictatorship.

Regardless of whether we leave or stay within the EU, I don’t want us to be divided by anger. I don’t want Scotland, or Wales, or London, or Europe to feel that we are not friends, that we are not worthy of their loyalty.

My readers who are also fellow Aspies will know what it feels like to be cut off; to be divided from everyone around you. Hopefully, you will also know how good it feels when you finally start to make solid connections. Let us never be so divided again.

Did my title send a shiver of excitement down your spine? That’s what it does for me. I can imagine waking up to find the sun has already risen, someone has left a cup of coffee by my side. I rise, drink, and wander downstairs in my pyjamas. My husband has got our daughter ready to go out for the day. I am staying in. I am going to practice yoga, do lots of reading, and then eat a delicious dinner that my husband is going to cook for me.

It’s a fantasy, of course. I can’t imagine that this will ever happen. A quiet hour is as much as I get, and then it’s often filled with housework or studying. But still I like to dream. I like to imagine that one day will be pure relaxation.

What do you wish for?