Dear Eve: Meltdowns

Dear Eve,

Thank you for reading my first letter. It means a lot that someone, however fictitious you are, is reading these. So, my fictitious friend, here is my second letter.

I have meltdowns a lot. When I have a meltdown, it’s because everything gets too much for me. These show in various ways, depending on who I’m with. If I’m with my family, I generally have more active signs. I’ll start talking loads at first, basically saying why something’s not how it’s supposed to be, and eventually I’ll cry if it isn’t resolved immediately.

My meltdowns with other people aren’t so obvious, however. People won’t really notice that I’m having a meltdown. I go subdued and quiet, and I kind of try to think about nothing at all because if I think about something, I’m worried my meltdown will become visible. On occasion, I do have more visible signs, but I try to postpone them for as long as possible. I’ll go on my phone a lot if I’m feeling really worried and I will probably text my mum. My mum usually answers quickly and she always distracts me with updates on the pets. I find talking about my pets calms me down instantly.

I’m terrified that someone will notice I’m having a meltdown and think that I’m being ridiculous or that I’m a bad person. I heard a story of someone buying all the apple pies in McDonalds because they heard a kid ‘being bratty about wanting one and having a tantrum’. It made me think: this person judged this kid without even knowing the kid. Perhaps the kid, like me, was autistic or had another problem? How do you know? You don’t. So I always worry that people will think terribly of me because I look so ordinary. I don’t want to be thought of like that.

I wonder if you’ve ever had meltdowns, Eve. A lot of people have them; it’s just that they’re more common in autistic people. My mum has them herself quite often but she isn’t autistic. She is dyspraxic however, so isn’t exactly ‘neurotypical’.

It’s nice discussing these things with you because I know you’ll never reply with advice on how to fix my problems. The truth is, Eve, I can’t fix my problems. I will live with them for my entire life. I can figure out ways of dealing with them, but that isn’t fixing them. I don’t like it when people, especially people without autism, tell me ways I can improve myself. They don’t know how tough it is for me and how terrible that advice makes me feel, Eve. I feel constantly like everyone is trying to see me as a person with potential, someone who can become something. That pressure to be what they want me to be sits inside me always. My IQ means nothing. It’s not about how clever you are, it’s about how suited you are to the world, and I’m a cat in a dog food factory. Basically, the world is wrong for me. I try to fit in but I never will.

I’ve accepted that I won’t fit in, but some people still try to see me as someone who needs to fit in with society. I need to work hard to get somewhere (where am I going? I don’t know), I need to not have meltdowns, and I need to respond when people talk to me. I like how you don’t expect these things of me, Eve.

People think these things are simple, but there are a million reasons why, for me, they’re not simple. I could go over the list but I don’t think you would finish this letter, Eve. So I’m just going to say one thing: this isn’t me. I’m not steady, I’m not calm, I’m not social. None of that is me. I sometimes feel like no one really knows me but I guess you’ll know me, Eve. These letters will help you know me. Thank you, again, for reading.

Love,

Lia

Dear Eve: A New Idea

Before I start, I want to say thank you to Kel for inspiring me and allowing me to do this. He recently started a letter series addressed to someone called Joe, whom is made up, and I thought it was a really good idea. It helps you to get your thoughts out there. I’ve done a few letters in the past, but never directed towards a fictitious person, so I think it’s a really great idea. You can say exactly what’s on your mind, but also feel like you’re expressing it to someone, even if they’re imaginary. I hope this series works out for me too, and please go check out his blog!

Dear Eve,

I know you don’t know me yet but you will know me. You aren’t real and yet I feel like I’m talking to someone. This is my first letter to you and I hope there will be many more.

Do you like cats, Eve? Back in August I visited a cat cafe for the first time in my life, in London. My anxiety was high about going to London as it’s such a big city but it turned out okay I think. The cats were cute anyway. I wonder, would you be a cat person or a dog person? I have both cats and a dog but I’d consider myself a cat person. I do the ‘would I have one if I lived by myself?’ test. As I live with my family, it is easier for me to have a dog, but I don’t think I would be able to deal with one if I lived by myself. The training and walkies would be too much for me, I think. Cats, however, would definitely be there. That’s why I’m a cat person. Cats also don’t bark whenever the bell rings, unlike a certain pomchi.

I guess you could call me an anxious person, Eve. I think a lot. Too much. Even when I know a solid plan, I think about the many, many ways in which it could go wrong. For instance, I am going to a board game club (yay social life) and I am going to take a game that I quite like — Catopoly (I told you I’m a cat person) which is basically cat monopoly. However, I am extremely worried that no one else will like the game and it will be boring for them. I know some of them for sure like cats but I don’t know if they’ll like this game.

About the social life thing: I might go to a couple of clubs, but I’m not a very social person. Outside of that, there isn’t much I do. I do sometimes have a social life outside of these clubs but it is infrequent. The reason I started going to these clubs was because I wasn’t going out at all. I just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression of me, Eve. I wouldn’t want to lie to you about being a high-flying social butterfly.

Our house has been on the market for over a year and it still hasn’t sold. It did sell for a bit but then the buyer decided she actually couldn’t afford it so it’s been back on for a while now. It’s stressing me out, the viewings. Often, there is little warning of them and I love notice. So when there’s hardly any notice that I have to leave the house for the viewing, it stresses me out. I’m stressed a lot lately. There’s another viewing soon but I was given an acceptable amount of warning for it. It’s still stressful but less so than if I had been given less warning. We always have to take the dog out as he isn’t the friendliest to ‘intruders of our house’ (basically people he deems to be in his territory). We have a good guard dog. If someone ever attempts to break in, we will know before they get in the door.

I’m feeling quite tired now, Eve. Did you like my first letter? I hope it was okay for you. I really want to talk to you more in future letters. I write this in my bed, at half-past midnight, because I always find my thoughts most cluttered in the night. Thanks for helping me decluttering them, Eve, by letting me write you this letter.

Love,

Lia

People Tell Me

People tell me I’m sensitive. What this means is that my heart is unlocked and you just need to climb inside it to see that I’m crying. People tell me I’m insensitive. What this means is that I picked up a pebble and threw it into the wind, but then it fell back down and was bigger than I first noticed. People tell me I’m beautiful. What this means is that my mind is a socket and people are plugging in a charger for my feelings. People tell me I’m ugly. What this means is that everyone else sat in a field of grass whilst I played in the mud. People tell me I’m smart. What this means is that I listened to thousands of other voices regurgitating the same spit. People tell me I’m dumb. What this means is that my life is an essay that I have yet to complete. People tell me a lot of things. What this means is that their lips keep determining, their eyes keep deducting, and their ears keep ignoring. I tell myself that I’m here. What this means is that I can focus on the snakes or the mice but, either way, I’m going to get bitten. Instead, I should focus on the most conflicting voice of all: my own.

I’m Autistic

I’m autistic.

I don’t like maths or science. I’m not a massive fan of trains either.

Music is good, but I don’t listen to it on big headphones constantly, putting the same song on repeat for years.

I’m not a boy and I didn’t attend a special school either.

I don’t rock constantly and I actually enjoy social interaction. Not all the time, but sometimes it’s nice.

I do indeed have empathy, in fact I am more sensitive than most people.

My name is Lia. I’m 19 years old and I was diagnosed with autism when I was 15. I had been struggling with school for many years before that, especially with bullying (which was most severe when I was 12). I didn’t know how to make friends, or how to keep friends. Most friends I made have drifted from me. They were temporary and I tried to keep in contact with a few but I don’t think they wanted to keep in contact with me, as their replies were very short and hard for me to respond to. It’s okay; we make temporary friends and long term friends.

As an autistic person, I have interests that are more deep than most people, but perhaps not as deep as other autistic people. I say this because I’ve suffered with mental health issues which have interfered with my interests at times. A particular interest of mine is animals, something that I have been crazy about for years. I love animals and love learning about them. If you have any interesting animal facts, be sure to let me go.

I was always an English person at school. I preferred essays to maths equations. It was always easier for me to write an opinion than solid fact. I just never understood or connected with maths, whereas English taught me that, to get good grades, you had to have your own opinion.

I know of autistic people that fit the criteria I listed above, and that’s okay. But we really aren’t all the same. I love sensory toys as I have trouble with my senses getting overwhelmed. I find they calm me a lot. I love to feel textures in my hands, but not in my mouth. Food that is too textured isn’t for me. I like it smooth and consistent.

I struggle with independence, one of the most suggestive traits of my autism. If I were more independent, perhaps people would think that I didn’t have autism. I also struggle with getting words out and might say things that are inappropriate because I want to fill a gap but I don’t know what else to say. People think I’m strange because of this, or sometimes they don’t notice at all. I prefer it when they don’t notice, or pretend not to notice, that I said something inappropriate. When they look at me strange, I become embarrassed.

The worst thing in the world for me is noise. It’s something I can never escape. It’s always there, somewhere, trying to climb into your ears. It drives me insane and I feel so sad when it is loud. Some people might be annoyed at too much noise, but for me it ruins my life. There are a few people that are insensitive when it comes to noise and that makes me upset.

Anxiety is a very real problem for me. It is the voice that never goes away. It cripples my mind and my heart. It isn’t something you can just get over. It works out every single possibility of everything then it combines them into one overwhelming feeling of destruction. That’s what anxiety is, for me.

Autism isn’t a stereotype, it’s a sphere of differences and I know very independent autistic people. I know people who love maths and people who hate it. I know people who love to rock and people who prefer other methods of stimming. I know more autistic females than I do males. In fact, I don’t know autistic people at all. I just know individuals.

Thank you for reading,

Lia

‘And The Ocean Was Our Sky’ by Patrick Ness [Spoiler-free Book Review]

“For who needs devils when you have men?”

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness was very much inspired by Moby Dick, though you definitely do not need to have read the book or seen the movie to understand ATOWOS because it is a book in its own right.

The protagonist of the book, Bathsheba, is a whale. She is also a hunter; hunting humans, whilst they hunt whales. It has been this way for a while. This book follows her journey on the Alexandra (appropriately named after their captain) towards a goal that no whale or human has ever achieved before: defeating Toby Wick (yes, Toby Wick, great name, right?) despite the fact that they have no clue what or who Toby Wick is.

This book is also illustrated throughout — beautifully, I may add. The illustrations definitely add to the book and make the hard to imagine story just a little easier to envision.

ATOWOS is a very quick read, in my opinion. You should be done in a few days, if you don’t read it all in one go. Even though I finished it quickly, there is a lot of description that makes the world more real. I found myself trying harder to imagine a story than I ever have before (because how can you imagine whales going hunting?) but I liked the extra challenge. It made it all the more special when I did imagine it.

It’s a story not about friendship but about loyalty. The apprentices on the Alexandra will stick with the captain until the end. It’s pretty amazing what lengths they are willing to go to for the captain and I find myself envying such eternal loyalty. I’m not sure that many of us would be able to do what these whales did and not because we’re not whales but because of how much courage and determination it takes. Knowing that there’s a good chance you will fail, but doing it anyway because you believe in your captain.

If you read this book, I am sure that you will be mesmerised. It’s such an enthralling concept that you will not want to stop reading! Throughout the entire book, suspense will be at the forefront, as you race through the book to try and see whether they accomplish their goal or whether they fail. The hook will not leave until the last page.

I loved this book, and am an avid fan of Patrick Ness. Although it is not officially released yet, I really recommend you buy it when it is released in early September! You will not be disappointed.

 

Dealing With Anxiety

A lot of people with mental health issues struggle with loneliness, me included. We struggle with feeling lonely but also with reaching out to existing friends. We don’t want them to deal with our mental health issues, so we feel guilty whenever we go out with them, so sometimes we choose not to go out with people anymore. We don’t want to be the burden.

One friend of mine, who I have only been out with just us two once, has a tactic which makes me feel a lot better. She basically said that if I helped her with her issues, she’d help me with mine. She told me about her phobias and I told her about mine and we both went out together. It felt like a trade, rather than me being a burden, and that really helped me get through it.

I hate the idea of being the piece of gum stuck to someone’s shoe. I want to be able to express my problems without being seen as a problem, if that makes sense. Most of the time I’m just terrified that they won’t be able to have as much fun with me there.

I really like the tactic that one friend used and if, in the future, I ever have a friend that feels like more of a burden than I do, I might use it again. It’s a good way of conquering something without realising that you are. For instance, her phobia wasn’t even around, whilst mine was, but I still felt more comfortable knowing that, if her phobia ever did crop up, I could help her like she helped me.

Anxiety is affecting so many people, and it stops lots of people from doing what they want. Make sure they know they aren’t a burden and that you want them there. Even if, after telling them this, they still feel doubtful, express your own difficulties and how they could help with them. Perhaps, like me, they might feel willing to go out. It’s just an idea that worked for me and I’m so glad it did because a couple of weeks ago, I had an amazing time out with a friend and my anxiety didn’t interfere with it that much. There were still moments of anxiety, but overall I felt calm. It was a change from what I normally know. I felt more in control.

Thank you for reading,

Lia

A Monster Calls in Theatre!

So I am an avid fan of Patrick Ness and managed to win a competition run by him and his publishers; it entitled me to a series of prizes, including two free tickets to see A Monster Calls in theatre, which I saw on Saturday.

I have read the book and seen the film but I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the theatre play. The concept of it, in the most spoiler-free way, is that a boy’s mum has cancer and he starts seeing a ‘monster’ who tells him various stories. It’s an amazing story, very emotional. However, it’s easy for the monster to be portrayed in book and film form. In theatre form, I was wondering how they’d do it! They used stilts, ropes, and humans, in various ways — it was very artsy and I loved it.

One negative of it was that in the book and film the mum is an artist but there is absolutely no mention of this in the play. I relate to it a lot because my mum is an artist and a cancer survivor so this disappointed me slightly.

That’s the only negative though. The rest of the play is astounding and the music was brilliant too. In the top right hand corner of the back of the stage, there was a box which opened up, and in it were a few men who made the music. It was really great.

The play had a 4 star performance for me. I was very impressed by the acting, as well as how simple the set-up was yet how beautifully they portrayed the play. It was honestly stunning.

Say What You Mean!

Something I struggle with a lot is people saying one thing but meaning another. I automatically assume that they mean exactly what they said, but this often isn’t the case and it’s very confusing deciding whether or not they meant what they said.

Sometimes, this makes me feel betrayed when they didn’t adhere to what they said, but it can be because they never really meant it in the first place. They were just making conversation.

For instance, someone says ‘oh we should do that sometime’ or ‘we should meet up’ but they didn’t really mean it. It’s something that a lot of people seem to say but not mean. It’s kinda suffocating trying to differentiate between a legit promise and a fake one. I just wish people would say exactly what they mean. It would make life a lot easier.

If people told me exactly what they thought of me, life would be easier too. I can differentiate between people who like me for who I am and people who want me to become something I’m not — and stick with the friends that accept me.

I just don’t understand why people always say the opposite of what they mean. It means that I get my hopes up for something that’s never going to happen. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of failed promises, but I still seem to get my hopes up because I never know when one is real.

Sometimes, promises are real, and I am so thankful for the people that say what they mean. For instance, when MyMindSpeaksAloud said that she’d love to go to a cat cafe with me, I was wondering whether we were really going to do it. Now it’s booked and ready for August! I am very excited about it, and it’s really happening, unless a cat-astrophic event happens that prevents it. I love puns.

If people just told everyone what they meant, we would all have a much easier time, in my opinion.

Do you find people confusing?

Lia

Everything Ends

The saddest part of life is how everything eventually ends. I’ve been thinking about that recently, and then I realised that we don’t know for certain that everything does end: does the universe end? Our time on this planet never truly ends, because we left a small dent in it. Everyone leaves a small dent, or a big dent; we all do something to the planet. It might be negative or positive, but the planet won’t forget us. The planet will remember us. But when the planet’s gone — will we truly be forgotten? Perhaps our history will be rewritten by the inhabitants of other planets. Like how we’re rewriting the history of time before we were here. We have evidence, but we also have theories. How accurate is history?

I don’t know, but I think if this planet ends, we’ll still have left a mark on the universe. I think that, whilst most things are temporary, the universe is not, and our planet can crumble and burn, but the universe will be watching. I don’t like the idea of everything ending; if everything just ends, what was the point of starting in the first place? It was to make your little dent on the universe. However you do that.

Existing is the best gift in the world, and we should make the most of it, by paying our respects to the planet we live on, and trying to prolong the existence of it. Of course, it will eventually end, but giving it a while longer will give everything else a while longer too. Everything ends, but some things end before others. Making a small difference to the planet might give it a little more to look forward to.

Thank you for reading,

Lia

I’m Not Who You Want

I’ve noticed that people expect a lot from me. Honestly, I can’t do everything that is expected. People forget sometimes that I’m autistic, I think. I guess, for a while, it makes me feel more normal but I shouldn’t have to hide myself. My true self isn’t the person people want me to be. This doesn’t mean that people should avoid me, or worry about how to talk to me; they should talk to me exactly how they would anyone else. The only difference is that my reply might be vague or unexpected. It might not be what they wanted. I try to talk normally but sometimes my words get knotted and I end up saying something different than what I wanted to say. That’s just how I am. My thoughts and my words often don’t align. Sometimes, I don’t even speak at all, and that’s not because I don’t want to speak; I feel a physical block on my words. It happens most with strangers but it can happen at anytime with people I’ve known for a while too.

When chatting online, I come across as a very different person to how I act in real life. I type what I wouldn’t dare speak, and my online voice is more confident than my real one. This too can give people the impression that I am capable of a lot. The truth is: it embarrasses me to talk about what I can’t do. That’s why I don’t mention it to my friends unless it’s important for them to know. I put on this act that makes me appear able to do lots of things, when really I struggle to do most things.

I’m someone who needs a carer. That carer is also my mum, which means she is around me constantly, to help me do things. I’m someone who needs someone to go out with me, because I can’t go out alone. I’m someone who has a meltdown about the silliest things. The other day, I had a meltdown because my mum thought my meal was hers and peppered it. It was pasta and I can’t eat pepper on my pasta. A lot of people wouldn’t care about something like that but, like I said, the silliest things cause me distress. I have to have things exactly how they’re supposed to be and, if something goes wrong, I can’t cope.

I’m not who people want me to be. I’m trying so hard for my problems to not affect me, but they will always affect me, because autism isn’t temporary. I don’t mind being autistic, it’s who I am, but sometimes I wish it was more understood. There are many stereotypes around it, but I’m not those stereotypes. People thing that if I keep trying, one day my problems will go away. They won’t go away. I’m autistic for life. I can try to make things easier, but it will take time. It’s not something that can happen overnight.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to go out alone, but that day is not today, and it probably won’t be for many days yet to come. People who pressure me into trying to do things that are hard for me just make it harder still. I’ll do things at my own pace.

Understanding isn’t easy if you haven’t experienced it, but imagine you walk into the middle of a movie, and have missed important parts of the plot. You keep trying to ask people questions, but they’re busy watching the rest so they keep telling you to be quiet. That’s kinda what it’s like. You don’t understand what’s going on and you try to figure it out, but you’re still way behind.

Thank you for reading this post,

Lia