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

Veganism is Never Perfect

I’ve been a vegan for four years and I’ve come to a realisation in that time: no vegan is perfect. We can’t be completely vegan. It’s always a process, and it takes many more years than I’ve been one to completely master it. The vegan society listed veganism as avoiding animal exploitation as far is as practical. This means that if, like me, you take medication with lactose in it/has been tested on animals, you can’t avoid it. I really wish my medication was vegan-friendly but prescription medications are pretty much never suitable for vegans. It’s a tough fact that you have to deal with, and realise that you need your medication so that you can function and help more animals.

Another thing is companies that aren’t vegan putting out vegan products. I, personally, am usually okay with this because I need to show this company that there’s demand for vegan products, and it also means that it’s easier accessibility. Most companies aren’t vegan; it would be pretty hard for me to get products from completely vegan brands.

There are so many little things that some vegans aren’t okay with, because they have the means to not be okay with it, but as someone who can’t buy stuff for myself currently, I can’t tell my mum about all the different things. I am as vegan as I can be, and I hope that one day I am even more vegan, but it needs to be accessible as well. I eat completely vegan, and my clothes are vegan too. I’m just saying that, if you’re considering being vegan, remember that it’s always a process.

You might think you’re a bad vegan, but you’re trying. We’re all trying, and that’s what matters. I worry about so many things but I have to realise that I can’t be perfect all the time. No one can be. I’ve made mistakes, too, and that’s okay, because my intentions were good. I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m still learning every day. It’s a long process, but my veganism will never be perfect. I don’t think anyone’s is. That’s just how it is. Until the world catches up, we’re stuck in a mainly non-vegan world and we have to learn to cope with that. It’s alright to try your best, even if that best doesn’t compare to other people’s bests. You’re doing okay.

Lia

19 and Not Ready

So, today is my 19th birthday. I feel like this age doesn’t suit me. I don’t feel 19; I feel a lot younger. I always struggle with growing up because certain expectations are thrown at you. Like, I’m too old for certain things, so I look at it longingly in the store but won’t get it because I’d be judged. I love childish games.

Age isn’t just a number. I know that’s the statement, but it always feels like it’s supposed to define your character, and that shouldn’t be the case. Just because you’re 70, doesn’t mean you are supposed to read the newspaper and do gardening. And being 19 shouldn’t mean going out partying, drinking, and going to uni. I don’t do any of those things by the way. It’s alright if you do, but it shouldn’t be defined by your age. It should be defined by whether you want to do these things.

Why is so much stuff age-defined? Everything you buy has a certain type of buyer and if you don’t fall into that category, sometimes you can get judged. I fear judgement from everyone so I don’t even talk about the things that would make me most happy. I just have a young heart.

Thank you for reading,

Lia

Our Strengths

There are a lot of things I can’t do that others find easy.

I can’t ride a bike; I did have a bike when I was a kid but I never made it to the stage of not having little helper wheels.

I can’t tie my shoelaces. This is one thing that I struggle with that almost nobody else does. I was sitting in a group the other day, and I noticed how many people were wearing trainers with shoelaces. It was a lot of people. There are obviously people out there that struggle with it as well, but I haven’t met them. If you see me wearing shoes, I will most likely be wearing black ankle boots. If I’m not, then perhaps I’ll be in my slip-on trainers.

I can’t do a lot of things to do with clothes actually. I can now do buttons (I couldn’t at all for many years) but it’s slow and usually, I’ll put the wrong button in the hole, so my mum will have to correct it for me. I don’t understand how collars work, and often get that wrong too. Don’t even get me started on my childhood of wearing ties that I couldn’t do up. I learned to loosen them at middle school, but sometimes they’d fall out of it and I couldn’t correct them. Also, ties mean the top button has to be done up, which is torture. I also can’t do up bras, so I wear sports bras all the time. They’re more comfy, anyway.

I struggle with going on public transport alone. I used to be able to do it, but due to a break in confidence, I haven’t been able to do it in a while. I’m hoping to regain my confidence but it could take a while. I can’t buy stuff in shops. Again, I could do that when I was younger, but I haven’t had the confidence to in a while. Also, I need help ordering at restaurants. Occasionally, I have the confidence to talk to the waiter, but usually I can’t.

There might be a lot of things I can’t do, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a lost cause. These things I can’t do just set me apart from what’s ‘normal’. Normal is knowing how to do most of these things. Often, you can’t survive in this world if you don’t have such basic knowledge. I know I struggle to survive, but I have knowledge of other things. I read poetry daily, and you learn a lot from poetry. I have an inability to express myself properly, when speaking, and poetry taught me that expression isn’t about speaking. You can express yourself just fine on paper. I might be an awkward speaker in person, but putting it down gives me time to know exactly what to say.

I also learnt about morals and philosophy, not from any lessons at school, but from simply opening my own mind. I opened my mind to the thoughts and opinions of everything around me. I even thought about what inanimate objects would be pondering; it helped me to open my mind. From that, I felt the suffering of the creatures around me, and I wanted to help them. So, I became vegan. And the fact that I have maintained it for almost four years gives me the courage to say that I have perseverance. I used to think I was weak, and perhaps I’m fragile in some ways, but I’m stronger in other ways. My fragile emotions just show I’m sensitive, and that I care deeply, so is that such a bad thing? Caring? I don’t think so.

I think everyone has something special about them. They all have things they struggle with, but they have something else which makes them who they are. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t have names. But we do: that makes us different and individual. If you don’t know what your strength is, then perhaps it’s modesty, or perhaps it’s such a great strength that you’re the only one who can’t see it.

I’m not talking about what you’re good at. I’m talking about what strength sets you apart. We’re all different, and often you can tell who someone is just by hearing them walk. It’s a privilege to be ourselves, so why don’t we appreciate what makes us that way?

We’re all special. Remember that.

Lia