Masking

Hello blog

I can’t believe its only Tuesday, thankfully I have a me day scheduled for tomorrow. I’ve had an emotional few days with a change of job.

I’ve been thinking about masking recently, sadly for us Neuro-diverse types it can be necessary to a degree I feel. In my job I am required to communicate pretty much all day and it’s hard. I think the hardest thing is trying to explain how draining it is just to mask the way through our day.

For me, masking is just something that is learned social behaviour, many years of trying to fit in with people around me, but most of the time I feel like a square peg trying my hardest to fit into the round hole.

Then what makes it harder is when you’re in an environment you don’t know and you try to blend in it just leaves me feeling even more overwhelmed than ever.

So I guess I struggled to mask yesterday when I started my new job. In my usual style, I could feel the stress and the anxiety building over the weekend, I had other things processing in my brain but I knew starting my new job was already getting more demanding on my brain as I got nearer to Monday morning.

One of the most frustrating things about being autistic is how my brain can start to feel like it just doesn’t switch off. On Sunday night my brain was racing thinking ahead. Processing every outcome for my first day. The result of this was about 3 hours of sleep.

On my first day my brain just felt so overwhelmed by the information I was being given. I found myself in a new area, with new people, new routine, new computer system. The truth is that I nearly had a meltdown, I found myself close to tears and I just felt that I couldn’t do this.

Today was a much better day, I managed about 9 hours sleep which made such a difference and gave my brain a rest. As much as I don’t want to mask my authentic self it feels habitual to a degree, but having rest time and being kind to myself away from work helps balance managing to work alongside a chronic pain condition and Autism.

Note to self. Get more sleep 🤞be kind to yourselves

Lee

How many plates?

So I am writing this today as I needed a way to process what I am thinking and feeling.

You might wonder why I chose the titles of this blog post. Its one of the many ways that I try and explain to people how it feels to have numerous different topics buzzing around my brain. This might seem as if I am making out by having a different neurology I somehow cannot manage to have a few things on my mind.

I will attempt to explain why.

For any of you that have heard of spoon theory you will understand how the image of spoons is a way of managing your energy in prioritising what things to focus on. I have found that when I am tired, sore and ruminating at high speed without an off switch it is very easy to find yourself being consumed by my own brain.

The outcome of this is basically how the last 12 hours have been for me. Please excuse my grammar, its not an excuse but with only a couple of hours sleep and a meltdown my brain is feeling a bit delicate. So how do I manage to get myself from one extreme of emotion to the polar opposite in such a short time? That is one of the frustrations I have.

Imagine you are spinning your three plates, one might be an unresolved work issue and the others could be your health or money. Being autistic feels to me like I am unknowingly picking up other plates that I have no choice but to try and spin. It can often feel like these are just continuing to build in the background and before you realise that you aren’t able to cope by which point you’ve dropped all the plates and left not knowing how to start clearing up.

I am not too sure if I managed to explain that in a way that makes sense, however the intense emotions that I experience at the time and afterwards are so powerful that by this point my annoyance might come out as anger and the touch paper has been lit.

The worst bit personally for me is the feeling immediately afterwards of shame, embarrassment and wanting so badly to apologise repeatedly. The rather crappy thing is knowing that those around you are seeing you at your most vulnerable when at that time I am a complete puppet to my emotions.

There inevitably is the point now where I am reflecting on what happened and I am starting to feel that the moment is passing. I didn’t quite know how this blog post was going to go at the start because I felt that I should probably try and use this as a way of helping my brain process the emotions. I am glad I did though.

What led me to to a diagnosis

In my usual style of needing to provide a wider context to help me explain I will need to wind the clock back to 2017 when I was at university.

I was still in my final year at university and was so lucky to have such wonderful people around me (go AD026!) That was my tutor group so to speak.

In such a short space of time I had made some friends for life, one of which I still think of as my ‘Uni Wife’. Me and her were pretty inseparable in study as we just knew how to help each other.

One day at University my study buddy and I were talking about something and I reacted in a way that was significant enough for her to say to me privately if I had considered that I might be on the spectrum. If I’m honest, I hadn’t ever considered the notion. So I discussed this with my GP at the time who in retrospect pretty much dismissed me

I was told that everyone is on the spectrum and there was no money in adult services for autism. At this point I parked the idea in the back of my mind and carried on as ‘normal’.

Fast forward to 2020, I find myself working in the NHS as a newly qualified nurse in the middle of a global pandemic. In my first week I had my very first experience of seeing the full effect of covid.

In the months that followed, I continued to find processing my experiences at work and when I returned home and this felt like a pressure cooker in my head sometimes, and I would moments of shutting down from the world and moments where the tiniest thing could upset and affect my day.

In April of this year I was at work and noticed information relating to autism awareness month. All of a sudden, that thing I had parked back in my brain came rushing back to be front and center.

I read the information, and the more I read the more it all made sense. It felt like that moment in the opticians where they put just the right lens in and you can see crystal clear.

I got in touch with the adult autism diagnostic service, I felt so many emotions (that’s nothing new). The team were fantastic, they were so supportive and listened. After completing the screening process I was given a diagnosis.

For the first time in 38 years, I had taken one step towards understanding myself and it felt great but equally I was mentally crapping myself. Knowing what I know now, I don’t think I’d change a thing. There were times after my diagnosis where would get so angry and wish I’d never had a diagnosis. It’s only been six months since my diagnosis but I feel a lot more focussed and starting to accept things a bit more.

Thanks for taking the time to read my new blog. Many thanks

Lee x

Welcome to Autism and Lee

So… I’m doing a blog you may ask. This is not something that I ever thought I would desire or even need to do. However, the past 18 months have been so demanding and life-changing that I feel now is the time to try and unlock a lot of what occurs in my brain and try and translate that into a way that can be understood for all.

So I think I should start with a little bit about me.

I was born in Southampton back in the early 80’s and grew up in a small but close family, in my house it was me, my older sister and my dad. My mum and Dad had separated when I was five years old. I went to my local infant, primary and an all boys state secondary school. I left school at 16 and went to work for a large supermarket chain before joining the Royal Navy at aged 18.

I trained as a ‘Writer’ which is essentially the Navy’s name for a payroll and admin clerk. A job that I carried out for 12 years before deciding that I needed a change. Training to be a nurse was not my immediate venture when I left the military, in fact I immediately trained to be a bus driver for a local big bus company. This was a job, not a career and in hindsight I look back now and think about the stress and frustrations that I had driving buses around a big city and think that this definitely was not the job I wanted to be doing.

In 2014 whilst I was busy ferrying people around on my big bus I realised that actually I wanted to have a career doing something I felt I would be good at. Sadly, around this time the family lost our most wonderful grandad and stalwort. It was at this time sat in the acute medical unit at Southampton General Hospital where the ‘light bulb’ moment occurred. I sat next to my grandad and was quietly observing all these fantastic staff that were running around here and there. This was the point where it all clicked into place and I started my journey towards being a Nurse.

The process of becoming a nurse took some five years in total. I worked at first as a healthcare assistant in the community and then at a nursing home for patients with brain injuries and challenging behaviours. At the same time as working I was also studying at a college near where I lived where I needed to complete an access to higher education course before going to University.

In September of 2016 having completed my access course I started three fantastic years as a student nurse at the University of Southampton. I honestly never thought that I would go to University, in my brain only the really clever people can get a degree. In September 2019 I graduated with honours becoming a Bachelor of Nursing with honours. I was over the moon and had a job lined up in Manchester.

This is where my journey towards where I am today has brought me to. I have been working as an NHS Nurse for the last two years, the last 18 months have seen me working in various roles in order to support the efforts against COVID 19.

So… actually more than a few words in retrospect. I am not sure if it is how I am wired but I have always felt the need to go from A to B but through every other letter first. My hope for this blog is for two things really, the first as a cathartic way of being able to sit down in front of a laptop and offloading my brain in the form of a blog.

So Hello to the unfiltered view of the world in a warts and all approach. Thank you to those who have read my story above. It means a lot to me and hopefully some of you might find my ramblings helpful in any way.

Thanks again, Lee x