All about me

Hi hey hola

Blimey I feel so exhausted by everything. Life has has its wicked way and I feel like the bruise after you’ve banged your leg.

But in all seriousness, I think I had forgotten who I am and who I was. The most difficult thing at the moment is trying to find strength every bloody day to give as much as I can. I also am a couple of sessions into the PTSD therapy EMDR which I hope us doing what it needs to.

The hardest part for me is that since I had my diagnosis of autism it feels like suddenly someone allowed me to see clearly.

I find myself having more moments when I let my mind wander and I end up thinking back to previous issues I’ve had with people. And then remember that I should not be too hard on me.

What I now know about me helps me to understand my neurology, it also has a way of reframing my perspective on a lot of things. Things that I’ve never considered are noticeable because I guess I’ve gone all self aware.

So… There comes a time where you know exactly how you need you life to continue in a positive way but now I can see and try to deal with the obstacles heading towards me. I must admit I have moments where I love the quirks of it but only because I can see so many things that used to bother me be it sounds, smells, locations (If I ever went to Frankie and Benny’s and they bring out the birthday cakes and all the staff would stop and sing happy birthday) I mean I would seriously die if anyone did that to me so be warned.

Having knowledge of your own brain and how it operates has liberated my thoughts and feelings. Trying to remind myself that if I’m tired because of poor sleep or a conflict with someone, I know that sleep and my routine is very important.

I am going to call it a day there as I am falling asleep and that’s an offer I cannot turn down. Good night everyone.

Lee

Where I’m at…

So, the last few months have been and continue to be rather shit. I recently lost my mum in Feb and things since have felt like a blur at times.

I am writing this from my safe space, having taken a much needed few days off. I had been encouraged by my partner to go and visit my ex in Scotland as we had a dog together and still good friends. The three days I were away felt just as stressful but just stuck having a meltdown away from home.

Work has been stressing me out, the communication has been shocking and again is the cause of much of my stress.

Also… significantly I have been assigned a trauma therapist through the Greater Manchester resilience hub to allow me to start processing the trauma that I’ve carried with me ever since. I don’t speak a lot of the trauma because it hurts too much. I think back to and have flash backs to the situations I experienced, blaming myself because I couldn’t save people.

I am also super stressed about a close relative who is in hospital. There has been too much sadness already in the last two years.

So yeah, processing a badly managed return to work, grieving my mum’s death, starting to unpack the trauma that’s left me with PTSD from working on the COVID wards all while everything costs more and the world feels a scary place.

I know I have been really struggling to cope these past few months. And this brings me to how I feel right now?

So in the past few days I have felt in a state of crisis / meltdown far too many times. I feel that with everything going on I am reacting to and finding myself in crisis. I have felt more and more fragile and I feel I need to get some more help.

The truth is.. I am no where near coping, I actively try to stay in the apartment because it’s safe I guess. The meltdowns and stress have left me fatigued and with little interest in being more active or caring about what I am eating. I am lost in the soup of thoughts and emotions that swirl around leaving me withdrawn.

Sadly I have felt so low and in crisis that my meltdown / crisis moments have resulted in me injuring myself more. The sad truth is in the moment I don’t care, my brain is in meltdown and I am not thinking straight. I am so upset/angry/withdrawn all at the same time and being unable to get the words or emotions out. I am including this here because as much as I feel embarrassed, it is a wake up call to me. One I think is long overdue.

The other day I found myself thinking that my autistic brain is no more wrong than say someone for having blue eyes or being left handed, or their sexuality.

Why is it that I won’t apologise for being gay? Or having blue eyes? Or what about me being the demon spawn and being a lefty? And yet because my brain is wired differently I somehow feel obligated to apologise for it. You get my point.

This is where this blog post has brought me to. I write these to try and rationalise my brain I think. I find them theraputic. Thank you for reading. I hope to write soon.

Lee

The brutal truth

Ok so I’m writing this from my hibernation (aka my room). I feel myself on the verge of a meltdown and so I’m trying something different. I’m going to try and use my blog as an escape.

So basically I’m feeling really crappy, the last few days have been horrible. I got back home Tuesday and felt exhausted after a long four days of driving and being social. I had felt several times during my time away that I could feel the early rumblings of a meltdown on the horizon.

Once I got home it wasn’t long, well Wednesday actually. I don’t remember the catalyst that sparked them off but three meltdowns throughout the day left me feeling pretty shit about myself.

You might say why do I feel shit? First of all, during a meltdown I am in a state of total emotional meltdown, I am aware of my surroundings and what I say but often strong emotions come out in very direct ways.

So you can see, when you have meltdowns especially three it’s quite a mental head fuck. In the immediate aftermath of a meltdown often follows little after shock meltdowns because I’m aware of what’s happened but starts to get angry with myself causing me mini meltdowns.

Thursday I have to say is probably the lowest point of my life. I woke up and immediately felt my brain still processing the day before. I was keen to try and move on and be positive and get on with the day. I felt myself feeling such deep regret for causing more problems, a deep feeling of embarrassment and shame.

Unfortunately my brain had other plans, I wanted to carry on but my brain was already way ahead of me and was already stressing about my behaviour and how awful I felt.

It didn’t take much but I was very firmly back in the same mode as the day before, however I had only managed a few hours sleep and was exhausted. Next thing I was in Meltdown and felt my brain spiralling, I remember feeling unbearably strong emotions and frustration. I felt so awful about myself and felt that actually, there was no other option but to take my own life.

In fact I had also felt like this on Wednesday so it wasn’t a new feeling. I just remember feeling hopeless, like I was just hopeless. The thing that hurts most in a meltdown is knowing that there will be things said that aren’t true and come from emotions that I cannot articulate or regulate.

This felt like one massive continuous meltdown that culminated in me needing to be physically restrained because I couldn’t keep myself safe. This is not something I am proud of, in fact I am embarrassed to say it. I do however realise the power in acknowledging these feelings given the severity.

I knew that the best place for me at that time was in hospital, I had spoken to a call handler from the ambulance service and they documented that I was going to be taken to hospital. A couple of hours later and after much talking to the MH team I came home.

I appreciate that it might seem a bit over dramatic, I know that stress affects us in many ways. My stress is from the following

Newly qualified nurse 6 months qualified being thrown into a COVID ward. Traumatic events that have left me with PTSD.

I was also then diagnosed with Autism less than a year ago. I have had to fight for the past 10 months to get my voice heard and now finally it is being heard. Challenging how poorly I had been managed leaving me no option but to challenge.

Sadly losing my mum in Feb this year. I cannot say more.

I don’t feel extraordinary, I have just battled through day after day and this has been the rock bottom moment. I am still waiting to be supported back to work. I have now been waiting 7 weeks to hear news of my new role. I am no good with the unknown and feeling of being in limbo.

This brings me to now and how this has all left me feeling. Pretty rubbish tbh. The worst bit 100% is the post meltdown period, this is where I find myself since Thursday. It is getting easier, but recovery from meltdown takes time. In these moments all I want to do is try and make things right, to fix things. I feel the need to apologise for myself and The things I say and do.

I guess this process has been useful, I feel a bit calmer but feeling awkward remains.

Take care

Lee

Long time no see

Firstly I just wanted to apologise for the lack of blog posts over the past couple of months.

The past two years have been incredibly tough for many and I am not writing this blog to in any way diminish how this pandemic has affected us all because let’s face it it has in many ways.

I previously felt limited in what I could say on how life felt all consuming. I felt that I would try and explain how the last nine months have been. Since having a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition in May 2021 my world finally felt clearer but also very confusing.

I sadly experienced a very distressing and regrettable return to work following diagnosis. I unfortunately was not managed in the way that considered my needs and ultimately left me needing to challenge my experience and find my voice.

It has taken me many many months of shut downs, melt downs, moments of anxiety and crisis where I have had some very dark thoughts. I can’t really say that I’ve completely healed but I am finding strength in the kindness of others. I feel that I am not only treading water but starting to swim in the right direction.

I was very happy that I have now been listened to and more importantly I feel my voice heard. I can say that with all honesty it has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever experienced and left me wanting to highlight the inequalities of being neurodiverse and how it is possible to facilitate change a step at a time.

I am laying writing this latest post under the protection of my weighted blanket, feeling a bit wiped out from a busy and socially demanding few days away. But equally I know that getting away for a few days to see family can be so rewarding.

I have been home for a few hours and have already had a meltdown of sorts. This is part of what I call a social hangover. I normally get them the day after a meltdown, or after having a difficult few days. Today’s meltdown I feel was because my brain felt frazzled from my trip away. Having lots of social interaction which I find so stressful, in the sense that I find small talk and being around people very draining because I’m very aware of myself and don’t want to say anything wrong. Normally I end up sitting and thinking I have no idea how to engage in conversation and panic.

So… Having rattled on for quite a while, I shall sign off. If you have read this far, please understand that I haven’t been able to share everything on my mind but that it has been very helpful to be able to channel my thoughts and feelings into a post.

Take care

Lee

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